Sincere thank to Sheila Wakefield at Red Squirrel Press, who will be publishing my poetry pamphlet, Honesty Mirror, in Summer of 2020! When it won the New Writer Magazine prize in 2013, judged by Helen Mort, I was just setting up tell it slant poetry bookshop, and had not long finished my Clydebuilt Poetry Apprenticeship with Sandy Hutchison, now sadly no longer with us. Sandy asked how much the prize money was, then said I should use it to publish the pamphlet straight away, as publication (expect in the magazine) was not part of the deal. I was unsure about self-publishing and didn’t take his advice. His other advice was to slow down, and I found that easier to take!
Between the mad events of Glasgow, Aldeburgh, Beccles and London, and the loss of my Mum, I did not actually get round to sending it to a publisher till 2018, when I was lucky enough to get a job with Poetry London, and moved here, finding a great new poetry group at the Southbank Centre to replace (as much as it could) the wonderful group in Suffolk to which I belonged, along with Beth Soule, Kaaren Witney, Sue Wallace-Shaddad and Sue Mobbs, and to whom, together with my friend, Gutter Magazine editor Henry Bell, I have to credit the improvement since of many of the poems in the pamphlet. Meanwhile, Helen Mort had published me in One for the Road and kindly wrote a very nice review of the pamphlet that I was able to send out to publishers. In the end I only sent it to one – Red Squirrel, as recommended by a lifelong poetry mentor, Gerry Loose. They said yes!
I try not to berate myself for the delay in sending it out, and think instead of the improvements and additions I have been able to make, and the delightful fact that Red Squirrel now has Gerry Cambridge of Dark Horse fame doing the typesetting, making for even more beautiful books. I can’t wait to see what they do with mine.
Meanwhile, here is a note on the roots of the title, which came from an actual mirror, designed by Frances Macdonald, Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s sister-in-law, decorated with a representation of the honesty plant. Entertainingly (to me anyway) inside the beautiful frame, it is a small, obscure, aged mirror now lodged behind a glass screen in the museum, making it very hard to see a reflection at all! The first I saw of it was actually a black and white photograph, also of course unreflective.
The eponymous poem, which came out of a Clydebuilt workshop, can be read here, where it was first published. Sincere thanks to Gutter Magazine, The North, Aesthetica, New Writing Scotland, New Writer Magazine, and in the anthologies One for the Road (2018), Dove Tales (2018), Glasgow Women Writers (2017) and The Skye Reading Room Anthology 2013 (for the Baker Prize), where many of the poems in this pamphlet were previously published. The poem ‘Found in Translation’ won the 2017 Waterstones Norwich Refugee Week Poetry Prize. ‘Mourning in Arduaine’ was translated into Dutch for the magazine Awater.
‘Landscape becomes a character in the taut poems of ‘Honesty Mirror’, poems which chart both the inevitable – ‘water pulling sky to sea’ – and the surprising - ghosts glimpsed in the mirror, supernatural glimmers on a city street – with precision and grace. We find ourselves in a strange, familiar place where ‘our faces are the only language we have’.’ Helen Mort.