About Me

Wales, United Kingdom
Cinnamon Press is a small, independent publisher based in Wales & publishing the best new poetry and fiction with occassional non fiction and cross-genre titles. Books come from Wales, the UK and the world. We run writing competitions twice a year to find new voices in poetry and fiction with three categories (novel/novella; poetry; short stories) - each category has a cash prize plus publication. You can find our excellent list of titles at www.cinnamonpress.com

Friday, 9 October 2009

Pro-active Poets

No-one buys poetry books - or do they?

It's true that poetry has low sales in even in small press terms, but the picture is an uneven one. Some poetry sells barely at all, while other collections keeping steaming along. Is it down to quality? Well, bad poetry (we hope) doesn't sell and sell, but the real difference (assuming we're talking about good poetry in the first place) is the poet. Some of them are just more pro-active than others - they network on Facebook, they attend poetry groups, they tap into poetry venues and interested, innovative independent book shops.

Over the last few years our two top selling poets have been the two who work tirelessly not only to promote their own poetry, but to promote poetry in general. Both Impossible Objects (short listed for the Forward Prize for best first collection) and Creatures of the Intertidal Zone constantly attract new readers because the authors of these books are as vibrant and engaged in person as they are on the page.

These are not the only Cinnamon poets who work tirelessly to make sure their poetry reaches audiences, but they are great examples of what a difference a pro-active poet can make and I'm delighted that one of our newest authors, Daphne Gloag, is obviously going to be amongst these best sellers. Daphne's collection, A Compression of Distances, will be launched next Tuesday alongside the wonderful debut collection from Claudia Jessop (This is the woman who) and with a reading from another of our pro-active poets, Wendy Klein, from her collection Cuba in the Blood.

Daphne has already taken the opportunity to sell the book to fellow poets at workshops and has read at the fantastic independent Pitshanger Bookshop. She has lots of other readings lined up, but in the meantime everyone is most welcome to the launch on Tuesday 13th October - LUMEN, 6.30 for 7.00p.m., 88 Tavistock Place W.C.1 Tubes: Russell Square, Kings Cross, St Pancras. Entry £4/£3 Wine, proceeds to the Cold Weather Shelter.

Friday, 20 February 2009

When the World is Warm Vanilla Custard

Breathing in Colour; Clare Jay; 280pp; Piatkus; £7.99

Clare Jay is a lecturer in creative writing who specialises in ‘dreaming into writing’ workshops. Her short stories and poetry have already won several prizes, including first place in the most recent Cinnamon Press writing award, with the extra-ordinary and powerful title story of the anthology, The Sandhopper Lover. In one sense it’s not surprising that her writing has been noticed by a solid, quality publisher; writing this good deserves to be read. What is refreshing is to see such innovative writing getting attention.

Breathing in Colour is a novel with a well mined theme, the disappearance of a child. The book opens with Alida receiving the news that her eighteen year old daughter, Mia, has gone missing while back packing in India and might well be dead. Like other novels in this genre there is a back story of pain and repressed memories and emotions that emerges slowly as the novel progresses. Into this mix is thrown a broken marriage and an uneasy relationship between Alida and Mia’s father, Ian, who is far too eager to dismiss Alida’s competence and theories. To complicate matters further Alida encounters Taos as she begins her search in India. A jaded and enigmatic Australian, who Alida is not wholly convinced is trustworthy, Taos has his own story that resonates with the main plot, enriching the narrative.

All of this alone would make for an interesting read, but the well developed, credible characters and a compelling plot are only the skeleton of a novel for a writer of Clare Jay’s talent. Alida is someone who has lucid dreams and Jay uses her considerable knowledge of this area to great effect. In less able hands the dreams could easily be clumsy and artificial; the use of dreams is ambitious and generally fails, but Jay deploys exactly the right language and control to ensure that Alida’s dreams are gripping, authentic and lift the narrative beyond the ordinary. And Jay doesn’t stop there. Mia has grown up with the condition of synaesthesia and interspersed with the third person narratives of Alida’s search and gradual epiphany are diary entries written by Mia and going back to her childhood. The imagery in these passages is stunning. So often debut novel writers simply over-write when they are trying to convey description, but Jay’s poetic sensibilities are stretched to the maximum here and results some of the most innovative imagery I’ve read in prose. The very best images combine surprise and lucid observation.

The result is one of the most poignant, humane, original and exquisitely written first novels I’ve come across. I’m proud that Cinnamon Press has published stories and poems by Clare Jay and I eagerly await her next novel. This is a writer with a truly unique voice and a willingness to take risks with form and language to produce something inventive. By the end of the novel I knew what it was to breathe in colour. Buy the book.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

brilliant reading from patrick jones

Last night was a real treat – instead of constant talking about darkness is where the stars are a lucky audience in Caernarfon got to hear patrick performing poetry from the book. A huge thanks is due to Matthew, the proprietor of Y Ddraig Goch Cafe (a gorgeous place if you;re in Caernarfon any time) and to Rhys Mwyn who organised the event. The cafe had been phoned by Christian Voice with the same old message that the reading should be cancelled and apparently a member of CV even went to look the venue over, but thankfully there was no protest at all. About 50 people attended a fantastic reading which can be seen on YouTube http://uk.youtube.com/user/cinnamonpress

What was most encouraging is that people were able to hear the wide range of issues that patrick addresses in his poetry and to witness his amazing integrity as a writer and performer – the passion was absolutely authentic and his energy was impressive – and, of course, the audience warmed to him.

We’re looking forward to more readings, including patrick’s appearance at the Welsh Assembly, Committee Room 24 on December 11th at noon. Borders are also making plans for the main launch – due to the pressure on them the date and time is still to be confirmed, but invitations will be issued and we are immensely grateful to Borders for both their stance on free speech and the seriousness with which they are treating the safety of their staff and the launch guests.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A book of many parts

Here at Cinnamon Press we are still celebrating the sanity of Borders, who have invited patrick jones to launch darkness is where the stars are at their Cardiff branch on December 11th after his reading in the Welsh Assembly.

There’s been some debate about the invitation to patrick to read in the Welsh Assembly, most of it sadly missing the point. Christian Voice were not provoked into their extremist reaction –
patrick has been in dialogue with them for ages, long before a launch was planned, and the idea that the victim deserves threats of violence is absurd. But more to the point what matters is not how CV came by patrick’s poems, but how they reacted – with threats, the language of the battle ground and bully tactics.

The other really big point that is being missed in the debate is that the poems about religion (and they are not vitriol, but serious engagement) are a tiny minority of the poems in this book. There is a stunningly good and poignant sequence on domestic abuse against men; poems about urgent ecological issues, poems about war and pacifism, poems about education and much more.

The great thing about having a launch date and brave venues like Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Caernarfon is that people will get the chance to not only see this great range on the page, but to hear the poems performed – and patrick is a fantastic performance poet. If you can’t get to one of the venues we’ll be putting up video footage on YouTube.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Borders and brilliant

Since Waterstones MD decided to cancel the launch of darkness is where the stars are in the face of protests from the extremist group, Christian Voice, life at Cinnamon Press has been more than interesting. What has been heartening is the fantastic support from so many quarters – from liberal and sane people of faith to humanists to the literary community to politicians.

Today brought another encouraging step forward when the CEO of Borders stepped in to offer an alternative launch date to co-incide with patrick’s reading at the Welsh Assembly on December 11th. patrick will read in Committee Room 24 at the Assembly at noon and the book will be launched at Borders later that day (time to be announced).

It’s brilliant to see a high street chain that won’t bow to threats of harassment and that takes free speech seriously. We’re really grateful to Borders for the opportunity to give the book the start it deserves.

Don’t forget that patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. as well as in Cardiff on December 11th and we are also talking to Borders about other possible readings.

And now for something completely different

Just for a brief change of subject - have a look at the Book Depository today where Cinnamon Press editor, Jan Fortune-Wood is featured in the 'Tuesday Top Ten' slot :)


Monday, 17 November 2008

patrick jones and Jonathan Swift

Today’s email from Waterstones is a simple ‘no comment’ statement – a pity that they don’t say that they were harassed into cancelling the launch of darkness is where the stars are due to threats from extremists, but at least it’s an improvement on attempting to blame patrick jones for provoking the bullies. Sadly the email implying that that there had been provocation or some kind of orchestrated publicity stunt lingers on some blog threads, so let’s say for the record (again) that the cancellation was a huge shock and that no one associated with Cinnamon Press, including the author, informed Christian Voice about the launch.

Yes – it has given a poetry collection lots of publicity (which is a pretty rare commodity) and it has brought out a fantastic chorus of support for free speech for which we are hugely grateful, but it’s also spun our heads – we’re a tiny little press run by two and bit people already working flat out – there’s no PR department, no spin doctor, no secretary to answer the phone.

And the other issue that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the threats haven’t gone away. Patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and the venue has had lots of calls from Christian Voice supporters keeping up the vitriol. We are very impressed with the cafe owners who refuse to be intimidated and we’ll be there with books and support as patrick reads. We won’t be cowed, but it is pretty worrying to be facing all of this. In my last post I suffered three major assaults at work (ironic fact: I was working as a Vicar) – two of these assaults were life threatening – and I had to retire as a result – the injuries remain, but the post traumatic stress has largely been worked through and is under control. Facing these bullies presses lots of buttons and the notion that Cinnamon Press might have set this entire chain of events off as a publicity stunt couldn’t be more absurd.

There is nothing ‘whiffy’ about us comparing the events to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (as one blogger put it). The comparison came from Waterstones’ staff who told Cinnamon Press that they have not received this level of controversial correspondence about a book since the publication of Satanic Verses. The difference being that in that case Waterstones were altogether more supportive of the publisher and author, leaving Cinnamon Press with the suspicion that when it comes to publishers, size matters.

To keep it all from becoming too stressful Rowan (our MA student son who works part time for Cinnamon) had the idea of a fun contest on YouTube – to vlog a satirical poem on a religious theme. This isn’t about religion bashing – we have a lot of respect for the integrity of most people of faith, who are not only open to mature dialogue, but also know that a bit of parody and laughter is extremely healthy. The poems coming in are not religion hating, but light and funny – exactly as we hoped. And that’s also why Rowan mentioned that they should be in the spirit of Swift – not just for hyperbole and talking up our own wonderful poet, but because the best poem in darkness is where the stars are on the theme of religion is very much in the spirit of Swift – taking two texts from two religions and juxtaposing them to invite a deep reaction.
This is what Michael F. Suarez, S.J. says in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift: “For Swift, language, religion, and politics are not strictly divisible... The serious business of Swiftian satire is that it invites (or provokes) the reader to be critical: that is, to judge. Most often, the judgments that Swift's satires ask us to make go well beyond straightforward condemnation of the work's obvious target; rather, we are led to form a series of deeper judgments about language, religion, and politics, and about the operations of human vice and virtue that govern these activities in others and in ourselves.”1

Certainly couldn’t put it better ourselves :) It’s not missing the point to invite others to do something in this vein, as patrick does – and of course no one is claiming he’s the new Jonathan Swift, but he is doing something in this tradition and it is because his work invites these ‘deeper judgements about language, religion and politics’ that he is seen as a threat, has come under attack and is still being threatened.

1. Suarez,, Michael F., S.J. "Swift’s satire and parody." The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift. Ed. Christopher Fox. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cambridge Collections Online. Cambridge University Press. 17 November 2008