Rack Press ever impresses – Poetry Review
The consistently reliable Rack PressTimes Literary Supplement
I have come to hope that a Rack Press pamphlet may be a tiny gift-box of unusually good poems – Alison Brackenbury, PN Review
Rack Press has the courage to be brief and elegant – The Rialto

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Three New Rack Poetry Pamphlets Launched

Three new titles from Rack Press for 2009 are being launched in London on 21st January at an event at the Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury Way, London WC1 at 6.30-8.30. Readings and free glass of wine and free entry.

The titles are:-

Darwin Among the Machines
by Siobhán Campbell

Is the poem a machine made of words? Is nature on the side of the machines? Taking off from the steam shovel, this sequence pits the poetic impulse against its traditional enemies to see if they may have more in common than we think.

Siobhán Campbell’s publications include The Permanent Wave and The Cold that Burns (Blackstaff Press) and That water speaks in tongues (Templar Poetry). Her new collection, Cross-Talk, is forthcoming from Seren. An award-winner in the National, Troubadour and Wigtown competitions, she lives in London and lectures at Kingston University on the MFA in Creative Writing.

‘an outstanding ear for the music of language…. the rhymes and half-rhymes give the verse a rewarding sureness and slyness. Siobhán Campbell’s sense of cadenced disturbance marks her out as someone worth listening to with attention.’
Robert Crawford

‘Written with a cool eye and clear compassion, these poems are torpedoes lined with feather strokes… very luminous and steady-eyed.’
Bernard O’ Donoghue

An Instruction from Madame S.
by William Palmer

These are poems of place; how we change the rooms and landscapes in which we live, and how we are changed by them. Place is governed by season and weather, it is our home or an anonymous hotel, a city or wilderness.

William Palmer was brought up in Montgomeryshire in Wales and now lives in south-west London. He has written five acclaimed novels, a collection of short stories and a collection of poems, The Island Rescue (2007). He has published stories and poems in a wide range of magazines and journals in the UK and Ireland, including Critical Quarterly, London Magazine, The Literary Review, The Shop, Stand and Poetry Review. His work has also been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. He is a regular book reviewer for The Independent and The Literary Review.

‘There is a kindness in William Palmer’s poems: a generosity of perception, language and melody (read him aloud), but he is also generous in his poems’ precision and economy. William Palmer’s poetry never excludes readers but it does challenge them at the same time as it charms them. He is one of our most interesting poets, and his work in The Island Rescue is a complete delight.’
David Morley

Variations on Four Places
by John Powell Ward

This sequence in four movements explores the poet’s response to four areas of England and Wales – Gower, Radnor, Somerset andGloucestershire – that have particular personal resonance for a poet with a deep engagement with the Welsh and English spirit of place.

John Powell Ward was born in Suffolk and educated at the Universities of Toronto, Cambridge and Wales. He lectured at the University of Wales at Swansea for 25 years. He was editor of Poetry Wales from 1975 to 1980 and has written critical studies of R.S. Thomas and Worsdworth and was editor of Seren’s Borderlines series.

‘his writing arrives from a point where rational discourse and the liberating resources of the imagination merge’
Poetry Review

‘John Powell Ward is a poet who takes risks with language; his poems are densely packed, full of echoes and chains of linking sound.’
New Welsh Review

Each of these titles is
published in a limited edition of 150 copies, the first fifty of which are signed by the author. A set of three can be obtained at the special price of £10 until 31 January 2009.
To order send a cheque, payable to Rack Press, to
Rack Press, The Rack, Kinnerton, Presteigne, Powys LD8 2PF. Postage free.

Friday, 24 October 2008

More Reviews of Rack Press Titles

It is good to see yet more positive reviews of the 2008 Rack Press titles. The latest issue of Poetry Wales reviews all three pamphlets by Byron Beynon, Steve Griffiths, and David Wheatley and the latest issue of Poetry London reviews David Wheatley's Lament for Ali Farka Touré, welcoming the way it begins "cheekily, lyrically, delightfully" and calling the pamphlet "an attractively produced limited edition".

Congratulations to Steve Griffiths, also, whose latest full length collection, An Elusive State: entering al-Chwm is just published by Cinnamon Press Rack Press is proud to have published earlier this year his collection Landing which broke a long silence and we understand there is even more to come!

Cinnamon describe the collection as follows:-

"A man hits fifty. He grew up surrounded by a belief in progress. Now he, and the world
around him, are not so sure. He creates a Utopia to comfort himself. Steve Griffiths's
cycle of poems, Al-Chwm, tells the story of the life and death of an imaginary utopia.
The cycle began with a vision in the province of Granada which merged a twilight in the
hill town of Montefrio with one in Griffiths's home village in Anglesey, North Wales, as
the lights came on one by one. Al-Chwm, first heard on Radio Three in 2006, is a
parallel universe, a magical epic, a comfort, a mystery."

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Rack Press Goes to Venice

Rack Press publisher Nicholas Murray will be reading from his own 2006 collection, The Narrators and from new work at

Old World Books
Al Ponte del Gheto Vechio
Cannaregio 1190
30121 Venezia

On Monday 13th October at an event hosted by John Francis Phillimore of Old World Books. The event is open to all.

More Praise for Rack Poets

The leading Welsh magazine Planet recently reviewed all three Rack Press 2008 titles and there was praise for all the poets.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

High Praise for David Wheatley

Writing in the current issue of the Dublin Review of Books, Maria Johnston, in a long evaluative essay on his work, singles out David Wheatley's 2008 Rack Press pamphlet, Lament for Ali Farka Touré, for especial praise:

"Wheatley’s most recent publication, his dazzlingly evocative Lament for Ali Farka Touré, was published by Rack Press in 2008 in a limited edition and it is his most innovative and imaginative publication to date. There is something appropriate about its small-scale publication as a single poem. That it was not made part of a larger collection lends the work a poignant integrity and sets it apart. In this lament for the famous and world-renowned “king of African blues”, Wheatley brings us on a journey through the heartland of Mali, Ali Farka Touré’s landscape, the landscape that is the source of the music itself, as Touré himself made clear in an interview: “Mali is first and foremost a library of the history of African music. It is also the sharing of history, legend, biography of Africa – that’s Mali.” Touré’s final album, Savane, was released posthumously and Wheatley quotes lines from the opening track, “Erdi”,in the penultimate stanza of his poem as a tribute to the never-ending gift of Touré’s music: “First son who has never been matched, thank you for what never ends, yes!” Indeed, Joe Tangari’s description of Savane as an album that “flows like a river, at times, tumultuous, at others placid, but always full of life and movement” and “conjures an elemental thrum” perfectly encapsulates Wheatley’s own “Lament”. Wheatley clearly sought to capture the whole, vast panorama of the landscape of Touré’s music in his poem and the “Lament” opens by invoking the almost mythical creatures of Niger with a touching, and playfully childlike inquiry:

Hippo baby hippo
at the waterhole

where the crocodile’s
narrowed eyes stare

from the pool,
o thirsty hippo

what will you do?

“In my tongue Mali / means “hippo” and Bamako / “place of crocodiles”,” we later learn, and the variety of languages and expressive forms in Mali is emphasised throughout; Touré himself spoke eleven languages. As well as being a figure on the world music stage, best known perhaps for his famous collaboration with Ry Cooder, he was also mayor of his town of Niafunké, and so it is that his spirit embodies both the universal and the local, containing multitudes. Jean-Marie Gibbal, in his 1994 study Genii of the River Niger, writes that in Farka’s copious music “the conversation roams from the most modern sound recording techniques and the process of making a record with a multiple-track mixing board in some faraway European studio to the world of the river”. It is this world of the river that Wheatley is so attentive to, where we find, as Gibbal explains: “the crocodile who ‘only fights with his teeth’ and who’s so sad he could be mistaken for a shangtan; the hippopotamus, who is so heavy he ‘digs tombs’ as he moves over the solid earth”. Moreover, Farka, Touré’s given nickname, means “donkey” and Wheatley’s lament ends appropriately with a man whistling “a tune whose name / means happiness” and “slapping the rump / of the first donkey he passes”. Gibbal’s study provides insight into the significance of these creatures and Touré’s deep connection with the land and the river. As he explains, these animals are associated with the Ghimbala genii or djinn, the spirits of the place whose presence Touré sensed every day as he had been in communion with them from an early age. Touré himself described his heritage as a vital, creative source, “a well that never grows dry”. It was the spirits who led Touré to his music and Wheatley’s “Lament” recounts Touré’s initiation into music through the spirits while also portraying an invigorating, contemporary musical community:

When the child spies a snake
at the edge of the fields

the spirits attack.
Bind him, take him away!

“What is that tune
you are playing, djinn?”

Bassekou sings. “I am
a griot and you must tell me.”

“I call it Ba La Bolo,”
the djinn answers,

“The Branch of the River.”
For a year the boy and the spirits

do battle. He returns
with a tune on his lips:

all praise to Jimbala!
Ancestral and river spirits,

Pepsi and Sicilian-style spirits
join us this evening

where Bassekou sings
Ba La Bolo in Chez Thierry

and we dine on the best
pizza in Bamako.

In this way Touré is a child of the river – he has professed the importance of “roots”, of “home” – while also being a far-sighted, cosmopolitan figure. All is possible for Touré, as his music in its range and breadth of styles testifies to. As Gibbal has recognised, Touré manages in his repertoire to “synthesise the culture of the rock-music generation with the genii culture in which he was raised”. Wheatley’s poem captures something of the whole expansive weave, the richness and complexity of Touré’s landscape, its deep history, culture, languages, religions, mythology, all bound up in Touré’s music, giving a full sense of its very life and breath, its boundless reach. This is a reality, a whole world, that is far from the culture of Western Europe and so it deepens the readers’ understanding of the world and the processes of civilisation:

The Manding empire,
the Songhai empire.

Colonial wars, tribal wars.
Nomad uprisings,

desertification. Abandonment
of migration routes

and slaughter of livestock.

The reader becomes the traveller, journeying through the unknown and down the river Niger in a pirogue. The traveller’s assumptions and ideals are tested at every turn as new sights and sensations present themselves and other perspectives are revealed:

The river rises, sun-baked
and hardened, to give thanks

for itself in the mud
mosque sweating under

its ostrich-egg caps
and awaiting the women

to come sponge it down.
A goat’s capsized reflection

shakes a silent bell
under the tide that rocks

the pirogue. We bring
you millet and salt

from the outlying villages
and desert mines.

The world has opened up in this way, a “capsized reflection”. As the blues maestro himself said in an interview:

For some people, when you say Timbuktu it is like the end of the world, but that is not true. I am from Timbuktu and I can tell you we are right at the heart of the world.

“That sense of the genius loci, that phrase, of inhabiting the place, I get a very strong charge out of that I must say,” Wheatley has said, and in his “Lament for Ali Farka Touré” he has carried us to Timbuktu, down the Niger where Touré himself once steered his course, to a place that is both at the end of the world and right at its heart, a place that we didn’t even know truly existed as the quasi-mythical, far-off land of Timbuktu is the stuff of fantasy. August Kleinzahler has described Roy Fisher’s poem “The Thing About Joe Sullivan” as “one of the very few first-rate poems about jazz”. One thinks too of Larkin’s “For Sidney Bechet” as another deserving tribute. Wheatley, in his vibrant, moving paean to Touré’s spirit, has done the same for the African blues musician and there is a palpable warmth throughout this poem that has not been in evidence in Wheatley’s poetry thus far. There is a fresh imaginative engagement at work here and the sense of further possibility thereby seems limitless; it is a poetry that, as it develops and explores, opens up new and larger ways of encountering the world in all its multiplicity, and there’s more, much more, to come.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

From the House of Literature

A very successful launch of the 2008 series of Rack Press poets took place on Friday at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, also known as Ty Len or House of Literature in Welsh. The three poets, seen here from left to right Byron Beynon, David Wheatley, and Steve Griffiths read well to an appreciative audience. There are still copies left so please order now!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Wales Launch for Rack Poets in Swansea

You are cordially invited to the launch at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea on Friday 11 April of the 2008 Rack Press pamphlet series. It will be a chance to meet the poets and hear them read and have a free glass of wine. Byron Beynon's Cuffs, Steve Griffiths' Landing and David Wheatley's Lament for Ali Farka Touré will be launched at the Centre at an event starting at 7pm. We look forward very much to seeing you there.
Contact: 01792 463980

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Hazel Frew and the Gawain Man

Rack Press poet Hazel Frew read last week in Glasgow with Simon Armitage whose splendid translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has just come out in paperback. We were very pleased to see the product placement here and there are a few copies of Hazel's collection Clockwork Scorpion still available.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Latest News

We are pleased to see a nice article in the Welsh national newspaper Western Mail online edition about Rack Press which describes us as a "quality press for perfect poetry" which is too kind. The latest two Welsh poets, Byron Beynon and Steve Griffiths are praised (by the way, chaps, the third poet in the new series, David Wheatley, may be Irish but it would have been nice to have included him). According to Peter Finch - Wales's one man poetical dynamo: "The poems sit mellow in perfect space."

Also congratulations to Steve Griffiths on launching his new website at www.stevegriffithspoet.com

Monday, 11 February 2008

Hazel Frew in Edinburgh

Rack Press poet Hazel Frew (seen here at an earlier Rack Press party with another of our poets, Dai Vaughan) was reading in Edinburgh last night from her 2007 collection Clockwork Scorpion and attracted some excellent audience response and very favourable reviews from two Scottish poetry blogs. Click here and here to read them. Well done Hazel.

Hazel has also been asked to read with Simon Armitage at Glasgow University on the 13th March at 7.30pm in the Anatomy Theatre. She'll be the only other reader on the bill. The reading is being organised jointly by Vital Synz and the Creative Writing programme at Glasgow University.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Successful Launch of 2008 Series

Nearly sixty people attended last night's launch in London at the Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury of the 2008 series of Rack Press pamphlets by Byron Beynon, David Wheatley, and Steve Griffiths (seen here, left to right in that order, with Rack Press publisher, Nicholas Murray, at the lectern). The poets read from their work and there was a brisk trade at the bookstall. Thanks to all who came and gave their support.

The next Rack Press event will be on 11 April at the Dylan Thomas Centre at Swansea when all three poets will again be reading.

For a comment on David Wheatley's Lament for Ali Farka Touré see this link which reads: "Wheatley’s is single longish piece, admirably avoiding the folklorique, or the touristique: “This belongs in no book. / If found in a book / consider it lost / and return it to its keeper.” (And, to keep one off balance, if one begins to think one’s “got” Mali, or Africa—references to things like “the best / pizza in Bamako.”) And a fine sense of the too-ready circumambiences (that is, the subterfugal flow and mock-reflowering) of story, the mean taking and exchange and refurbishing: “Traders’ tales: / we tell you these things / and you tell us them back. / The masks discarded / after the dance haggle / with us over the price / of a rich, hollow laugh.” Holding one’s own: “Do not / look to the sky for the sun: I think we are inside the sun.”

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Excitement mounts....

A good turn out is expected on Tuesday 15th January at the Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury at 6.30 for the launch of the new 2008 Rack Press poetry pamphlets (see details below). Admission is free and includes a free glass of wine and there will be the chance to meet the poets and buy signed copies of these beautifully produced limited edition pamphlets.

The Swedenborg Hall is in Bloomsbury Way, London nearest Underground Holborn or Tottenham Court Road and the entrance is in Carter Street down the right hand side of of the bookshop.

We look forward to seeing you there.