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July is International Zine Month

International Zine Month takes place every July, an annual celebration of zines, self-publishing and (very) small press publishing. The whole ethos is do-it-yourself so why not create your own zine as part of the festivities. You could start by seeking inspiration in the National Poetry Library’s very own zine collection which, by the way, stretches far back into the last century: Runcible Spoon (editors: D.R. Wagner and Barbara O’Connelly) came out of Sacramento State College during the late 1960s.

Before blogging, there was zines and the format has proved itself sufficiently versatile to survive the digital age: sure, you’ll find plenty of digital zines floating around the internet but there’s nothing quite like the feel of a cheap and cheerful hard copy zine that’s been printed or photocopied at school or work or down the local library (if the council haven’t closed it). So go on: raise a glass of Dandelion and Burdock to the humble zine today and, while you’re at it, check out this selection from the current crop to land at the National Poetry Library.

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Dragging poetry from the ruins of late capitalism while simultaneously exploring real experience in artificial spaces is certainly a worthy ambition. Nowhere zine fulfills its self-professed ambition with all the vim and vigour of a hungover poet faced with an empty page and a commission to make banking sexy for a one-off payment of £500. Wait, does that even make sense? Anyway, what we’re trying to say is we love Nowhere’s louche motorway services aesthetic. There’s even an expired voucher for 20% off at W H Smith from 2012 herein. And any zine that advises DON’T THINK JUST GRAB THE CRISPS has everybody’s best interests at heart.

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Hotdog is one of the most exciting zines around at the moment and we have the latest two issues at the library. Created by Megan Conery and Molly Taylor, the zine “aims to challenge the current gender discrepancy in literature, art and publishing” by featuring works from female-identifying writers. Hotdog beautifully blurs the lines between all forms of artistic expression, featuring poems, photographs, paintings, collages and short fiction pieces. Issue 3 is "delightfully unprofessional" – expect poems about idenity, food and secret desires including the perfectly titled 'Revenge Body after Khloe Kardashian' by Helen Charman.

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ROID RAGE is a collaboration between Nia Davies and Rhys Trimble, and was presented at Swansea Zine Fest in May 2019. All the hallmarks of a great zine are present here: cut up poems, charmingly scrappy photocopied texts, and chaotic collage of both word and image. The work inside is a frenzied and scattered barrage of words, incantatory repetition and unsettling imagery; a nightmarish freefall through the distorted tropes of toxic masculinity.

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Rising has been “tough on poetry, tough on the causes of poetry” since the mid-nineties. As British poetry attempts to redress certain inequalities and the working class poets it may have overlooked, editor Tim Wells could be in danger of becoming part of the poetry establishment. In the latest issue of Magma (74), devoted to the theme of Work, he reveals in their ‘Inspired’ feature, “I stole time writing poems at work… I used the photocopier to make the zines that I punted.” It’s a nice thought, Rising’s subversively sexy mix of poetry and pop culture spewing forth from the factory photocopier. In true zine spirit our holdings are a bit erratic.  Our current issue, 67,  includes poems by Paul Birtill, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Phoebe Stuckes, Jennifer Wong and a list of Ins and Outs: In - The Meat Raffle, Out - The Nobel Prize.