Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall talk to Magma about Bad Betty Press

Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall run Bad Betty Press, which has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks and the Saboteur publisher awards and whose books have been the Poetry Book Society’s selections, and the Poetry School’s Books of 2019 and 2018. Here is an extract, but read the full article in Magma 77  for more on younger and older poets, spoken word, juggling work and art, advice on poets and starting poetry presses!

Magma (M) – How did Bad Betty start?

J: It started with a conversation over brunch in New Cross. Amy was helping me with the editing and layout for my first pamphlet, Solomon’s World.

A: We really enjoyed the process of putting this book together, and we thought maybe this could be a thing. I’d helped a couple of friends edit their books before, and I’m a copywriter so I was already doing a lot of editing in my day to day.

J: As poets and performers ourselves, we knew loads of poets we wanted to work with. I’ve been running a monthly night for the last five years, and I’ve always loved working with poets and making stuff happen. So we came up with the name, got a website, chatted to some people.

A: At this point we had no idea if it would work, but we thought, let’s just give it a go and see what happens.

M – Did you have a particular philosophy or intention in mind?

A: I think for us it’s about broadening the scope of what poetry means. And about offering readers a language that helps them connect to or understand themselves. I recently read a James Baldwin quote on Twitter: It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” For me that pretty much sums it up.

M – What went well or was difficult?

A: Getting Arts Council funding for our mental health anthology, The Dizziness of Freedom, was a real turning point for us. It was the biggest project we’d done and something we really believed in. We had a long list of dream poets to ask, and almost everyone said yes. We were lucky, but also the theme resonated with people and they wanted to be involved. People like Lemn Sissay, Joelle Taylor and Salena Godden got on board, and we teamed up with partners for events around the country, so that book really launched us.

M – Most of the authors you publish are under 35. Was that a deliberate choice or just how it worked out?

J: We work with writers of all ages, but we publish a lot of pamphlets, which often come from younger poets. We run events where there are a lot of younger writers. But as we grow, we’re working more and more with writers of all ages, and doing more full collections.

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