Dunlin Press are delighted to launch Alex Toms’ debut poetry collection, Lessons for an Apprentice Eel Catcher, at The Wivenhoe Bookshop on Thursday 11th October 2018.
In this stunning, otherworldly collection of poetry, Alex Toms introduces us to a troupe of curious characters to explore themes of love, womanhood and sex. At the centre of this collection is the eel catcher, a shadowy figure who lives on the fringes of everyday experience. The eel catcher weaves willow traps, and tales of folklore and magic, evoking an East Anglia inhabited by poachers, witches and ghosts.
In her poems, Toms skilfully summons the uncanny, and out of it draws a slithering sense with which we are all familiar. Here are all the snares of life, and also perhaps, a spell that could set us free.
The poems are accompanied by specially commissioned individual paper-cut illustrations and bespoke photography.
Alex Toms is a repeat winner in national poetry competitions and in 2015 was Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year. She is widely published in magazines, journals and anthologies. Find out more about the launch here.
Why? That’s the question. Why would anyone in their right minds set up an independent publishing house and run it from a little office in a little old fishing town in little old Essex, and then decide to publish a book that combines beautiful illustrations of migratory wading birds with descriptions of the geography and habitat of the places where they make their temporary homes – from the Arctic circle to Africa – and then add in some meditations about conservation and human migration, touching on the big issues of refugees and the war-torn parts of this world? Why? Why? Why?
Well, because we can. As a small indie publisher we’re not fighting with the big guys who are looking after their margins, set against huge outlays and large potential audiences. We’re not shouting for virtual shelf space on Amazon or setting out our stall to lure in the readers of blockbuster genre fiction. We know we are niche. It’s nice being niche. It’s the reason we’re called Dunlin Press – we’re the little guys feeding in the margins. We’re not looking to be mainstream.
Our first book, Est: Collected Reports From East Anglia (£9.99) is an evocation of a region – as its title hopefully suggests. But it’s not a local history book, or a travelogue, or a collection of local poets or other writers – although it includes all of these things. Est is more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t set out to define East Anglia, in fact a better description, perhaps, is that it ‘dedefines’ the region. East Anglia, by the end of the book, dissolves – crumbles into the sea.
And so our second book, The Migrant Waders (£12.99), was never going to be simply a nature book or an ornithological guide. Alongside contributions from the RSPB and BTO there is poetry; alongside micro-histories of human migrations there is psychogeography and words from the Refugee Council. And those lovely drawings.
The migrations of humans and wading birds aren’t always entwined, of course. But the reasons that humans and birds take flight are remarkably similar. It’s about finding a safe place to make a home. And, by the way, those beautiful birds really do follow a flight path to locations where human history has often been one of turmoil and war. It really can be quite sobering.
We made The Migrant Waders because we can. There really is no other book quite like it.
We will be launching our second book, The Migrant Waders, at Church Street Tavern, Colchester, Essex, on Thursday 21 April, at 7pm. It’s a free event, so please do come and join us to help celebrate. The evening will include readings from contributing authors, discussion with Ella Johnston about the wonderful illustrations that appear throughout the book and, of course, the chance to get your hands on the book itself.
We hope to see you and your friends there.
The Migrant Waders is a collection of illustration, evocative prose, poetry and reportage that follows the migration routes of wading and shore birds from the high arctic to the tropics. Taking in the histories of the people and places where the birds make their temporary homes, the book includes 21 ink and watercolour illustrations by Ella Johnston and contributions from nature and landscape writers, as well as leading ecologists and environmentalists.
It might just look like a slightly blurry phone photo of a Leuchtterm 1917 notebook, but inside our little black book are the names of all the contributors who have successfully made it into Est, or upcoming volume of reports from East Anglia. They know. We know. But you don’t know – unless our dossier here is as leaky as a Whitehall briefing system.
In any case, we’ll be revealing all the names via Twitter over the coming few weeks, so do follow us on @dunlinpress – it’s all getting rather exciting.
Thank you, thank you and thank you again. We have received so many great submissions for Est – what a creative, talented and generous part of the world East Anglia is.
You’ve sent us insightful prose, elegant lines of poetry, personal histories, nature writing, photography and some attention-grabbing psychogeographical splendour. The submissions tick off locations around the region from the fens to Harwich and from the north Norfolk Coast to Southend.
Can we thank you again? Oh, go on: thank you!
The next few weeks will see us sifting through your writing and making the difficult decision about what we can fit into Est and what, sadly, we’ll have to leave out. When that’s done, we’ll be in touch with everyone who sent us their work. There’s an exciting late-summer and autumn ahead and it really looks as if Est is shaping up to be a unique tour of East Anglia through poetry, prose and pictures.
We’ll be keeping you up to date with what goes on all the way through the process and tweeting extra thoughts over at @dunlinpress – so do stay in touch.