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20 years of flipped eye: A month of celebrations

May 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of flipped eye publishing. For our anniversary month, we are planning brand book releases, digital events, fiction re-issues, a virtual bookshop tour, and more.

Flagship anthology

The flagship title celebrating flipped eye’s 20th anniversary will be Not Quite Right for Us: Forty Writers Speak Volumes (out 21st May), a collection of forty essays, short stories and poems – by turns wry, gentle, furious, humorous, passionate, analytical and elliptical – this theme is interpreted by a dynamic mix of new and established writers alike. Aminatta Forna, Colin Grant, Xiaolu Guo, John Hegley, Raman Mundair, Johny Pitts, Olive Senior, Tim Wells and others evoke their experiences of outsider-ness in its myriad forms, and their defiance against it.  Published in collaboration with Speaking Volumes, to mark their 10th anniversary, this anthology is a cri du cœur, a warning shot, an affirmation, an education in forty works. It will resonate with readers who understand where it’s coming from, or who are allied to its purpose, or – hopefully – who are ready for some unexpected lessons in empathy.

With a foreword by Pinter Prize winner, the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and the book jacket designed by internationally acclaimed poet, performer and playwright, Inua Ellams, Not Quite Right for Us is edited by Speaking Volumes co-founder Sharmilla Beezmohun,who has worked in publishing for 25 years, including at Virago and at Heinemann, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

New poetry

March saw the release of two of flipped eye’s most anticipated poetry collections: the début pamphlet Grammar of Passage by US-based poet, translator and educator Monika Cassel and Werewolf of London by Niall O’Sullivan, Senior Editor at flipped eye and host of Poetry Unplugged, London’s longest running poetry open mic.

An empathetic exploration of history through the lens of family life, Grammar of Passage  by Monika Cassel details a German family’s quiet lives as they are pulled into the gathering maelstrom of the first half of the 20th century. Her granular attention to detail in this début deftly demonstrates how poetry can excavate and reinvigorate the sense of “now” that threads through history. For her family-based poems, Cassel conducted in-depth research, looking at films and photos, to researching locations of family places on Google Maps, to reading about linen or glass manufacturing processes in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspiration also came from the eclectic range of books that were part of Cassel’s family library: her grandmother’s gardening books and cookbooks, a Nazi-era pregnancy and babycare book along with her great-great-grandmother’s family chronicle.

Meanwhile, Niall O’Sullivan returns to the poetry scene with Werewolf of London, a selection of some of his best-known older poems alongside new verse written during his print hiatus. A gem of fluid, funny, fierce poetry, Werewolf of London is inflected with the humour evident in his work since his 2004 début, imbued with a register that ekes the majesty out of his reflections. Born of Irish parents in England, Niall grew up in Slough, studied Art in Bath and has been living in London – where he worked as a gardener – since the turn of the millennium. As Senior Editor for poetry at flipped eye, Niall has worked on the acclaimed mouthmark series and Spread the Word’s Flight anthology, which provided an early platform for writers such as Dean Atta and Irenosen Okojie. Niall teaches poetry and creative writing at London Metropolitan University. 

Fiction re-issues

As well as publishing new writing, flipped eye is re-issuing three of its most successful fiction in mid-May: Heritage of Secrets by Swedish-born Irish writer Aoife Mannix; Breathe by New York-based author of Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian descent Leila Segal; and 29 Ways to Drown by Niki Aguirre, born in the United States to Ecuadorian parents and currently based in Surrey (all out 13th May).

Assured with the familiar highs and lows of love and life, Heritage of Secretsis its own epic, and a complex tale of love and loss set in 1970s Ireland. With a keen eye for drama and a lyrical turn of phrase, Aoife Mannix navigates the peaks and troughs of intertwining lives in this exploration of a society in flux. Peopled by multiple suitors and women enamoured of men in uniforms, Heritage of Secrets has echoes of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd in more than just the name of the American sailor, Troy.

Leila Segal’s Breathe is a short collection that fizzes with life and explores the heart of Fidel Castro-era Cuba; an outsider’s look that is balanced by a weight of empathy to illuminate truths that lie couched between the island’s propaganda and the Western media’s portrayal. Under Cuba’s night skies, this collection follows characters from Europe and the USA who seek to sample what the locals experience; romantic liaisons; seedy sexual aggression and the closing image of Havana in the evening. Breathe is as eloquently balanced a tale of the lives of everyday Cubans as you will read in a long while. Aida Bahr, winner of Cuba’s Premio de la Crítica Literaria says, “relying more on subtleties than on drama, [Segal] portrays the tensions and struggles, but also the joy and warmth, that fill Cubans’ lives.”

Devastatingly sharp and remarkable for the sheer absurdity of the inevitable truths they unravel, Niki Aguirre’s stories in 29 Ways to Drown are a triumph. Influenced by a Latin American literary tradition, steeped in magic realism and embracing a personal history that has included living in Chicago, Cadiz, Guayaquil and London, Niki’s fiction conveys a gritty, often scientifically sophisticated world with a haze of surrealism. Shamans parade the pages side-by-side with lovesick film buffs, papers and humans fly at will, and intellectual quests lead to self-destruction. Whether it’s a boy trapped at age fourteen after a botched attempt to capture time in a capsule, an organic seed distributor entrapping an errant lover with a replica pre-Columbian Aztec artefact bought in Chicago, or a woman attempting to drown herself in a water aerobics class in London, Niki’s stories grip by their absolute logic.

Digital events and bookshop tour

As part of our anniversary celebrations, flipped eye will be holding a number of online events, in collaboration with nationally acclaimed festivals and digital platforms, as well as a virtual bookshop tour in partnership with independent bookshops up and down the country:

  • Brighton Festival (Sunday 30th May)

“A Trick of the Eye: flipped eye at 20”

The event will feature flipped eye authors and alumni Amina Jama, Niall O’Sullivan, Maia Elsner & Roger Robinson, reflecting on their contribution to flipped eye’s last twenty years. From its inception, flipped eye publishing has sought to disrupt the status quo, to take the world as it was and flip it, eschewing the familiar to explore diverse possibilities. T.S. Eliot Prize winner Roger Robinson appears at this celebration event alongside fellow poetry veteran Niall O’Sullivan and two poets of an emerging generation of the flipped eye crew, Amina Jama and Maia Elsner. Together, they represent tangible proof that flipped eye’s success is not a trick of the eye, but testament to a commitment to true diversity.

Flipped eye alumna Malika Booker, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for ‘The Little Miracles’ in 2020, will be in conversation with Samatar Elmi, who made his poetic début with the pamphlet Portrait of Colossus (flipped eye, 2021).

Leila Segal, author of the collection of short stories set in CubaBreathe (re-issued by flipped eye, 2021) will be in conversation with Martin Egblewogbe, whose collection The Waiting (flipped eye, 2019) is set metropolitan Ghana.

Sharmilla Beezmohun, co-founder of Speaking Volumes and editor of Not Quite Right for Us, will be in conversation with author and contributor to the anthology Colin Grant, to celebrate 20 years of flipped eye and 10 years of Speaking Volumes.

Celebrated poet and flipped eye alumnus Roger Robinson, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2019 for A Portable Paradise, will be in conversation on Instagram Live with Amina Jama, alumna of Barbican Young Poets, member of the Octavia Poetry Collective and author of A Warning to the House That Holds Me (flipped eye, 2019).

  • Bookbag Bookshop, Exeter (Thursday 17th June)

The official book launch of Louisa Adjoa Parker’s new poetry collection She Can Still Sing (flipped eye, 2021). Of English and Ghanaian heritage, Louisa has been commended by the National Poetry Competition. She makes her flipped eye début with She Can Still Sing, a celebratory pamphlet that hums with the knowledge of what it is to have known pain, but still remember the pathways of joy.

Recent awards

As a testament to flipped eye’s role in discovering exciting talent and shaping the publishing landscape, this year the Rathbones Folio Prize Longlist featured both flipped eye founder Nii Ayikwei Parkes, nominated with his conceptual and deeply personal collection The Geez (Peepal Tree Press), and flipped eye alumnus Inua Ellams, longlisted for his explosive series of poems The Actual (Penned In The Margins). The Geez was also a Poetry Book Society Recommended book for Winter 2020. In addition, Nii Ayikwei Parkes & Avril Filomeno are shortlisted for the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize with The GA Picture Alphabet (Kane Series). Meanwhile, Samatar Elmi’s debut collection Portrait of Colossus was selected as the Poetry Book Society Summer Choice pamphlet 2021.

Follow the latest developments on social media: @flippedeye / #FEat20

Press enquiries

For all press enquiries please contact Midas:

Anna Zanetti: Anna.Zanetti@midaspr.co.uk | 075 8312 7515

Tory Lyne-Pirkis: Tory.Lyne-Pirkis@midaspr.co.uk | 077 6550 3053