Lighting a Candle for Poetry 

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When Jenny Swann’s mother died and left her a little money, she wanted to do something with it that her intelligent, well-read mother would have liked. So she started publishing poetry – not large chunks of it between traditional hard covers, but poetry in small, tempting, bite-size helpings, attractive to those who already love poetry, and easily digestible by those who don’t normally read it. The latter were the people she particularly wanted to reach. She hoped that discovering a poem they enjoyed might tickle their taste buds and lead them on to more of the poet’s work.

She was keen to be green, too, so she found a local printer and some local illustrators. Her husband, who is an academic, designed a website, and she started off with four pamphlets – Ten Poems by Walter de la Mare, Six Poems by Christina Rossetti, Ten Poems by Frances Cornford (now, sadly, out of print) and Miss Thompson Goes Shopping by Martin Armstrong – each about 12 pages long and costing £4.95. She called her enterprise the Candlestick Press. In the two years since she started she’s gone from strength to strength, beginning with 250 copies of each title and now printing thousands, which have found their way into bookshops large and small.

Which is not surprising, for the pamphlets are beautifully produced and illustrated and make an excellent small present or substitute for an expensive card, with an envelope and an attractive bookmark on which to write your message included. The poems are obviously selected by someone who takes real joy in poetry and are a piquant mixture of the light-hearted and the serious – Edward Lear’s ‘There was an old man, on whose nose/Most birds of the air could repose . . .’ roosting next to Emily Dickinson’s ‘“Hope” is the thing with feathers – /That perches on the soul’ (Twelve Poems about Birds); and Anon’s ‘O for a roly-poly Mother used to make./

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