Late, the bus is late. I wait.
Imaginings skulk out of the 5am fog. A
Fog thick with portent. Disconcerting fog.
Flummoxing fog. An idle fog. A clingy
fog. Fog. Mist. Smog. Vapour. Miasma.
Haze. Murkiness. Gloom. Opacity.
Hulking charcoal shadows of Victorian homes
edge their way into realisation.
A solitary blackbird sings out into the indolent
obscurity. Condensation confuses the timetable
that I read in vain, bleak efforts.
Waiting for the headlights of the Number 21
to break the creosote-laden grey.
Poem by Elissa Michele Zacher
Elissa Michele Zacher has written for The Epoch Times, Ottawa Natural, Apt (an online literary magazine), the Essence Poetry Journal, and the Dawntreader Magazine. She currently lives in England, on and off in Reading.
Here is Julia Trickey writing about the image chosen for the cover of her book Botanical Artistry, and giving a fantastic insight into how she develops and perfects her botanical watercolours. Her book contains some amazing botanical art, and beautifully showcases her work and her techniques.
The fading anemone flower painting on the cover of this book is used here to illustrate the stages and techniques that I favour when producing botanical watercolours.
I tend to draw the image on tracing or cheap paper initially. When I am happy with the drawing, I use transfer paper to transfer it onto watercolour paper.
At the outset I decide if any part of the image needs masking before I start painting. In this case I have applied masking fluid to the centre of the flower and the stamens so I can wash background colour over this area without having to work around these small shapes. Masking fluid is also used on the back of the petals and stem to create a hairy texture. I favour the more liquid masking fluid and use a ruling pen (shown here) or drawing nib to apply it.
To create the form of the petals I use my favourite watercolour technique: wet-in-wet. I wet each petal with clear water and, when it has just a surface sheen but no sitting water, dab in the colour and the shadows. I repeat this process on every petal, often needing to revisit each shape a second or third time to strengthen areas or add colour. The main rule is to leave each layer to dry completely before applying the next, and to retrace the shape carefully with the new wash of water.
At this stage I also wash a range of shadowy colours over the masked area in the centre of the flower to create depth behind the stamens.
Veining and shadows
To add detail such as the veins on the petals, small amounts of stronger paint are applied with the tip of the brush. I then run damp colour down the side of these veins to help them blend into the wet-in-wet layers. Similarly, I will use small amounts of damp colour to strengthen areas such as shadows. Getting a good range of tones from light to dark is one of my priorities, whatever I am painting.
Once I’m happy with the depth of colour behind the stamens, I remove the masking fluid. The shapes revealed in this way can look quite stark and might need refining.
To paint the stamens, I start by washing greys and beiges over the shapes then, with careful reference to the real flower, add detail to each shape. The centre of the flower is the area to which the eye is drawn so it needs to be painted with particular care.
Having worked up-close on the detail, stamens and the leafy collar, I take a step back to assess whether I need to adjust the balance of tones. Holding the picture up to a mirror is a good way to check this, or I will revisit it with a fresh eye a few days later.
Peter Robinson, the poetry editor for Two Rivers Press, talks about our list
How many poetry books do you publish each year? How many has the press published in total?
We currently aim to publish one book per quarter, using the Poetry Book Society’s activities as our temporal template. Sometimes we’ll also add one of our illustrated classic poems volumes or an anthology to the list, so I would say that we tend to produce between four and six poetry publications per year. I really couldn’t say for sure how many poetry books we have published in total; but I’ve been editing the list since September 2010, which is nearly a decade, so I’ve probably been involved in the editing of between forty and fifty books. The press was founded in 1994, so I would think we must have produced perhaps a hundred books of poetry in all.
What kinds of poetry are you interested in?
I like poetry of a great many kinds and shapes and sizes, and have been curious about how and why different forms of poems work since I was a teenager. But in all my editing activity (I first edited a poetry magazine at the age of 23), I’ve tended to keep my personal tastes under control and made judgments that are in line with my understanding of the social and cultural situation in which I am operating. As you can see from the previous answer, Two Rivers Press had been going for sixteen years when I was asked to take over running the poetry list. So I inherited a stable of poets, including Adrian Blamires, a copy of whose The Effect of Coastal Processes (2005) I found in a bookshop in Liverpool one summer when visiting from Japan. I was very impressed by the poetry, the quality of the design, and the finish of the cover. So I did know about Two Rivers Press before coming to live in Reading, and attended a reading by some of our poets in the Henley River and Rowing Museum as a way of making myself known to them when in need of some congenial company in a town new to me. When I was asked to take over its poetry list, as I say, I inherited a backlist of poets, mostly living locally, one of whom, Jane Draycott, had gone on to be published first by Oxford and then Carcanet, while another, A. F. Harrold, has gone on to become a very successful author for children and young adults. These poets had developed, largely, from a local workshop and open-mike culture, and their writing was and is broadly-speaking characterised by verbal skills, craftsmanship, and sensibilities engaged with shareable experiences, qualities that I also admire.
How do you go about selecting which books to publish?
There is a standard policy for ‘cold calling’: we ask to see a sample of six poems, and if I like them enough, we ask to see the full collection, and if that promises to fit our list (in ways that are not only aesthetic, but also involve questions about the poets’ locations and our practical ability to work with them, that’s to say her or his readiness to help sell the books), then I take the volume to a committee meeting and ask the team to have it put into our forward plan. Books are also submitted by poets we have previously published, and on one or two occasions I have offered to publish books were I knew them to exist and also knew that, for one reason or another, their poets were having difficulty with the arduous business of finding a publisher in the present environment. In other cases, I have encountered the work of new poets at readings or through contacts in the poetry world and then helped to mentor the development of a collection, sometimes over a long period of time.
Are there particular recent poetry books that you are especially proud to have published?
Among the poets that I have brought to the press during my near decade working with the team, I am particularly proud to have published, among others, first books by the late David Attwooll, Kate Behrens, Sue Leigh, James Peake, and Tom Phillips, as well as the last book published in her lifetime by Mairi MacInnes. These are poets, in their different ways, who pursue styles that retain the qualities of attentive technique that are, I believe, the basis for valuable writing, and they also stretch their language to the evoking of experiences more distinctive and challenging, more difficult easily to share, than some of the work that the press had published heretofore. I am also glad to have initiated our publishing of translations with a collection of Ruth Speirs’ versions of Rilke, to which have now been added Jane Draycott’s selection from Henri Michaux’s poetry, and Lesley Saunders’ bilingual selection from Maria Teresa Horta’s Portuguese.
Looking ahead, what is your ambition for the Two Rivers Press poetry list in the next few years?
The main thing we are hoping to do, beginning in 2021, is to enlarge the list so that we publish two poetry books per quarter. Over the last few years the profile of the press has increased and we have on occasion been reviewed in national newspapers. Enlarging the list a little, I would hope we can continue this development, and build on the geographical base of the press in the Thames valley so as to have a better relationship with the independent publishing environment in the capital, and also to find a place not only as Reading’s own publisher, but as a publisher to something more like the part of the country shown on maps in the front of Thomas Hardy’s novels. I would like to increase the range of poetry that we are known to produce, to publish some volumes of collected poems, such as David Attwooll’s, which is currently in preparation, and would also like to add further books of translated poetry to the list, including from languages beyond those of our near neighbours in western Europe.
We love a beautiful book cover and work hard to make our books visually strong. Sally Castle has designed many covers for Two Rivers Press. She writes here about the inspiration for the cover artwork for The Constitutionals by Peter Robinson, which explores and celebrates the therapeutic links between reading, writing, walking and thinking through a fictional treatment of the meditative author’s convalescent wanderings around the town of Reading.
The illustration started with drawings made as an immediate intuitive response while reading the manuscript. Images such as land marks: the Cemetery Junction arch and the Wycliffe Church; trees: a magnolia and a monkey puzzle outside a house in Eastern Avenue, buildings: New Town terrace houses and the gas holder, the Co-op with clock at ten past six and the green tiled Oxfam book shop. All familiar places to me: literally, in that I was born at 27 Hatherley Road, my grandparents lived at number 30, uncle and aunt lived at 68 Amity Road in New Town. Grandfather and uncle used to meet up at Cemetery junction to watch the traffic!
Several versions were developed combining the images together using watercolour and collaged with an old street map, a receipt from the Co-op (Your store Your say) and Robinson Crusoe as portrayed in an early illustrated edition. The result was also simplified down to a flat linocut print but the watercolour collage with a stormy sky was the best choice to ‘ventriloquize the grateful dead’
Thanks to Peter for asking me to do his cover and to Nadja Guggi for her support, encouragement and working magic with her technical expertise.
Sally Castle is a printmaker, illustrator and lettering artist, based in Ruscombe. You can see more of her work on her website http://www.sallycastle.co.uk