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After what seems like forever, but was really only a year and a half – 2? – The Black Light Engine Room Press is now a CIC – Community Interest Company. I’ve had to do this because there’s no funding available for me to run it as a Sole Trader, which is annoying. Its been a massive chew on, but I’ve had a couple of good people helping me out – I’m not good with numbers or forms and have broken down in tears on at least one occasion with the whole thing. We’re now registered with Business House etc & have a proper business account and paypal.

Things are tight – there’s no money coming from live events anymore, and I’ve been reduced to acting like a proper business person and flogging our last chapbook over the Net. It worked out though and the 1st run has sold out. It’ll all be online sales until who knows when, so if you want to buy a chapbook – or donate some money to the Press – then get in touch.


It’s been a weird old couple of months, even for me. First up, in February, when I had £29 in the bank & starting to panic somewhat, I was given £10,000 totally out of the blue! This has helped me keep going, though the real problem with the Press, as far as gaining any funding, is that I’ve been running it as a Sole Trader. I could go for funding for myself, as a Poet, but quite apart from having no desire to dream up some scheme to push my work, I’ve been having lots of fun touring the joint book BLERoom have published with me and Harry Gallagher. (“Running Parallel” £10 inc p&p).

Setting up as a Community Interest Company has caused me no little amount of stress and anxiety, but it looks like the Press will be becoming one soon. I’d have ideally liked to to have kept it just me, but I do need to get some more funding to keep going, so that’s what I’m doing. Fortunately I’ve got a friend who sets these companies up a lot, and she could talk me through it slowly – very slowly! This level of change, which I know will benefit me no end, has been the cause of a great amount of anxiety, which feeds all the negative shit in my head & at times I’ve just wanted to give up. Not that I can – I mean, what the fuck am I going to do? Get a proper job???

So, The Black Light Engine Room Press will be becoming a CIC, and I – hopefully – will be getting paid occasionally from it, as well as continuing on as a Sole Trader. As well as the regular poetry chapbooks we’re looking at our 1st prose chapbook later on in the year, and a call-out at some point. We’ll also be putting out at least one local history booklet a year – I’m a Middlesbrough Historian (it pays better than being a poet most times, and is less socially awkward introducing myself as a historian).

Recent chapbooks have been Neil Fulwood’s “”The Little Book of Calm” Maya Horton’s “Valley of Winter” & Co-Incidental 4, featuring Amy Kinsman, Megan Pattie, Rhys Trimble & Tom McColl. “Dissecting An Artist” by Karen Little will be out at the beginning of next month, and then I’m taking a break from publishing for a few months. I have a novel to edit, and 2 major history projects to kick into shape.

I still hate blogging…


I tried to blog yesterday, but ended up giving into nihilism. Fuck it, I’ve had no funding since May & not sure when I’ll get some. That’s the negative out the way…

In 2018 we published 6 poetry chapbooks, which were all great – I love my poets. I gigged in London and Ireland with Harry Gallagher, and that was great too.

I read 82 books last year, of which 23 were non fiction. I’ve been trying to read more, without it interfering with my writing too much, obvs.

I’ve been working on a novel & in 2017 I only managed 46 poems. This looked to be the case with 2018, until September, when I knocked out 50 poems. Now I seem to have reached some tipping point, as I’m writing more often when I’m stuck on my novel. I’ve got a short story collection together, though I have not sent it off anywhere, cos, y’know, I never do. I’m hoping to get the first draft of the novel done this year, though I still don’t know how its going to end.

2019 we’re launching our first proper book – a joint poetry book featuring me and Harry Gallagher. I’m rather excited about this, and we’re launching it on 26th of Jan in Boro, and hoping to read around the country – if anyone’s interested in putting us on please get in touch.

Happy New Year!

The Summer No Money Blues…

Ha ha ha – no, I’ve not become a Blues singer!                                                                                 And I/the Press, aren’t penniless. Yet. Our funding has ended & there’s around £80 in the bank, but there’s moves afoot to secure more, from a different source. I won’t start a Go Fund Me cause to keep me in cappuccinos just yet…

It’s been an interesting year so far. Co-Incidental 1 came out, and what a thing of beauty it is. I know I’ve said that about product before, but it really is. I pride myself on the quality of our chapbooks, because so much of what’s out there – poetry, local history etc – is lacking in the overall presentation. Ugly. We’re launching Co-Incidental 2 at the end of July, which, if I haven’t got more funding sorted, will be paid for by the poets buying extra copies, and sales at the launch. Its sad that the financial aspect is a factor in what I do, but it is what it is. I can’t afford to publish all the poets I’d like to, because not all of them would be able to recoup the initial printing costs. As it is I’m never going to get rich, or comfortable for that matter, selling poetry chapbooks. People don’t get into Poetry to get rich. I do love what I’m doing, and will carry on doing it for as long as I’m able. Fortunately I have a lot of good friends who are willing to help out, especially Harry Gallagher, who ferries us both to poetry gigs up and down the country. A total mensch and a great poet. Every month people turn up to the BLERoom nights & support me, and they’re a great bunch. And then there’s my wife, Mary Lou Springstead. She keeps the roof over our heads, and is a constant source of encouragement and just the right amount of Shut up and stop being a dickhead!  We’re having a joint exhibition at The Python Gallery at the beginning of July and I’m pretty excited about that!

Speaking of Harry Gallagher…June 25th we’re launching his new chapbook Tan, which, in a big change for us, features a photo on the cover and not one of Jane Burn’s amazing illustrations. Harry’s gift is to be able to balance an almost Folksy lyricism with a biting edge, and whether he’s being nostalgic about growing up on the outskirts of Middlesbrough – Tan refers getting a tan (lift) on a bike and not the colour – or dealing with the present “government”, he rarely goes wrong. Or stops!

Co_incidental 2 will launch at the end of July, featuring Graham Clifford, Harry Gallagher, Julie Hogg & Margaret Williams. It’ll be £6 at events, which is a £1 more than our usual chapbooks, but there are more poets involved. £8 inc p&p within the UK.

Co-Incidental 3 will be out in the Autumn sometime, and feature these fabulous poets: Bob Beagrie, Emily Willis, Grant Tabard & Laura McKee.

And I’d like to say I’ll keep you updated, blog more, but I probably won’t…IMG_6747


Joy Ride

Joy Ride illustrationA few people have been asking WHERE you can get Jessica Mookherjee’s “Joy Ride” chapbook from, so I’ve decided to blog here and share it to Twitter, rather than just post to our facebook page.

To buy this, or any of the BLERoom product, you have to email me at – this is the email for the Press, as well as the PayPal address should you wish to buy it. The price is £7 inc p&p within the Uk, or £10 for Europe.

We don’t have a website, because a) I haven’t got the money to pay someone to do it, and b) because I haven’t the patience to learn myself. What little money we have goes into producing great looking chapbooks, with the help of people like the artist Jane Burn, whose illustrations adorn all of the Incidental Poetry Series.

The postal address is 12 Harrogate Crescent, Middlesbrough. TS5 6PS. Any cheques should be addressed to M. Johnson.

Merry Christmas y’all & I hope to see some of you at the Poetry Society Cafe on the 12th January, where we’re having the official launch of Jessica’s chapbook, and that of Neil Elder.

Winding things down…a little…

2017…been a very good year for the most part. Had a really bad turn in July, which ended with me cutting back on a lot of work while my head got better. By the year’s end I will have published 14 chapbooks & one magazine.

My funding finishes at the end of May, and the plan was to publish 2 more chapbooks at the beginning of 2018, and then take it easy while I figure out where to get some more money from.  Or that was the plan til last week, when I came up with the idea of a “Co-Incidental”, which would feature 4 poets, giving each 5 pages each.

The 1st Co-Incidental will launch in March/April and feature the following poets: Martin Malone, Jane Burn, p.a. morbid & Fran Lock. As with the regular Incidental series it will retail for £5, but will not have the artwork by Jane that has made the Incidentals so brilliant. I’m hoping they’ll prove as popular despite that.

I’m still winding down as much as possible, because I have a few Local History projects that need my attention, and its been a full-on year as far as focusing on the Press has been.

I’ve also started working with my old band Killy Dog Box, link below if you’re brave. We’ve recorded a cd single and are launching it this Saturday in Middlesbrough…


Incidentals, a Call-Out!

This will be our last call-out for this year, so please pay attention, as I won’t be repeating this. Well, its on a blog, so I won’t have to repeat it. Stop nitpicking and read the bloody submissions guidelines already!


These are a5 chapbooks featuring 20 pages (sides) of poetry. The covers are all blue – see the original Incidentals post on this blog – and have a frontispiece drawn by Jane Burn. If you would like to be considered for this series – as of today there 11, with a further 5 due before the end of June – then you must follow the submissions guidelines EXACTLY.

All submissions must come by post – we will accept no email subs. Your sub should be on a4 paper, Times New Roman 11.point & No Spacing. Each sub should have your name, short biog & email. There should be a sheet with the title/contents.

If chosen you will receive 5 contributor’s copies, and the chance to buy extra copies at a reduced rate. You will be expected to promote the chapbook with – preferably – a launch in Middlesbrough, or a similar event in your home town/locality. We can’t afford to pay you to come to Middlesbrough, but we will house and feed you for the night.


We’re looking for selections of prose from single authors, the genre isn’t important, just that you fill at least 8 pages (16 sides) of the 10 pages you’ll be given. The same rules as above apply as far as submitting them.

ADDRESS. The Black Light Engine Room, 12 Harrogate Crescent, Middlesbrough. TS5 6PS.

Submissions accepted from Saturday 1st of April till Friday 30th of June 2017.


We’re almost to March, and I’ve been assured that I’ll get another year’s funding for the Press in June. This will be the final lot of funding from Christian Seedbed, who have funded me for the last 2 years. So, I’n saying Thanks!

We’ve got a busy publishing schedule up until June, with Ann Cuthbert in the Inicdentals tonight, alongside Janet Philo and Steven Bruce in Dark Matter 8. Then, in no particular order, Neill Fulwood, Aidan Clark, Ann Graal, Charles Lauder jr, Neil Young and Jessamine O’ Connor.

Graham Clifford, who we published last month, is having a London Launch on Thurs, 2nd March at Willow Brook Primary School, Church Road, Leyton. E10 7BH. Its a free event, featuring myself, Harry Gallagher, as well as Graham & David FLoyd. It is a free event if anyone is interested, but is on very early – 17.30-19.30. And, I’ve been told, we’ll all be adjourning to a local hostelry for post-gig chats and the like.

Issue 15 of the mag is finally done, and I’m just waiting for this weekend and the London Trip to be over, before sending out copies to those poets unfortunate enough to be in it. Which brings me to my real reason for blogging –

I’m going to launch a Prose Journal to run alongside the main BLERoom poetry one. As yet I have no snazzy title, though TITLE is actually in the running, but we’ll see. If you’re interested in submitting to it, then please read below for details.


We’d prefer unpublished work, but if it has been featured in out-of-print  journals in the past. All work must, obviously, be your own. Illustrations for your work will be considered, but not necessarily accepted.

Any subject matter will be accepted, though its down to the quirky tastes of the Editor, Me, as to what goes in or not. I have specific tastes, but can also recognise when something is good but not to my taste. We’ll also consider articles on the arts/lit etc, but not – and I can’t stress this too strongly – verbose, phd-like writings will not be considered.

Your submissions can be short, flash-style fiction, to a couple of pages long.


Please send your work to The Black Light Engine Room, 12 Harrogate Crescent, Middlesbrough. TS5 6PH.

All submissions must be SINGLE-SPACED & have be wither stapled together, or have the title & numbers on it. Include your NAME/BIOG & an email address where I can contact you.

Submissions will be read from 1st March 2017 til 31st August 2017. Each person chosen will get a contributor’s copy. Ta.



December 22nd, and I thought I’d better write a blog while I’m still feeling positive.

On the whole 2016 has been a good year. For the Press it has meant a lot more coverage, due to the Incidental Poetry Series, which started with Robert Francis in October 2015, but really kicked off in January. Martin Malone. Harry Gallagher. Jane Burn. Pippa Little. p.a. morbid. Annette Volfing. A great bunch of poets, and – even if I do say so myself – a gorgeous imprint, aided massively by Jane Burn’s illustrations for them. 2017 will see the launch of Incidentals by Graham Clifford. Helen Anderson. Ann Cuthbert. Ann Graal. Neil Fulwood. Aiden Clark. Charles Lauder jnr. Neil Young. Jessamine O’Connor. And that’s only from January to June!

The Dark Matter chapbooks have played their part too, with 2016 seeing Judi Sutherland paired with Jim Burns, and Laura Lawson paired with Richard Skinner. February of 2017 will see Janet Philo paired with Steven Bruce. Two names to watch for 2017!

finally, the mag. Apologies to everyone who’s submitted stuff, been accepted, but hasn’t seen the mag yet. I’ve developed a very ambivalent attitude to the mag, which has prevented it from getting published, but am working to have it ready for early in the New Year.

I’m not gonna name everyone who cam to read with us in Middlesbrough, as there have been loads. Thanks to all of you, and I hope to see you – and some new faces – in the New Year.

Right, that’s enough positivity from me, I’m going to indulge in some nihilistic behaviour…

Flying solo…

Not  a post about poetry, or the nihilistic experience of running a mag…today is the private view of my 1st solo exhibition. Its upstairs in the Python Gallery, and while not being the main exhibition, I’m rather pleased with it.

I did my first painting in oils in October 1988, when I was living in Radlett (Herts) with Peter (curator of the Python) & have painted intermittently since then, usually destroying them because they weren’t right. Or in a drunken rage when I needed to vent some anger. Peter offered me the space last year, but I didn’t take him up on it til this year, and since then I’ve been painting regularly. Which is great for me, as my poetry has been very thin on the ground, mostly because I’ve been trying to finish a short story, which I’m in the process of re-writing. And my other life as a Local Historian takes up a fair bit of my time. I’m working on a couple of Middlesbrough related projects that will see fruition next year, as well as book of poetry/prose/history/art that deals with the town.

But painting. I’ve got 28 pieces in the exhibition, the majority from this year, and while they’re not what you could call homely, they are arresting and I’m looking forward to the private view, not least because TP Cafe’s sausage rolls are delicious, but to see how people react to them, good and bad, because a lot of people I know only know me as a poet, or a historian with a weird 2nd life as a poet. Though I think most of them are aware that I’m a somewhat troubled soul, which is evident in the work. I’m expecting a few people to ask why I can’t paint nice things, or even why can’t I paint, but hey ho.

I will blog about the draining experience of being a poetry publisher soon hahah – no, seriously, the Press is good, and while I’m still struggling with the latest mag, I am still in love with it all…


“i speak but You do not listen” (2010) and “Background Radiation” (2013)

The exhibition runs til the end of the year