Ruth Valentine Workshop

Hercules are delighted to announce details of a workshop on WRITING POLITICAL POETRY with Ruth Valentine

 Outraged at the state of the world?  Distraught at the human disasters?  Determined to make a difference?  ‘Poetry makes nothing happen,’ said Auden, but we might disagree.  The question is how to write politically committed verse without it becoming simple propaganda or doggerel.

We’ll look at political poems that work, and some that don’t, and think about the differences, in form as well as content.  There will be prompts from print- and photo-journalism to help you find a new angle, and a chance to explore the material in various poetic forms.  By the end of that day you should have at least one poem in draft, that you can polish and send out to change the world.

Saturday 27th January from 10:30am to 4:30pm

at The Poetry School 81 Lambeth Walk, London, SE11 6DX

Please note The Poetry School is providing the venue only – booking must be made in advance through Hercules Editions. The fee for the workshop is £65 / £55 concessions. Bookings can be made through PayPal via the Hercules Editions shop.

Jacqueline Saphra nominated for TS Eliot prize

We are thrilled that Hercules author Jacqueline Saphra has been nominated for this year’s TS Eliot prize, for her collection All My Mad Mothers published by Nine Arches Press.

Last month we launched Jacqueline’s A Bargain with the Light: Poems After Lee Miller which is receiving wonderful feedback and Jacqueline will be doing a workshop on The Sonnet Sequence on 25th November and you can book a place here.

We’re delighted for Jacqueline and her well deserved nomination and can’t wait to see her read at the prize reading event at the Southbank Centre on 14th January.


Hercules Editions at the Poetry Book Fair

Hercules Editions are delighted to once again have a stall at Free Verse, the Poetry Book Fair, which takes place at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL on Saturday 30th September from 11am-6pm. You’ll be able to buy our books, or come and talk to us about the press and our forthcoming projects.

We’re also thrilled to say that publisher Tamar Yoseloff will introduce a reading in the main space in the evening from the authors of two of our 2017 titles: Ruth Valentine’s Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars and Jacqueline Saphra’s A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller. Come and see us, have a chat, buy a book, hear some poems, share a drink.



A Bargain with the Light Launches

Last night saw the official launch of Jacqueline Saphra’s new book  A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller in the atmospheric surroundings of the Cinema Museum in Lambeth. A packed audience were treated to Jacqueline reading the entire heroic crown of sonnets sequence, whilst the pictures by Lee Miller were displayed behind her. The book has benefited from exclusive rights to use and reproduce the iconic photographs by the Lee Miller Archive.


Jacqueline will be doing a book signing on Saturday 23rd September at the Imperial War Museum between 2pm-4pm. The Imperial War Museum hosted a seminal retrospective of Miller’s work in 2015 and we’re thrilled to be holding an event there.

For more information and to buy the book visit the Hercules shop.


Hercules Winter Workshops announced

Hercules Editions are pleased to announce their winter workshops to tie in with the launch of recent titles – Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars by Ruth Valentine and A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller by Jacqueline Saphra.

Saturday 21st October 2017
The rubai (rubaiyat is the plural) is a traditional Persian form, introduced (and adapted) into English by Edward Fitzgerald in the nineteenth century, and by other writers since. During this workshop, we’ll look at Persian (in translation) and English rubaiyat. We’ll consider what kind of subject matter may suit it, and practise some of the skills it needs. By the end, you’ll have at least one stand-alone rubai, and a short sequence: your own rubaiyat. If you want to start using traditional verse forms, or you just want to expand your repertoire, this workshop is for you.
10:30am – 4:30pm, The Poetry School 79-83 Lambeth Walk, London, SE11 6DX.
Please note The Poetry School is the venue only – bookings must be made in advance through Hercules Editions. Concessions are available for 60+, full time students and those in receipt of benefits. If booking a concessionary place please bring proof of status on the day.
Saturday 25th November 2017
The sonnet sequence is a beast of a thing:compulsive, addictive, thrilling, mind-bending, with a momentum all of its own. In this workshop you will face the beast head on, join forces with it, and begin to write a crown or heroic crown of sonnets. Is there a big theme you’d like to tackle in your writing? Here’s your chance to do it justice. Do you dread the blank page? With a sequence, one poem leads to another. Through looking at examples and writing exercises, this workshop will start you off on a journey that will keep your pen moving and your poetic mind inspired for a long, satisfying time.
10:30am – 4:30pm, The Poetry School 79-83 Lambeth Walk, London, SE11 6DX.
Please note The Poetry School is the venue only – bookings must be made in advance through Hercules Editions. Concessions are available for 60+, full time students and those in receipt of benefits. If booking a concessionary place please bring proof of status on the day.

Save £25 on the full price when you book for both workshops together.

A Bargain with the Light launch events

A Bargain with the Light is a tribute to one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century.

At its heart is a heroic crown of sonnets, accompanied by an introduction by the art historian Patricia Allmer, an essay by Jacqueline Saphra charting her journey through Miller’s story to the writing of the poems, and iconic photographs by and of Miller, courtesy of the Lee Miller Archives.

Monday 18th September

Join us for a very special launch event at the Cinema Museum, with a reading by the author, accompanied by images from the book.

6.30pm – 8.30pm

Readings at 7.15pm. Free drinks.



The Cinema Museum

2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road)



SE11 4TH




Saturday 23rd September

Join us for a book signing with author Jacqueline Saphra at the Imperial War Museum, where a major retrospective of Miller’s work was held in 2015.


The Imperial War Museum

Lambeth Road




The importance of the perfect pen: Sean O’Brien discusses his process as a poet

On 1st March, Hercules Editions (along with co-hosts Jill Abram and Waterstone’s Piccadilly) welcomed Hammersmith author Sean O’Brien to speak to a packed room of writers and readers about his process as a poet.

Jill and Tamar Yoseloff invited questions from the audience, and wanted to share some of Sean’s wisdom, particularly for those who couldn’t attend . . .

How do you approach writing for a deadline or commission?

Sean replied that such poems, written for an occasion, are a special case. There is always the concern that readers will feel the poet is simply doing it for the money (a comment which produced general laughter from the audience), or that the resulting poem doesn’t stem from true inspiration. But Sean mentioned that he likes deadlines: ‘fear is a good generator.’

Do you have any particular ‘rituals’ necessary for writing?

Sean told us that he rises very early, usually by 6am, and that his best writing time is between 6am and 11am. He commented that he is a ‘desk junky’, and needs to be harnessed to that location. On his desk he typically has a number of poems in progress to attend to. He also has a special kind of pen he likes to use (he produced one from his pocket to show the audience): ‘I use a UniPin fine line. I think it’s a drawing pen but I like it for writing – a strong black line. I get through a lot of them. At the moment I alternate between a .2 and a .3. They’re about £1.95. I buy them from Blackwells in Newcastle. But the quest for the ideal disposable pen is endless.’

How important is the first line?

Sean said that the first line must be interesting and arresting in itself. ‘If I’m not interested in the first line, the poem doesn’t run.’ He talked about the first line as being a run up into the poem, like a ski jump. It is often disposed of later, or repositioned as the poem goes through the drafting process.

Do you build up layers of music in your poems?

Sean commented that it varies according to the occasion. He’s interested in what he called ‘opportunistic rhyme’, accidental occurrence. He doesn’t go in for making lists of rhyming words, as some poets do, but he follows echoes and chimes that he hasn’t deliberately contrived. This happens naturally, because of the concentration you apply to the music in a poem. ‘The ear is going about its own work.’

Do you still seek feedback from other poets?

Sean mentioned that he still attends the Northern Poetry Workshop once a month. The group has been meeting in Newcastle for about 25 years, and regularly has 10-12 members. It’s a place to try out work on his fellow poets, who can point out tendencies the author isn’t always aware of. Sean mentioned a current workshop trend, which he is keen to discourage: ‘bobbism’ (the habit of listing three things in a poem, without a connective ‘and’).

Sean was then asked a question about word order, in relation to his poem ‘Jaguar’, which he’d read to us earlier in the evening.

He replied that he is always trying to keep the poem propulsive. He is interested in sentence structure, and how you keep the reader going through a long sentence (in the case of the poem in question, by opening with a declaration). ‘The carrier is the rhythm.’ The rhythm of English is a very simple binary – the way to get hold of it is to read poetry aloud, only then can you hear the cadence. ‘Rhyme is the great enforcer – it gives truth.’ Rhyme seduces us into thinking something has meaning. Sean also mentioned his interest in the second-person address – it helps the writer avoid the first person, which can often be confining or presumptuous. ‘You’ has universality.

The final question came from the poet Stephen Watts: Who are the poets who portray the world you wish you were in now?

Sean first mentioned Douglas Dunn, especially the work from his middle period. And he admires the ‘utopian spirit’ in Derek Mahon: ‘however grim the poem, the poem itself is a creative activity and adds to the store of what we have now.’ In that vein, He also referenced Zbigniew Herbert’s poems ‘The Envoy of Mr. Cogito’ and ‘Elegy Of Fortinbras’.

Report by Tamar Yoseloff