Spreading a Passion for Poetry – by Post!

As Father’s Day moves into view, what do you give a father who already has enough socks to fill every drawer in the house? The answer is poetry – poems about cricket, bicycles, gardening; poems about fathers and about fatherhood itself.  And also now, poems about cricket and war.

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I’ve always loved reading poetry, but sometimes that isn’t an easy passion to share. Many people are afraid of it – perhaps they’ve been put off by studying poetry at school, where we’re told we have to know exactly what the poet is trying to tell us, or we feel it’s too difficult to understand. But many of the first books we read as children are written in rhyme, and we all know and love far more poetry than we realise – from nursery rhymes and nonsense to snatches of half-remembered verse. In times of crisis, or at the end of life when other memories recede, the verses we learned as children can still be called easily to mind – as proved by other poetry evangelists such as Deborah Alma, the Emergency Poet, who uses poetry in workshops with dementia sufferers.

At Candlestick Press, we’re passionate about bringing poetry to people in an age where everyone is short of time, but a quick fix of something touching and meaningful can make a big difference to your daily life. Our mission is to spread poetry far and wide, as well as getting people to send proper post again. It’s such a great – and increasingly unusual – pleasure to open a handwritten envelope and find something lovely inside. Our pamphlets are designed to be posted instead of a card (so they come complete with envelopes and bookmarks) and because each collection contains a handful of carefully selected poems, we believe people will enjoy dipping into them even if they might find a full anthology or collection daunting.

Our subjects are often suggested by readers, and Ten Poems about Cricket has definitely been published by popular demand.  It’s now flying off the press at just the moment that cricket balls are flying across village greens and sports fields.  Meanwhile, Ten War Poems coincides with the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest and bloodiest battles of World War I in which more than a million men were wounded or killed. Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has selected ten war poems that broaden the subject away from the familiar work of famous World War I poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg and Rupert Brooke, highlighting instead a range of voices from different countries, from ancient history to the present day. We’re incredibly moved by his selection and hope you will be too. poems2

Both publications continue our mission: to get poetry into the hands of people who love it, and also people who will love it but don’t know that yet. And we’re always on the lookout for inspiration for future pamphlets – so do tell us if there’s an enthusiasm of yours that should be marked with one of our publications!  All ideas very welcome.

Other Poetry titles from Candlestick Press include Five Nonsense Poems and Twelve Poems About Chickens.

Di Slaney, Candlestick Press (June 2016)

Chineasy: learning Chinese easily through illustrations, by ShaoLan

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ShaoLan, author of Chineasy

ShaoLan is a writer, entrepreneur, angel investor and traveller. Her new book Chineasy is a graphically appealing, illustration-led system that will enable all readers – from schoolchildren to adults – to grasp the concept of Chinese ideograms with ease.

ShaoLan has unpicked Chinese characters and created a simple system for quickly understanding the written language. Working with renowned illustrator Noma Bar, she has developed a unique set of engaging illustrations that offer a glimpse into the wonders of the Chinese language and culture. In fewer than 200 pages, readers of all ages will have made the first steps towards a genuine appreciation of Chinese, loving every new character they learn.

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The Chinese language is traditionally taught through a series of between roughly 180 and 215 radicals. These radicals are then used to form the characters of the Chinese language. Chineasy has broken down this collection of characters into their most basic and recurring forms, allowing students to learn fewer and simpler radicals that ShaoLan has termed ‘building blocks’.

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One building block (see examples) can be combined with one or more other characters to make a compound character.

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Two or more independent characters can be placed next to one another to make phrases. This principle of building blocks is what makes Chineasy so easy!

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‘The Chineasy team came to me shortly after Noma Bar – whose books Thames & Hudson has distributed – was brought on board to do the illustrations. I could see that the system and images they had created was fresh, educational and fun’ explained Lucas Dietrich, Commissioning Editor at Thames & Hudson. ‘It was exciting to be involved in building a brand from the beginning ­ exploring the range of applications with the Chineasy team has been a dynamic and rewarding experience. I would like to think this project embodies Thames & Hudson’s ongoing commitment to partnering with cultural institutions and commercial brands to create visually rich books and experiences.’

On signing up with Thames & Hudson, ShaoLan said on her Facebook page: ‘We have been excited about this for a long time… Thames & Hudson are the world’s leading publishers of illustrated books on art, architecture, design, fashion, archaeology and history. Their publications are beautiful and we knew that out of all of the offers we received that they would do our illustrations justice!’

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Chineasy has already been endorsed by the likes of fashion mogul Victoria Beckham, screenwriter Spike Jonze and restaurateur Michael Chow, who have just awarded it the title of ‘Life-enhancer of the year’ in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2014, choosing it over entries from Google and Singapore Airlines. ShaoLan also presented Chineasy to the delegates of DLD14 who were very impressed with the concept – one delegate, investor Bill Gross tweeted ‘Here at #DLD14 ShaoLan is showing us how to learn a LOT of Chinese in under 10 minutes using clever iconographics.’

Join the rapidly-growing Chineasy community on Facebook and Twitter:

https://www.facebook.com/ShaoLanChineasy

https://twitter.com/Hello_Chineasy

Learn more about Chineasy on the website: http://chineasy.org/

Watch ShaoLan’s video on YouTube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2xv_TPY4fc

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You can purchase Chineasy by clicking here – and support your local independent bookshop as the same time too.

The story behind Baggy Trousers: extract from That Close by Suggs

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Some songs work and some songs don’t. That’s the great joy and mystery. When you hear a song on the radio you can’t always tell if you really like it until you’ve heard it a couple of times. And yet when you’re writing a song, you’re creating something from nothing. An instinctive impulse tells you whether you’re getting somewhere or not. But it’s only when the whole band are playing it that it really comes to life.

With ‘Baggy Trousers’ it was pretty instant. I’d had the idea after hearing Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ with the line ‘Teacher, leave them kids alone.’ Roger Waters had obviously had a very different experience at school from me. For all the stupidity I showed at my school I always felt it was more like ‘Kids, leave them teachers alone…’

I was thinking about these things as I lay on the floor of my Lee’s flat in the Caledonian Road. We’d been up the Hope and he’d kindly let me kip at his. On the way back we spotted a scooter outside the swimming pool which had been there for some time. Thommo reckoned it was dumped. So we took it upon ourselves to rescue it and wheeled it round to the wasteland at the back of Lee’s flats. I’ve had my karmic comeuppance as a number of my scooters over the years have befallen the same fate. Lee and Deb had gone to bed and I was lying face-down on the floor in a sleeping bag, pad and pen in hand. I started writing a list of all the things I could remember about my days at Quintin Kynaston school. It wasn’t the easiest job at first, as I’d hardly been there for the last few years. But the memories began to trickle in. ‘Naughty boys in nasty schools…’ In a couple of hours I had the bulk of the verses done – all sorts of old nonsense that we used to get up to.

I hoped that at some point, a title and chorus would emerge. And they did. ‘Baggy Trousers’ just sounded like an unusual title; I couldn’t think of anything better. Although when the record came out, some thought I was referring to Dickensian work- house clothing, it was in fact a reference to them horrible great big trousers that were all the go in the seventies. Great flapping things they mistakenly called Oxford bags. With four-button waistbands and for some peculiar reason pockets down by the knees, the ensemble set off perfectly with a lovely pair of snub-nosed stack-heel shoes.

The chorus was a bit trickier, as I was trying to get across the craziness that occurred at school in the battle against boredom, but balanced with a certain sympathy for the beleaguered teachers.

By the morning it was done. Lee and Deb had gone to work and I realised I had no money to get home, which is why I’d kipped there in the first place. Thommo had two round biscuit tins on a shelf in the living room. One was full of mint-condition Blue Beat 45s, and the other full of twopence coins. I borrowed 12p, just enough for ten fags and my bus fare home.

I must pay him back one day.

I turned up at rehearsals with my new words. Chris had a bit of a tasty ska riff on the go, and the words just slotted in perfectly. The melody, if you can call it such, materialised spontaneously. Humphrey Ocean, a great painter and old pal of ours, who’d also played bass with Ian Dury’s first band, Kilburn & the High Roads, did a fantastic pencil illustration of the band standing outside Chalk Farm station for the cover, and a video was made at a school in Islip Street in Kentish Town. It’s the one in which Lee flew over our heads hanging from a crane while the rest of the band performed in the playground staring up at him. And into the bosom of the nation it disappeared, only to reappear some thirty years later.

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That Close: Suggs is published by Quercus and available to buy on Hive by clicking here

Guest author blog: Writing (and learning) about love by Holly Bourne

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When you write a romance book for teens entitled ‘Soulmates’, there are going to be some instant misconceptions about what that book is like.

As I was writing it, I was prepared to challenge the conceptions we hold about love, about soulmates and –well – about romance novels really. That was what I wanted the book to do.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how that challenging the concept of love in my writing, actually challenged my personal perceptions too.

Here is what I learnt about love, whilst I was in the process of dismantling it.

Believing in soulmates is like having a faith

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I thought, naively maybe, that the concept of Soulmates was up for debate. That none of us really ‘knew’, that it was a fun idea to chat about down the pub with a glass of vino.

Then I met some people who did believe in soulmates. And, to them, even suggesting otherwise is practically offensive. It is not a belief they want challenged. They, in fact, feel sorry for you for even doubting. Because a belief is a belief – and if there’s no scientific evidence to suggest otherwise – then it’s a faith. If you look the word up in the dictionary, it says faith is the belief in something ‘based on spiritual conviction, rather than proof’. This is honestly how people feel about soulmates – especially if they believe the person they’re with is their One.

So – despite my own agnostic views – I’ve learnt it’s important to treat the concept with sensitivity and tact.

Love itself is so complex and far-fetched, you couldn’t make it up

So I had my book concept – you find your soulmate, the world ends. I just needed to stand it up….not the easiest task. I spent weeks angsting, trying to work out how the heck I could make this plausible.

The answer came from love itself.

We don’t think of love as a biological process. You don’t rock up to a first date and ask: ‘So, do you like the smell of my pheromones? Do you think we’ll produce a healthy offspring?’  You ask them questions about their beliefs, their passions, their attitudes – you want insight into the soul of a person, not their chromosomes.

But love is scientific, and once I started researching it I had my mind blown by all sorts of crazy biology. Here’s a small fact for instance (more are in the book) – being in love increases your pain threshold. How mad is that?

And when you get into the parts of love that science can’t explain – like how romantic love exists in every single culture we’ve identified on this earth but we’re not sure why…well, the Real World triumphed over my humble imagination.

That this question will break your brain

What if soulmates are real, but you don’t believe because you’ve just not met yours yet?

This was posed to me by a young reader, and it was like being rugby tackled by cupid. Ask this question to yourself? Think of your partner…. it kinda hurts, doesn’t it?

Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne

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Soulmates is published by Usborne and is available to purchase from Hive in paperback here and on eBook here

Hive’s guest publisher blog: The Art of Fine Gifts by Flame Tree Publishing

“I have always striven to fix beauty in wood, stone, glass or pottery, in oil or watercolour by using whatever seemed fittest for the expression of beauty, that has been my creed.

Louis Comfort Tiffany’s declaration of such eternal truths seems unfashionable in the current age of mobile technology and social media. However, these are the very sensibilities that drive the purchase of thousands of books, calendars, journals and prints, nurturing a market for gifts that thrives still at the heart of our retail environment. Novels may have fled to the internet but beautiful gift books, art calendars and luxury notebooks continue to sell in high streets, garden centres and local shops throughout the UK.

William Morris: Artist Craftsman Pioneer

William Morris: Artist Craftsman Pioneer

Crafting Bold Curves

The art in which Flame Tree specialises ranges from the arts and crafts movement of the late nineteenth century through the curvilinear joys of art nouveau to the bold characters of art deco in the 1930s. Out of the dark Victorian landscapes, from the gloomy worlds of Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Thomas Hardy, as industrialisation released independent thinking and mass production into society, leapt the muscular mediaevalism of William Morris, Edward Burne Jones and friends. They swept away the studied classicism of the elite and brought the colour and verve of nature into daily objects, into the chairs, and wall-hangings, the tables and the wallpapers.

Mucha Wall Calendar 2014

Mucha Wall Calendar 2014

La Belle Époque

This was a period in Europe, particularly France, where art nouveau flourished. Its inspiration was the flora of the natural world, the rhythmic patterns of nature and in its optimism and confidence it was a worthy successor to Morris & Co, particularly because it was a phenomenon of popular culture, manifested in the posters, champagne bottles, the chocolate and biscuit boxes and advertisements of the time. New print technology had brought colour and mechanical speed to an art form that could now reach out to a mass market. In music too composers such as Erik Satie, Debussy and Ravel experimented with free forms of atonality to produce beautiful tunes that could be appreciated by anyone who cared to listen, not just a musically elite.

Art Deco: The Golden Age Of Graphic Art And Illustration

Art Deco: The Golden Age Of Graphic Art And Illustration

The End of Innocence

The First World War shattered the subtle illusions weaved by art nouveau and its disciples, Mucha, Klimt, Mackintosh and Toulouse-Lautrec. However, the art that did survive became art deco and built upon the freedoms gained by technology; but it came with a hint of knowingness, a strong undercurrent of cynicism fuelled by the dirty betrayals of war. The middle classes had began to flex their muscles, as did the working classes with organised unions and mutual societies, so Western culture began to change ever more rapidly. The elegant lines of art nouveau were long replaced by the powerful strokes of Erté, Tamara de Lempicka et al and soon the blind arrogance of the second world war broke irrevocably across an already weary world. The wave of modernism that had swept in at the turn of the century became, with the likes of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, apocalyptic and distorted as the balance of economic and cultural power shifted decisively from Europe to America, bringing different sensibilities.

Flame Tree Notebook (Klimt Kiss)

Flame Tree Notebook (Klimt Kiss)

And yet…

And yet, Beauty remains. In spite of the brutality of our daily lives, the pettiness of the power that corrupts once elevated to high office, still we respond to the subtle tranquility of good and beautiful art: the colour and the form, the gentle curves and breathtaking life in the work of Mucha or Erte, Tiffany or Klimt, perpetuated now in the form of art calendars, gift books, foiled notebooks and posters. Somehow the beautiful artworks have survived the savagery of modernism and its reflection of a splintered society. These are the beautiful items that now breath rich and subtle flavours into the hands of those whose birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations, demand a gift. Transcending and commercial, this is the art of fine gifts.

This autumn Flame Tree publishes a wide range of art calendars (including Erte, Mucha, Art Nouveau Posters, V&A, Tate and RA calendars), reprints of our bestselling gift books on Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Mucha, and a wide range of gorgeous foiled notebooks featuring art from these belle époques.

Links and recommendations

Alphonse Mucha: http://www.muchafoundation.org

Erté: http://www.martinlawrence.com/erte.html

Louis Comfort Tiffany: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tiff/hd_tiff.htm

Tamara de Lempicka: http://www.delempicka.org

Art and Literature in early 20th Century: http://thesefantasticworlds.com

Nick Wells/Publisher Flame Tree Publishing 20/08/13

Guest publisher blog: Percy Jackson: Where there are gods there are monsters, from Puffin books.

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In Rick Riordan’s bestselling Percy Jackson series, published by Puffin, the gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st Century. They’re hanging out with humans, falling in love and even having kids! But these are no ordinary children – they grow-up to become great heroes and Percy Jackson is the most legendary of them all – half boy, half god, ALL hero!

“You can’t tell by looking at me that my Dad is Poseidon, God of the Sea.  It’s not easy being a half-blood these days. Even a simple game of dodgeball becomes a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants – and that was only the beginning. “

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There are five books in this epic series and the second one, Percy Jackson:  Sea of Monsters has just been released across the globe as a major film, starring Logan Lerman, Stanley Tucci and Anthony Head. Sea of Monsters continues Percy’s epic journey to fulfil his destiny as the son of Poseidon. To save the world, Percy and his friends, Annabeth, Grover and half-brother Tyson, must find the fabled and magical Golden Fleece. Embarking on a treacherous odyssey into the uncharted waters of the Sea of Monsters, they battle terrifying creatures, an army of zombies, and the ultimate Evil.

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In 2010, Puffin released the first title in a spin-off series, featuring some familiar faces from the Percy Jackson series as well as a whole host of new demigods. In Heroes of Olympus, Percy discovers a parallel training camp for children of the Roman gods, Campy Jupiter, and readers also meet a new cast of characters, including protagonists Jason Grace, son of Jupiter and Piper McClean, daughter of Aphrodite.

In the fourth title from Heroes of Olympus, Percy and Annabeth find themselves lost deep in the Underworld. Meanwhile, their five demigod friends must battle the forces of Gaea and seal the Doors of Death before the Romans march on Camp Half-Blood.

Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades is published on 8th October 2013.

Find out more about all of Rick Riordan’s epic adventure series by visiting www.rickriordanmythmaster.co.uk

Guest author blog: Poetry and Survival by Elizabeth Wein, author of Rose Under Fire & Code Name Verity

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When I was working on my post-graduate degree in Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania, twenty-some years ago, I complained to a friend that my only real talent was that I could recite infinite amounts of verse. And what use was that to anyone? Her response has stuck with me. ‘Well, a thousand years ago you’d have been a bard. And basically, that’s what you want to be anyway.’

It was true that I aspired to be a novelist, but I hadn’t ever thought of it that way: that there was a certain amount of mystery and destiny involved in my relationship with words. But maybe there is. More and more, I find that I am able to integrate the stories, poems and experiences of my distant past into my current literary creations.

Just to give you some idea of the scale of the amount of verse in my brain, here are a few examples: in high school, my best friend and I memorized the entire last act of Hamlet so that we could dramatize it in my back garden—not for an audience, but for pleasure. The summer before I went to university I memorized half the collected poems of Rupert Brooke while I was working at a particularly dull paid job. At a literary party, when someone issued the random challenge, ‘Who can recite the most of James Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks?’ I left everyone else in the dust. In a university seminar, a classmate challenged: ‘The only poetry worth reading is literature that gets memorized. Therefore T.S. Eliot’s “Waste Land” is not great literature.’ Everyone in the class chanted the first lines in defiance, and the challenger responded: ‘Oh, everyone knows “April is the cruellest month.” Who can recite the first lines of “The Fire Sermon” [the third section of “The Waste Land”]?’ And no one could, not even me. I went home to memorize it.

Poetry has always slipped into my prose fiction. When I was a young reader, I loved reading poems in the text of a novel—I loved learning the popular and folk songs of the 19th century American West in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books, and I am one of those readers who adored the verse that adorns J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (and yes, I can still recite verse and sing songs from both those books). When I wrote Code Name Verity (Electric Monkey 2012), it was my delight to be able to work in some of Robert Burns’s poetry and have it be relevant and appropriate to the text. But when I wrote Rose Under Fire (Electric Monkey 2013), I realized that poetry wasn’t just going to be relevant and appropriate in this book—it was going to be integral.

The idea to include poetry in the Ravensbrück concentration camp setting of Rose Under Fire came from Jack Morrison’s sociological study Ravensbrück: Every Day Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp and from concentration camp survivor Micheline Maurel’s autobiographical An Ordinary Camp. Morrison devotes an entire section of his study to prisoner poetry, for writing poems was an important element of the inmates’ life at Ravensbrück; in fact, it was nothing less than a technique for survival. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Maurel’s account, for she feels that her trading of poetry for food actually saved her from starving to death.

This simple exchange astonishes me. Suddenly it makes me view the ability to recite endless yards of verse in a whole new light. Poetry isn’t just ornamental to human existence—it is necessary. And, miraculously, it is one of the last things that can be stripped from us. As long as we are able to think, to manipulate and articulate words, we have poetry available to us as a weapon and as nourishment.

In Rose Under Fire, I tried to weave poetry into the narrative partly as a tribute to the poets of Ravensbrück, partly as a way to show Rose’s growing maturity as a writer and as a person, and partly just because it felt right and natural. Some parts of this story insisted on being told as poems. Rose’s description of a typical air raid, the story of Róża’s meltdown on Christmas day, Lisette’s failed escape from Poland—these vignettes lent themselves to metre and rhyme and the structural unity that a poem provides.

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Writing the fifteen or so poems included in Rose Under Fire was the most difficult aspect of the whole book. Writing the poems slowed it down; I was out of practice, and I was constantly battling the temptation to make them sound like my poems, not Rose’s. In the end, they are the single aspect of the book that I am most selfishly and childishly pleased with. I loved writing them; I love that they are Rose’s, not mine. And I love that they echo and honour the real poetry written by the real prisoners of Ravensbrück—one more small way to tell the world what happened there.

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Rose Under Fire is available to purchase from Hive here

Code Name Verity is available to buy on Hive here