Telltale Press and the Rise of Poetry

Telltale Press and the Rise of Poetry
28th Sep 2018

We’re talking to Robin Houghton of Telltale Press who we worked with through our publishing services arm, TJ INK. Their anthology Truths is a poetry collection that explores the idea of what ‘truth’ means to each of us in a world where post-truth and surreality have taken root. We thought we’d find out more about the press and dig deeper into the surge in popularity for poetry.


Robin Houghton

TJ: How did Telltale Press come about?

RH: Peter Kenny and I were musing on how difficult it is for emerging poets to get on a publisher’s radar and at the same time I’d been on a course with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy who had suggested poets ‘self-organise’ in order to publish their own first pamphlet. They could then use this as their ‘calling card’, send it to reviews and give out at events etc. So we took up her idea and started Telltale Press, a poets’ publishing collective.

It’s a unique model in that the members share out the tasks involved in running the press. Many small poetry presses are one-man-bands and end up martyrs to the cause. We preferred to share the load, enjoy the camaraderie, and learn as we went along. Carol Ann even agreed to be our Patron.

TJ: Why poetry?

RH: That’s what we do! At least, that’s what most of us specialise in. Peter is also a Playwright.

TJ: There seems to be a bit of a renaissance in poetry, with Nielsen reporting a 66% increase to sales over the last five years. Why do you think that is?

RH: I think social media has fuelled an interest in new types of poetry – there are some Instagram and Twitter poets who’ve gone on to publish print collections and are doing well. Also, performance poetry from the likes of Holly McNish and Kate Tempest appeal to younger audiences. I’m not sure that contemporary ‘page’ poetry is part of the renaissance – ask a man in the street to name a poet or a favourite poetry collection and it will usually be Pam Ayre/Rudyard Kipling and anthologies, especially if they include poems people know from films, like Stop All The Clocks. Big name name poets such as Don Paterson, Ann Carson, Mimi Khalvati, Sean O’Brien, Alice Oswald etc. are largely known and my understanding is that single collections of contemporary poetry of the type studied at university struggle to sell.

TJ: For you, what makes a good poem?

RH: Tricky questions! I suppose it’s one that does most or all of the following: truly surprises me, moves me, says something in a really original way, lingers in my mind, makes me want to re-read it again and again, or simply makes me scream ‘I WISH I’D WRITTEN THAT!’

TJ: What does the future hold for Telltale Press?

RH: We’re actually taking a hiatus for now. We’re all rather busy and moving into new things and the Truths anthology marked the end of the project. We haven’t ruled out the possibility of reviving the Telltale name in the future. Hopefully other poets’ collectives will follow – it was a fantastic way to learn about the business, get one another’s first pamphlets launched, make new collections, up our profiles, put on readings and generally grow as poets. A few of us have gone on to be published elsewhere, which is a result.

TJ: What is your all time favourite poem and why?

RH: Oh dear, that really is impossible to answer! I don’t really have a favourite poem. But a poem I always remember as being important is Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes because I read it when doing English Lit A Level and although it’s not even my favourite Hughes poem, it struck a real chord for me and was probably the start of my writing, or considering the possibilities of poetry. I learnt it from memory so I could quote it in the exam. I think I could still recite it.


You can find out more about Robin and her poetry over on her website here. 

You can also find out more about author services here.