Live literature producer and independent publisher Penned in the Margins is publishing the latest titles from Luke Kennard and Melissa Lee-Houghton, which its director Tom Chivers believes is a “bit of a coup” for a small indie.
Alongside names such as Kate Tempest, Kei Miller and Annie Freud, Kennard and Lee-Houghton were among the Poetry Book Society’s 2014 Next Generation Poets, a group of writers whom the organisation expects to “dominate the poetry landscape of the coming decade”.
“They are both writers I already enjoy close relationships with,” Chivers said. “We published Melissa’s first and second collections, as well as Luke’s sci-fi novella Holophin. So I’m glad that our commitment to developing emerging writers over the past decade is beginning to be recognised by the mainstream.”
Penned in the Margins publishes a mix of poetry, fiction and literary non-fiction. “I am always looking for books that surprise me; which delight and provoke on the level of language,” Chivers said. “[Kennard’s collection] Cain and [Lee-Houghton’s] Sunshine are written in wildly different voices. Cain is laconic, formally inventive, sparkling with wit, Sunshine is raw, confessional and riven by a dark music. But Luke and Melissa show how exciting poetry is right now—and what a broad church it’s become. They demonstrate how poetry continues to be a powerful and relevant artform, and one that’s most exciting at its experimental edges.”
Chivers describes Penned in the Margins as an “odd mix” between an independent publisher and a producing theatre company, positioned “in the gaps between innovative writing, performance and the traditional lyric form”. He said: “In that way, I hope we have attracted a list of authors who—to echo [poet Robert] Frost—’take the road less travelled by’. Of equal importance, running an indie press is all about building an audience for your books, and I like to think we have a loyal and passionate following. I love interacting with readers both at events and on Twitter—it makes the publishing process real.”
Speaking about the poetry market as a whole, Chivers said: “[The market] is small and quite lopsided—alongside publishers with rich traditions such as Faber, there are scores of tiny bedroom presses run on passion and strong coffee.” Placing Penned in the Margins “somewhere in the middle of the two”, Chivers said: “I’ve always wanted to take a professional, strategic approach to publishing with a strong focus on marketing and sales, while also maintaining a DIY energy. Our readers admire our production values and the creativity we put into making and promoting each book. At the heart of our publishing practice is an absolute commitment to high quality editing. I know that’s something my authors value.”
Cain was published on 6th June in hardback, priced £12.99. Sunshine will be published in September in paperback, priced £9.99. Kennard’s début novel, The Transition, will be out next year published by Fourth Estate.