THE POETRY OF THE BLACK COUNTRY OFFA’S PRESS ISBN: 978-0-9955225-3-4
This outstanding new anthology of poetry from Offa’s Press was launched in October 2017 at Wolverhampton’s Light House on the 15th Anniversary of ‘City Voices’. The book is a celebration of Black Country life and speech, work and pastimes, and includes poems by Liz Berry, Brendan Hawthorne (poet laureate of Wednesbury), Emma Purshouse, Marion Cockin, Roy McFarlane, David Calcutt, the late Roy Fisher, and many more. It was edited by performance poet Emma Purshouse, well-known poet/performer Dave Reeves (formerly the editor of Raw Edge magazine and now presenter of Radio Wildfire’s live literature show), and freelance writer/poet Simon Fletcher, who is also editor/manager of the excellent Offa’s Press. This collection brings together some of the best work created in recent years by writers from the Black Country’s vibrant poetry scene. Among the highlights are David Finchett’s heartfelt cry of pain caused by The Wild West Bromwich Ring Road, Emma Purshouse’s sad tale of the Flamingoes in Dudley Zoo, Roy Fisher’s haunting The Burning Graves at Netherton and Liz Berry’s beautiful Homing. Taken together, these poems brilliantly capture the history, humour, pride and indomitable spirit of the Black Country, perhaps most movingly in Natalie Burdett’s Boundaries and Carol Howarth’s On Sedgley Beacon, which features on the cover along with artist Robert Perry’s evocative Winter Nightfall in the Black Country. Mini-biographies of all 39 poets are also included. Highly recommended.
BLACK COUNTRY DIALECTICS - DAVE REEVES OFFA’S PRESS ISBN: 978-0-9565518-3-2
Born in Netherton, Dave Reeves is currently poet-in-residence to the Black Country Living Museum. As a writer, musician and performance poet, He has held many writing residencies around the Midlands, and was editor and publisher of the regional new writing magazine Raw Edge magazine. He broadcasts for the online radio station www.radiowildfire.com and has published many works as a poet, historian and spoken word artist. Dave has performed in pubs, workingmen’s clubs, literary and rock festivals, amongst other places (he was once described by a Times journalist as a ‘kind of cultural hired gun around the West Midlands’), and never fails to enthrall his audiences. Black Country Dialectics, subtitled ‘A burlesque in poetry’, explores the language and culture that he was brought up with - full of laughter, pathos and the natural surrealism he finds running through the area. The book is a fond celebration of Black Country life, dialect and working-class culture in poems that revel in the richness of the local language. Dave Reeves’ words vividly capture the reality of life in the Stamp Shop and Winter in Wartime. He also relates The Singularly Entertainingly Ballad of Ayli Quixote and Sancho Aynuk (‘the pig sat on the wall to watch ’em goo by’). Discover the Toad Paradox and what it means to be saft. Find out what happened when Black Country folk emigrated to America in Saturday Night in Dodge City. Ood a Thought it? Described by the Express & Star as ‘a collection of witty observations by one of the area’s best respected poets’, this funny, warm-hearted and entertaining book comes with a CD of Dave’s engaging readings of his own work.
OFFA’S POETS LIVE AT THE LYCH GATE TAVERN
This delightful collection of live recordings at the Lych Gate Tavern, Wolverhampton, from spring 2015, will please anyone who has ever attended ‘City Voices’, the regular live literature gig, or has read the works of these popular and skilful poets. What comes across is the sensitivity to language, theme and audience which is becoming a trademark of Offa’s poets and confirms their goal of being ‘good on the page and good on stage’. This excellent CD captures the spirit and atmosphere at a ‘City Voices’ evening, with poets Win Saha (the observant wisdom of Separate Lives and September Song), Jeff Phelps, Jane Seabourne with a true Love Song, Emma Purshouse’s pointed Art School Annual, Nick Pearson’s Advice For Daughters, Dave Reeves’ tale of The Tipton Slasher, Bert Flitcroft’s reassuring It’s All In.. and David Bingham’s over-revealing Hobnobs. Nick Pearson also reads poems by Amanda Attfield (the excellent Unprogress) and David Finchett from We’re All In This Together, a collection of environmental poetry he co-edited with Jane Seabourne. Jane reads poems by Marilyn Gunn and Brenda Read-Brown. Master of ceremonies - and guiding hand behind Offa’s Press and ‘City Voices’ - Simon Fletcher reads his own poem, Local History, as well as the poignant Calling on Ivy by Marion Cockin. ‘City Voices’ has moved from the Lych Gate to its new home, The Light House, on the second Tuesday of each month.
ACCIDENTS: NINETEENTH CENTURY ACCIDENTS IN WOLVERHAMPTON - JANE SMITH SHARE OUR PAST LTD ISBN: 978-0957350519
Accidents happen to ordinary people in an ordinary town on an ordinary day. Horses gallop through the streets children work in mines and men wearing clogs try to jump over canals. Accidents are bound to happen and when they do, Nineteenth Century Wolverhampton comes vividly to life. Accidents are a neglected area of historical study and Jane Smith’s excellent book seeks to redress the balance by comprehensively recording accidents in the town during the 1800s. The author has sought out accidents large and small, as they were reported at the time, chiefly from Coroner’s Inquest Reports and newspapers. Each chapter has an introduction which describes the context in which the accidents happen, while maps and pictures help the reader to orientate themselves in the town at this time, showing where the events took place. Many accidents involved children, as when a poor woman attending Wolverhampton Fair with her 12-month old baby resulted in the child being dreadfully lacerated by a ferocious tiger. Fortunately, the child survived. In 1878, Mary Ann Jones, aged 2, of Darlaston Green, tragically died from burns after getting between the bars of a fireguard. The only other person then in the house was a deaf and dumb sister, who was tied to a chair. In 1870, George Smith, of the North Road, suffered concussion after being being hit with a brush by labourer Enoch Dunkling. George had knocked Enoch’s hat off as they larked about at Stafford Road rail works. These and hundreds of other incidents provide fascinating insights into the town and the lives of its people during the Nineteenth Century. Jane Smith was born in Wolverhampton and has lived nearby most of her life. She studied historical geography as an undergraduate and, after a lifetime spent mainly in farming, has returned to her love of social history. She is currently translating manorial documents from Latin in order to uncover more of life in a Shropshire Parish in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and intends to follow up the accidents research with the study of another English town.
I ONCE KNEW A POEM WHO WORE A HAT - EMMA PURSHOUSE & CATHERINE PASCALL MOORE FAIR ACRE PRESS ISBN 9781911048022
This children’s poetry book is jam-packed with pictures, begging to-be-read-out-loud poems, and poetry performing ideas (poetry performing is now a mandatory part of the primary school curriculum). As well as advice to aspiring young people on how to perform - including help from Figment (of the Imagination) - there are nearly a hundred delightful, funny and inspiring poems by Emma Purshouse, charmingly illustrated by Catherine Pascall Moore. We meet an iguana partial to cheese, find out what fishes see and a dinosaur dines on, ponder the point of a gnat, and discover that mums really do know everything. Launched at the 2016 Wenlock Poetry Festival, ‘I once knew a poem who wore a hat’ is a brilliant introduction to poetry for children, which adults are sure to enjoy just as much. Emma is an accomplished writer and performance poet who has run workshops and performed to and with children throughout the West Midlands. She has been shortlisted twice for the Belmont Children’s Poetry Prize and wrote a very popular children’s poetry CD ‘Fair & Fowl’. Catherine was a teacher of Special Needs children and designed for the card company Jotterbox before returning to do an MA in Visual Communications. This is the first book that she has illustrated. ‘Emma’s poems are full of life and laughs, bubbling with music and wisdom and silliness and jokes and cute animals. She’s a great performer of her work and the book is crammed with tips to help the reader become a performer too. And as if that weren’t enough, Catherine’s fine and funny pictures add another dimension to the book.’ - A.F.Harrold, Bloomsbury Children’s Poet. Emma Purshouse lives on a narrowboat and enjoys travelling the inland waterways. The Staffs and Worcs is one of her favourite canals and she has just produced, with artist and printmaker Linda Nevill, a delightful and useful guide to the route - MAPPING THE STAFFS AND WORCS. Emma’s clever and witty words are beautifully illustrated by Linda, who has passions for wildlife, plants and gardens, travel, light and colour. ‘Wightwick, where an inland mermaid sings a siren song of good wine - a posher postcode.’ A thousand copies of the guide - ‘a creative journey’ - are available free along the length of the canal at various canal side businesses and places like the Bratch.
ELLEN’S FORGOTTEN MERCIA - ANTHONY PERRY BREWIN BOOKS ISBN ISBN 1 85858 132 X
Born and bred in Wolverhampton, Anthony Perry was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and works for the Property Services Division of Wolverhampton Borough Council. His interest in the Victorian period was sparked by a recollection that one of the books inherited from his grandfather was by a Wolverhampton author Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler. Ellen’s Forgotten Mercia explores the Midland settings - some obvious, some not – featured in Ellen’s novels. Excerpts from her books accompany nostalgic photographs of buildings in the real-life places that she called Silverhampton (Wolverhampton), Mershire (Staffordshire), the pretty village of Tetleigh (Tettenhall, where Ellen married in 1903), Tetleigh Wood, Crompton village (Compton), the Badgering Woods of Sedgehill (Sedgley), picturesque Codswell (Codsall), and the beautiful old town of Northbridge on the Severn (Bridgnorth). Some places remain elusive - Claverley Castle, the quaint old town of Chayford, the Tudor mansion Greyston, Journey’s End in ‘Salopshire’ - and have been included for readers to discover for themselves. Fascinating archive photographs show buildings such as the first Wrottesley Hall and Ellen’s own home, Woodthorne, that have been lost since the early twentieth century. Wolverhampton’s history is closely linked with the Fowler family, whose contribution to Methodism, local politics and literature is covered in another Anthony Perry book, THE FOWLER LEGACY (Brewin Books ISBN 1 85858 094 3). This recounts the history of Wolverhampton in the 19th and early-20th centuries and shows the outstanding contribution to the city’s development made by the Fowlers and other local families such as the Thorneycrofts. The text is generously illustrated with photographs and drawings.
THE NAILMAKERS’ DAUGHTERS OFFA’S PRESS ISBN 978-0-9565518-8-7
This stylish new collection features the poetry of Emma Purshouse, Iris Rhodes and Marion Cockin, deftly edited by Jane Seabourne, a poet and teacher who has worked locally for many years. These Black Country women’s lives are deeply rooted in the history of the area and their poems challenge and delight by turns. Emma Purshouse is one of Wolverhampton’s most successful poets (and a descendant of nail-makers). She has worked with Martin Parr and Dame Margaret Drabble and released two delightful CDs, Upsetting the Apple Cart and Fair or Fowl. Highlights in this new collection include Emma’s ‘Machine Parts’ and ‘Then and Now’, reflecting working lives past and present. She also imagines what the ‘Flamingos in Dudley Zoo’ are thinking and lists her collection of ‘Tat’ as well as the tenderly funny ‘Things I Learned from my Maternal Grandfather’. Iris Rhodes was born in Bradley, Bilston, and after living and working in London and Africa she has returned to her roots. She has had a lifelong interest in writing and poetry, and her work has been widely published. Iris fondly remembers here ‘The Queen’s Ballroom, Wolverhampton’, ‘Travellers’ Horses’ and ‘The Rocket Pools, Bradley’, and composes a beautiful ‘Black Country Aubade’. Marion Cockin was born in Wednesbury and wrote her first story when she was seven, writing poetry from the age of 16. She qualified as a librarian and was an Assistant Librarian for Wolverhampton City until she retired. Among her poems here Marion explores ‘The Wednesbury Mangle Theory’ and what it means to be ‘Common’, uncovers ‘The Writing on the Wall’ and finds out where the ‘Sparrows’ went. The Nailmakers’ Daughters received its world premiere at the City Voices evening at Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton in September 2015, and this evocative collection of Black Country-inspired poetry from Offa’s Press is highly recommended.
BLACK COUNTRY STORIES - MARTIN PARR DEWI LEWIS PUBLISHING
Magnum photographer Martin Parr was commissioned by Multistory in 2010,to produce a photographic portrait and archive about everyday life in the Black Country. Martin Parr has an international reputation for his innovative imagery and his oblique approach to social documentary and has published more than 80 books of his own work, edited a further 30, and exhibited in every continent. He said of this commission, ‘With it’s famous industrial past, there was going to be an inevitable sense of decline in the area, but what I had not counted on was the revitalisation that the many immigrant groups had brought to the area. ... It is this vital mix that we decided to focus on and, at the same time, looking for examples of traditional Black Country life that were in good health. As the lid was slowly eased open, we realised the power of the material that we were unearthing.’ To coincide with a major exhibition of these outstanding photographs at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Multistory and Martin Parr have published this beautifully produced book in partnership with Dewi Lewis Publishing. Black Country Stories has 140 pages that showcase more than a hundred of the best colour images from the exhibition. The diversity and spirit of the community comes shining through in scenes such as those captured at Molineux, the Goodyear factory and Bilston market. The book has been shortlisted for the PHE15 Best Photography Book of the Year Award and has been exhibited at the museum of the National Library in Madrid since June 2015 as part of the Official Section of PhotoEspaña 2015. Martin Parr has also directed four outstanding films as part of his four-year project for Multistory and these can be seen at the exhibition as well as on DVD.
EMMA PURSHOUSE - UPSETTING THE APPLE CART OFFA’S PRESS
Emma Purshouse is a poetry slam champion who performs her work across the UK, appearing regularly at literature festivals, and has had short stories and poetry published in various anthologies and small press magazines. Her highly recommended CD, Upsetting the Apple Cart, was released by Offa’s Press in 2010 and features 28 of Emma’s best poems. These combine wry West Midlands humour with pathos to explore the excitement of neighbourhood watch, warn of the danger of crashing your car in Wales, and report on the downside of being married to Superman or Shakespeare - the lyingest knave in Christendom. The bravura wordplay of ‘The art school annual picnic’ and ‘Sometimes I can’t get going’ is balanced by poignant reflections in ‘How would it be’ and ‘All over.’ In this world, the weather can go missing and a Wolverhampton woman may lose her mind. There are problems with men who forget anniversaries, untidy the house, shout things at ladies, feed the cat left-over curry, and escape like Houdini. Emma Purshouse’s poems are original, witty, passionate and warm, and she reads them beautifully. Look out too for FAIR OR FOWL (Rowan Berry Press), a CD of entertaining poems for children in which Tarzan comes to England, we find out what really happened to the ugly duckling, discover what dinosaurs eat, and meet Sponge Bob Square Pants’ number 1 fan. Written and narrated by Emma Purshouse, the poems are delightfully illustrated by Linda Nevill, an artist and fine art printmaker who formerly lectured at the City of Wolverhampton College.
MARRIAGE MATERIAL – SATHNAM SANGHERA WINDMILL BOOKS ISBN 978009955875
Sathnam Sanghera’s novel, Marriage Material, was first published in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award. The book is a modern version of Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives Tale, which was set in a drapery shop in Burslem in the 1800s. Sathnam’s novel has moved the action 38 miles south to a Wolverhampton convenience store between the 1960s and 2011. It deals with the inner struggle of immigrant families over whether they should integrate more with English culture or try to preserve their own. To Arjan Banga, returning to the Black Country after the unexpected death of his father, his family’s corner shop represents everything he has tried to leave behind – a lethargic pace of life, insular rituals and ways of thinking. But when his mother insists on keeping the shop open, he finds himself being dragged back, forced into big decisions about his imminent marriage back in London and uncovering the history of his broken family – the elopement and mixed-race marriage of his aunt Surinder, the betrayals and loyalties, loves and regrets that have played out in the shop over more than fifty years. This Wolverhampton corner shop, itself a microcosm of the South Asian experience in the country, is a symbol of independence and integration, but also of darker realities. The dialogue is particularly well observed, including chitchat such as, ‘Ow bin ya? Bostin day, ay it? Bostin carrier bags, these. Tarrarabit, cocka, see yow tomorra.’ Funny, perceptive and touching, Marriage Material is an epic tale of family, love and politics, told with humour, tenderness and insight. ‘Dangerous material is handled with a darkly comic lightness of touch, and an impassively detached ironic tone…This book is so well researched you hardly notice the work that’s gone into it.’ - Margaret Drabble.
THE BOY WITH THE TOPKNOT: A MEMOIR OF LOVE, SECRETS AND LIES IN WOLVERHAMPTON – SATHNAM SANGHERA
It’s 1979, I’m three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I’m presenting myself for execution. For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties was a confusing business. On the one hand, these were the heady days of George Michael mix-tapes, Dallas on TV and, if he was lucky, the occasional Bounty Bar. On the other, there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks, his 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot. And then there was his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he took for granted until, at the age of twenty-four, Sathnam made a discovery that changed everything he ever thought he knew about them. Equipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour, he embarks on a journey into their extraordinary past - from his father’s harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office - trying to make sense of a life lived among secrets. ‘Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving’ - Observer.
USA BY RAIL - JOHN PITT
American trains have long had a firm hold on the popular imagination, inspiring countless stories, songs, scandals, films and legends. Attracted by the pace of life and an ever-changing view, more people are discovering the joys of taking to the rails to cross this vast continent in comfort, taking in attractions such as the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone Park and Disney World along the way. This new, fully updated Eighth edition of the Bradt guide, USA by Rail, reveals in entertaining fashion the unique pleasures of North American train travel with Amtrak and VIA Rail. Written by Wolverhampton born author John Pitt, this book describes 37 long-distance rail journeys in the United States and Canada and features 500 destinations, including sightseeing and recommended accommodation in 38 cities. There are helpful maps and comprehensive route guides to trains such as the Coast Starlight and California Zephyr as well as all the practical information you need to make reservations, buy tickets and find your way about strange train stations. Details of Amtrak high-speed Acela trains are included, as well as useful advice on local transport, making this the ideal travel companion and essential reading when planning your itinerary. ‘The best guidebook for the journey’ - Sunday Telegraph. More information can be found on the USA by Rail website.
BEAUTY - RAPHAEL SELBOURNE
Beauty - in both name and appearance - is a twenty-year-old Bangladeshi, back in England having disgraced her family by fleeing an abusive arranged marriage. Placed on the jobseekers’ treadmill, and under continuing domestic pressure, in desperation, she runs away a life of drudgery and bullying. Her encounters with officialdom, fellow claimants, and passers-by in the city streets, complicated by the restrictions and comfort of her language and culture, place her at the mercy of such unlikely helpers as Mark, a friendly, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender, and Peter, an ineffectual middle-class underachiever on the rebound from a bitter relationship. Determined and spirited, yet tormented by doubts, Beauty Begum is forced to examine her own beliefs and think seriously about her future. While her brothers search for her across the city, the conflict between her desire for personal freedom and her sense of family duty deepens. What will she do? The under-explored city of Wolverhampton is the setting for this sharply observed, compassionate and challenging portrait of a fragmented, multicultural urban England. Born in Oxford, Raphael Selbourne studied politics at Sussex University and worked in Italy and China before moving to the West Midlands. Beauty, published by the excellent Birmingham-based Tindal Street Press, won the 2009 Costa First Novel Award, where the judges said that it ‘Captures the raw humanity of inner city life with extraordinary authenticity’. Raphael Selbourne’s vibrant novel is an absorbing tale of discovery and surprising affections, shot through with sympathy and lightened by typically Wolverhampton humour.