Archive for the ‘feature’ Category

Last week saw the final date in the short tour that promoted Murder of Krows 2.

With audiences averaging around 15 per night (excluding performers!) Abigail Wyatt and I felt that


the tour was a great success.

A few Cornish Lit readers have suggested that people might be interested in a brief explanation of how one goes about organizing the production of a poetry anthology and tour.  So, if this is something that you are thinking of doing yourself, read on….

The first hurdle you may need to get over is the one of self-justification.  This is something that I have addressed in the “Afterword” of Murder of Krows 2.  The two fundamental questions are:

  • Is my work/ the work of others that I like or respect worth publishing?
  • Is publishing my own work “vanity” publishing with all the negative connotations that go with that word?

This depends on several factors: many respected poets begin by publishing  their own work; many small poetry presses are run by one or two people yet command a great deal of respect from lovers of serious poetry (examples include Barque Press and Punch Press).  Often these operations are just a couple of people with a passion for language and the means of production.

What makes you any different?

The flipside of the argument is that there is an awful lot of poetry out there.  There is also an awful lot of inadequate or poorly edited poetry out there. There is also an awful lot of poetry as therapy.  Are you going to add to what is essentially poetic detritus or does the work you stand behind have something to say which people may be interested in?

Don Paterson (who I don’t always agree with) states:  “serious poets, I should say, don’t start off amateurs, but apprentices – just like any other vocation”.  Therefore, it may well be wise to heed this when considering putting work out there.  Just because you’ve written it/ read it and liked it doesn’t mean it’s ready.

So how do you know its ready?  You don’t – not really.  Having said this, here are a few ways in which you could gauge whether there is sufficient interest in the work you have produced or are representing.

  • Have you performed it at open mic nights/poetry readings?  Do people give you feedback?
  • Have you made contact with more established poets who you respect and asked them what they think? Many are prepared to do this although obviously not all of them.
  • Have you published any of your poems previously?  Where?  Did your receive any reactions?

So now I have discussed the issues of whether to publish, let’s consider how.

Murder of Krows 2 looks reasonably professional (so people tell me!).  It was designed on a MacBook using Microsoft Word 2011.  This is hardly ultra high-tech.  Therefore, I would suggest some kind of visual eye and common sense are all you need to design a reasonably good looking poetry pamphlet.  Hopefully, so far you have noticed my repetition of the word “design”; making the hard copy of a poetry book can be a little more challenging as well as expensive.

When it comes to producing hard copy you have two options: amateur or professional – both of which have their advantages.

An amateur collection can be produced on a photocopier for next to nothing.  If you can recruit some friends who are half way decent artists then you can even make it look quirky and interesting in a 1970s “Sniffin’ Glue” kind of way.  This is a perfect if you want to get your work out there and sell it cheaply.  There are also independent bookstores that, if you are polite and gracious, may be willing to stock it sale or return.  A few pieces of advice: don’t make the mistake I made with the first Murder of Krows by making the writing too small or copyrighting each author’s name under the poem which is entirely unnecessary.  Look at other poetry collections to get an idea of style and layout and what to include.

The professional option is only appropriate if you have a lump of spare cash, complete belief in the work and a relentless energy when it comes to promoting it.  Abi and I decided to “publish” Murder of Krows 2 with higher production values because we believed in the work (not to denigrate any contributors to the first one) and felt that this was appropriate this time.  In addition to this, we had managed to persuade some well-established writers who we respected to submit.  This meant that we were able to use this to potentially sell more copies than we would have done otherwise.  This is an approach well worth taking but I would only suggest approaching people whose work you genuinely admire, (and that you are able to substantiate this admiration) otherwise your opportunism will quickly become apparent.

If you are still keen to go down this route, you need to make contact with a printer.  At this point I will give Booths in Penryn a completely shameless and unasked for plug as they did an excellent job of our anthology.  Local writer, illustrator and publisher, Chris Odgers of Sawhorse Books, also uses them and the production values apparent in his work are also to their credit.  Another factor to consider in depth is how many copies you should produce. My advice would be 50 unless you know you have an insatiable fan base.  Make sure you see a proof before printing and that you check it carefully otherwise you will have 50 inaccurate copies that you are legally obliged to pay for.

The penultimate stage in this process is promotion.  Realistically, you are not going to sell any books to people who are not friends and family unless you promote very thoroughly.  The reading for the first Murder of Krows attracted thirty plus people but it was promoted on this blog, the local papers and Radio Cornwall.  In addition I sent “press packs” to every bookshop in Cornwall as well as putting up posters everywhere and e-mailing and texting everyone I knew or had ever met.  I also asked Alan Kent to read which added an established name to the event.

A quick reminder: all of this attracted thirty people.  Don’t misunderstand me: thirty keen and enthusiastic supporters of the anthology but it was a lot of work getting them there!

A final point regarding promotion: please do not think that Facebook is the world just because you use it.  In my opinion, although it is valid – it is only one form of promotion and not an exceptionally high impact one at that.  Ask yourself: which is more striking – a well designed poster in a bookshop that you frequent or a Facebook update?

Of course before you promote your event you will need to have arranged venues, dates and have list of reliable performers (even if you are promoting your own work, you will need a “Support Act”).  Here are a list of venues that I have found to be supportive when trying to put on events:

In short go for local independent places but remember that they are doing you do the favour.  Don’t expect them to welcome you with open arms – do your homework and make sure people come otherwise their time has been wasted.

That’s about it.  I won’t give you my guide as to which are the most appropriate wines to go with a Sestinas (written in quadratic hexameters) as that may well be a bridge too far.

I hope this has been useful.  Please feel free to re-blog, re-post, re-quote or downright challenge or disagree with this advice.  However, I would appreciate being notified at

Finally (you knew it was coming) there are only 15 copies of Murder of Krows 2 left…..please buy them and make the world a more poetry loving, literate place.  Copies can be bought by e-mailing me at:


sniveslitfestThe St Ives Literature Festival 2013 is running from Saturday 11th – Saturday 18th May. (NB That’s this coming Saturday folks ! :-)) A host of events are to be held at St Ives Arts Club, St Ives Library and Café Art. Books by festival authors are for sale from Harbour Bookshop.

  • Book Launches, Readings and Workshops.
  • Poetry And Music In The Square – daily in Norway Square.
  • Free Speech – Open Floor – daily at Café Art.
  • The Big Frug

    • On Friday 17th May. Local duo Tir ha Tavas, Delia and Dave Brotherton, have teamed up with guests Vaughan Bennett, Peter Burton, former Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd Mick Paynter and fluent Welsh speaker Gareth Parry for an evening of words and music starring the Cornish language, Kernewek, with a tasty serving of Welsh alongside.

      “We will be presenting our personal selection of prose, poetry and song in the old Celtic tongue,” said Delia, “a language almost lost in the mists of time yet one that lives on in the daily life of West Penwith and beyond.”

      Featuring many original compositions, this special evening will be held at the St Ives Arts Club starting at 9pm and marks the first of several events over the coming months to raise the profile of the Cornish language in a performance.

      “The Celtic language of Cornwall is once more being embraced as a symbol of her historic past,” added Delia, “reviving from ancient roots, while ever changing in the hands of the next generation who cherish the old culture and nourish the new.”

      Tickets £6.50, or 5 for £30, are on sale now from Café Art in St Ives, tel 01736 799450, or from the St Ives LitFest organiser on 753899 or from Dee on 799305. There is a full programme with more information on the St Ives Literature Festival website

      John Phillips was born in St Ives. His poems pose questions about how we perceive the world through language and the senses, deftly weaving together details of the external world with reflections on the thought processes and on the nature of words. At the St Ives Arts club at 15:00 on the opening day of the festival, Saturday, the 11th May, he will be reading poetry from his work so far.

      His publications include Language Is (Sardines Press, San Francisco, 2005) and What Shape Sound (Skysill Press, Nottingham, 2011). He work has appeared and been reviewed in a variety of magazines in this country, the U.S., Australia, Austria, Japan and Israel; it can also be found in the following anthologies: From Hepworth’s Garden Out (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2010), Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2013), and Succint (Broadstone Books, Frankfort, Kentucky, 2013). He runs Hassle Press, which has published a range of poets.

      Tickets £ 5.00 from Cafe Arts, tel 01736 799450, at the door or ring Jasna Phillips on 07969727040.

As I alluded in the very first editorial here on Cornish Literature, I experience a distinct unease whenever Daphne du Maurier’s name comes up: best summed up in the phrase “her beloved Cornwall”. She wasn’t entirely without talent, however, as the article below indicates; if you’re looking for a supernatural chiller to read tonight to mark Samhain/Hallowe’en then you could do a lot worse than The Birds.

Scary stories for Halloween: The Birds by Daphne du Maurier | Books |

The new edition of An Gowsva (number 45, summer 2012) is available from Agan Tavas. One of several bilingual Cornish language magazines, An Gowsva covers the unified and revised unified spellings of Kernewek/Kernowek. An Gowsva, which, for Kernewek novices like me, means “the talking place” — if you take Cows “to talk”, append va “place” and mutate C to G after An “the” – even I can see how that works 🙂 — it does indeed function as a talking shop, since it’s reliant on contributions from readers. With my grade zero grasp of Kernewek, a basic dictionary and a primer, I found it a feasible and enjoyable challenge to explore and reduce my Cornish’s known unknowns.

This edition contains an extensive list of Agan Tavas contacts across Cornwall, and then an editorial from chairman / editor Ray Chubb (in revised unified). In this he advocates formally earmarking some of the lately allocated Cornish Language Partnership resources to make Cornish language instruction available in schools. The editorial asks where money will come from, for necessary teachers – it’s a good question but I wasn’t sure that I found a sufficient solution in the editorial, though I am sure there must be one – something worth looking into.

(If readers will excuse me, my op-ed is thus: Had this opportunity been available, extra-curricular but inside the validating boundaries of School, in primary & secondary days, I and, I reckon, many others would have made good use of it (a Welsh exam board briefly offered GCSE in Kernewek in the ’80s, not at my school). There have certainly been many good textbooks for Kernewek written in recent years. Ha my a-wruk scryfa pup hemma oll y’n yeth lemmyn, “lurrups” o ef – mes ny gans dalleth da. Wisely and perhaps less sanguine than myself, the editorial recommends that any such provision first be dependent on canvassing students’ demand for such instruction. This consultation, I suggest, ought to be directly with students and parents, not their representatives or curriculum managers. I hope that CLP will not be backward in coming forward to put the case for Cornish learning.)

Back to An Gowsva: A Cornish language weekend is reported on (report in English), including what sounds like a technical and useful session on the subjunctive clause – if only I belonged to use that more frequently, I’d be better at un 😉 ! After this is the obituary of a language student (translated). Gans an Nerth a Ster ha Men (translated, rhyming in English) by Elaine Gill was a prize winning poem in a lyric, millenial tone, published in the Western Morning News. From stars to more mundane flingers of photons, and appropriately for the time of Golowan (on the 50th anniversary of the invention of Light Emitting Diodes), there’s a discussion in unified of Nick Holonyak’s innovations.

There then follows a book review of Desky Kernowek (Learning Cornish), published 2012 by Evertype, written by Nicholas Williams, UCD linguist – who provided the first translation from Greek to Kernewek (revised unified) for the 2002 Testament Noweth (pymp cans bledhen re dewedhes, mes gwella dewedhes es nefra), and wrote the Kernowek Standard portion of Alan Kent’s 2010 The Cult of Relics. Using historic Cornish texts and Nicholas Williams’ own inventive aids, the reviewer is pleased that the book indicates which figures of speech are endorsed by precedents in preserved Cornish language literature. Desky Kernowek‘s spelling (viz the title) is primarily in Kernowek Standard, but as the review notes, it’s not hard for those used to unified to understand (or, by my own inference, anyone experienced in kemmyn, SWF or any other spellyans, who has the will to read). Indeed in scraping through the review I only gradually realised that the review was in revised unified (which I dimly recognise from noticing when 3rd person “to be” is conjugated yw instead of yu or ew) – which goes to show what an interesting, immensely do-able, brain-training and natural challenge the constant learning of Cornish is. The review concludes with an exhortation to all Cornish speakers to obtain a copy, the better to authenticate their command of the language. Well, that is one motivation, and I feel that there are also surely many others.

The Boy’s Reply (Gorthyp an Meppyk) is in the tradition of language training by anecdotes, followed by a feature on Cornish industrial heritage in New Zealand (in English) and a novella set loosely in historic Mousehole/Porth Enys (in somewhat unrefined unified ;-)). Dydh Yn-mes Agan Tavas (Agan Tavas’s Day Out) chronicles an expedition in mid-Cornwall by members of the language society. Howlsedhas (Sunset) is a short and laid-back poem, its theme both literal and metaphorical, by Keith Rundle (translated), rhyming in unified Kernewek. The penultimate item’s a brief biography of, and interview with, Penzance/Stenalees visual artist Terry Pope (in English). Concluding the magazine is a cunning word search puzzle.

Submissions are requested for the next edition of An Gowsva by the end of August 2012 – material along the lines of items above will, I know, be gratefully received. For submissions or subscriptions, please contact Ray Chubb of Agan Tavas at Portreath. Ray and Denise Chubb also run the active publisher Spyrys a Gernow (Spirit of Cornwall). 🙂

Further to my article earlier this week about the Cornish Studies Library and Cornish Book Collection, you might have been left with some unanswered questions about CSL. Fortunately the Cornish Studies Library staff are good at answers, and here they are:

How many books (or pamphlets) does the CBC hold (approximately) ?
Approx. 40,000

How many of these are fiction (novels, anthologies &c) ?
Approx. 3,000 novels and anthologies

How many of these books are poetry ?
Approx. 1,500 poetry publications

How many of these are biographies or other studies of writers ?
Approx. 200 biographies/studies of writers

Could you give some examples please of where people have used the CSL or CBC for previous studies  ?
The collection of John Harris’s poetry has been used by students for dissertations exploring Cornish identity and sense of place. Alan Kent has used the literature collection for research for his publications. EG. ‘The Literature of Cornwall’.

How many works in CSL/CBC are in or are dealing with the Cornish/Kernewek language ?
Approx. 300.

How many different Hocking novels are held – approximately (by any of the 3!) ? 🙂 Slightly tongue in cheek but goes to show depth of material held.
There are approximately 150 titles each by Joseph and Silas and 5 by Salome. Approx. 300 in total.

How is it decided which books to add to the book collection ?
The aim of the Cornish Studies Library is to collect Cornish interest publications and we are always interested to hear about new books about the county and by Cornish authors. The main criteria is the Cornish connection and we are always pleased to accept donations of new publications, but with reducing funds regrettably we have to be more selective in our purchasing!

Can you spot and suggest any noted writers I’ve embarrassingly omitted from the article ?
You might like to include Winston Graham and W.J. Burley as popular modern authors and D.M. Thomas and of course the Hockings. In the piece you noted Les Merton and Nick Darke as authors, but I think it may be better to include Les Merton with the poets and mention Nick Darke as a playwright instead. [CL blog: “oops – right you are – now corrected !” :-)]

Can you mention any other popular CSL features or resources please ?
Other sources held at the CSL include around 160,000 photographs and postcards of Cornwall from the mid nineteenth century to the present day, over 30 Cornish newspaper titles on microfilm including the West Briton which dates back to 1810 and several thousand Cornish interest journals and magazines and newsletters. Family history research is extremely popular and the Library has an extensive collection of genealogical resources including Cornish census returns, transcriptions of some Cornish parish registers and local trade directories, as well as access to many online family history sources.

One of the oldest publications is Richard Carew’s Survey of Cornwall which was published in 1602.

🙂 Many thanks to the helpful (and busy) people at the Cornish Studies Library for straightening out the facts, which is of course what the CSL is good at, and for helping further to elucidate the excellent public facility which they run. The CSL has a couple of exhibitions running right now, and always has easily accessible shelves of books in the reading room, specially selected for interesting study and browsing, so your visiting them would be a great idea (open Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri 10-5, Wed closed, Sat 10-1).

Classic Novels of Cornwall

Posted: June 13, 2012 by Peter J in feature, fiction
Tags: ,

As part of Cornish literature, the Cornish Lit blog’s remit includes a review of Cornish literature from some time ago. On account of the period from now back to ‘some time ago’ being a pretty long period of time, there are, naturally, quite a lot of books that could be reviewed.

If we concentrate on literature produced in the past couple of centuries (say 19th to 20th centuries), as being the period of time most directly influencing how the world, for better or worse, presently perceives Cornwall, we can call that classic Cornish literature (although that category excludes a deal of literature arguably much more deserving of the title classic). It’s probably not too hazardous a guess that the majority of this material will be novels: fiction of a long-ish word count, and therefore the very Charles Dickens to summarise.


The website Cornwall Calling has a hot list of such novels set in Cornwall.

Wikipedia (donchajustluvem) has a go at such a catalogue too. 🙂

But a promising blog for classic Cornish novel reviews is ‘Fleur Fisher in her world‘ , where Fleur has pledged to try reviewing as many of same as possible in her Reading Cornwall project. Good on you Fleur ! Probably she could use some co-blogging volunteers, in what sounds like a useful literary project. In fact if you use Fleur’s blog-tag “reading-cornwall ” ( you can keep up to date with her list, of same, straightaway. Proper job.

Now could we have a list of Cornish novels by genre? Historical pre-19th C, 19th Century e.g. Hockings, Bray, Pearse, 20th Century e.g. Du M, Clemo, contemporary crime, melodrama, theological, environmental ? 😉

[Duck – vanish.]

Cornish Studies Library

Posted: June 12, 2012 by Peter J in feature, fiction

The man who does not read good books has no advantages over the man who can’t read them.” Samuel Clemens alias Mark Twain

About a hundred paces down the hill from Redruth railway station is the Cornwall Centre /Kresenn Kernow, and in the Cornwall Centre is the Cornish Studies Library (CSL), and in the Cornish Studies Library is the Cornish Book Collection. If you’re interested in Cornish Literature, and want to find it, the best place would probably be in the biggest collection of Cornish books anywhere, which this is.

Around 40,000 books and pamphlets are held at the CSL.

In the spirit of gathering up the fragments ere they’re lost, the CSL contains material (books and journals) on a supremely broad cross-section of topics. The wide ranging collection covers all subjects from mining to modern art and family history to mining. All aspects of Cornish life are included and the criteria are simply the Cornish connection. There are sure to be gems of inspiration and of study among these for the student of Cornish literature. Four notable collections which form part of the Cornish Book Collection include those of Dr J Hambley Rowe, appointed one of the first bards of the Gorseth Kernow (Tolzeath) in 1928 (collection acquired and bequeathed by E Hambly), also of Ashley Rowe (bardic name Menhyryon in 1933), also the industrial papers of A K H Jenkin (bardic name Lef Stenoryon in 1928) and those of the Cornish Methodist Historical Association Library. These collections were acquired by the then Camborne and Redruth Urban District Council Library Service and were the first building blocks of the Cornish Studies Library which was established in 1974 at Redruth Library. Since then the Library has continued to grow and new titles are being added all the time, especially since the Library’s move to the Cornwall Centre in 2001. Of particular interest to readers of Cornish Literature blog, however, are likely to be the extremely well-stocked shelves of  fiction, poetry and biography.

Literary works conveniently accessible in the Cornish Book Collection include fiction by, amongst a host of others, Mark Guy Pearse, Daphne du Maurier, Winston Graham and the playwright, Nick Darke. Poetry includes collected work of John Harris, through to Alan Kent, Bert Biscoe, Les Merton and Pol Hodge among others. Note that some rare and relatively ancient original documents (not usually considered literature per se), such as the William Scawen manuscript (rather than the published works held by the CSL), are held by the Cornwall Record Office, whose public access is currently in Truro.

Because the CSL is a reference library, not a lending library, it’s not possible to borrow a book and take it home with you. On the other hand, you can be guaranteed to find, to hand, any of the stored books of a particular Cornish author or topic. Not all of the books in the Cornish Book Collection have loan-able counterparts circulating in the normal library system, but about 80% of them do, so, once you find a book of interest, the chances are that you’ll be able to arrange a convenient loan via your local library.

All titles in the CSL can be found through the standard Cornwall library catalogue system. On the shelves, fiction is in alphabetic order of author, thus easier to browse than strict Dewey (which imposes chronological categories). A crucial part of the CSL’s service is to curate non-fiction publications, including mineralogical and social studies,along with comprehensive microfilm of Cornish newspapers and other periodicals as well as census sheets – these are also well organised and accessible.

Please click here for directions to the Cornwall Centre, which contains the Cornish Studies Library. Opening hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10am-5pm, Wednesday closed, Saturday 10am-1pm. The building is itself quite historic – over a century old and faced in characteristic granite, for long on a mixed-use site, as now, and renovated, after one of Redruth’s innumerable fires, in a secure setting as the Cornwall Centre/Kresenn Kernow in 2001 . As mentioned, it’s very close indeed to frequent rail and bus links; adequate and non-extortionate parking is nearby, as are the town’s market, art installations, shops and cafés, for relaxation when taking a break from browsing or studying.

Way back in Lee’s founding post for the Cornish Literature blog, the reader was invited to consider the ghosts of Cornish literature past, in a kind of quo vadis for Cornish literature’s future: we are forced to consider what’s gone before to figure out where we go from here. The CSL helps us to do just that. You’ll find the trajectory of modern Cornish literature traced out at the CSL, for recollection and inspiration.