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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.