What are endorsements and why are they important for this poetry pamphlet?

As soon as I began this project, I knew I wanted to do it properly, to create a book worthy of people’s hard earned money, and worthy of the memory of my brother.

A big part of this is getting the look and feel of the book spot on. I’m grateful for the skills of illustrator Saffron Russell who’s taking care of typesetting, cover art and several illustrations. This is such a personal project and it needs to be perfect.

I also need to create something that feels like a proper book, that feels as though it could grace the shelves of a bookshop. Something that feels valuable; that’s where the endorsements come in.

Are the poems in Dust any good?

One of my major concerns with gathering these poems together to be published was whether I was too close to the work to be truly objective about its quality. The last thing I wanted was to offer a collection that was so personal it alienated people. One of the major points behind the project, besides raising money for CALM and UKSOBS is to connect, and create conversation around what is a challenging subject.

My bursary from Raven Studios allowed me to take time to polish and hone the poems, look at which needed to be included and which needed to be left in my notebooks. It also allowed me to engage the services of Oliva Tuck as my editor. Olivia is an incredibly talented poet, recently longlisted for the Rialto Nature and Place prize, and part of publications such as Tears in the Fence and Lighthouse Journal. She is also kind and insightful with her feedback and suggestions. I expected to feel nervous at handing over my work to be analysed and “corrected” (for want of a better word)  but in all honesty I was simply proud, and hopeful.

Those who know me know that critique isn’t something I generally embrace. As with so many other aspects of writing though, I seem to have a different attitude when it comes to writing. I want all the criticism, all the suggestions, all the tiny changes. A simple shift of line break or switch of a comma can make the difference between a poem being nicely competent and truly singing from its soul. Olivia’s suggestions helped me to polish my work into something I felt proud of, and that felt worthy of the job I wanted it to do.

Are the poems in Dust any good ? – part two

The second part of gathering confidence to send these poems out to the world was to ask for endorsement. Now, bear in mind I have absolutely no experience of this, no idea of the etiquette and no real understanding of proper channels to go through. I simply woke up one morning and decided to send emails to three people I’ve worked with, and who’s work I admire, and see what happened. I had a little cry when each person happily agreed to read the work, and to spend time analysing and commenting it.

Endorsements for Dust

Endorsement for Dust from Wendy Pratt

The first person I approached was Wendy Pratt. Wendy has been a source of gentle encouragement through several of the courses I’ve taken with her, and is someone I feel cares about and values the work I create. Here’s what Wendy has to say about Dust

The poems in this collection exist in the liminal place in which traumatic grief places us. This negative space is expressed in the careful use of white space on the page, the gentle, delicate cut of  language. These are elegant, controlled but brutal poems in which love settles as dust over the remains of loss leave the reader with the sense of time stood still, where grief is simultaneously happening in the past and the present. A beautiful collection of poems from an intelligent and talented poet.

Cue tears. It’s amazing to read nice things about something that means so much and contains so much of myself.

Endorsement for Dust from Jane Commane

Next I got in touch with Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press. It four years since Nine Arches selected me for their Dynamo mentoring scheme, and Jane has been a superb support. Asking for endorsement took a bit of courage – Jane hasn’t seem very much of my recent work, and I was half expecting a kind “thanks but no thanks”. She agreed, and after an anxious week or two (with me thinking “oh she hates them, I must never poet again”) I received these wonderful words.

Kathryn Anna Marshall’s pamphlet Dust opens with an image of weightlessness – and through these skillful and courageous poems, she examines the shockwave of grief experienced by families when a loved one dies by suicide, leaving the foundations of their lives irrevocably uprooted. Here, we encounter the “little sister” who  “looks to the sky / and wonders / about gravitational / collapse”, navigate the memories of the before and the after, and hear the deep, resounding heart-song of loss.

Marshall’s attentive poetry takes great care here to precisely map the terrain of a very particular kind of bereavement, and to demarcate the shape that the pain and anguish of absence takes in her tender, acutely-observed words.

Yep, you guessed it – more tears. The poem Jane refers to is one of my favourites in the book, and the feeling of “they’ve got it” is one to bottle. I still tear up reading this now. For so many reasons.

Endorsement for Dust from Ian Humphreys

My boldest email was to Ian Humphreys. I loved Ian’s collection Zebra, and have been lucky enough to be part of two workshops he has facilitated. I wasn’t sure if this was great grounds for asking for an endorsement, but he did say something nice about something I wrote during one of the classes, so I thought I’d take a chance.

Yet again I was happily surprised, yet again I had a little anxious wait ( a learning point – silence does not mean people hate my work) and yet again I received the most beautiful close reading and understanding of the poetry in Dust.

These are poems of love and loss, where ‘dust’ not only embodies death but something tangible – the weight of grief itself, which ‘settles like ash / gritty teeth chalk tongue/swallow / it down’.

Kathryn Anna Marshall writes beautifully and with candour on survival and trauma. The world she conjures is lit with pain and confusion, the realm of those left behind. Details are steeped in importance, ‘at twelve minutes past eight / they cremated you’; dreams and possessions stir memories, regrets; and with heart ache comes harsh clichés, ‘You learn legs do go / from beneath’. Yet hope belongs to the living, and together, these tender, potent elegies are a songbook to the ‘soft promise’ of spring.

Endorsement for Dust from Lewis Wyn Davies

Finally I approached Lewis Wyn Davies. Lewis is, like me, an emerging poet from Shropshire. The illustration Saffron Russell did for his pamphlet Comprehensive inspired me to get in touch with him to find out more about their project – without their support and interest, I’d probably still be floundering about, unsure of what to do with my work. Here’s what Lewis has to say

Dust is a poignant pamphlet that bravely navigates grief and the immeasurable loss felt after Marshall’s brother took his own life. These heartfelt and powerful poems try to explain the thought process and steps to recovery that she undertook after such personal trauma. But they also encourage us to look out for, and engage with, one another more to prevent such tragedies happening again elsewhere.

The next stage…

These endorsements do more than bolster my confidence – although that is an outstanding benefit, especially with such a difficult subject. They are an important part of the next stage of my fundraising campaign.

Whilst the Crowdfunder donations are ticking up nicely, my aim is to sell Dust to as many people as possible. I am hoping to sell to those people I know support my work and who are interested in my writing, but to raise the amount I want to,  need a wider audience, and that means getting into bookshops. Again, I have no idea of the etiquette, the whys and wherefores of how to do this, and I’m not aiming for the shelves of WHSmith or Waterstones (yet). My hope is that endorsement from people I know are respected in the poetry world and beyond, will make the book appealing to some of the indie bookshops that pepper our high streets.

The next stage is yet  another challenge, of selling, persuading, and encouraging people to take a chance on a book from a new writer. Fingers crossed they will.

How to buy a copy of Dust

You can pre-order your copy of Dust here

If you Dust doesn’t sound like your thing, but you’d still like to support this fundraiser you can simply donate here.

Thank you

Kathryn xx

Let’s talk about suicide – The story behind Dust

Each week 125 people are lost to suicide. 75% of those people are male. Seven years ago one of those people was my brother.

Writing that is hard. Reading that is hard. Trying to hang on when everything or nothing is overwhelming is even harder.

Until we can all talk about suicide, and the thoughts, feelings and situations that lead us there, these statistics will continue.

The reasons for writing Dust are complicated, as you can imagine. Ultimately I want to make a difference and the best way to do this is to use my words to raise some money, as well as to promote honet communication about suicide.

Why raise money for CALM?

There are many charities that support people living with mental health conditions and many charities that offer a safe space to talk. What is different about CALM is it’s full on confrontation of the fact that something is going wrong for people, and many of those people are men. They choose a deliberately bold language, and deliberately bold identity. The aim is to challenge the stereotypes that put people in a place of feeling that not only is there nowhere to turn, but they shouldn’t need help in the first place.

On a practical level CALM offer a helpline for people who are at crisis point. On a wider scale, they seek to enact real cultural change. Above all, they seek to create a world where being honest about feeling horrific isn’t seen as weakness.

Why raise money for SOBS?

I’d never heard of SOBS. You may not have either. They’re a charity that exist solely to support Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. They were a small light in the first bewildering days of grief. They offer an astonishing range of well curated resources to support people who find themselves standing open handed wondering why, what, how

Why write a poetry book to raise money?

Indeed. Why not just run or bake cakes or climb a mountain? The truth is the root of this project is more than just fundraising. Writing is my way of dealing with this loss, and the notes I poured out when Ian first died are the backbone of these poems.

Grief is something we all experience and while no-one’s grief is the same, the complications of grief from suicide are well documented. If just one person reads the poems in this book and feels less alone, then they have done their job. Being able to raise money to support others in similar situations to either Ian or myself make the project feel more worthwhile. A tiny way to change the world. Even if it’s just for one person.

How can I help ?

Fashioning something good from something so terrible is the definition of hope I suppose and support is everything for a project like this. Knowing other people care and have my back is everything. Knowing we can help create something that is beautiful is good. Knowing that the money raised could change things for others is the most important thing. You can pre-order a copy of Dust using the button below.

I am so grateful to everyone who has supported this project so far, includng Raven Studios who’s bursary back in 2021 allowed me to take a little time away from my paid work to work on this project. Time and energy are fickle beasts and the luxury of being able to focus on writing was a real gift. The bursary also enabled me to commission editing services from Olivia Tuck who helped polish these poems this into something I am proud of.

Thank you, as ever for reading

Kathryn

xx