image: Christopher Paul Bradshaw
What is Mud Press?
A publishing house. But we don’t just publish poetry, we present it. The books are a hybrid between magazine, portfolio, and anthology. Entries are generally kept to a minimum so the book is digestible in one or two sittings. It’s not your standard beige, paperback book – we have a really keen eye for illustration. We want to bring the two kinds of art together as much as we can.
We take a few more risks too. I’m happy to take on a poem that might need a heavy edit, because there might be character or raw passion in there. If it’s got funk in it, you know. We want to build people up to be sick poets by publishing killer work. It’s about getting people involved who are bloody talented, smashing the stereotype, and feeling fiery about it. That’s how I feel. Get everyone involved. Collab.
Where did the name come from?
Oh my God, it was a nightmare. I knew everything I wanted the press to stand for, and the name was the last thing. I was looking around the room like… White Bowl Press… Plug Socket Press… And all of them seemed so silly. It wasn’t until my business mentor Farhad, from NBV, said, “Right, get yourself a massive piece of paper, put a question mark in the middle, and that’s where the name will go. Just write down everything the press is to you and what it means.”
I was like, “It’s not gonna be pretentious, it’s not gonna be stereotypical, it’s gonna be down to earth, it’s about collaboration, it’s not about power play, it’s about working together to create this amazing flow of creative juices.” Then, I was in the bedroom putting a clay face mask on. It struck me, “Oh! It’s mud!” Everybody has mud in common. Everybody’s seen mud, they’ve played in it, eaten it. Then there’s the growth – everything comes from mud. Maybe a poet who’s never been published before will grow to win insane literary prizes. That’s the dream. So the name came backwards really. It took ages, but I love it. I think it’s perfect. Muddy love.
What about your personal journey as a writer?
Writing started for me when I was dead young. I went to uni in Liverpool to do forensic science, and realised I really missed being creative, so I changed course, and came back to Nottingham to do the creative writing degree at University of Nottingham. I did an intensive course at NCN, met Mouthy Poets, and it just blew up really. Poetry fits right in the middle of the Venn diagram of what I like – the perfect combination of the rules of academia, and creative freedom.
What fuelled the idea for Mud?
I was wondering what to do for my dissertation when I went into a big retailer and realised their poetry section was pathetic. It really annoyed me – all the poetry was of a certain era, there were few contemporary poets, all the spoken word poets were ginormously famous, like Kate Tempest. Everyone in between that spectrum was being ignored. At first I was like, “Right, I’m gonna set up a book shop. We’re only going to stock poetry, and we’re going to tackle the opinion of poetry. We’re going to blow the market up.” Then I realised I only had nine months to get funding, to get people to submit their books, to get premises.
I sat down and thought, “What is the point? Why do I want this so much?” Because I’d been with Mouthy Poets for so long, been to spoken word gigs all over the place, read loads of different kinds of poetry, I was being exposed to this amazing work that is nothing like what you’d look at in schools. For me, it was about being able to find these poems that are absolute treasures, give you goosebumps, make you laugh and cry, and get them into people’s hands and be like, “Look! This is what this actually is!” So I thought “Sod it, I’m just gonna start my own press. I’m gonna get those poems, wrap them up in a book together and put them out, send them all over the place, spam people with the books.” I did a first run, it was all handmade, printed on my computer at home – it was really scratchy. That was the first draft of Hunger.
The world is turning digital, ‘they’ say…
Print will never die. Yes, the Argos catalogues will probably be digital, but people are passionate about trinkets and treasurable items. I love the smell of paper, I love choosing how thick it has to be, and I know a lot of people who feel the same. We fold the corners, underline our favourite words, or we treasure them, keep them pristine on their bookshelf. I’m not saying there’s not a place for digital. Mud’s definitely looking at doing online anthologies. We’re on the cusp of turning the books we’ve made so far into e-books, and I’ve been thinking about CDs with performances of poets who are in the anthologies. I can’t see it dying, but I can definitely see it integrating.
Are there any other small press publishers in Nottingham that you particularly admire?
I’ll always love Candlestick Press. I did an internship with them a couple of years ago and they were brilliant. I made such good friends with them both. The books were fantastic, and I got to help them pick the best design for a cover. I love what they do, I love the anthologies. They’re amazing. And they’re everywhere. Every time I see them I’m like, “Yes! Candlestick!”
She’s not in Nottingham, but another press I really admire is the Emma Press, I think she’s got the same attitude as myself when it comes to getting poetry out there and showing people that it’s not as what it might be perceived as – the mainstream, the big book shops.
You recently ran a competition on the theme of ‘Woman’ – is that something you feel passionate about pushing forward?
Definitely. We wanted to appeal to all genders – to get raw, feisty opinions, and to get delicate moments of femininity, whatever that may be. With the cover design, we’ve been careful not to be “Ahh, flowers” and, equally, not “Look at my vagina.” Everyone can say, “This is what womanhood is to me”, “These are the shit things we go through”, “These are the amazing things we go through”, or “How hilarious, I curled myself into a pretzel trying to shave my bum in the shower”. A spectrum of people, of styles of poetry, all on the theme of woman. I’m so excited. We might have to have a launch party or something because I just can’t wait. There is a theme lined up for the next competition but I’m scared to say it in case somebody nicks it. It’s that awesome.
Have you got any other plans for the future?
I want us to be doing teaching sessions with schools, prisons and hospitals. I want us to host events and spoken word nights, editing and publishing workshops, getting illustrators in to live-illustrate poems as they’re being read. I want Mud Press to have lots of arms to it.
Anything you’d like to say to the people of Nottingham?
Support us however you can. The poets we publish are incredible. They’re so humble, so up-and-coming. Buy the books, like us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and all of that, and just be part of the tribe. We get people emailing us saying, “Oh, I’m a writer, can I do a few blogs for you?” And it’s like, “Yeah. Get involved, get some blogs up.” There are interns contacting stockists for us, trying to get it out further than Nottingham. Spread the word. Mud is coming.
Mud Press will be at Sweet Charity Day Market, Rough Trade, Saturday 23 July 2016.
Mud Press books are stocked in Five Leaves Bookshop, Rough Trade and Ideas on Paper.