Conversations - Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival 2019

Two weeks have already passed since the first of two 2019 Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival events took place at Sterts Theatre, Cornwall. This was our second year co-curating (more on the first year here) and we have some photos from the day, so please take a look below.

We themed the day around ‘conversations’, pairing poets up to read from their work and talk about it. The pairings were: Jen Hadfield and Isabel Galleymore; Mona Arshi and Gillian Allnutt; Fiona Benson and Ann Gray; Rae Armantrout and Rachael Allen.

On top of the conversations we had a launch performance of Petero Kalulé’s Kalimba involving half a dozen instruments, a workshop on poetry and mysticism with Sarah Cave, and an exhibition by the artist Donya Todd. We also made a special very limited edition letterpress print of a new Jen Hadfield poem for the festival, printing it with Alan Qualtrough and Jen at Alan’s studio in Plymouth the day before. The festival’s poetry shop was provided by Amanda at Lost-in-Books.

The conversations were really interesting, highlights including Rae Armantrout on language poetry and ecology, Jen and Izzy talking about scientific language and anthropomorphism, Mona and Gillian on working with refugees, and Fiona and Ann’s beautifully curated journey through their own and one another’s work. Petero’s improvisation of Kalimba is always great to see, and as there was a piano in the Sterts studio he incorporated that, too – playing it conventionally, then plucking and hammering the strings and case.

If you have any more photos from the day please get in touch, and stay tuned for news of the second event in September, which is shaping up nicely...

Publisher's Diary - Letterpress printing Jen Hadfield's 'Notice'

When the poet Jen Hadfield was resident in the Charles Causley house in Cornwall we went for a walk to St Clether’s holy well chapel on the north-eastern edge of the moor. It was following this walk that Jen wrote the poem Notice, which we letterpress-printed on 24th May in an edition of just 30 for the 2019 Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival.


The Chapel

To get to the well chapel you wander through the churchyard of St Clether and along a path in the hillside above the River Inny, the way marked by a wooden cross.

The saint to whom the well is dedicated is essentially unknown, although most websites say that Clether was founded by one of the dozens of children of the 5th century Welsh King Brychan; a son named Cleder or Cledrus, who followed his brother Nectan to Cornwall. Others say that Clether was the 1st century Bishop Cletus, a Roman who became the third pope. Another associates Clether with the 9th century Mercian warlord Ethelred, and we might as well add his contemporary and namesake, Ethelred the King of Wessex, to the list of (im)possibilities.

The current well chapel was built in the fifteenth century on those ancient foundations and has been renovated numerous times, including by Sabine Baring-Gould at the end of the nineteenth century.

There is a fence around the chapel grounds, with a wooden gate. Bird feeders hang empty from surrounding trees, and there is a rough wooden bench along the south wall. The original well is outside the chapel with a hawthorn tree above it hung with clouties. The well water has been channelled to run into the chapel along the east wall behind the altar, past a nook carved where it is thought a relic might have been kept, and out into a second well in the south wall, which can be accessed openly from outside, or by a little wooden door from the inside of the chapel. This second well is decorated with stones, flowers, ribbons and shells, left as votaries.

The ancient altar and the window behind it are covered with foliage, as well as candles, a crucifix and a feather. There are twisted-wood wands and staffs for sale, and a strange book of short stories about the well’s priestess and wise women ‘guardians’, written by the current ‘guardian’ Vanda Inman.


The Letterpress

The day before the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival, Jen and I went to Alan Qualtrough’s Kiss & Bite letterpress studio in Plymouth. The studio is in two parts, the first full of type drawers, an old treadle press and his favourite Adana (there are further Adanas tucked away in various corners). This is where we set the type, one stanza at a time in the composing stick, upside down and backwards, which Alan then transferred to the chase. The setting took more than two hours, a slow process that forces you to consider the placement of every letter and space within every word and every line, connecting you physically to the language and to the poem in a unique way.

This slow, deliberate process is at the heart of Alan’s practice and his research on the connection between the letterpress printing method and truth. Alan contrasts the investment (physical and temporal) in letterpress publishing with the throwaway publications of social media posts.

The second part of the studio is where we printed the poem on Alan’s favoured FAG (Fourniture pour les Arts Graphiques) letterpress bed. We inked the type by hand, rather than using the letterpress’s automatic rollers.

The test print showed that we had placed the letter ‘g’ upside down and that my name had been spelled ‘Lwke’ (a ‘w’ presumably having migrated to the wrong section of the type drawer), so we needed to dismantle a few sections and test again, taking care to ink properly and tweaking the pressure a little.

The whole printing process took about 5 hours – but that was before we had the card and protective cellophane cut (thank you Stable Arts!) and left the prints to dry a few hours. Jen then signed them and we packed up the poems ready for the festival in the morning.

‘Notice’ is set in Baskerville, with details in Caslon and Gill Sans. It is printed on two different stocks, Conqueror’s Laid Crème and St Cuthbert’s Somerset. We printed 30 copies for the festival and have just a few left. The dimensions are 42cm x 21cm They are all hand numbered and signed by Jen Hadfield and are for sale at £15. If you would like a copy please email us on


Note: You can book letterpress training days with Alan at his studios. He’s a terrific teacher – patient, calm and enthusiastic – and we had great fun.


Publisher’s Diary - The Last Hundred

April’s new release is The Last Hundred by poet Aaron Kent and photographer William Arnold. It’s an exploration of the far West of Cornwall, using the old land boundary term of the ‘hundred’. Cornwall was split into nine Hundreds (Stratton, Trigg, Lesnewth, East, West, Powder, Pydar, Kerrier and Penwith) with Guillemot HQ sitting right on the border where four of them meet: Pydar, Trigg, Powder and West.

The Last Hundred is a collaboration that came to us fully formed, which is unusual for Guillemot. Most often we find our own artists if we want to ‘dress a text’ (to borrow Emily Juniper’s phrase), but this one (like our other poetry-photography collaboration, Carousel) came to us wonderfully complete.

For the production, we have gone for an unbound book of poems and photos that come in an envelope, mimicking the kinds of envelopes photos used to come in when you took them to Boots for developing. This meant designing a template from scratch – a process of trial and error, mocking up lots of miniature test envelopes until it was right. It had to be over-sized and we wanted both ends to have a ‘spine’ so that it would sit well on a book shelf.

Once the design was ready we had a die created – a series of blades that cut out the template (see photos below) – and added score lines where the envelope was to be folded. The first few test prints did not work. The paper split, leaving nasty white scuff lines along the folds. Mostly, this was our choice of papers. We were using a lovely textured paper with a coarse grain – an exceptional stock that prints both text and images brilliantly. We would need something finer for the page to fold properly. More tests, more die-cutting, deeper score marks, more folding.

And so here I am, sitting in my pyjamas at 6.30am folding envelopes and collating the poetry cards ready for release. The first one took 25 minutes to put together and I have a pile of about a hundred to get through. A hundred Hundreds.

After the morning’s folding I’m off to see a man about a letterpress for another special little project…