There has long been an interest in the literary products of those who used to be classed as 'madmen' or more prosaically 'insane', and there are already many anthologies of such works available in countries around the globe. The availability of books dedicated to individual poets, however, has been considerably smaller, since what is often sought in these anthologies is a picturesque rainbow or palette of altered states, incorporating grammatical mayhem and bizarre invocations to Jesus and grandmother, rather than a book that takes seriously its author's product, the residue it may be of considerable suffering and thought, and seeks to present it on terms that in no way patronise his or her claim to be taken seriously as a writer. This albeit unintentional disservice to the writer I have sought to address with the creation of Make Shift Press, a publishing venture dedicated to printing poetry by service users.
I have, in the course both of my periods of mental illness and during the welcome respite therefrom, discovered a rich vein of talent among other service users, whether at the patient's council or in a ward smoking room of the hospital (St. Ann's, Haringey) where I stayed, or else at Hearing Voices seminars or other activities at the Clarendon Centre and elsewhere. During one period of hospitalisation I compiled a magazine called 'Ash of Psychosis' from poems that had been given to me by patients at the Patients' Council or in my ward. I was uniformly impressed by the intensity and quality of the poetry, and gave a copy of the magazine to each ward in the hospital.
During a recent trip to India I took the opportunity to have 200 copies of my own poetry and that of Neil Lawrence, another service user, printed in Delhi. These two titles constitute the first two editions published by Make Shift Press. Two further books are in the the process of being edited, one by David Dell, whom I met at the Clarendon Centre, and who was interviewed by Equilibrium magazine on the subject of his visual art and poetry. Having asked him to show them to me I soon realised they are of a very high quality, and I am preparing them for publication in the new year together with the prose poems of another very fine writer and visual artist, Jim Price.
Make Shift Press is presently looking for new writers who wish to have their work published on its own terms, as poetry of high quality that happens to be written by service users rather than as egregious dabblings politely and compassionately applauded with a stifled yawn or surreptitious glance at the wristwatch. We publish small editions of 200 copies of each title, numbered and signed by the poet, and the books are available from selected independent & art bookshops. Profits in excess of overheads go to the poet.