from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Looking For Icarus

Forthcoming soon from IDP a new edition of my first poetry collection
It's a fine and lovely thing when your first poetry collection is published. In order to make your way into print via a collection, you need to have had a number of poems published in respectable journals or small magazines, and preferably an anthology or two – there's no other way round it.

By the time my first collection was invited in 2004, I'd already fulfilled those criteria over many years, had made an artists' book of poems and prints with Penny Grist, a printmaker, as part of our 'Year of the Artist' Arts Council England residency at Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset in 2000/2001, and had various pamphlets published. Then there were two non-fiction books by different mainstream publishers (if mind/body/spirit publisher Element Books counts as mainstream).

But there was nothing like the joy of holding my very first poetry collection in my hands, and the more so because the invitation to submit a manuscript came out of the blue, as they say, by the poetry editor for bluechrome press. He'd seen my work in various magazines.

I had a good time with bluechrome. The book was beautifully designed and produced with a lovely cover (thanks, Bea, for scanning and sending this when my computer was refusing), with deep blue endpapers, quality paper, a nice font, and it garnered some kind reviews.

Bluechrome, to my delight, also took on my first novel, Imago, which had seen many near-misses by several big publishers, each of whom in the end concluded that, being about timeslip, the Cathars and implicitly reincarnation was too esoteric for the market.

There's a long story behind all that, but for now suffice to say that I was delighted after about 14 years to find someone who liked it enough as to publish it, and who gave me a fabulous cover:

Then suddenly the publisher did a vanishing act. Completely. Untraceably. (Some said he was a very ill man.) And my book came into print only in my imagination.

Again, the (now ex-) bluechrome poetry editor Ronnie came to my rescue. He'd left bluechrome some little while before the owner jumped ship, and had founded IDP. He emailed me, knowing about Imago, and asking what I was planning to do. Very little, was the truth. I had serious family illness problems, was working every hour to get by, and felt somewhat disheartened by what had happened. 'I'm asking you whether you want a contract with us,' he had to spell out. Hell, yes, of course, was my response; and we agreed on a 4-book contract.

How lucky I am with that – authors would sell their partners for less. And Ronnie and Dawn have been wonderful to work with, and are usually ahead of themselves and their own release dates – I'm reminded over and over how fortunate I've been with IDP when I hear the frequent tales from other poets of different hopelessly unreliable or just plain slack publishers.

However, I should just qualify all this by saying to any hopefuls reading this that small presses don't pay advances. In fact, any advances I've had from any publisher have been less than that for my first book, commissioned in 1993, and that was only in the low four figures (these 'bidding wars' make the news because they are news, as writers know only too well – the Society of Authors tells us that most of us earn less than £12K a year from our writing; some of us rather less than that. And of course the advances are advances against future sales, so your book has to earn that back for the publisher before you as author collect royalties.)

And poetry is not a money-earner, full stop – far more people want to write it and be published than want to buy it.

Nonetheless, a 4-book deal is not to be sneezed at; and IDP have given me Imago in print, my second novel The Burning Ground, my third full collection All the Missing Names of Love, and a reprint of Icarus (Bardo, a collection of prose poems, came out in between from a different publisher).

And so I'm delighted to say that Looking For Icarus will be out again this summer with that beautiful new cover above (thank you, Gay Anderson, and Ronnie Goodyer).

I have a tendency to find my old poems cringe-makingly embarrassing. However, I've been revisiting these in the light of proofing the ms, and have also been reading from this collection when I've been giving a poetry reading. I like them. I wasn't expecting to stand wholeheartedly behind them, but I find that I do. Hooray.

Here's a taster for you, from the banks of the River Tavy on the edge of Dartmoor where I used to watch otters.


You could have been squatting here forever
almost grown into bank, or become another
rippling ring of light on the dark river.
Twigs have roosted in your hair; your hands
river-stone-cold. Breath feathers the last of the day.

Where do we go each time we close behind us
the door of the present moment? Who
steps forward and who is left behind?
Who still squats by the water when you’re
long gone into tree, or bird, or sand?

© Roselle Angwin, 2005/2015


  1. Robert, as always thank you for the affirmation. I love this cyber-community where we all support each others' work.

  2. I really do love this poem. So tight and deep.

  3. Thank you, mardomcas. It's a favourite of mine, recalling a time of early-morning otter-watching on the banks of the River Tavy.


Blog Archive