by Stephanie Sy-Quia: 2022 judge, Poetry and Publishers’ Awards
To read for the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets is to see first-hand the wonderful regional diversity of the UK’s small and micro presses. Particularly noteworthy are those publishers where immense care has gone into creating an over-arching aesthetic for their titles, and where said aesthetic is all about celebrating printed matter and the finished object. There is a variety of paper stocks present in these titles that even myself, a printer, wasn’t aware existed! Spam Press from Glasgow leapt out, for their fresh, pared-back cool. Others, such as Entropie and Monitor Prototype, were exquisite in their fine detailing.
Themes range widely, from stan culture and the weirdness of the internet to those exploding the sonnet form. The poetics of pregnancy loss has been an ongoing theme, as people continue to grapple with this increasingly talked-about subject. Grief during the Covid-19 pandemic, is of course, also present, but being metabolised in increasingly new and inventive ways. And climate change also looms large, approached through many modes – the elegy, the call to action, the love letter. Religion – the thing itself, but also the vocabularies and frameworks it can offer to other topics – has been a surprise running theme. There is a deep engagement with queerness, both its modes and poetics, which makes for some bold and dextrous experiments with form. Finally, it is wonderful to see poets at all stages of their careers composing pamphlets, showing it to be a form that may be more thriving than ever before.