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Publication Day: Split and Bitten Hair

Today is publication day! Tomorrow (4 October) is the Edinburgh launch in the Lighthouse Bookshop. It's also National Poetry Day, which I didn't know when I set it. Tessa Berring's Bitten Hair and Juana Adcock's Split: two brilliant and original debut collections unlike anything in UK mainstream or experimental poetry. Well, you could make comparisons, I suppose, but they both take their own path.

Split is the Poetry Book Society's Choice for winter 2019. I admit I was surprised when it was chosen, and not because it isn't a great book! It just seemed unusual that a left-field debut collection from a tiny, unfunded Scottish press would be picked out from all among the well known names and established publishing houses. Has an unfunded press ever been chosen for this before? Or a Scotland-based press? I don't know, but I can't think of any off-hand. I struggle to work out what writers have influenced Juana (possibly Latin American writers, many of whom I won't have read), but I do know that every word in the collection has been carefully considered. The editing process for this book was fascinating for me.

Bitten Hair also ploughs its own furrow. I think it takes its bearings from the likes of Lyn Hejinian, Charles Simic, Selima Hill, Vasko Popa and Tomaz Salamun. I don't know whether Tessa has read all of those very diverse poets or not, but something of their influences, whether first- or second-hand, has somehow informed them. There is humour, darkness, art, domesticity, tenderness, an exploration of emotion and an emotional undercurrent to their apparently cool, short-lined observations.

I hope both books get the readership they deserve. Not just because I want to break even and keep Blue Diode Press going(!), but because poetry books that attempt to break new ground and talk about important things need a readership, a conversation and a few enthusiastic advocates! So, in short, please buy them and read them and enjoy them, preferably direct from the Blue Diode shop.

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