Category Archives: Publications

What reviewers are saying about London Undercurrents

To be seen. To be heard. To be understood. It’s made us a bit teary at times. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed our book – and thank you to all our readers. It’s what we did it all for – to communicate with our fellow human beings. If you’d like to review, or buy, our book you can contact Bernadette at Holland Park Press.

“London Undercurrents offers a cornucopia of female experience across four centuries, from spirited cockneys and land girls, to factory workers and women in service. The result is both fascinating and educational… Back-street abortions, lead poisoning, sit-ins by Gujarati workers, frost fairs on the Thames, 18th century lavender harvests, knitting for the Spanish Republicans – wherever women have tilled, toiled, laughed, suffered or survived, Hilaire and Sparkes follow, with empathy and imagination… The poets have tapped into a rich array of character and circumstance and transformed it, with exuberance and clarity, into poetry which is fresh and accessible.”

Claire Booker, Ink Sweat and Tears

“Gathering and grouping the poetic products of Sparkes and Hilaire’s combined research […] thematically as opposed to chronologically or separated into two authored halves of the North and South of the city, allows each piece and each voice to converse in a way that builds connections; by-lines that travel between the experiences of women through the landscape of the city and into the past… these poems feel full of possibility even in desperate situations, and in other moments, gleeful and utterly joyous… The richness and variety, intrigue and emotion, together provides an illustration of London as a tumultuous and exhilarating place, occupied by women throughout its history who have built and shaped its terrain from the bottom up and from the top down.”

Laura Tansley, Litro Magazine 

“The Thames runs through it. North and south of the famous river lie the “hidden histories” of mostly forgotten women. London Undercurrents brings them vividly back into our literary consciousness in this remarkable collection, written and compiled by two of the city’s female poets… What emerges through these evocative and accessible poems is a unique urban chronicle that is a joy to engage with.”

Karina Magdalena, Cape Times, 7 June 2019

 “Many of these poems are exuberant in their experimentations with dialect and linguistic play… there is no shortage of poems that deal with serious subjects in witty, light-hearted, accessible language… This volume of poems kindles curiosity, as it sheds light on the underground lives of women, their determination and humble struggles, across different periods and places in London.”

Jennifer Wong, Magma issue 74

“…an intriguing, worthy collaboration that focuses on histories in two specific areas of London. The poems imaginatively give voices to stories often overlooked from those who usually go unheard. Both poets, Hilaire and Joolz Sparks, have distinct but complementary voices but share the ability to use selective details to bring their subjects to life in an engaging manner.”
Award-winning reviewer Emma Lee, blogpost https://emmalee1.wordpress.com

“This collection scores highly because of its unusual subject matter, its slice of social history, striking vocabulary and clever wordplay. Above all, it fills a gap in our understanding of the conditions under which women worked north and south of the river. Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire have not only come up with a brilliant idea, they have executed it with panache.”

Neil Leadbeater, WriteOutLoud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liftoff!

Our book is now officially published! We launched it into the world last Thursday, 28th March, and what a joyous occasion it was. Holland Park Press hired the beautiful Gradidge Room at the Art Workers Guild, and we were overwhelmed by the number of people who came along to celebrate this milestone with us. The wine flowed, the room filled with laughter and chatter, books were bought and signed; and before we got too merry, Bernadette hushed the crowd and we gave a short reading from our collection. Then, more book buying and signing! More wine! Amazingly, by 9pm virtually all the books that Bernadette and Arnold had brought along to the launch party had been sold.

Our thanks to everyone who came along, especially those who travelled from outside London; those who sent congratulatory messages and bought the book online; and of course to Bernadette and Arnold at Holland Park Press for organising such a lovely party.

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Look at those books! Photo: Nick Rogers

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Ready for our guests Photo: Nick Rogers

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Photo: Sarah Sparkes

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Photo: Holland Park Press

Reading at the London Book Fair.

The London Book Fair attracts over 25,000 visitors. Who wouldn’t want to read at one of the publishing industry’s main trade fairs? When our publisher Bernadette at Holland Park Press suggested she could pitch for a slot for us to read from our forthcoming collection at this year’s fair we jumped at the chance.  Continue reading Reading at the London Book Fair.

Wine, poetry, and you, at our book launch March 28th

Whoohoo… our book is real! A 152-page actual thing.  To celebrate its publication, our lovely publisher Holland Park Press is throwing us a launch party right in the heart of Bloomsbury. And we’d like to invite you to join us there.

It will be in the fabulous Gradidge Room at the Art Workers Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT on March 28th 7pm-9pm. Nearest tube is Russell Square.

 

Portrait of the poets

 

On a chilly and windy November day we met with poet and photographer Naomi Woddis at Tate Modern to have headshots taken for our book cover. Naomi has taken several celebrated shots of contemporary poets (Malika Booker, Raymond Antrobus, Rishi Dastidar to name a few) that currently grace biogs, book jackets and social media profiles. Naomi made the experience of being photographed great fun, and calmed our nerves. It was a laugh trying to work out what a poet should look like in a headshot – smiling? Serious? Quill in hand?

The results? All will be revealed on our book cover in March 2019.

Drumroll…

…our poetry collection, London Undercurrents, will be published by Holland Park Press in March 2019. Whoop!

We are beside ourselves with excitement. Over the moon, to quote Imtiaz Dharker. Thrilled to bits, jumping for joy…

Huge thank yous to everyone who helped us get to this point, especially our wonderful mentor, Jacqueline Saphra.

Thank you all at Spread the Word, for writing space and encouragement and to Arts Council England for the research and development grant which really propelled our practice forward.

And a big big thank you to Bernadette and Arnold at Holland Park Press for taking us on. We can’t wait to be one of your stablemates, alongside such illustrious names as Norbert Hirschhorn, Marilyn Hacker and Deema K. Shehabi (another poetry collaboration), and Vicky Grut.

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Photo by Roven Images on Unsplash

Poetry, song and Eritrean food

Joolz writes: As much as we love reading at The Poetry Cafe, it’s been a real delight to discover new venues while the cafe is being renovated.

Fourth Friday has relocated to Bar 48 in Brixton during the Poetry Cafe’s hiatus, and promoter Hylda Sims was worried that FF’s loyal fans wouldn’t be tempted out to this new venue. Her worries were unfounded – a warm and eager crowd turned up, and the hustle of the bar and relaxed atmosphere (comfy chairs!) added a ‘proper gig’ vibe to the evening. Lively. That’s how we like our poetry readings.

Seeing as it was our second feature at Fourth Friday together, we decided to mix things up a bit by reading our solo stuff as well as  London Undercurrents poems. I read first and unleashed a new set of poems about the sea onto a guinea pig audience. This included a bawdy sea shanty, which I greatly enjoyed reading. Then Hilaire read a batch of beautifully crafted and lyrical poems about gardening and gardens. Lastly we both read north and south London Undercurrents poems that have been published most recently (Lunar Poetry and Brittle Star).

The other featured artists were fabulous – folk singer Leon Rosselson‘s satirical songs were deceptively cheery while delivering relevant and timely social and political comment. Poet Abe Gibson delivered deeply moving poems with a delicate musicality that was spellbinding. To top the evening off, the food was amazing. It’s well worth putting this monthly event in your diary, every fourth Friday.img_6377img_6380