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Carcanet Celebrates 50 Years!

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Since 1969 Carcanet has been committed to publishing poetry from around the world, and to mark the past fifty years we celebrated with parties, symposia, exhibitions and more! You can read an interview with our founder and editorial director, Michael Schmidt, in The Bookseller, where we made our initial announcements.

A recent interview with Michael Schmidt, celebrating the publication of Fifty Fifty: Carcanet's Jubilee in Letters, edited by Robyn Marsack, is available to read in The Telegraph here, and in December he was named as one of the most influential figures in publishing in 'The Bookseller 150', where Tom Tivnan wrote,‘In the long-overdue department is Carcanet’s MichaelSchmidt, who in 2019 celebrated 50 years as being arguably Britain’s mostimportant poetry publisher’.

Sadly, our series of symposia at key locations around the UK and Ireland between Autumn 2019 - Summer 2020 was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. We started at Poetry Ireland in October, and in January celebrated at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich. We sadly had to cancel plans at The Scottish Poetry Library, Cardiff University and the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts. In November, we celebrated in our home of Manchester over the weekend of 21st to 24th, with a series of wonderful celebratory events. Please scroll down to see the full timeline.

Due to open in March 2020 was The Carcanet Press Exhibition at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. Our archivist and the exhibition's curator, Jessica Smith, wrote about the show for Arc Magazine:

This exhibition, to mark 50 years of Carcanet, explores its rich history, but is not a retrospective. It begins with a pivotal moment: the destruction of the press’s home of 21 years in the Manchester Corn Exchange by an IRA bomb in June 1996.

Carcanet lost paper and electronic records, including contracts, submissions, mailing lists, and the complete collection of its publications. This loss led in turn to a noticeable gap in its archive. Despite these difficulties, Carcanet endured, publishing as many books in 1996 as it had in previous years. It is this spirit of endurance and resilience that the exhibition is intended to celebrate.

Amongst the material exhibited is never before seen footage of the interior of the Corn Exchange filmed in August 1996, and poetry by Carcanet poets inspired by the bombing. They are perfect examples of the way in which poetry can help us to process and express complex emotions. At its best, poetry can convey universal and relatable concepts through profound use of language, form and structure. Reading and reciting poetry can help us to make sense of the world around us.
The November-December issue of PN Review is our 250th, and to celebrate we've launched the PN Review Collection at The Poetry Archive, please visit here. In December we published our anniversary edition, Fifty Fifty: Carcanet's Jubilee in Letters, edited by Robyn Marsack - more information below. 
Carcanet Exhibition Banner at the John Rylands Library in Manchestser  Past events:


Friday 25 October:
Carcanet at 50: Poetry Ireland
The first in our series of celebratory symposia, an afternoon of presentations, discussions and poetry readings, followed by evening readings at Poetry Ireland, Dublin. Two panels will explore Carcanet’s core Irish poets and Irish poetry beyond Ireland. Confirmed speakers include Carcanet poets Sinéad Morrissey, Tara Bergin, John F. Deane, Mary O’Malley, Martina Evans and Moya Cannon; Gerard Smith, Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin and John McAuliffe of The Irish Times, Sarah Byrne of The Well Review and Colette Bryce.

November 8 - 10:
Poetry in Aldeburgh
Join us at Poetry in Aldeburgh for the first literary festival edition of Carcanet at 50 events. On Saturday afternoon, 5:30-6:30pm, join us for Carcanet at 50 - Launch of Fifty Fifty: Carcanet's Jubilee in Letters with Robyn Marsack and Michael Schmidt. Then, on Sunday afternoon, 1-2pm, join us for Carcanet at 50: Poets Through the Generations for readings from Alison Brackenbury, Peter Sansom, Julia Blackburn, Mina Gorji, Lisa Kelly, John Greening and Jamie Osborn.

Thursday 21 November:
Annual John Rylands Reading
The esteemed readers at the historic John Rylands Library, Manchester, will be Kei Miller, Sinéad Morrissey and Matthew Welton. The event will be accompanied by a Collection Encounter, in which guests can look at specially selected items from Carcanet’s archive, which is held in the library. The readers will offer creative writing workshops earlier in the day.

Saturday 23 November:
Poets & Players
A special edition of Poets & Players, Manchester’s long-running poetry & music performance series, at the Whitworth Gallery.

Sunday 24 November:
Carcanet at 50: Poem of the Week with Carol Rumens
The weekend’s celebrations will close with a special Sunday afternoon event at Chetham’s Library, from 3pm to 4.30pm, in collaboration with Manchester Literature Festival. Carol Rumens’s popular ‘Poem of the Week’ blog has been featuring in the Guardian for more than a dozen years. Join her and Carcanet’s Michael Schmidt for a wide-ranging conversation about poetry and participate in the launch of Smart Devices: 52 Poems from the Guardian 'Poem of the Week'. We are joined by local writers and literary figures including Simon Armitage, Helen Mort, SuAndi, Afshan D’souza Lodhi, Stephen Raw, Matthew Frost and Zaffar Kunial, who will read their favourite Carcanet poems from the blog.

Wednesday 4 December:
Carcanet at 50: Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham
Join four Nottingham-based Carcanet poets for a night of readings and celebration, in association with the Nottingham Creative Writing Hub. A free, celebratory, limited-edition pamphlet will be available for all who attend the event. With Rory Waterman, Matthew Welton, Gregory Woods and Rebecca Cullen. See the shop's event page for more information, here.

Saturday 25 January:
Carcanet at 50: National Centre for Writing
Carcanet's second symposium took place at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich. The day comprised two afternoon sessions, the first: some of Carcanet's core poets with Laura Scott, Mimi Khalvati, Caroline Bird, Alison Brackenbury, Philip Terry, Rory Waterman and Peter Scupham; the second: indie poetry publishing today with Carcanet’s Michael Schmidt, Nine Arches’ Jane Commane, Nathan Hamilton of Boiler House Press, Bridget Shine who is Chair of the IPG, and Neil Astley of Bloodaxe Books. The second session was chaired by Arts Council England’s Director of Literature, Sarah Crown, and was followed by a celebratory reading later in the evening with Carcanet poets Sasha Dugdale, Julia Blackburn, Sophie Hannah and Miles Burrows.

Tuesday 4 February:
Carcanet at 50: Half a Century of Poetry at Blackwell's, Edinburgh
Join three Carcanet poets with a Scottish connection for an evening of poetry and reflection on all that Carcanet has achieved: Frank Kuppner, Lucy Burnett and Oli Hazzard. The event will be chaired by Robyn Marsack, who is also the editor of Fifty Fifty: Carcanet's Jubilee in Letters.
Cover of Fifty Fifty: Carcanet's Jubilee in Letters edited by Robyn Marsack FiftyFifty celebrates half a century of publishing by one of theUK's most resilient and distinctive independent presses, through correspondencebetween fifty authors and their editor.

Each of Carcanet’s fifty years is marked by an exchange of letters between anauthor and the editor. The aim is to reveal a half century’s history ofpublishing and one small, ambitious press’s contribution, the nature ofediting, the author/editor relationship, the conflicts, friendships andvicissitudes that occur at the nexus between the work, its creator, publisherand readers.

Beginning in 1969 with the answer to a request to become a subscriberto the Press for £2, the book traces the development of the press as well asindividual author/editor relationships. It moves from Pin Farm in Oxfordshireto a house in Cheadle Hulme to an office in the Corn Exchange, centralManchester; from the struggle to survive as an independent to benevolentacquisition by Robert Gavron, the print magnate; surviving the Manchesterbombing in 1996 and the vicissitudes of the book trade in lean years. At itsheart is the personal relationship of author and editor/publisher, oftenbeginning with contributions to PN Review. Poets are central, butfiction writers, translators, biographers and critics also contribute to theCarcanet ferment and firmament. Famous writers are not necessarily the bestletter-writers, as editor Robyn Marsack discovered in trawling through theCarcanet Archive in the Rylands Library. The letters here are amusing,surprising, contentious, challenging. They were handwritten, typed, and nowemailed -- the changing pattern is fascinating to see. This is a rare glimpseinto the inner workings of a small, ambitious press. The book celebrates thewriter’s, editor’s and reader’s risks, passions and pleasures.

With thanks to Arts Council England for their continued support of our work moving into our fiftieth year.

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
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