The Mildly Erotic Poetry Tour

Publisher Emma Wright promotes her new anthology of erotic verse at Bookfinders Café

Hi Emma. You are the founder of The Emma Press. What is your raisons d'etre?

The Emma Press is a small but ambitious Winnersh-based publisher. I started it in 2012 after leaving my ebook production job at Orion Publishing Group, and I'm currently building up a list of beautiful poetry books, a mixture of anthologies and single-author pamphlets.

You're taking your Mildly Erotic Poetry Tour to Belfast's Bookfinders Cafe on Saturday, October 19. 

Yes. The Mildly Erotic Poetry Tour involves various combinations of poets from The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse reading a selection of their more erotic poetry and explaining their personal interpretations of eroticism. I'll also be sharing, and over-sharing, my own thoughts as I host the show.

When did the idea for the tour spring to mind?

As I was compiling The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse earlier this year with my co-editor Rachel Piercey, we met up with or Skyped all of the poets we accepted, and we were delighted with how friendly and funny they were.

Everyone had fascinating things to say about their poems and their response to the mildly erotic brief, so when I was thinking of ways to bring the book to a wider audience a live poetry tour seemed like a good idea. We had the first night on September 28, straight after the book launch.

Where have you toured to already?

We started in London. The first show was in Walthamstow, starring Belfast's very own Stephen Sexton, and the second was in Bethnal Green. The upcoming eight tour dates are a bit further afield, as we visit the UK poets in their hometowns: Brighton, Belfast, Stratford-upon-Avon, Norwich, Reading and Oxford.

Has audience reaction differed from place to place?

So far it's all been positive. Some of the poets have some pretty jaw-dropping material in their sets, so I'm prepared for smashed glasses and appalled walk-outs, but nothing so far. The London crowds were very positive and responsive, and I'm hoping for similarly open-minded audiences elsewhere.

For those unaware of the form, was there a particular Golden Age of Erotic Poetry?

As the publisher of a collection of contemporary erotic poetry, I'd have to say we're in one right now!

Are we more open or closed off to the charms of erotic poetry nowadays?

I think there will always be people who appreciate the allusiveness demanded by the poetic form, and prefer it to more explicit descriptions and images of sex.

Who was/is the finest author of erotic poetry in your opinion?

That's a difficult question. Rachel and I are proud of the range and calibre of poets we managed to attract to the anthology, and they are all amazing in different ways. But I'd have to say that the poet whose poem most captures our vision for the book is Jon Stone, with his poem 'Glamour'.

Should erotic poetry be taught in schools?

To a certain extent it already is, as I bet the vast majority of poems on English Literature syllabuses contain some sexual charge. They certainly did when I was at school.

Rachel and I were at school together and we have a running joke that we always thought our English teachers were sex-obsessed, attempting to shoehorn eroticism into every text we studied. But then we grew up and realised that sex is everywhere in literature and our teachers were just doing their job in pointing it out.

What is your favourite erotic poem?

John Donne's 'Elegy XX' would have to be up there: 'O, my America! My new-found-land, / My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned.'

What can audiences expect when the Mildly Erotic Poetry Tour arrives in Belfast?

We have Stephen Sexton, who is currently studying at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. He's a great young poet and his poem, 'Second Circle', provided the perfect closer to the anthology.

We also have Jacqueline Saphra and Amy Key, both highly regarded on the London scene, and Rachel Piercey, a young poet who won the prestigious Newdigate Prize in 2008. I've been working on the event with Stephen Connolly, who runs the Lifeboat Sessions. We're very much looking forward to it. Everyone is welcome.