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Scottish Literature students launch new international press with poetic response to COVID-19

We talk to Patrick Jamieson and Daniela Silva about Taproot Press and its origins in Scotland's radical publishing scene.

Lockdown life has been really rather busy for Scottish Literature students Patrick Jamieson and Daniela (Dani) Correia e Silva.

Photo of Taproot Press founders with books
Patrick, Dani and their son with copies of Plague Clothes

A couple with a two-year old son, they have started a new publishing house - Taproot Press - while Patrick prepares to start a Masters by Research degree and Dani to enter her third year of undergraduate study in September, all while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Collaborating with a range of experienced professionals, such as editor/typesetter/publisher Jennie Renton and the Vancouver-based poet Miranda Pearson, Dani and Patrick are releasing their first title, Plague Clothes by Robert Alan Jamieson, on 1st August 2020. The book offers an immediate and intimate response to COVID-19, a voice of protest against the ageism and ecological destruction of our times.

Here they talk to us about the importance of Edinburgh’s literary tradition to Taproot Press, its international and radical focus, and the involvement of our staff, students and alumni.

Carrying on a tradition of radical, student-led publishing

In nature, the taproot is formed from the radicle of a seed. Writing in The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Scottish Literature in 2007, Gavin Wallace referenced the “deep, outward-reaching international taproots of Scottish culture”, remarking “every voyage inward is a voyage out”.

Asked about the origins of Taproot Press, which will present challenging, contemporary voices from Scotland and beyond, Patrick says “Radical, student-led publishing has always been a feature of contemporary Scottish literature, from Kenneth White’s university-based Jargon Group in the 1960s to the Edinburgh Review/Polygon outfit of the 1980s and early 90s. The idea that we might in some small way carry on that tradition truly excites me.”

For Dani, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has “reaffirmed the importance of the written word in our ability to communicate across divisions, both literal and figurative. We saw Taproot Press as an opportunity for us to continue that, offering a space for voices that might otherwise go unheard.”

A university-based project

The front cover of a book called Plague Clothes showing an empty chair in a leafy garden

Studying Scottish Literature in Edinburgh has been fundamental to the foundation of Taproot Press, which Dani describes as “in many ways a university-based project”.

“We are both students, the first book we are publishing is by Robert Alan Jamieson (a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing), our logo was designed by a Masters student, Elly Jamieson, and our website has been designed by Clare Robertson, a recent graduate in English and Scottish Literature.”

Talking about the undergraduate degree he has just completed, Patrick says “the knowledge I have gained about the history and tradition of Scot Lit has been the single most important tool in establishing the press. Working with Jennie Renton, who previously edited The Edinburgh Review and has worked closely with many of Scottish Literature's big names, furthers the connection.”

"The international side of the press is also important. I am Scottish, while Dani is Portuguese. That dual-effect of the local and global, mirroring the tradition/innovation, is what we will try to capture [in Taproot Press]."

More and more books, year upon year

Beginning with Plague Clothes, which started life as a series of Facebook posts by Robert Alan Jamieson, Taproot Press plan on publishing "more and more books year upon year. There’s a joke between us that we’ll follow the Fibonacci sequence: one this year, two next, three the year after, five after that, and so on.”

“We will seek to publish innovative writers engaging with current issues; we already have plans for a collection of writings by those involved in the ongoing Hong Kong protests, and two contemporary international poets we’re hoping to translate.”

“We see the press as publishing local Scottish writers as well as contemporary writers from around the world, carrying on the international tradition of recent Scottish publishing.”

You can pre-order Plague Clothes, and keep up to date with future titles, on Taproot Press’ brand new website.

Take me to the Taproot Press website  

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