Originally a literary magazine founded in 1962, Carcanet Press was founded as a publishing house in 1969 and in the last fifty years has evolved into one of the leading poetry publishers, and a unique survivor in the precarious world of literary imprints. We will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary from Autumn 2019 – Summer 2020.
Carcanet’s list now includes new writers from all over the world as well as major authors from the twentieth and earlier centuries, figures about whom readers and writers need to know if they are to get a hold on the Modern and its aftermaths. With the support of the Arts Council, we have been able to range more widely than commercial publishers dare to, and are dedicated to discovery, appraisal and reappraisal.
Our first Irish poet was from Northern Ireland and has been largely forgotten, George Buchanan, first published in 1970. Then in 1975 we published Ten Irish Poets edited by James Simmons, notable for its inclusion of Michael Hartnett and Nuala Ni Domhnaill (the only woman); followed the next year by Douglas Dunn’s Two Decades of Irish Writing: a Critical Survey. It was not until 1983 that we started attending to the Irish more seriously. Donald Davie was insistent that the work of Padraic Fallon needed publishing, and he was right, as he was about Austin Clarke’s poetry. A friendship with Raven Arts saw us co-publishing Paul Durcan and then Michael Hartnett.
But 1987 was our first big Irish year with Eavan Boland’s The Journey, and Eavan herself as a crucial advocate for Irish poetry, over time bringing to our attention a variety of writers I admire, including Moya Cannon, Paula Meehan and Mary O’Malley. It was in 1987 that we also published Sebastian Barry’s first novel, The Engine of Owl-Light, and the second volume of Hartnett’s Collected Poems.
Our Irish constituency, if we include the Irish diaspora, is a large one, including Thomas Kinsella, a key figure for us, and (from the North) Sinéad Morrissey, who has become one of our most wonderful and successful younger writers (younger from my perspective, at any rate: we have been publishing her since her early twenties). Tara Bergin, Adam Crothers, John F. Deane, Martina Evans, James Harpur, Caoilinn Hughes, Thomas McCarthy, Peter McDonald, Dennis O’Driscoll, Frank Ormsby and David Wheatley are all valued contributors to our list, among others whose names have not sprung to mind immediately.
Eavan by her poems and through her conversation and critical writing effected an important reorientation at Carcanet, and without her the Press would be a very different creature. But there are several key Irish writers from different generations and with different priorities whom we have listened to, and whose contribution has been formative and re-formative.
Our jubilee party in Ireland will take place at Poetry Ireland, Dublin, on October 25th 2019: a day of presentations, discussions and poetry readings, during which we intend to explore the relationships between publisher and poet over the years, Irish poetry beyond Ireland, and the development of an indie poetry press that has survived half a century.
Confirmed speakers for Carcanet at 50: Poetry Ireland include Carcanet poets Sinéad Morrissey, Tara Bergin, Mary O’Malley, John F. Deane, Tom McCarthy and Martina Evans, John McAuliffeandGerard Smyth of The Irish Times, Colette Bryce, and Sarah Byrne of The Well Review.
From 19:30 there will be celebratory evening readings from poets Sinéad Morrissey, Tara Bergin, Thomas McCarthy, Mary O’Malley and Moya Cannon. The day and evening will be free to attend, and all are welcome. Please do visit our website for more information and to find out how to book: www.carcanet.co.uk