Mica is the name of a mineral. The word is Latin for a crumb, and probably influenced by micare, to glitter.

Mica Press, an update to an Introduction first published in P. N. Review issue 224.

“Publishing poetry and writing of interest to imaginative readers” says www.micapress.co.uk, casting a broad net. Mica Press is a very small publisher with a little history, books in print, and a future of more poetry.

After bringing out John Muckle and Ian Davidson’s It Is Now As It Was Then for Actual Size Press, Leslie Bell set up Mica Press in 1984. A striking miner and a lorry driver carried the second-hand offset-litho which was to be used to print Theatre Underground’s Contradictory Theatres into his Wivenhoe living room. On a loaned mahogany sideboard too big for the room Les Bell set type (mostly Bembo) for an Adana Horizontal Flatbed Quarto printing press, making broadsheets: the first edition of Clive Wilmer’s poem Amores, and Orengo, a poem by Nicholas Orengo about his father’s death from cancer. Nothing more till 2012. Then, the offset-litho long gone, the letterpress that had been mothballed under the stairs for years went happily to Shed Press Publications, and using desktop publishing software and POD, Mica Press redivivus publications began with Archipelagos poems by Leslie Bell (2012), followed by the intriguing Graphologies (2014), poems and prose by Phil Cohen “in conversation with” reproductions of paintings by Jean McNeil and other images. In 2015 came Plain Text, new work by a notable and distinctive poet with a number of books already to his name: Michael Vince, winner of an Eric Gregory Award in 1977, who is overdue for rediscovery. It was followed with The Death of Galahad, by Domenico Iannaco and many more titles.

The publisher accepts there is interesting and beautiful writing akin to Prynne, but liked Donald Davie’s book Articulate Energy a lot, without ever attaining such clarity. Hugh MacDiarmid’s introduction to The Golden Treasury of Scottish Poetry was, however, the very first modernist criticism of poetry to influence him. Mica Press aims not to be contemptuous of the comprehensible or suspicious of scansion, but to listen to formal or free verse poems that have their own inherent discipline, and are not runaway sprawl; listen for a ‘responsible music’ (Colm Tóibín on Geoffrey Hill) that is arresting, surprising, and leaves traces willy-nilly in the reader’s memory. It is not just the saying ‘there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion’ that we agree with, because poetry is not written for the beauty of words which it achieves. It can be terrifyingly sincere, or honestly playful. Mica Press hardly claims to know what poetry is, what work it will publish, as it can only declare itself in a poetry nation seemingly pockmarked with publicity about prizes by appearing opaque but letting some firelight through, like the mineral it is named after. As the world ages, can poetry be uplifting by being truthful, not by having an intention to gloss things over with a show of individual virtuosity? Can the sublime and the beautiful combine in one crafted piece of verse; can rotten or reborn reality meet the idiolect and result in lyric or other types of poetry, can sense and syntax strike purely through contemporary tedium, terror and tension? If the poet pleads with ‘the muse’ to make good use of the time and the mentor persuades the poet of the poem’s utility, a little of the gloom that prose casts upon poetry may be lifted, and the shame of writing verses (or the miasma of indwelling merit) can be provisionally dispelled. ‘Mica’ is Latin for a crumb, bit, morsel, grain, and probably influenced by ‘micare’, to glitter. Mica Press is for poems that have the light of intelligence, are hard to forget, and might be picked up by any literate person.

Mica Press authors have variously read at The Poetry Café Covent Garden, in Prague night clubs, at The Minories, Colchester, at the Wiv Words 2013 and 2014 festivals, at The Sunday Matinée in Colchester Slack Space, at book launches in The Wivenhoe Bookshop, Red Lion Books and a Living Maps Seminar at The Young Foundation, London. Though not “performance poets”, they all have a dash of bravura.

Mica Press cannot afford the most aesthetically superior printing but uses low-cost and very good quality print-on-demand services. It has been making efforts to become known to a wider range of booksellers. Sales have been reported from scattered locations. Title are distributed by Ingram in the UK, the US, Australia and globally. In the UK and elsewhere they are potentially available through wholesalers, independent bookshops, and from online booksellers.

Submissions of poems are welcome during the submissions window from anyone who buys or has bought a Mica Press book or pamphlet. Please read the submissions guidelines (you may need to scroll down to see them).

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