Submissions window open until 30th June 2020

1st June  – 30th June. Please do not send outside these dates.

Submission guidelines

Please submit a full pamphlet to of between 15-25 poems in one document (Word or rtf) – include your name and address on each page.

The author must be currently living in the UK or Ireland.

The cover page should include details of previous publications along with the title of your pamphlet and number of poems. An outline of your poetry experience can be included here.

Against the Grain Poetry Press publishes only 4 or 5 titles a year, so competition is stiff. Please bear this in mind when you submit.

We are a self-funding press and rely on sales of our pamphlets to fund future publications.

Litany of a Cardiologist reviewed by Greg Freeman – Write Out Loud


Fabulous to see this review over at Write Out Loud.

Whilst at their site check out theirBeyond the Storm Poetry Competition

entry picture

This pamphlet of 23 poems represents the remarkable poetic distillation of a lifetime’s medical experiences and insights. Denise Bundred trained as a paediatrician in Cape Town and worked as a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and won the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine in 2016, and came second in 2019.

‘A Cardiologist Seeks Certainty’ examines the critical decisions involving “a heart/ no larger than the tiny hand/ pushing me away”. What a poignant yet exact image that is. ‘Addressing a Foetal Heart’ sympathetically transforms a developing heart’s problems into poetry:

Progress is orderly until a scattering of cells

in the aorta fails to form.

………You stumble like a child in full flight on a sandy beach

………who sets a foot a fraction out of place.

‘Disordered Heart’ is packed with tension and drama, with a happy result. The narrator makes an initial diagnosis, asks for the theatre team to be alerted, and afterwards addresses the child:

My pulse settles, now even less than yours.

     We’ve done enough. Thanks everyone.

Sweat maps my back from neck to waist

as I walk fluorescent four a.m. corridors

to find your mum and dad.

There are a number of poems about relaying medical news to parents. ‘Weighing Words’ looks at the power of words in such situations, and sympathises with the problem of parents being able to understand them in times of stress. Saying the right thing:

I measure the space between words in nanoseconds.

Too short and you may not feel their full significance – a train

at speed and you can’t read the names of station platforms.

Too long and the time between them swells

like the cupboard in the dark when you were a child

and you attribute more than I intend.

In ‘Today’s News’ the poet puts herself in the positon of a father receiving news about his daughter’s heart condition on the same day as the 9/11 attacks. The outside word impinges, or in this case, it just doesn’t. ‘Eighteen’ emphasises the youth of a child’s father, who is also a professional footballer: “He hesitates longer than on that first Saturday / at three o’clock when he emerged / from the tunnel at Anfield. / He tastes the adrenalin of panic.” The language in this poem is conversational yet measured, and always poetic, as it is in so many others.The juxtaposition of “astringent” and “flinches”, “tracksuit” and “pocket”:

He smells astringent on his hands,

flinches at an alarm’s strident call, fumbles

signed pictures from his tracksuit pocket.

‘Foetal Scan’ is achingly poignant (“For a few minutes more / they think you are perfect”), whereas  ‘Blemish’ has a more positive, hopeful message. A couple of poems look at older heart patients: there is defiance and even humour in the face of the odds (“Impervious as your arteries / you plan a trip to Goa”), while ‘Synchrony’ can be seen as a cautionary tale for those of us who seek to dismiss warning signs.

Denise Bundred is from South Africa, and one poem, ‘Lucky’, encapsulates the struggles of that country in the life of a man with that name, born on the same day as the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, and dying in his twenty-seventh year during riots in Soweto.

There is so much inside this pamphlet. An expert in cardiology and poetry, Denise Bundred is clearly full of wonder at the workings of the heart – and transmits that wonder in weighted and precise yet transformative language and images. Not surprisingly, she has two poems in the recently published anthology of poems about the NHS, These Are The Hands. I’ve already quoted from her poem ‘Open Heart’ in my review of that book. Another of her poems there, ‘The Last Night on Call’, is one of two at the end of her collection that reflect on her feelings upon retirement:

How sharp the sparkle of adrenalin on my tongue.

I know I will crave its burn.

Denise Bundred, Litany of a Cardiologist, Against The Grain Poetry Press, £7

Out now: The Unmapped Woman – Abegail Morley

ATG’s co-editor, Abegail Morley, has just published her new collection, The Unmapped Woman and it is available HERE from Nine Arches Press.

This new collection explores the altitudes of loss and trauma, mapping the stark new territory that loss leaves behind and the landmarks of recovery and survival.

Several lives and life-changing themes cross paths in this clear-sighted and profound book, and Morley’s adept and courageous poetry guides us through the wooded shades and raw coastlines, dauntless: “Bear with me. I can take nature, let wind whip our faces”. From the hollowing of the empty place and the five stages of grief, these resolute poems with their mettle and wholeheartedness, chart their remarkable, bold course towards the voicing of a song, the light of the next day.


“In The Unmapped Woman, Morley writes with astonishing technical virtuosity as she searches for recovery through art. As in her previous poems, water is a recurrent motif and the emotional core of the collection. Narrative and emotion are compressed within the single telling image, and the spaces between words, lineation and enjambment recollect the lost presence from where the poems emerge. George Eliot reminds us that ‘there is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms’. If Eliot seems to imply that what is most distinctive remains hidden, Morley speaks in a voice that is eloquent and precise as she seeks to understand what happens to the vanished.” – Nancy Gaffield

“Abegail Morley is a natural poet. Each poem seems exhaled in a single necessary breath as she unflinchingly addresses traumatic events. Her language is fresh, fluent and unadorned, with strikingly accurate images, and endings that make the reader re-consider the whole poem. The loss of a baby, suicide of a loved one and the concomitant depersonalisation of the self that dealing with such grief brings is covered with a magical lightness of touch. This is a highly talented, original voice well worth listening to.” – Patricia McCarthy

The Unmapped Woman transports you deep under the surface of a life, to places too often skimmed. In it we find the grief we wear like a sweater, the fragile expectancy of motherhood in which, “I don’t know / which one of us is the honey, which the bee, / or who has the nectar we drink so deeply.” (‘Daughter Bulb’), the ghosts that haunt us, and the beauty that ambushes us. This collection, its probing intensity, is reminiscent of contemporary American masters like Louise Glück, Sharon Olds, and Carolyn Forché, yet decidedly British in tone. Morley knows exactly what she is doing here. The work stays with you, like “the way he planted a word in her mouth / to germinate after he’d gone.” (“The hollowing of the empty place”) These are poems to live with–tight as the skin of a drum.” – Robert Peake

Olga Dermott-Bond – a story of Oonagh Cumhail

Bedtime Stories for the End of the World asked some of the UK’s top poets, including Olga Dermott-Bond, to ‘re-imagine their favourite myths, fairytales and legends’. The sequence that Olga wrote features in her Against the Grain pamphlet, apple, fallen and you can hear her reading from the sequence here.

Some background from Olga’s pamphlet –

“In the traditional telling of the Irish Myth, Fionn Mac cum Haill, the Irish Giant picks a fight with a Scottish giant, who is stronger and greater than he is. His wife, Oonagh, dresses her husband up as a baby and puts him in a cot. When the Scottish Giant comes to fight, Oonagh tells him her husband is not there and serves him great rocks to eat from the garden. The Scottish giant, intimidated by the supposed might of Fionn, flees, ripping up the path between Ireland and Scotland, leaving the Giant’s Causeway in his wake.”

The first poem from the sequence –


Jane Lovell wins The Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize

Congratulations to Jane who is joint-winner of this year’s Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize. Jane’s first full collection, The God of Lost Ways will be published alongside joint-winner, Beda Higgins’, Ourselves. Jane’s previously published work includes Metastatic (Against the Grain Press), one tree (Night River Wood), Forbidden (Coast to Coast to Coast), This Tilting Earth (Seren).


The Prize is run by poetry publisher Indigo Dreams in honour of poet Geoff Stevens, whose final collection Sleeping With You was published by Indigo Dreams a month before his death in 2012.

Two winners have a 52-page collection published by Indigo Dreams Press.


FrontCoverWithBorder‘Jane Lovell’s writing charts mysterious, unsettling trajectories: the invisible paths of bees, the journey of dead light, the routes found in folded and untied landscapes. These poems unmoor us, find beauty and strangeness in the everyday.’ – Helen Mort

Denise Bundred – What I am doing now

Denise Bundred 2019We have asked our most recently published poets what they are working now. The launch of Litany of a Cardiologist was postponed but we have plans to launch it in the autumn.

I have the luxury of spending part of every day in my study. I shut out the news and things I can do nothing about; and concentrate on reading, writing and reflection. Some time ago I began a sequence of poems about Vincent van Gogh. The first poems were in the voices of the three doctors who looked after him in the final years of his life.

More recently I have extended the sequence to include short poems about individual pictures and other poems which include Vincent’s paintings together with details of his life during this period. I have been reading After Cezanne by Maitreyabandhu and his wonderful poetry has had a huge influence on my writing.

So much is written about Vincent’s mental illness in his final years, but he also had long periods of lucidity when he read widely (he particularly liked Shakespeare and Dickens which he read in English) and he wrote fluently in Dutch and French about his work, the effects he was trying to achieve and the paintings of other artists.

I have more than thirty poems in the sequence and here are two.


The Red Vineyard

Vines like red wine; high
horizon and golden sky
stained with pale green.

The earth violet
after rain. Yellow puddles
trap the lemon sun.

Lilac figures bow
to their harvest. Palisade
of trees curves, windswept,

into the distance.
Luminous river, anxious
in the setting orb

and the memory
of a boy and grey carthorse
eager to go home.


Link to The Red Vineyard:


Asylum of Saint-Paul, Saint-Rémy
 ………………….Tuesday 18th June 1889

About this time he wrote to his brother for a copy of Dicks’ Shilling Shakespeare.
‘I’d like to have it here to read from time to time and it’s complete.’

Aware of Theo’s purse, he stressed ‘cheaper editions have been changed less,
so I wouldn’t want one above three francs.’

No longer confined to his cell, he packed his oils and brushes before strapping
an easel and canvas to his back.

He completed an olive grove — undulating strokes of green on twisted
trunks and blue shadows in the sandy soil. Poppies winding a path to the left.

A grasshopper was submerged in pigment in the right corner, unseen for more
than a century, until a curator found it when she looked through a microscope.

After alluding to the olive trees and a new study of a starry sky he noted,
‘I have no white at all at all’ and ended —

as always — ‘firm handshakes to you, to Jo and to our friends,
Ever yours, Vincent.’



Link to Olive Grove


Denise’s pamphlet, Litany of a Cardiologist is available from our SHOP

denise‘Drawing from her own life working in paediatric cardiac care, Denise Bundred’s debut collection leads us inside the hospital, to wander its wards and corridors, into the operating room and the mind of the cardiologist. We find medics, exceptionally skilled, working at the cutting edge of medicine, but also still human, wiping sweat from their hands, taking time to breathe and reflect. I couldn’t help but be moved. I know these rooms; I have heard the cardiologist speak. The poems navigate fear and pressure with convincing authority, but you will also find compassion and hope in these pages. Bundred has composed a love letter to the heart, and the working lives devoted to its complex chambers.’ – Rebecca Goss



Today was launch day :(

Like many poets around the world, the launch of Olga Dermott-Bond’s, apple, fallen, and Denise Bundred’s, Litany of a Cardiologist, has been postponed.

Tonight was the night to put up the bunting, pop a champagne cork and hear readings from these two wonderful poet’s pamphlets. We are delighted to publish these amazing poets and we welcome them in to the ATG stable with open arms.


You can find their pamphlets over in our SHOP

Keep safe!

Today was launch day :(

Like many poets around the world, the launch of Olga Dermott-Bond’s, apple, fallen, and Denise Bundred’s, Litany of a Cardiologist, has been postponed.

Tonight was the night to put up the bunting, pop a champagne cork and hear readings from these two wonderful poet’s pamphlets. We are delighted to publish these amazing poets and we welcome them in to the ATG stable with open arms.


You can find their pamphlets over in our SHOP

Keep safe!