We have a reputation for publishing poets in the early stages of their careers, and this bothers some people, because it might undermine those who have paved the way in accessible poetry and publishing. But there is something hierarchal about the relationship between publishers and writers, a gap that Amazon filled when they introduced the Kindle and opened up the world to self-publishing ventures.* Our well established aim is to bring poetry by the people, for the people, so our idea of what it takes to be qualified to be published is broad, and is inclusive of early career poets. This year (2018) we have published around 30 collections of poetry, and more than half of those are first collections. A third of that is made up of writers in the early stages of their careers. This is part of the reason why we have open submissions – to find new and emerging voices that can carry their own and promise a future. One such example is our latest collection Venus Shells by London based poet, artist and single mum, Nadia Malik.

Nadia is at a very early stage in her career, earlier than perhaps all our other poets,  but when reading her initial submission, there was something ultimately gut wrenching about it – it showed a level of articulation and compassion that I have admired in writers like Hafsah Aneela Bashir and Rebecca Tantony.

I have milk skin
my grandma picks it like the paddy
between finger and thumb
she holds me
in the fields ingrained on her face
sweaty and comforting
like overcooked rice pudding

Nadia has confessed to writing poems late at night, with her young child asleep in the bed next to her, tapping away on her iPhone. The image of this is in such tasty contrast to the idea of the writer, pen and pad out on a hectic desk or the more romantic notions of a stately drawing room, surrounded by pastoral scenes. In collating, writing and editing poems for Venus Shells, Nadia has already done what more experienced poets have yet to do – she has formed a patterned relationship with her work, curating it as a overarching story of her life. This is a wonderful and challenging process that I think is essential for any poets, whether you are submitting to a publisher or not. Take what you have, print or lay them out and find patterns, an order, or a growing narrative that you might continue with. In the future, when you do submit, you have a better idea of your book in your mind and what you want it to say.

Nadia Malik

Venus Shells is a collection of poems about forming personal identity within a multicultural community. It follows journeys from childhood to motherhood and trauma to healing, mixed with reference to Indonesian myths. The debut also includes original artwork by Nadia, which includes the front cover. A very beautiful homegrown collection is what you will find waiting for you upon opening expressed here by Shagufta K Igbal:

“This is a searing collection of poems that are brilliantly tender, Malik is beautiful in telling stories where the truth creeps up on you in a quiet and powerful way. Venus Shells has in an honest and magical way mapped my journey of motherhood in a visceral, heart-breaking, and poignant new light. I would recommend this to all mothers, to find comfort and a sense of hope, in even the most exhausting and darkest moments.”

To order a copy of Venus Shells, please visit our web store.

So:To Speak review by Sophie Jones

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