Category Archives: News

A Bargain with the Light at the Hepworth

Since ‘A bargain with the Light’ was published last year, I’ve become aware that events, talks, publications are happening with astonishing frequency. I was very excited to be invited to the Hepworth Wakefield to do a reading from my book and a Q&A in one of galleries displaying Miller’s work. I had never visited the gallery before and was keen to explore Hepworth’s work as well as seeing the Lee Miller exhibit.


The building, designed by Sir David Chipperfield, coming into view amid a network of main arteries into and round the town itself, embodies a kind of immense and grim beauty with its geometric shapes, Inside, the galleries are generous, light-filled and in fact designed for housing ‘The Gift’, some of Hepworth’s monumental sculptures, most of which are models for the actual bronzes that followed. This is a perfect context, I thought to myself as I wandered through, to curate an exhibition about Lee Miller: like Miller, Hepworth was a woman who refused to conform both in her personal life and her approach to her art. In fact Hepworth was born in 1903 and Miller in 1907, although their trajectories were very different. I wonder if they ever met; it seems that Lee Miller brushed shoulders with almost all the artists and writers of note in the first few decades of the twentieth century.


‘Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain’ mostly includes works from the 20s, 30s and 40s includes a number of pieces by Man Ray, Miller’s teacher and lover in her early adulthood as well as paintings by Roland Penrose, Miller’s second husband, and works by a number of minor British surrealists. It puts Lee Miller firmly into a temporal and cultural context and demonstrates the way that both she and Penrose helped to build a home and reputation for the surrealist movement.


As ever, the images and artworks that really shine are Miller’s own. After two rooms of mostly works by other artists, I found myself entering a space that was filled with Miller’s photographs. I had seen most of these before, yet the impact of experiencing them all together, mounted and juxtaposed, was still shattering to me. I increasingly feel that almost all of Miller’s practice was in some way imbued with her experience of early trauma. She was raped aged seven by an unnamed ‘family friend’ and as a result contracted gonorrhoea, a condition that was treatable but not curable at that time. It is probable that, as a result of this, Miller suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for most of her life. One of the symptoms of PTSD, as I understand it, is an ability to dissociate: thus you find in most of her photographs, from her early fashion shoots and nudes to her later images of the horrors at Dachau and Buchenwald, a determination to get in close to the subject. Whilst other photographers might keep their distance, she persistently and patiently provides us with a direct and immediate view. In my book, I focus on the way that early trauma infected and affected almost everything she did in her life; ironically it was that ability to dissociate that got her through the final days of war at St Malo, enabled her take photographs of the true horrors of the concentration camps and the child victims of malnutrition after the war.


Every time I see photographs by or of Miller (and there are many) I wish I could write another book about her, because each image could yield a poem. There’s one in the exhibition that is tells us so much about Miller’s life narrative and the objectifying culture of the times. She was living in a sort of ménage a trois with Roland Penrose, who was a camouflage instructor to British forces, and her long-time colleague David Scherman. Together, the two men composed a photograph of Miller nude and apparently dead under some netting. They painted her skin with green camouflage paint. Apparently this came in handy to keep the attention of soldiers in training.  Another interesting discovery I made was that there is more than one photograph of Miller in Hitler’s bath; in fact the one in my book is different in a few small ways to the one exhibition. How strange it was to stand in front of the photograph and compare it with the one I know so well.


It was an honour and pleasure to read the sequence of poems in a space surrounded by Miller’s own works. I felt I was able to add to the biographical material of the exhibition, coming at Miller’s life from a perhaps more personal angle. The audience were different to my previous audiences in the sense that they already knew a lot about Miller from the exhibition. However, there is no mention of the childhood rape in the exhibition itself, and there was considerable discussion during the Q&A about how difficult it is to talk about such things and bring them out into the open. It was generally felt that having this piece of information deepened the appreciation and understanding of Miller’s work. As ever, I felt throughout as if I was there representing (or even channelling) Lee Miller; she never really wrote about her life or her process, unlike Barbara Hepworth, yet both of them were towering, courageous figures, determined to  think big: iconoclastic artists in a man’s world.

You can buy A Bargain with the Light here.

The Practical Visionary by Chris McCabe & Sophie Herxheimer

Hercules Editions are delighted to announce the publication of The Practical Visionary by Chris McCabe and Sophie Herxheimer.

Poet / writer Chris McCabe and poet / artist Sophie Herxheimer have created a series of original poems, collages and etchings around the visionary work of William Blake and on the psychogeographical terrain of Blake’s Lambeth. The project is inspired by and celebrating the bi-centenary of Blake’s last writing in his notebook of 1818, in which appeared first drafts of ‘The Tyger’ and the first version of ‘London’.

The unique printworks have been created at Slaughterhaus Printmaking Studios in Lambeth, just a short walk from where Blake lived on Hercules Road.

This limited signed edition of 300 is beautifully presented and available to buy here.

ISBN 978-0-9572738-8-7        48pp       Price £10

The Singing Glacier launches at MMU



Back in May, Helen Mort’s new Hercules Editions book, The Singing Glacier, was launched at a special event at Manchester Metropolitan University as part of the Writers at Manchester Met series, hosted by the Manchester Writing School.

The evening was introduced by Dr David Cooper, senior lecturer in English at MMU, who spoke about the university’s increasing emphasis on writing and place in recent years, and how the book is a part of that commitment to the relationship between writing and place.

Tamar Yoseloff spoke next about seeing the performance for the first time and how Helen’s poem had stayed with her and had later thought it was a shame that the text wasn’t available to sit down with and enjoy, so she was thrilled when Helen got in touch and asked if Hercules would be interested in publishing it.

Helen then spoke about the genesis of the project and the incredible experience of the three-week journey to the Arctic. Over footage from the original film, Helen recited the first in the sequence, ‘Glacier Song’, then going on on to read further poems from the book.

Hercules were thrilled to be able to launch the book to so many people engaged with the themes and style of the book, and we’d like to thanks James Draper, Manager of the Manchester Writing School.

You can find more details and buy the book here.

Ormonde in the News

Following the publicity surrounding the Windrush scandal, in The Guardian, Colin Grant writes about five essential books that focus on the Windrush generation. Amongst V.S. Naipaul and Sam Selvon, Grant also recommends Hannah Lowe’s Ormonde, Published by Hercules in 2014.

Grant writes “The Windrush story has become a foundation myth, but in Ormonde, Hannah Lowe reminds us that there were other ships too – one of which, the SS Ormonde, ferried her father, Ralph (aka Chick) to England in 1947. Her tender collection of poems conjures some of those on board the ship (boxer, chef, Chick). Taking the passenger list as a starting point, she reimagines their journeys and the inner voices of hope and anxiety that accompanied them. It is a feat of extraordinarily loving creativity.” 

You can read the full article here.

The injustice of the treatment of the Windrush generation that has come to light over the last few weeks has shocked and appalled us. We’re proud to have played a small part in ensuring the story of generations of these citizens continues to be told.

The Singing Glacier by Helen Mort

Hercules Editions are pleased to announce the publication of The Singing Glacier by the award-winning poet Helen Mort.

This illustrated chapbook is the culmination of a two-year project to create a multimedia work based on the stunning and fragile landscape of southeastern Greenland.

This unique combination of film, music and poetry has successfully toured around the country, and is now entering a new form, in a beautiful physical edition of the work.

The Singing Glacier will be launched in London on 10th May at the London Review Bookshop and in Manchester on 31st May at Manchester Metropolitan University.

We’ll be posting more information about the launch events soon, so watch this space!

In the meantime, we are running an Indiegogo campaign to produce this beautiful book. Please visit our funding page to contribute to this unique project, and sign up for a range of rewards, including an extra poem signed by the author and a place on the upcoming workshops that we’ll be announcing soon.

Jacqueline Saphra and the T.S. Eliot Prize

Last month we were delighted to see Hercules author, Jacqueline Saphra give an amazing reading in the Royal Festival Hall to a rapt audience. She was reading from All My Mad Mothers, published by Nine Arches which was nominated for the T.S. Eliot prize for the best poetry books of the year. We caught up with Jacqueline afterwards and asked her about the experience:

Photo by Adrian Pope

“The T.S. Eliot shortlisting was a breathtaking surprise and an absolute joy. The prize wasn’t even on my radar because until this year, only the established and larger publishing houses have been listed. I’m obviously thrilled for Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press and thrilled for all the other Nine Arches poets, very fine ones. Jane’s an inspirational grafter, as most small publishers have to be. My books have been published only by those editors on the fringes and I know how hard they work. Ocean Vuong, a brilliant poet, had a team of publicists, copy editors and designers behind him. I had Jane; and what a brilliant job she’s done. My experience with Tamar Yoseloff, another inspirational grafter, at Hercules Editions, has been very similar: plenty of direct contact with my editor from the start and a close feeling of connection with fellow poets like Ruth Valentine, whose wonderful Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars was published in the same year as A Bargain with the Light.

As far as the Eliot experience goes, I loved that in the run-up there was a publicist spreading the word about poetry (I believe in expanding our audiences), and I really enjoyed the interviews I did on Radio London and Sky News. I can honestly say the night of the readings was one of the best of my life as well as one of the most extreme. I was asked to read first in the second half and found myself suffering from a kind of adrenaline-induced hypothermia – I just couldn’t get warm – before I went on to read. Later Bill Herbert, the Chair of the judges joked to someone that they’d almost had to wrap me in silver foil! Once I was up there I was fine of course: the performer in me kicked in, supported by very audible cheers and whoops from the audience. I had rehearsed a great deal and been excellently coached by my friend the wonderful poet Miriam Nash. The experience of reading to a packed audience at the Festival Hall – around 1500 people I believe – was astounding and unforgettable. I felt very present throughout (which is not always the case), despite the enormous space – or maybe because of it.

Now I just want to do it again! I’m counting the number of readings – from both books – coming up in the next few months and looking forward to performing more – the poems take on new life when they’re read out loud to any audience, small or large. As to the future, I’m hoping that the doors are now open to more independent presses, not just the usual suspects and that we’ll see more nominations of books from other small publishing houses in years to come.”

Photo by Adrian Pope

We’re delighted to say that there are more opportunities to see Jacqueline read from her Hercules chapbook A Bargain with the Light coming up.

Saturday 3rd of March 

Poetry at The Room

33 Holcombe Road, Tottenham Hale N17 9AS

With Martyn Crucefix, Graham Buchan and Nandita Ghose

£5 on the door

Saturday 10th March

Jacqueline will be reading at WOW Bites: Saturday Afternoon

as part of the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival

Tickets from the Southbank Centre’s website

A Bargain with the Light is available to buy from the Hercules Shop

Hercules at Poetry in Aldeburgh

Last month Hercules Editions had the great pleasure of hosting an event at the Poetry in Aldeburgh festival. The event was a joint celebration and reading of the two books published earlier this year Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars by Ruth Valentine and A Bargain with the Light: Poems After Lee Miller by Jacqueline Saphra.

Hercules editor and author of Formerly, Tamar Yoseloff hosted the event in the pop-up gallery space under the Peter Pears Gallery in Aldeburgh, and attendees were treated to readings from both books, conversations with the authors and delightfully themed edible treats, including marzipan breasts and devilled egg eyes to celebrate Lee Miller’s surreal recipes.

The books are available from the Hercules bookshop, and Bargain with the Light is also available from LRB Bookshop, the Imperial War Museum Bookshop and the Photographer’s Gallery bookshop. Both books would make great stocking fillers!

Our thanks to Poetry in Aldeburgh for inviting Hercules Editions to be a part of such a wonderful festival.

We’ll be announcing more exciting events in the new year.