All entries for Wednesday 05 January 2005

January 05, 2005

The Heaventree Press

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HEAVENTREE is a new poetry press that already shows immense promise. ~The Guardian

The Heaventree Press, Winner of the Raymond Williams Prize for Community Publishing 2004 is a not-for-profit West Midlands based independent publisher, specialising in anthologies and pamphlets of new literature. Set up by local young poets as a community venture, Heaventree is dedicated to promoting arts in coventry and the surrounding area.


Heaventree began germinating in April 2002, after a conference at the University of Warwick called ďThe Crisis in Poetry Publishing.Ē
The Ďcrisis,í a word some of the debaters did not feel appropriate, was in poetry sales for new or unestablished writers. Most of these writers are published by small presses with low budgets for marketing. Sales were bad, many publishing houses relied on Arts Council funding for a few years, before disappearing. Poetry is unprofitable, but that's not a shock to anyone.

Poetry is everywhere. There are hundreds of magazines, events, many national and some international festivals, workshops all over the country and thousands of books of poetry coming out every year. But the flood of poetry has made it hard for commercial publishers to make a living out of poetry.

The backlash is that major publishing houses have closed off their lists to poetry, especially new poetry. Most major houses who continue to publish poets stick to the established names, effectively creating an elite core who will make it onto the shelves in major bookstores, while excluding others.

Meanwhile, the specialist poetry audience has slowly expanded as new readers come to love poetry, but the number of people who might read poetry occasionally, just for pleasure, has been dwindling. Is it a lack of media coverage, marketing finances, or similar business slang? Is it that poetry is all a waste of time? The Crisis debate did not provide an answer. They left that to the audience.

So why, in this apparently hostile climate, did we start a poetry press dedicated to new writing? Simple: if sales are falling, it doesnít mean people no longer want poetry. It means they are not being given the poetry they want. Why should they pay more for poetry because commercial publishers want to make a profit?

Our solution is to give the poetry to the public, where we can, for as little as possible. We are doing our best to produce books and magazines at an affordable price, drawing in funding and subsidies. Where we do make some profit, we will channel the money back into providing more poetry, art, literature and music for Coventry and the West Midlands.


In December 2002 we received an initial start-up grant from The Princeís Trust for our magazine, avocado , now a regular commercial product. The first issue came out in February 2003. Our first anthology, Phoenix New Writing, was published in July 2003, funded by The Phoenix Initiative, Coventry Councilís regeneration project. It has since won the Raymond Williams Community Publishing Prize for the excellence of its contents and production.

Other recent publications are Saffron Tea, an anthology of British South Asian poetry; Jungle, a short piece of fiction by David Dabydeen; Half Life: poems for Chernobyl by Mario Petrucci; I Have Crossed An Ocean, an anthology of international writing from the Coventry area; and the first volumes in a series of new poetry pamphlets. More details about the books are available on other parts of the website.

We have other projects lined up, or in progress, including working with the refugee communities in Coventry; piloting a series of creative writing workshops for local young people that will fuse poetry, music, animations and performance; organising a new Black Poetry Festival in the city. Again, please surf the website for more details on these and other projects.

We also run a regular open mic night at The Tin Angel cafť, Spon Street, in Coventry, on the first Tuesday of every month. Itís a good place to come and meet us and find out more about what we do. Bring your short stories, poetry, a guitar and a song, even a short stand-up routine, to share as well.


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