Beir Bua Press: A Valediction

I have a shelf of books with vivid, arresting covers adorned with a black swan – the logo of Beir Bua, an independent publisher of experimental poetry. Among them is my collection of essays From Fibs to Fractals: exploring mathematical forms in poetry, which was published in 2021. Working with Michelle Moloney King, the press’s founder and editor, was a joy. She fizzed with ideas, enthusiasm, and creative energy. A gifted poet in her own right, Michelle also designed all those gorgeous Beir Bua covers herself, including creating the artwork. 

Over the course of two years, the press published an astonishing number and variety of titles by some of our finest contemporary experimental poets. It was through Beir Bua that I first came across many writers whose work I admire, including Laura Besley, Oisín Breen, Richard Capener, Nikki Dudley, Sascha Engel, James Knight, Aodán McCardle, Margaret O’Brien, JP Seabright and Lydia Unsworth, not to mention Michelle Moloney King herself (you can read my review of Moloney King’s book Cartouche, written in collaboration with her son Dylan, here).

Helen Bowie’s Word/Play introduced me to the delights and possibilities of puzzles as ‘deconstructed poetry’. I discovered what a cento paradelle is courtesy of Matthew Schultz’s Encomium. Reading Mike Ferguson’s &there4 (which I had the pleasure of blurbing) gave me a deeper appreciation of the art and craft of found and erasure poetry. 

Beir Bua’s catalogue included books by writers with whose work I was already familiar, such as Anthony Etherin’s Fabric, in which poems explore their own poemhood; Teo Eve’s fluid, shape-shifting hybrid On Shaving Or, The Taxonomy of Clouds; and The Fabulous Op, a gloriously anarchic collaboration between Gary Barwin and Gregory Betts. 

The contents of Beir Bua books were invariably as innovative, exciting and thought-provoking as their covers. Sadly, the press closed down at the end of June and the books are no longer available in their original form. Some authors have generously chosen to make PDF versions of their Beir Bua publications freely available online, among them Richard CapenerAnthony EtherinMike Ferguson and James Knight. Nikki Dudley’s hybrid pamphlet I’d Better Let You Go is going to be republished by Sidhe Press. Several independent publishers have generously come forward to offer a home for other Beir Bua books, so hopefully all these books will continue to be available in one form or another. 

And I’m delighted to announce that my own book, From Fibs to Fractals, will be republished by the wonderful Ice Floe Press later this year.

In the interim, you can enjoy a celebratory reading by Beir Bua authors, facilitated with grace and charm by JP Seabright and available on YouTube here. Look out in particular for memorable readings by Jane Ayres and Naoise Gale, astonishing performances by Oisín Breen, Gary Barwin and Gregory Betts, and Richard Capener, as well as JP Seabright’s powerful video presentation of her own work.

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