Summer Pamphlets Round-Up

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Glenrothes-based Happenstance are veterans of small press publishing, creating gorgeous, slender volumes both intimate and refined. Their most recent publication, Lydia Kennaway’s A History of Walking presents an idiosyncratic perambulation through various lyric modes, resting on the affection of ‘Walking Out Together’: ‘I pity those who do not walk arm-in-arm / and those who do because they do / not walk arm-in-arm with you.’

Stewart Sanderson’s An Offering and Samuel Tongue’s Stitch, from Aberdeenshire’s Tapsalteerie, are worth investigating: two pamphlets whose titles both suggest connections of some kind or another. In Tongue’s case, these are pitched somewhere among nature, religion and society and the increasingly fractured substance of each, while one gets the sense with Sanderson that his poems are ‘offerings’ to history both social and natural which, even as they dramatise doubt, do so with decisive manipulation of the ‘slightly / synthetic’ craft of verse-making.

In a more experimental mode (and often mischievously so) is the prolific output of Glasgow’s SPAM Press, self-described ‘post-internet poetry zine and pamphlet machine’. Their thrice-yearly zine, with past themes including astroturf and cruise liners, is always full of fun and surprises, and they’ve published seven pamphlets in 2019 already. Special mention is due to Helen Charman’s Daddy Poem, a surreptitiously biting and exhilarating satire of patriarchal pedagogy, and Audrey Lindemann’s surprising and delightful I Have Compiled 14 Gay Love Poems, found poems drawing on sources from Sappho to Harry Styles fan fiction.

Edinburgh’s Stewed Rhubarb, meanwhile, excel in giving textual permanence to the performative dynamics of poets such as Hannah Lavery. Her Finding Sea Glass, excerpted from stage show The Drift, explores questions of belonging through the intersecting lenses of race, nationhood and family, with an often body-blow immediacy that is humorous and heartrending by turns.

Last but not least is the long overdue The Tiny Talent: Selected Poems by Joan Ure from Orkney’s Brae Editions, a large format selection of Ure’s poems ‘unfairly neglected’ since her death in 1978 (as Alasdair Gray notes in his foreword). Ure’s poetry is direct and versatile, and often strikes a remarkably contemporary note in its depiction of the Scottish literary world. It’s a timely and valuable publication which proves the worth of pamphlets not just for describing our present literary landscape, but also for giving voice to the omissions of the past.

—Calum Rodger