Poetry pamphlets have rhyme and reason

Having run charming, salon-style poetry readings in Dublin, the creators of the Quantum Sofa have launched their first publication — a trio of pamphlets by Irish poets.

The short collections are Lines on Education, by Michael O’Sullivan, Cavalries of Love, by Seán Kelly, and No Poetry, by Seán Dennehy. Hand-crafted, the pamphlets are published by the newly formed, QS Press.

“Michael O’Sullivan has been writing for many years and is a lyric poet in the Yeatsian tradition,” says QS editor Edwin Kelly. “Seán Kelly is also a lyric poet, and one of outstanding integrity. This is his first publication. Seán Dennehy, meanwhile, is a spoken-word poet who, last year, won the All-Ireland Poetry Slam championships. When placed alongside each other, the three poets are quite different, but all three embody the qualities of the press, which we see as passion and integrity and a commitment to poetry.”

A commitment to poetry unites the three men behind QS Press: Kelly, Peter Sheehan and Mike Flynn. Poets themselves, the trio met in a writing group in University College Cork.

In 2010, with the assistance of Canadian academic, Kim Jackson, they set up Quantum Sofa — a relaxed reading night in which participants could deliver new poetry or share writing they admired. The new micro-press continues the spirit of that event. “It has all grown from a communal engagement,” says Kelly. “It’s a roots-up rather than top-down approach. Poetry, as a form, is to be shared. And it’s important that poetry is shared.”

QS Press was formed because of a growing understanding of just how marginalised poetry is in the wider book market.

“Poetry sells very little,” says Kelly. “You only need to sell 50-100 books for your publication to be deemed a ‘success’. So success in the poetry world is a very small number of books. But, within that, there’s an opportunity. Because the small scale means that your cost of production is very low.” Taking heart from other small-scale poetry imprints in Ireland, like Default, and Run Amok, the QS editors hit upon the idea of producing poetry pamphlets. Such pamphlets are thriving in the UK and US and are slowly making an impact in Ireland.

“The three of us believe that the ideal form for poetry is the pamphlet,” says Kelly. “A pamphlet is something that’s 20-odd pages long and can encompass a piece of work that has been completed with great energy or passion. Each of us reads and writes poetry, and we know how long collections of poetry can sometimes outstay their welcome. A pamphlet rarely does.”

If the pamphlets align QS with a certain indie-publishing tradition, it’s also instructive that the first poets backed by QS are formally diverse. “Editorially, we welcome diverse voices, provided they have a commitment to poetry, whatever form it takes,” says Kelly.

“Next year, we’ll publish three more and, maybe, then it’ll be easier to put a finger on what it is we do. QS Press is still a work in progress.”

* Lines on Education, by Michael O’Sullivan, Cavalries of Love, by Seán Kelly, and No Poetry, by Seán Dennehy, are available now. For more see qspress.weebly.com

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