The North Recommends: Peepal Tree Press
Peepal Tree Press is the world’s largest publisher of Caribbean and Black British writing. Based in Leeds and founded in 1985 by Jeremy Poynting, we publish around 25 books a year and have released over 400 titles, and are committed to keeping most of them in print. We publish fiction, poetry and a range of academic and non-fiction titles.. In 2009 we launched the Caribbean Modern Classics Series, which restores to print essential books from the past with new introductions. Our focus is on what George Lamming calls the Caribbean nation, wherever it is in the world, though we are also concerned with Black British writing of different heritages.
We are proud members of the Northern Fiction Alliance. Everything happens at 17 King’s Avenue, in the Burley area, a rundown, multicultural part of Leeds (where business rates are low and you can get fresh naan and the legendary massala fish across the road).
We are grateful to be an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. Arts Council funding allows us to be adventurous in our publishing, showcasing new writers and taking risks to bring readers stories from voices they are unlikely to discover in mainstream publishing. It also helps us to sustain Inscribe, a writer development project that supports writers of African & Asian descent in England. Later in 2018 we will launch a regular Caribbean literary podcast, The New Caribbean Voices, hosted by poet (and Leeds resident), Malika Booker.
Our highlights this season
This autumn we have our fingers crossed for Shivanee Ramlochan’s poetry collection, Everyone Knows I Am A Haunting. It is shortlisted for the Forward Prize’s Felix Dennis Award. We were hugely excited to publish this collection, Shivanee’s poems display a sharp intelligence, and an iconoclastic spirit and fertility of imagination that is just exhilarating.
Hot off the press we have De Rightest Place by Barbara Jenkins. In this ambitious, warm, funny, sexy, and bittersweet debut novel, master storyteller Barbara Jenkins draws together a richly-drawn cast of characters, like a Trinidadian Cheers meets NWI, in the fascinating downtown district of Belmont, Port of Spain. Barbara Jenkins started writing in what she calls her third life. She brings together a lifetime’s mature, reflective experience, a keen sense of place and the remarkable ability to get into the minds and voices of her characters.
Back in 1995 following his Forward poetry prize-winning first book, Progeny of Air, we excitedly published the young Kwame Dawes’ stunning long poem Prophets, confidently expecting that rave reviews would pour in and Dawes and Prophets would be up there with Walcott and Omeros. Sadly, Prophets seemed to sink without trace (getting reviews has never been easy, and only the Morning Star covered it on publication). This has gnawed at us for 23 years, as Prophets really does stand up to Omeros. So, in November we are reissuing Prophets, alongside a reader’s guide by Peepal Tree’s founder and managing editor, Jeremy Poynting. Kwame Dawes’ Prophets: A Reader’s Guide is written from the conviction that Prophets is a major work of Caribbean poetry, and that whilst it can be read without the aid of such a guide, Prophets is a work so rich in reference and allusion that a little help can enhance the reader’s understanding and pleasure. A labour of love, at 307 pages long we are hoping it’s second time lucky for the recognition this stunning work so richly deserves.