The Missing List: A Memoir

The Missing List: A Memoir by Clare Best, Linen Press, 2018 

I am one of the lucky ones. I made it through. There are too many who do not – our prisons, hospitals and cemeteries are full of them. And so I give you my story, hoping it may help to break down myths and misunderstandings around abuse and its aftermath.

Clare Best finely weaves together a tapestry of memories, delicately stitching the fragments of a life both lived and lost through the experiences of childhood sexual abuse. Best pieces together a collage of “offcuts”, tackling the struggles of a split self who has fought to navigate the rocky terrain of taboo, shame, guilt, anger, anxiety, fear, love and resilience whilst acknowledging and attempting to accept, process and survive the abuse and “fallout” of her early childhood years. She experiments with written form, refreshingly negating the “conventions” of memoirs that often attempt to “fit” the author’s biography into the narrative arc of a novel. She interchanges between film scripts, transcripts, lists, and medical diagnoses, whilst merging or interlinking past and present events, which arguably creates a greater authenticity to the narrative by truly emphasising the experiences of memory in the throes of dealing with trauma.

Best approaches her experiences with both bravery and sensitivity. She is careful to keep control of her narrative, making sure that it remains her story. There is always a fine line between saying what is comfortable to voice and saying too much, where the story no longer remains the author’s to tell, yet Best treads this line carefully, never detailing the abuse too explicitly and ensuring that what she tells the reader is what she has chosen to share. It is hers, and she is finally the one who can own it after all these years. The result is a carefully written piece, and whilst it may act as a trigger for some readers, it may also give comfort to others in realising that they are not alone in what they are feeling or experiencing.

The narrative intertwines childhood memories with those of her present moments of being a carer to her ailing father. By interweaving the past and present, Best highlights the ongoing effects of her abuse and how difficult it is to overcome, particularly when the parent/abuser is still ever present in her life. Whilst the physical effects of abuse can often be grasped in more concrete terms and perhaps, in some ways, overcome more quickly, the psychological trauma of abuse can be far more long-lasting as remnants remain as internal scars for an individual. It is far harder to truly articulate and understand the psychological impact such manipulation and control can have on a person, in which love is conditional and based on what a child will do, as the child learns early on how to play particular roles. Yet, Best deftly brings this to the forefront of the narrative and effectively communicates this manipulative dynamic and fraught relationship to the reader.

His love, such love as he can show, has always been conditional. Do this and I will love you. Be like this and I will love you. Be my mother, sister, wife, daughter – and perfect at each – and I may love you in every way and none. When I see you in this role you become the role. When I’m finished with you in this role, you will revert to another role. This is how it’s been.


Best brings to light the psychological impact of abuse in a brave and eye-opening way to the reader, not only detailing memories of events, but equally articulating her thoughts and feelings as an important part of her narrative. She tackles the difference between the lived experiences and the medical diagnosis of symptoms by expressing the way in which abuse splits identity and how one may embody themselves as multiple, rather than whole.

One, the home-child, is emotionally volatile, swinging between fury and contrition; she adores and needs to be adored by her mother. The other, the school-child, is careful, measured, self-sufficient, almost obsessively tidy; she works harder and harder at her lessons, with better and better results, despite the unexplained school absences. And then there’s a third presence, discernible as a space that both separates and holds together the two girls. This space is like the central image of Rubin’s Vase – the black-and-white optical illusion where you can see either a vase or two heads in silhouette, but you can’t hold both at once.

Although it is a common symptom of child sexual abuse to dissociate from oneself, it is often difficult to grasp what this entails. Best explores this with great self-awareness of how her sense of embodiment was altered into three aspects of herself, the “home-child”, the “school-child” and a third presence, a haunting of a self that flitted between the other two that she beautiful portrays as the Rubin’s Vase. This splitting can often be a way of coping with the psychological trauma inflicted; therefore, Best assists in bringing to light what is so often the hardest to explain or articulate to others. It is one thing to understand what dissociating means as a term and diagnosis, but it is another thing to be able to eloquently and coherently communicate the lived experiences of such states.

Yes, I’m resilient. Resilience is the other side of shame. I’ve come through loss and pain, and made many adjustments. I must continue, will continue.

Best questions what it means to survive, and although she is not the biggest fan of this word, it is one of the few that places hope into the narrative, rather than labelling someone forever a victim. Her narrative gives hope through highlighting how one can be resilient. She shows strength and perseverance, and whilst the outcome may not have been the one she wished for or felt she needed, she eventually found her ending. Rather than her father having the last word, waiting for his apology, his acknowledgement or his time to talk about it, she took control of her narrative and chose to be the one to end it. This act seems far braver in many respects, as it takes courage to step away and be the one to break the cycle, to finally say “no”.

Click here to order The Missing List direct from Linen Press.

About the publisher:

Linen Press is the only independent women’s press in the UK.

About the reviewer:

Isabelle Coy-Dibley is a PhD student at the University of Westminster, where her research predominantly considers inscriptions of the female body within women’s experimental writing.






Great news for small press publishing! Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young, published by Galley Beggar, has won the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize for new fiction.

Sam Jordison of Galley Beggar has known that Preti’s work was special from first reading it. He says that ‘ever since Andrew Macdonald from Gatehouse Press called on us with a copy of Kumkum Malhotra and a chapter from We That Are Young, we have loved this book, believed in Preti and known we had something wonderful on our hands.’
Praise for her work comes too from the chair of this year’s judging panel, Sarah Perry, who says that after reading the novel the panel ‘were left shaking their heads, saying “If this is her first novel, what extraordinary work will come next?”‘
Many congratulations to Preti and to Galley Beggar!

If you would like to buy the novel, please go to

Republic of Consciousness Shortlist

Republic of Consciousness Shortlist

Writers and publishers from across the UK and beyond gathered on Wednesday 11th January for the short-list announcement of the highly anticipated Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses. Creator Neil Griffiths, an award-winning novelist, aims to celebrate people collaborating in what he sees as a publishing revolution. The first of its kind, this prize represents a fantastic opportunity to reward the production of unique and innovative literature, crediting the publishers as well as the authors.

Long-listed hopefuls and their friends gathered in the stunning art deco surroundings of Waterstones Piccadilly in London’s West End. Susan Curtis-Kojakovic of Istros Books, long-listed for Quiet Flows the Una by Faruk Šehić, observed: ‘Small presses usually have a limited look-in on the prize scene, especially translations, so this is a welcome new development’. Meike Ziervogel of Peirene Press, long-listed for The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift, agreed. ‘This is a great initiative that finally acknowledges the very careful choices made by small presses to publish books based solely on merit’.

Eloise Millar (Galley Beggar), Susan Curtis-Kojakovic (Istros Books) and Meike Ziervogel (Peirene Press)

Acclaimed writer David Collard introduced the event, declaring that this is the best literary long-list he has ever seen. He also praised the way the prize recognises small presses for publishing ‘beautiful books enriching our lives and challenging what is possible in literature’.

Before announcing the short-list, Neil Griffiths expressed how proud he is to be standing up for small publishers, congratulating those on the long-list which in itself is an outstanding achievement. He believes that such inclusion will help create momentum and increase interest in all the books.

Neil Griffiths with the short list

Eight books in total have made the short-list. Following the announcement, Charles Boyle from CB Editions, whose book Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams has got through, observed that over the past twelve years, the range of small press books and authors has grown immensely. ‘It is fantastic to have that trend confirmed in the emergence of this prize.’

Eloise Millar of Galley Beggar Press said she was absolutely delighted that their entry, Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge, has also made the short-list, heaping praise on its author. ‘It can be very challenging for small presses to get publicity on a national level. Being short-listed therefore represents huge validation. This book to me is a joyous love letter to fiction.’

The winner will be announced on 9th March 2017.


Tramp Press for Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Freight for Treats by Lara Williams

And Other Stories for Martin John by Anakana Schofield

Galley Beggar Press for Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge

Fitzcarraldo Editions for Counternarratives by John Keene

Daunt Books for Light Box by KJ Orr

CB Editions for Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams

Cassava Republic for Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

Reporting and pictures by Becky Danks

Presence : Absence : Silence

Three new poetry collections from the small presses
Moonrise is a beautifully hand-bound book of poetry from small press As Yet Untitled. Editor Rosie Sherwood is a poet, photographer and book artist, whose care and attention to the book as an object in terms of structure, sequencing, materiality, quality and beauty means that every copy of Moonrise – in this numbered edition of 150 – is created in-house from quality inks and papers, and hand-tied to finish.
Ella Chappell’s poetry speaks in fearless, open and tender-hearted reflections – juxtaposing the loss of innocence with the increased knowledge and understanding of scientific study, and creating resonances that ask readers to consider how both might contribute to our understanding of what it means to be in the world right now. Interleaved with the poetry is a set of Sherwood’s poetic photographs printed onto transparent layers that offer alternative perspectives or contact points.
Chappell clearly revels in the opportunity to play with sounds and the textures of language in her poetry. For example, encouraging the mouth around the deliciously mellifluous Honey: ‘You’re all in my mouth / just after I say your name: / syllable syllabub – kinda runny – / I wake up from dreams laughing these days.’ While in other places there’s a depth of presence in the precision of well-chosen words: ‘a scarab carved with a prayer from the book of the dead.’ The present absence is the longed-for simplicity of innocence and magic which permeates every page.
‘Shul.  She’s grateful for this language that names the silent weight of you.’ A testament to silence, to absence, to shul – the traces left behind – Envies the Birds is the debut poetry collection of Angelina D’Roza, poet in residence at Bank Street Arts. Published in satisfyingly weighty hardback by Longbarrow Press, this collection names the silent weight of absence in the traces that are left behind of ordinary and devastating encounters. The surface of Breech, in its seven sets of couplets, recounts receiving a phone call, while leaving only absent traces of the ‘ruptured words’ at its heart.
The archival research and broad ranging stimulus texts open and undo the fixity of the lyric ‘I’; in these poems, I has a shifting and migratory identity becoming another absent trace of something or someone that remains nevertheless present. Like the birds, this collection effortlessly crosses cultural boundaries and is enriched by language and ideas from across the globe, such as the Tibetan word shul, the letters from Zelda Sayre to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Aesop’s Fables, and the work of Marina Abramovic and Ulay.
This collection speaks in silence of the weight of absence:
‘Don’t ask lyrics to change the world: / a mouthful of gnarled syllables, dry / as branches. All there is to say / is what we’re not, what we don’t want.’
‘    :      this land is a memory of wind without wind’
Plainspeak, WY creates and energises the semantic potential of spaces and silences that poetry is best-placed to explore and exploit.  Joanna Doxey’s poetry occupies space on the pages and throughout the book as a whole, as phrases are fractured and fragmented across lines or pages with careful attention to spacing and location, resulting in a profound shift in pacing too.  Visual spaces read as silence between phrases, words and punctuation, slowing the reading and giving time for pauses between thoughts.  The location of words on the page plays out as a landscape, echoing the theme of present-absence in a landscape shaped by the memory of wind, snow and ice, even after those meteorological events have ended.  The poetry in this collection enacts an experience that is both temporal and spatial through the interactions between words and silence in both its themes and its aesthetic.
This collection creates a visual record of silence as the spaces between the visible words, just as the landscape it describes creates a visual record of absent meteorology in the presence of sculpted plains.  In this poetry, the plains speak as the record of memory, the landscape of time.  Yet Doxey also asks us to consider future time, as well as the past, and inscribes the sense of loss and absence that comes with knowledge that the earth is changing, and the landscapes we thought were constant will also soon be gone.  There’s poignancy in the description that
‘Core samples taken from glaciers show bits of atmosphere, air bubbles that tell of ages past, ages before humans, ages that are disappearing from history as these glacial bodies melt and calve to their terminal end … a body of melt releasing an ancient atmosphere.’
Ultimately what Plainspeak seems to evoke is ‘A beautiful extermination of mass and time.     /    This is my work.’  By energising the spatiality – and thus the temporality – of the text on the page, Doxey creates the poetic paradox of both inscribing mass (materiality as spatiality) and time (the silent spaces that generate pauses) into the poems and describing the poignancy of their ‘beautiful extermination’ in her work.  The tension between the creation of mass and time within the text and its extermination in the physical landscape vibrates throughout the words and silences of this collection as presence and absence become relative and intertwined.
Review by Sally-Shakti Willow

Sally-Shakti Willow is researching for a practice-based PhD in utopian poetics and experimental writing at the University of Westminster, where she also works as research assistant for the Contemporary Small Press.  Sally’s poetry is included in the #NousSommesParis anthology from Eyewear Books; and the experimental collection The Unfinished Dream by Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans was published by Sad Press in October 2016.  @willowwriting

“Press this memory out of you”

“Press this memory out of you”

Ada Kaleh by Freddie Mason: Little Island Press (Budding New Poets), 2016

This is a book of experimental poetry in mustard yellow hardback and two tones of embossed title text, black and blue; Colourplan papers and a bellyband: in short, a beautiful object with printing qualities more often found in contemporary fine art books. I couldn’t find any other poems by the poet, but wanted to: no searchable poems in online or print journals. The central subject of the book is memory and memory loss, in streams of mostly unpunctuated consciousness that dip in and out of various historical times and locations. Ada Kaleh was a small Danubian island that in the 1930s had a population of 680, a majority of Turkish inhabitants, with Romanians on the north shore, Serbians on the south. It was submerged in 1970 for Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station. The strategy for coping with this post-globalised, trans-horizonal world is set out in the opening lines of the book:

Hello I am discussing you with myself

in pieces bit by bit but remember there will

be enough I promise when you need.

As voices try to cope with memory and change, there are moments of accumulative lyricism.

                 the legitimacy of all existence and plummeting away already

dying already needing you for the legitimacy of all existence

and plummeting up give in give in give in give in give in give.

In its repetition, it is reminiscent of modernist poets like Gertrude Stein. The book moves between various locations. Memories are assembled piecemeal, from Finchley to the Finnish river Ivalojoki, and a golf course called Avondale. The Utopian wish to arise and go now to a lake isle is undercut by military violence:

She kept an army of mercenaries in

a small secluded patch of ground near

the park and her Russian accent gave her authority

in the new killing career she was planning

The language of hype and hyperbole is shown with violence: “how are the ways/ in hype this mathematical and held in guzzling/ pastoral tumescence sinking into the careful”. Mason often deploys symbolic language that questions its own symbolic status, that lays bare its own slippery meaning by fluidly shifting between scenes, registers, and subjects.


Ada Kaleh is more of an idea and symbol for the poetry than a linear narrative history, something which Alexander Christie-Miller has examined in more practical terms in The White Review. Blurring, merging, submerging: many islands, voices, and sensations sink into one another through gorges “where the dogs/ bark at false dawns and women pluck grenades out from/ within blackberries”. Concrete images are subject to change: grenades are not hidden within blackberry bushes but the blackberries themselves. For the speaker, reality and the real is subject to fast changes:

I am certainly afraid of this gradient the climate of

a tropical motherland breeding within me like vegetables

on fire I sucked do you remember? out do you remember?

the fire from within those vegetables for you and your followers

This hunger for sustenance, this pull from the isolated isle into the mainland, reads like a strange translation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Ada Kaleh depended on food, drink and tobacco imports from mainland Romania, and so can not be classified as a self-sustaining Utopia. So while the notion of a lake isle idyll of happy people and no crime rate (the last recorded crime in Ada Kaleh was for a man who did not pay for his meal), there is a tension between remembering and moving on. The question is: what is lost when we sink a civilisation. Ada Kaleh is a beautiful book with some striking challenges to sensory perception, notions of real and imagined places, and the way we construct memories. The illustrations by Alice-Andrea Ewing, “an artist and sculptor trained in the Italian Lost Wax method”, provide a lumpy tactility to the atavistic scope of the poetry.

Click here to find Ada Kaleh at Little Island Press.


About the Publisher:

Little Island Press is an independent publisher run by Andrew Latimer, based in Stroud, working in fiction, poetry, and literature in translation. Budding New Poets focuses on early career newly-flowering poets, its title punning on Edwin Beard Budding, a Stroud-born inventor.

Review by Simon Pomery

Simon Pomery is a PhD Candidate at Royal Holloway and a TECHNE Associate, researching innovative poetry and digital culture in the 21st century. He curates PRAXIS, a text-sound poetry series of events held at Parasol-unit foundation for contemporary art and AND/Or Gallery, with assistance from the Royal Holloway Poetics Research Centre. His poetry and reviews have appeared in The White Review, 3am magazine, P.N. Review, Edinburgh Review, and The Times Literary Supplement.


XxX: 100 Poems

XxX: 100 Poems

Merrill Moore, XxX: 100 Poems : Little Island Press, 2016

Merrill Moore’s (1903-1957) biography is, unfortunately, significantly more interesting than the majority of the poems in XxX: 100 Poems (published by Little Island Press, 2016). A psychiatrist by education, Moore counted among his clients Robert Lowell – with whose mother, Charlotte Lowell, Moore may or may not have had an affair – and Robert Frost’s children – one of whom committed suicide and another who was later committed to a psychiatric hospital. Yet, as a poet, Moore left behind somewhere between 15,000 to 50,000 poems, all written in his own, occasionally loose, interpretation of the sonnet form.

Selecting the one hundred poems that make up the collection must have been an incredible undertaking, but on reading XxX one is left feeling that one hundred may still have been too many. The editor of XxX, David R. Slavitt, writes that while ‘it is easy to find deficiencies in Merrill Moore; what is more important is that there is so much admirable achievement and that the poems, taken together, build to become a persuasive account of a time in the life of America.’ I am much more inclined to agree with Slavitt’s opening claim regarding the deficiencies in Moore’s work than the latter, more grandiose, suggestion. The sonnet form that Moore chose to work in, where a single out of place word or phrase can derail a poem, does not allow the space for the ‘deficiencies’ that Slavitt points towards to be discounted so easily.

‘Dust’, for instance – at points one of the stronger poems in the collection – opens with a display of Moore’s fleeting ability to balance his take on the sonnet form with an ear for rhythm

Dust is always prepared to levitate

When chambers are re-heated by the tall

Columns that surmount the fabulous

Intricate and geometric wall.

but an awkward line half-way through the poem leaves the remaining lines clinging on, unable to rectify Moore’s misstep:

The trustful stone has fallen to distrust

And ships are sunk, and, deep in the Ganges

Dirt settles that was dust.

The holy men

Who prayed for days, return to it again,

Ceaselessly suspended in desire,

Beyond the touch of ice, and out of fire.

While there are issues with the opening lines, the line ‘the trustful stone has fallen to distrust’ is delivered so awkwardly and linguistically naive that the rest of the poem struggles to recover. This is true of much of XxX.

‘Sleeping By My Pad And Waking With A Pen In My Hand’ and ‘In Re Sonnets That Choose To Arrive At Meal Time’ – these are not even close to being the longest poem titles in the collection, one poem’s title runs to roughly eighty words – recounting a poet who finds himself ‘interrupted / By several sonnets trying at the same time / To get release from the net of the unconscious’. Many of the poems of XxX feel like interruptions, leaving behind nothing after their first reading, and would have been served by much stricter editing when Moore were alive. Through reading the collection, Moore comes across as a writer who did not know where his strengths as a poet lay and, more often than not, is unable to carry a poem through to its conclusion effectively.

A number of the poems concern themselves with observational character portraits and this is where Moore may well be at his strongest. In ‘Aunt Dora in the restaurant’ the fragility of the Aunt advancing ‘porously over the floor’, ‘because Aunt Dora was already seventy-two / And she knows that the glistening tiles are hard’ is captured perfectly by Moore reining in his tendency to unsettle a poem with an overwritten line. Having said this, some of the character poems have a misogynistic quality – ‘He said: there is something about a woman’, ‘The Bitch Goddess’ and ‘He was telling me about how he managed to get what he wanted’ being three of the worst – that I’m unsure can be explained away as a simple character portrait or as being wholly satirical.

Obviously Moore passed away almost 60 years ago and this collection, as mentioned in the introduction, is clearly a passion project of Slavitt’s, Moore being someone who sparked the editor’s interest in poetry. Slavitt might be correct, XxX is much more interesting as a collection than the individual poems that comprise it. I am glad the book exists as I’ve now been introduced to the truly eccentric life of Merrill Moore, and all of that credit must go to Slavitt and Little Island Press for bringing Moore back into public consciousness. However, without the biography of Moore that precedes the poems, the poems in XxX simply do not stand up for themselves.  Apart from one.

‘Two Things I will Remember As Long As I Live’ starts from a point of confusion and ends with a line so perfectly weighted that it makes the rest of the collection pale further in comparison. Moore could do it, it is just through the poems in XxX he doesn’t do it often enough.


‘Two Things I Will Remember As Long As I Live’


(And both, come to think of it, are similar;

I had not realized that until this moment)


They are: the look on the face of (believe me) a fish

When he is jerked out of water, by the hook

And is trying to disengage it from his mouth

In a dumb brute animal way that is pitiful

Also the effort in the eye itself

To see, to comprehend this awful state

The look of wild defeated frustration there

As the fish is suffocating in thin air

Gasping, gulping, convulsively moving his gills

And body, seeking water to cure his ills.


The other, I nearly forgot it, the other is

The look on the face of a man dying of heart failure.


Click here to buy XxX: 100 Poems from Little Island Press.

About the Publisher:

Little Island Press is an independent publisher of new and classic poetry, fiction and international literature in translation. Based in the UK, it is the work of a few dedicated individuals who believe that great literature survives in great books: each one a little island of its own.

Review by Mike James

Mike is a PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London, researching trade union representation in contemporary poetry. He is also a poet, teacher and ex-comedian. He has lived and worked in South Korea, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Germany. None of these things inform his work. 






Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith

Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith

Baby X, by Rebecca Ann Smith: Mother’s Milk Books

Baby X looks at a near future where a baby is growing in an artificial womb. It personalises the science by telling the story through the voice of three women – Alex, the lead researcher, Karen, the ‘mother’ of Baby X, and Dolly, an assistant in the lab. (Dolly – wasn’t that the name of the first cloned sheep?) I write ‘mother’ in quotes, because Baby X has been created with a donor egg, and issues of parenthood, of motherhood are raised by this book. To sum up what happens, Alex goes on the run with the new baby, and as the book unfolds we gradually discover what has driven her to take this desperate step.


I read Baby X all through in a day, and at first I wondered if it was going to be a little slow, but I was gripped within the first few chapters. My sister picked up the book and did the same. Smith tells a complex story in a clear manner, and succeeds in taking us back and forth in the time line, from conception to present day to a future investigation into the project where Dolly is being interviewed. There is a mystery to unravel, and one action that appears to be the crime, while in fact another crime has taken place that is exposed piece by piece as we read through the book.

As the book progresses, the lead character, Alex, becomes more and more involved in her project, and we begin to doubt the integrity of her narration and the veracity of her actions. Has she lost the plot and stolen the baby, or are her concerns for the safety of Baby X justified? A potential anti-hero emerges, but, as with all good books he isn’t quite what he seems, and of course that means other characters have more to them than first appears. I guess my only let-down in the book is the denouement of the real villain towards the end: without spoiling the plot I felt the characterization was a little heavy handed.

There is always a challenge in melding science and story: the science must underpin the story unobtrusively. I probably have a greater interest in the science and medical part of the story than most people, but I’d say that Smith has the balance right. She has created a gripping story, in a world that isn’t too far from our own; she addresses questions of what might happen if in vitro fertilization becomes in vitro gestation in a compelling and plausible manner.

About the Publisher:

Mother’s Milk Books is a small, family-run press, which aims to celebrate femininity and empathy through images and words, with a view to normalizing breastfeeding.  Mother’s Milk Books receives no grant funding and the press survives purely through sales of books, cards and prints. The press was set up in 2011 and its first title Musings on Mothering, edited by Teika Bellamy, was published in September 2012. This charity anthology of art, poetry and prose about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding continues to raise funds for La Leche League GB, a breastfeeding support charity.

Click here to buy Baby X from Mothers Milk Books.

Review by Antonia Chitty

Antonia Chitty is an author of 20 nonfiction books and writes at