To visit Salmon Publishing
Some Salmon poets published in The Drunken Boat:
Joyce Wilson, John Unrau, John Pass and Gary Whitehead
Visit Joyce Wilson's interview of Jessie Lendennie at The Poetry Porch
by Jessie Lendennie
Salmon Publishing is among Ireland's best known literary presses. It began as a little pamphlet showcasing the work of members of a writers' workshop in Galway (on the west coast) in 1981. Counting from these humble origins, Salmon is 20 years old this year. In 1982 my husband (now ex-husband) and I had just arrived from London. We wanted to live in a place which honoured writers - and Ireland was our choice. We joined the newly begun Galway Writers' Workshop and were excited by the possibilities which we saw unfolding in Irish literature at that time. There were virtually no outlets for new poetry; so the little pamphlet became The Salmon International Literary Journal, and we found that the timing was exactly right.
Galway, which is now thriving with arts events of all kinds, had no poetry reading venues and little literary activity in the 80s. We formed a Poetry co-op to promote local writers and bring international writers to Galway. It was a very exciting time, and the Galway writers we began to publish were outstanding. Our first book was a collection from a wonderfully original and intelligent poet, Eva Bourke (who has now published three collections) and our second was from one of the most important women writers of the last 15 years - Rita Ann Higgins. A Galway working class woman who turned the notion of 'poetry for the select few' on its head, and whose witty, dark, insightful poems are praised worldwide.
It was obvious in the early 80s that there were few outlets for women writers, particularly poets, in Ireland. Beaver Row Press in Dublin had begun publishing and had a list of new poets, but the press didn't survive. I made it clear that Salmon would be publishing women poets and began to get a lot of excellent manuscripts. Along with Rita Ann Higgins and Eva Bourke,there were wonderful poets in Galway - Moya Cannon, Mary O'Malley, Anne Kennedy - and they formed a strong basis for others - Anne le Marquand Hartigan, Aine Miller, Eithne Strong, Mary Dorcey, Patricia Bourke Brogan, Catherine Phil McCarthy, Jo Slade - and on and on! In 1999 we published The White Page/An Bhileog Bhan: 20th Century Irish Women Poets, and I consider this a crowning achievement for Salmon. The White Page is a directory (one poem, a bio, and photograph) of every woman poet who published at least one collection from 1920 to 1999. It lists 113 poets, and is an invaluable reference tool for anyone interested in contemporary Irish literature.
Because of Salmon's emphasis on having a balanced list, it became known as a "women's press" - something that puzzled me at first, until I realized that, of course, it was because equality in literary publishing was so unusual!
Since those early days, the Salmon list has grown more and more diverse - in culture as well as gender. Our list is approximately one third non-Irish (mostly Americans, British and Canadians) and we still have an equal representation of men and women. In 1996 we published a wonderful selection of the poetry of Adrienne Rich, with an introduction by one of Ireland's best know poets Eavan Boland,and an afterword by Jean Valentine. To me, and of course there's a little bit of bias (!), this is a unique and special presentation of Adrienne's work.
Of U.S. poets, we've published a selection by Marvin Bell; a chapbook and collection by Richard Tillinghast; a selected by R.T. Smith and collections by John Hildebidle, Michael Heffernan, Tom Sexton, Jerah Chadwick, Linda McCarriston, Ron Houchin, John Menaghan among many others, with collections due in the next 18 months from Kelly Cherry, Ethna McKiernan, Patricia Monaghan, Sarah Fox, Joyce Wilson, Marck Beggs and Ray Bradbury. We have a strong list of Irish poets who are resident in the U.S. including Eamonn Wall, Gerard Donovan and James Liddy. Our website, http://www.salmonpoetry.com, includes books published since the beginning of 1999, and our catalogue details our backlist as well.
My April tour in the U.S. has taken in WordsWorth Books, Little Rock, Arkansas and Henderson State University, Arkadelphia. From here I go to my home town, Blytheville, AR, and read at That Bookstore in Blytheville, a famous spot for terrifc readings! On the 18th, I'll be in Boston - Killian Hall, MIT (7pm) for the launch of Measures by Nadya Aisenberg with a lecture on Nadya's poetry and a reading from her collection. Nadya died unexpectedly in April 1999. Very regretably I never met her and I see this launch as part of a tribute to an outstandingly intelligent poet and social writer, and a wonderfully generous person.
Huntington, West Virginia is my next stop and I'll be reading at Marshall State University on the 19th with Laura Bentley and Ron Houchin; then running a workshop on the 21st. St Louis on the 23rd, reading and launching the latest book from one of Ireland's most exciting poets, Mary Dorcey. Mary and I will then go to University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale for a reading on the 26th; then Chicago for readings on the 3rd of May at Du Paul, University and 4th of May; then Minneapolis for a GRAND finale reading on the 6th at The Loft with Sarah Fox, Pat Monaghan, Ethna McKiernan, Mary Dorcey and myself.
I do tours in the U.S. every year to promote Salmon, and later this year I'll be in Australia for the first time. We have several outstanding Australian poets whose collections are due for publication next year and 2003: including Lizz Murphy (originally from Belfast), Robyn Roland and Diane Fahy.
Recent books are: Asylum Road by Mary O'Malley (her fourth collection with us); Tulle by Mary O'Donoghue (this collection won our 'First Publication Award' 2000), That Fall by Paul Genega (his second to be published with us. Paul teaches at Bloomfield College, New Jersey)The Exile House by Erling Friis-Baastad (first collection to be published outside North America from this Norwegian poet who is based in Whitehorse, Yukon).