, taking its name from the Salmon of Knowledge in Celtic mythology, was established in 1981 as an alternative voice in Irish literature. The Salmon
, a journal of poetry and prose was a flagship for writers in the west of Ireland, and Salmon's first books, Gonella
by Eva Bourke and Goddess on the Mervue Bus
by Rita Ann Higgins broke new ground for women poets. Since then over 300 volumes of poetry have been produced, and Salmon has become one of the most important publishers in the Irish literary world. By specialising in the promotion of new poets, particularly women poets, Salmon has enriched Irish literary publishing.
In recent years Salmon has developed a cross-cultural, international literary dialogue... "broadening
the parameter of Irish literature by opening up to other cultures and
by urging new perspectives on established traditions. That enviable
balance of focus and ranginess is a rare and instructive achievement"
('Opening up to Other Cultures', Poetry Ireland Review
54, Kathleen McCracken.
Originally based in Galway city, Salmon moved to County Clare in 1995. The Salmon premises are based less than a mile north of the Cliffs of Moher, on Ireland's west coast. Nearby villages include Doolin, Liscannor, Lisdoonvarna. We are 50 miles south of Galway, and 25 miles west of Ennis. Click on the map on the right to view our location
Salmon Poetry has contributed enormously to making poetry
a popular and regular shopping commodity. Books Ireland
Salmon Poetry has continually taken risks. The challenge has always been in walking the tightrope between innovation and convention. The conventional approach is what makes art comfortable for people, accepted and necessary, but creative expression is not always so and not always immediately popular.
The judgment of what is Good and Bad in art is fraught, and it is, unfortunately, easier for many people to focus on what has already been accepted into the established stable. New work is work which is vulnerable; the greatest of artists can look back at their early work and see how far they have progressed. In order to progress there has to be a starting point. And if we are broad minded and willing to nurture the individual voice inherent in the work, the artist will emerge. Salmon has always given focus to this concept and seen its writers flourish.
As a major publisher of poetry,
Salmon has nurtured the talents of both new and
emerging poets and its
publications have been consistently exciting and varied.
Seamus Hosey, RTE Radio
The Salmon current and back list includes initial works by now-established Irish poets Rita Ann Higgins
, Theo Dorgan, Moya Cannon, Mary O'Donnell, Eamonn Wall
, Mary O'Malley, Eva Bourke, Janice Fitzpatrick-Simmons
, and Gerard Donovan. We have published a range of international poets including Adrienne Rich, Marvin Bell
, Richard Tillinghast
, Carol Ann Duffy, R.T. Smith, Linda McCarriston, Ron Houchin
, and Ben Howard
Salmon places a strong emphasis on the design of its books and has been
consistently praised for the quality of its productions.
Our books are represented in the USA by Dufour Editions, and in the United Kingdom by Central Books, London. They are distributed in Ireland by CMD Booksource.
Salmon has brought out collections by
some of the most stimulating and
innovative of writers and has worked
particularly hard to develop an
international list and to profile Irish
Ailbhe Smyth, Director of Women's Studies, University College, Dublin
is the founder and Managing Editor of Salmon Poetry. A poet herself, her prose poem Daughter
was published in 1988, and reissued with new poems in 2001. In 1990, The Salmon Guide to Poetry Publishing
appeared and in 1992 by The Salmon Guide to Creative Writing in Ireland
. More recently, she edited Salmon: A Journey in Poetry, 1981-1997
(Salmon, 1997) and Poetry: Reading it, Writing it, Publishing it
(Salmon, 2009) and Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology
(2010). Her poetry collection, Walking Here
, appeared in 2011.
is Salmon's Production Manager. She designs the Salmon books and promotional material as well as maintaining the Salmon website. She has a First Class Honours degree in Film, Television and Radio Studies from Staffordshire University, UK.
MORE PRAISE FOR SALMON POETRY
Salmon Poetry is one of the most innovative, perceptive and important publishing houses in the U.K. or Ireland. It has fostered and supported the work of new writers and has established them in the public consciousness.
Salmon's unique profile grows from the diversity of the work it publishes... most notably, Salmon is distinguished by the number of women on its list.
Patricia B. Haberstroh, Irish Literary Supplement
... Salmon has been an essential seed-bed, not alone for Irish poetry, but also for a much wider spread of artistic activity. No one else in Ireland in the last few years has been as prepared as Salmon to publish previously unknown poets. Salmon has not merely accommodated new voices, but has actively sought them out. And the general cultural significance of this work has been made immeasurably more important by Salmon's innovation in discovering and publishing the work of so many women. Poetry has been arguably the most import mode of expression for a new generation of Irish women writers, and Salmon has been the most important channel of that expression. In this light, though it has itself been a small and quiet enterprise, Salmon's work in recent years has been of large and loud importance.
Fintan O'Toole, Journalist/Literary Critic, The Irish Times
Salmon Poetry—established in 1981— has, as no other Irish publisher, crossed the borders of nation, gender, age and class. In the Salmon catalogue one will find:
• new writers in need of that first burst of support to help them on to flourishing careers—Ireland's young and inventive women and men, with fresh ideas and abundant energy;
• older artists who had been unfairly neglected and deserved a chance to show their talents;
• poets from the North of Ireland and the Republic with new and innovative ideas about Irish identity;
• thinkers from abroad who, as permanent residents or passionate visitors, have brought new outlooks to Irish ways of life;
• emigrants who, from their homes abroad, continue to demonstrate the gifts of language,place,and imagination that they once found here;
• writers from every segment of Irish society, from working class Galway to the halls of Dublin's universities; from the Donegal shores to the streets of Cork; from Limerick to Maynooth,from Belfast to the farthest shores to which Irish men and women have travelled.
Salmon is a true example of that 'new golden age' for Irish culture that will be, in President Mary Robinson's words,'at the heart of the Irish identity'.
from Salmon Publishing: A Model for Ireland's Future,Victor Luftig,Yale University
Celebrating Salmon Poetry’s 30th Anniversary. By Mary O'Donnell (first published on the Poetry Ireland blog, November 2011)
Mary O’Donnell on celebrating the 30th Anniversary Celebration for Salmon Poetry.
The landscape of Ireland as a cultural entity has changed greatly in the thirty years since Salmon came into existence, firstly as publisher of the journal, The Salmon, and not long afterwards as a poetry publisher.
When Jessie first brought her Salmon journal to life, it proved to be an exciting magazine that introduced many new voices to readers, many of whom continue to write to this day. Quality outlets for poetry were few at the time, and apart from Poetry Ireland Review and Cyphers, there wasn’t, as I recall, much going on elsewhere. I still have issues 7, 16, 18, 19 and 20 of The Salmon, and can’t explain the gaps, but reading back through them returns me to that sense of excitement I experienced when first I read The Salmon. Its voices were sometimes the ones a reader might expect to read – but more often than not the journal included fiction and poetry from writers who were not so well-known, who did not belong to any particular coterie or cabal or circle. She also published writing in both Irish and English, therefore responding to what writers were actually producing in their chosen language. After a few editions, the journal was a pleasantly fat one, printed in readable fonts. It didn’t register hauteur and a ‘keep away’ tone; it had interesting art-covers and contents that sometimes caught not only the mood of the nation but also the mood of things beyond the nation. At that time, thinking beyond the nation seemed important to some of us.
And there’s the key to some of Jessie Lendennie’s achievement as a publisher. As an American woman living in Ireland, I believe she helped us to see ourselves with fresh eyes, that she completely ploughed into poetic soil which had in some respects stagnated, which was rule-bound, which was run by small groups whose idea of poetry culture had not been sufficiently challenged or tested by anyone.
If I can illustrate my own experience as a poet whose first collection appeared with Salmon. I had been twice prepared for publication by another publisher, and twice let down. I can’t remember whether the following exchange between Jessie and myself was on the phone or in person, but I do remember moaning about the situation and telling her that I had a full collection on my hands and no prospect of having it printed. Her response was quite simple: “Oh, I’ll publish it,” she said, in her light, casual voice. There was no hesitation. There was no preaching and cautious “Well maybe, if … I’ll have to see … it depends on … “. Nor did she announce to me – as another publisher had once – that I’d have to produce a love poem, a political poem and a sonnet if I wanted to call myself a real poet. She accepted the book for publication in 1989 and published it in October 1990. I will never forget the excitement of it.
Jessie possesses rare generosity, and it’s this quality which has not only endeared her to her own list of poets, but equally to others she has never published. Good news travels. The wheels of casual gossip never stop spinning, and people realise how rare a commodity in both poetry and politics is the generosity of spirit Jessie has shown throughout her career as a publisher. Without it, nothing gets done. Other publishers, gradually, sat up and paid attention. Salmon Poetry was not going to go away and disappear back to Arkensas, it was a real player in the scheme of things.
If Jessie Lendennie had hummed and hawed, had cautioned and hesitated and said “Well maybe, just maybe …” to the poets who began to send her manuscripts, what many of us viewed as the silent and entrenched culture of poetry publishing would have continued, quite comfortable in itself, with a ratio of ten men to one woman being published.
Instead, her presence in the mid-Eighties to mid-Nineties in particular was noted – but also questioned. Who was this woman – it was asked – over in the West of Ireland, literally firing book after book hot off the press – and worse! at that time, the majority of these were books by women. Interestingly, the fact that the majority of her titles were indeed coming from women, meant that – for a time – this sometimes seemed to lessen the respect Salmon Poetry was due – as if, by publishing women, some unexplained standard of poetry culture was not only being breached but undermined. She was also now absorbing Arts Council funding for these books. Even as male poets increased in numbers on her list, it took a while for Salmon to shake off circumscribing descriptions such as ‘Feminist press’ and ‘women’s press’. The anomaly in Ireland, of course, was that the majority of poetry presses in the Eighties to Nineties period, were more or less ‘Men’s presses’.
But time moves on and erodes even the most curmudgeonly and unwelcoming critics. Jessie Lendennie has overseen a transformation in the way poetry publishing is perceived and managed in Ireland. She has been behind the production of the most artistically beautiful covers, with book after book an example of good, original design. There’s no point in my naming the poets she has published. We all know who we are and the space that has been made for us to pursue our lives as poets; we know how fragile the habitat we work in can be, but how – with the right publisher as a presence on this island – it is possible experience the strange, sometimes bewildering liberation of writing poetry that will be published, and in a way that cares for the poetry without being in the least bit precious.
Highlights for me when I look back over the years have been the Joan McBreen edited and compiled anthology, “An Bhileog Bhán”, brought out by Salmon in 1999, and later in 2007, which is in its third reprint. Poets born in the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland, as well as poets of Irish ancestry and non-nationals who have been resident and writing in Ireland for long periods are included. A reference book for students of Irish literature, it is also a poetry anthology representing poets who have published at least one collection. It remains an invaluable resource to anybody who wishes to enquire into the thematic concerns of Irish women during this period. The Salmon Anthology itself is another milestone, a beautiful, crimson-covered volume with a rich harvest of writing. But in between the anthologies, are the books which she believed should be read, which she leaned in behind and pushed out into the air, though thick and thin.
Without Jessie’s generosity and enthusiasm, Ireland’s cultural landscape would be a much poorer, and stuffier place. For me, she represents the best of America as a cultural presence. Her attitude is always ‘Why not?’ and demonstrates the American willingness to experiment, a tendency in evidence and invading Irish and English poetry since the time of Eliot and Pound – still questioned by some, but by and large kicking over the traces of anything which has become too self-congratulatory and unquestioning.
Finally, I know that there are more adventurous decisions in Jessie’s mind regarding the future of Salmon; there are more books ahead, so I’ll close by quoting Fintan O’Toole’s commentary:
“Salmon has been an essential seed-bed, not alone for Irish poetry, but also for a much wider spread of artistic activity. No one else in Ireland in the last few years has been as prepared as Salmon to publish previously unknown poets. Salmon has not merely accommodated new voices, but has actively sought them out. And the general cultural significance of this work has been made immeasurably more important by Salmon’s innovation in discovering and publishing the work of so many women. Poetry has been arguably the most import mode of expression for a new generation of Irish women writers, and Salmon has been the most important channel of that expression. In this light, though it has itself been a small and quiet enterprise, Salmon’s work in recent years has been of large and loud importance.”
Thursday, November 3rd, 2011