Monday, 18 October 2010

Jenny Swann talks about how she came to start Candlestick Press

Jenny where did the idea come from for the press?

I set up Candlestick Press in 2008 with the aim of broadening out the readership of poetry – I love (good) poetry, and I couldn’t believe that I was in such a small minority. So the idea was to find a way to bring poetry back into the swing of everyday life.

How did you come up with your concept of 'Instead of a Card'?

Lots of different factors conspired to bring together the ‘Instead of a Card’ poetry pamphlet. I had been working as poetry editor for another Nottingham publisher, Five Leaves Publications, and had seen a couple of poetry pamphlets through the presses… and fallen in love with them. There is something about poetry pamphlets, as opposed to full collections, that is so gorgeous – they feel nice, they make a great introduction to a poet you don’t know, without hitting you over the head with more than you really wanted at a first sitting.

And you can wander around with them tucked neatly into a pocket or a bag – for whatever reasons, I feel a great attachment to them as a vehicle for conveying poetry along with pleasure, delight, curiosity.

How do you use the idea to encourage people to have a go at poetry?
By packaging up our pamphlets with an envelope and bookmark, we found a way of encouraging people to buy poetry pamphlets – namely, as an alternative to the more mainstream greetings cards. Hence, for instance, we published ‘Ten Poems about Love’, knowing that most of our friends and acquaintances would much prefer to be given that for Valentine’s Day than another schmaltzy, over-priced card.

What developments have taken place this year for Candlestick Press?

So – that is the background to the Press. The foreground is that earlier this year, I teamed up with Di Slaney and we are now jointly running the Press. She is a woman after my own heart – someone who can add up, knows one end of a spreadsheet from the other, and keeps hens. Really, I couldn’t have asked for more in a business partner.

What are you currently working on?
As we approach Christmas, we are sending out frightening numbers (but nicely so! I love a little frisson of fear, myself) of our second Christmas poetry pamphlet, published in collaboration with the generous-spirited Carol Ann Duffy. She has agreed to select and introduce a Christmas poetry pamphlet with us for each of the ten Christmases that she is Poet Laureate.

(this is how I first met Candlestick Press, buying their 2009 Christmas collection Eileen)
And what's your next collection about?

Next February sees the publication of ‘Ten Poems about Tea’ with an introduction by Sophie Dahl (this was the brainchild of the Picador poet, Lorraine Mariner, who had been quietly collecting poems about tea for a couple of years).

So there’s never a dull day. And even if there were, it would be punctuated by cups of tea and poems!

Eileen's recommendation:
If you know someone who'd appreciate a Christmas card with a difference or you want to start a new tradition in your family, then head over to and do your Christmas shopping away from the scrum of the high street.
Thanks Jenny.

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