Top Marks: Charlotte Wetton, Calder Valley Poetry and the Poetry Business

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[At The British Library after the Michael Marks Awards. Charlotte Wetton, winner of the pamphlet prize for ‘I Refuse to Turn into a Hatstand’ (published by Calder Valley Poetry), her mum, Jenni, to her right, Chief Judge Ruth Padel to her left.]

What a month it’s been for poetry in general, for the poets and poetry of the north, and for good friends in particular. A couple of weeks ago it was Kim Moore with the Geoffrey Faber Award. Last night it was the prestigious Michael Marks Pamphlet awards in London.

I’m doubly happy about Charlotte’s success. I heard the title poem in November last year at a Sheffield book launch for The Poetry Business. Billy Collins had picked it as one of the winners of the Yorkshire Prize for a single poem….part of the Poetry Business International Pamphlet Competition.  And now it’s won a prize that carries many good things with it…including, I think, a residency in Greece. What’s also nice is to open the pamphlet and recognise poems that I’ve seen in Albert Poets Monday night workshops in Huddersfield. Because Charlotte is one of the many poets who’s been part of the mutual support service that is the Albert Poets.If you follow the cobweb, then you’ll know all about how much I and so many others owe them.

And here’s the thing. It was because of the Albert workshops that I met up again with Bob Horne, who I worked with in the the 80’s and early 90’s, and then didn’t see again for over 20 years. And guess who published Charlotte’s pamphlet…Calder Valley Poetry. What an achievement! Two years ago, Calder Valley Poetry didn’t exist. Since Bob started it he’s published 15 titles. There are many more in the pipeline. The story of the C V P has been told on the cobweb before. You can read it by following this link.

Or you can get the picture from this extract


There seem to be hundreds of small poetry presses about, and I imagine they struggle to make a living, competing as they do for what is essentially a niche market;something led you think: there’s room for another. What was the trigger that persuaded you to set up your own publishing venture?

“Publishing had been on my mind for 12 months, since a conversation at The Albert Poets with Stephanie Bowgett and John Duffy.  I asked why they hadn’t published anything since the 90s. They’re both such good poets that it seemed odd to me. They both replied, immediately, that they couldn’t be bothered with all the hassle. I thought then, well,  I can be bothered on your behalf. I then helped Simon Zonenblick  with Nuala Fagan’s chapbook Not All Birdsong, and thoroughly enjoyed the design and editing parts of the process, which is when I decided I’d set up my own small press. Actually, I think I was intending to continue assisting Simon, and he suggested I set up my own. I came up with the name Calder Valley Poetry, wondered how and when I’d get going.”


Hang on to that simple thought.  I can be bothered on your behalfCalder Valley Poetry was created out of an impulse of generosity, and continues to publish poets who you may not have heard of (unless you happen to go to readings and workshops around West Yorkshire, and the Calder and Ryburn Valleys in particular)and some, like Steve Ely* and Peter Riley, who you’ll certainly know. Alison Lock, Gaia Holmes* & Winston Plowes, John Duffy*, Mark Hinchcliffe*, Michael Haslam, Mike Di Placido*, Neil Clarkson, Nigel King, Peter Riley, Stephanie Bowgett* (and me). All the starred *poets have featured as guests on the cobweb; check them out  And then head over to the Calder Valley Bookshop by using this link


And, finally. There’s hardly a post goes by when I fail to sing the praises of The Poetry Business. So many of us owe so much to Ann and Peter Sansom, who for over 30 years, have been discovering, nurturing, championing and publishing new poets. And you know what? I love the fact that their house journal is called The North. So well done and tickertape parades to them for winning the publisher’s award this year.

Right, break out the bubbly, raise your glasses and raise the roof for Charlotte Wetton, for Bob Horne and CVP, and for the utterly wonderful and awesome Poetry Business.


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