This Thursday, NATIONAL POETRY DAY, sees the official launch of a major new poetry series from The King’s England Press, focusing on poets and their poetry about Hull, Britain’s third largest port, best-kept secret, and CITY OF CULTURE for2017.
The first three titles to appear are THERE AND BACK TO SEE HOW FAR IT IS by Matt Nicholson, CHANGING TIDESby Vicky Foster,and FISH TOWN: A LOVE SONG by Steve Rudd.
Hull is often described as a "poetical” city, simply because of its long association with Philip Larkin. Yet 300 years earlier, Andrew Marvell, no less, was already writing that he "by the tide of Humber, would complain”. Subsequent poetry luminaries in the post-Larkin era have included Douglas Dunn, with his acute observations of life in the city. Plus those who left the city of their birthto become famous elsewhere, such as Stevie Smith.
So,clearly there is something about Hull, or just the experience of being from the city, that proves inspirational. Something in the water, maybe, or something in that peculiar semi-detached status of a major city stretching out along an estuary, miles from anywhere else.
Onething is for certain. For every Larkin, Marvell or Douglas Dunn that might represent the tip of the poetry iceberg, there are another 9/10 below the surface, reading, writing, publishing, interpreting the experience of being inHull, from Hull, and writing about Hull with every bit as much cultural significance as the Liverpool Poets did about their city, in The MerseySound and other anthologies.
These arethe "Hull” poets whose work makes up the Humber Sound series. People such as Matt Nicholson and Vicky Foster.
Matt Nicholson was born in the year of decimalization, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in the shadow of the city of Hull. He remained in Yorkshire for the best part of his first nine years before moving south with his family, in search of a promised land. While down south, he completed his education, worked for a living, fell in love and got married, and then, in 2013, he brought his wife and all their worldly possessions back to the East Riding. And, if you ask him on a good day, he will tell you that he is both pleased and proud to be home, in Hull, and that he had only been There and Back to See How Far it is.
Matt Abbott, the poet whose work was recently featured in the Nationwide Building Society’s TV advertising campaign, said of Matt Nicholson:
"At times, these are bare, naked, bloodshot beat ballads. At other times they carry the lyrical realism of D. H. Lawrence. But the constant is Nicholson’s voice: visceral, poignant, unapologetic and demanding of your time. An outstanding début collection from one of the best new voices on the scene. This won’t feel out of place on my bookshelf.”
Vicky Foster has lived all her life in Hull, a city where the rivers can still stop the traffic, where waters can overrun the streets and where festivals and nights out are held on piers and marinas. Living there, she has developed a great love for her city, but also the realisation that there are some things you can never control and that often the best thing to do is learn to ride the tides. Like the water, poetry has always been there for Vicky – but at the ageof 18 she decided to put down her pen and go and find something to write about. In her unique poetic voice, Vicky shares with us vivid images of the many changes which life has washed up, in the years between then and now. Changing Tides is her first collection of poems.
Ralph Dartford, from A Firm of Poets has said of Vicky’s work:
Vicky Foster’s poems are steeped in the right kind of nostalgia. Not the sentimental or sickly kind, but the kind that assaults the senses with beauty and poise. Whether standing astride the North Sea, or wandering the Wolds looking for your lost heart, these words matter.
Steve Rudd,publisher at the King’s England Press, said:
"Although people tend to think of us as publishers of reprints of historical guidebooks, which is what we started life doing, twenty-five years ago, we have in fact been publishing children’s poetry since 1997 and our best selling title in that series has sold over half a million copies. We published our first book of poetry for grown ups in 1998, J. D. Taylor’s A PassingThrough Place, which has never been out of print since, so it’s not as if we are some sort of one-trick pony. J. D. Taylor was born in Hessle, by the way!”
Both Matt Nicholson and Vicky Foster have a number of events and readings lined up throughout October and on into this autumn, in preparation for Hull’s year as City of Culture in 2017. Details are published on the King’s England Facebook page and at www.kingsengland.com