Co-Director of Unthank Books, Robin Jones answers Ten Questions for IS&T

This is part of a series called Ten Questions in which IS&T talks to small presses.  Here, Co-Director of Unthank Books, Robin Jones supplies the answers:

Ten Questions

Name: Unthank Books
DOB:    01/02/2010    
Home town: Norwich/London

1.Who is Unthank Books?

Unthank Books is a collection of writers, editors, lecturers, literary consultants, designers, illustrators  etc. who share similar reading taste but were finding it difficult to understand the output of the mainstream publishing houses and hence get hold of good books to read.

2. What are your goals as a publisher?

To publish material that we like and firmly believe others will like and are suffering a dearth of. We’re interested in first-efforts and want to develop authors not just discover them.

3. What first brought you to publishing?

Holding a pencil aged four and being encouraged to learn handwriting by copying from the blackboard gorgeous extracts such as ‘quinquereme of Nineveh from distant Ophir’…thence to reading pretentiously and precociously, thence to fifteen years in the salt-mines of London trade publishing.

4. What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

To think big and refuse to stay small in anything but name. To disregard trends, bandwagons and roller-coasters unless there’s an innate love of a particular one.

5. What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

Publishing books that may require concentration and thought, and publishing an ‘Unthology’ of new work once a year.

6. What do you see as the most effective way to get new publications out into the world?

To bang on and on about them to all and sundry with verve, passion and Terminator II-like (the liquid metal one) irrevocability yet remembering unfailingly those who’ve already heard the schpiel.

7. Do you take submissions? If so, what are you looking for?

We do and will always do. We are looking for the real deal. People who can demonstrate some commitment to the written-word by the quality of their output. We’re not much into anything riddled with errors, spelling mistakes, careless grammar, missing punctuation or loose syntax. It is a hard, hard path to write something good and we can usually spot work dashed-off in a spirit of “I’m going to be a writer now”.

8. How hands-on are you as editors?

Pretty much full body massage. We don’t want to for the sake of it, but are prepared to go the whole hog if we believe the underlying idea and construction are worth it.

9. Tell us what you have published this year, and what you are going to publish.

We have just published Touching the Starfish by Ashley Stokes a rip-roaring contemporary literary novel which finds the humour and pathos in the tough old world of Creative Writing. We will publish at the end of the year, an ’Unthology’ of shorter works by seventeen authors all at varying stages of their careers to provide a sample of our taste and to back-up our claims of supporting first-time writers.

10. How do you see the press evolving?

We are aiming to become involved in a little more than just pure books as time goes on, hopefully becoming a bit of a literary beacon as the gloom of dumbing-down descends.

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Chris Tracy is blackberrying


Brambles twine round crosses, stray
across shaded paths; proffer blackberries
mostly still to ripen.

The few we pick
leave our fingers purple-inky
like schoolboys’: plump, glossy beauties

up high or hidden
under the lower leaves; dry
stubby-looking things, rats’ noses

tiny black hand grenades.
Impossible to say
which will prove sweet.

* Having failed as a scrapyard worker, a handyman and a trainee teacher, Chris Tracy is hoping for better luck as a poet.  He lives in Norwich.

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Abegail Morley is undressing for death

Undressing for Death

The bathroom shrieks
as I take off my skin,
peel casing to carcass.
Tonight I remove it all.

Stepping out is easy,
it’s been coming off for days.
What a relief. It does not flatter me,
I need more colour in my cheeks.

Where are my manners?
I have not introduced you
to my skin. Look at the light
through it, at the needle pricks

from lashes sticking through
the slits of limp eyelids.
You can discover me
in my hands, a lacework of veins

you can unravel.
I am woman, I am vellum.
My bones might snap
at the gap between my lungs

and where my breasts should be.
I abandon my body to you
so you can feel its motion.

*Abegail Morley’s How to Pour Madness into a Teacup is shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection (2010). Her work appears in magazines such as the Financial Times, Interpreter’s House, Other Poetry and The Spectator.

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Ivor Murrell is encountering some stratospheric disturbance

Stratospheric disturbance

Perhaps that night I said too much,
ignoring niceties to eclipse the strident voices
baying in misunderstanding and meanness.
My incoherent anger was misread for greed,
dissatisfaction with what was left,
unaware I wanted nothing.

Unlike the weather, there was no storm warning
gaze above your head and the mares tails
of Cirrus Uncinus warn of coming wind,
the length of tail is guidance to the blow.
Ice crystals at altitudes above six kilometres
send their gently tumbling message to the eye,
influenced by an advancing depression.
The ice touched me that night, and no amount
of heated words could form a warm front.

Vapour trails cleave the upper atmosphere,
following a solitary flight path.

* Ivor Murrell lives and writes in Suffolk

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New flash fiction by Ruth Solomon



She could be tired and distressed. Yes and voices tended to sound the same muffling around her head it is said that eyes tell all but hers were fallen from view. She was tied up all the time and time was outside her statutory rights. She felt it like a noisy neighbour pressing down on her exterior causing matter to withdraw beyond her concern till things grew old. She alone depended on what she was told through mostly now the voices seemed less and less to meet her she was her only friend her own worst enemy until then one day released back into the melting tirade blameless and unknown she went home unused to the space around her unused to the blinding day light the impossible slogans the faces.

* Ruth Solomon says… “I live in London. I write when and if something catches my attention and  affects the way I feel. I write as a kind of slow release filter that becomes part of how something unfolds in life and how I engage with. It is a way of holding many contradictory things without always having to make them make sense.” She blogs at

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An autumnal haiga by Francis Masat

* Francis Masat is Co-editor of Key-Ku (Florida Keys haiku) and author of Lilacs After Winter (haibun) and other books. This haiku first appeared in the Bottle Rockets (8.2, 2006).

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This is not a land of terror

Next week – on the 1st October to be exact – sees the 50th anniversary of Nigeria's independence from the United Kingdom. Here is a timely poem on that topic by Nnorom Azuonye…

This Land is not a Land of Terror
to Ayogu Eze

My first clothes were sewn by defiant tailors

in fabric of blood, night, and unripe horizontals,
emblazoned with a badge of the purest fiery gold;

the eleven-tongued fireball rolling on a plank.

At three, naked to my boyhood sack, I nosed smoke

from that bonfire of the vanquished in my hometown;

there, my clothes were cremated with a hundred others,

together with our bottle, our pride, our story.

Now you ask was there anything worth dying for?

A different today would have been a special gift,

meaning I could justly protest: our land is not a land 

of terror, despite the Umar Abdulmuttalab factor.

You remind me of my phone call to Aba yesterday,

a call reporting fire fights just like the old Biafra days;

a bank robbery at Osisioma, seven policemen shot dead

in mid-afternoon, as frightened men pack and leave town.

Yet, this land is not a land of terror. At least, not

in the traditional sense of terrorism; we don’t desire

immortality bad enough to stain our hands with blood.

We never honour a murderer’s family above others.

There’s only the little inconvenience of hiring soldiers

to protect us when we return to our villages for palm wine,

to renew ourselves, marry, build, or bury our parents,

lest we become borrowed by the vicious, until ransomed.

This land is not a land of terror. It’s just jobless kids

horsing around with assault rifles and large car boots

for carting away their human cargo – dead or alive.

Ah! We strenuously refuse to be branded a terrorist land.

* Nnorom Azuonye is the publisher of the online magazines Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Sentinel Nigeria and Nollywood Focus. With publications in several international journals including Ink Sweat and Tears, Orbis, DrumVoices Revue, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Eclectica and Agenda, his books include Blue Hyacinths (2010: ed. with Geoff Stevens), The Bridge Selection: Poems for the Road (2005), and Letter to God & Other Poems (2003). He lives in London with his wife Thelma, son Arinze and daughter Nwachi.

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