Oystercatcher Enterprises Ltd, a not-for-profit company recently founded by Mark Tredinnick and Steve Meyrick, is proud to announce its intention to revive Five Islands Press as a publisher of new poetry and writing about poetry and other lyric works.
Founded in 1986 by Ron Pretty, and named for the five islands off Port Kembla, where Ron lived and wrote, Five Islands has published many of Australia’s finest poets. When Ron stepped back from active involvement with the press in 2007, the fine publishing tradition that he established was continued for over a decade by his successors, with the Press publishing a further 44 books by emerging and established poets before announcing, in 2018, that it would cease publishing new work. Since 2020, the imprint has been managed by Dr Gareth Jenkins, Managing Editor of Apothecary Archive.
Dr Jenkins welcomed the change. “It has been a pleasure connecting with Five Islands readers and writers over the last three years. I always felt like I was just an archivist of the press and its long history so I’m very pleased it will get a new lease of life through Mark and Steve’s initiative.”
Mark Tredinnick, Managing Editor of Five Islands, outlined Oystercatcher’s plans. “It’s our intention to publish at the press an exciting range of new titles, the best lyric work of our best writers, poetry that is timeless and timely, intelligent and intelligible, beautiful and urgent, poetry that is both accomplished and accessible to audiences well beyond the poetry specialists who are most of the readers of new poetry at present.”
“We’re grateful to Gareth for agreeing to transfer the imprint to our new company, and for his vital role in preserving the imprint during a period when its history and tradition of the press could well have been lost.”, Dr Tredinnick said, “I’m really pleased that Gareth has agreed to collaborate with Oystercatcher in rebuilding FIP as we grow it and, with luck, change the shape of Australian poetry, in particular broadening its readership.”
“Our aims are close to those that the founder of Five Islands Press, the late Ron Pretty, spent his life promoting,” explained Mark. “In his own poetry, in his writings on the craft, in his teaching and mentoring and, importantly through Five Islands Press, Ron wanted to make poetry that took people deeper into their daily lives and minds. And he wanted that poetry to reach readers who might not otherwise read it. So, in responding to what we see as the urgent need for more poetry publishing in Australia—especially of lyric poetry, poetry of wisdom and accomplishment and craft—it seemed sensible to carry on what Ron began, to revive a revered press he founded and, with others like Kevin Brophy, built into the most respected poetry press of its day.”
“I owe a debt to Steve Meyrick, too, a fine emerging poet, for seeing in the renewal of Five Islands a way to do some good, of the kind we’re both committed to—for poetry, for the manifold Australian poetries, and the places and lives they witness—while also honouring a press that has already done so much pioneering work in these areas. Steve lives on Wodi Wodi land, within sight of the five islands, and I’m not far inland on Gundungurrah country, so it gives us great joy to rebirth this press where it began. Poetry’s realm, it has been said, is the parish or the watershed, and it is the world. That idea guides our hopes for the press, and the oystercatchers of the shores of the five islands will hold us accountable.”
Steve, who was formerly CEO of a successful economics consultancy, will take on the role of Commercial Director of Five Islands Press. “Much work lies ahead of us, developing the structures and processes that will enable Five Islands Press to become again—and remain—a force in poetry publishing for many years”, Steve said. “We expect it’ll be twelve months before our publishing activity fully hits its stride. But we’re excited to announce that the first publication of the Five Islands Press in its new incarnation is Mark Tredinnick’s Nine Carols, a small book of carols written by Mark, which Alan Holley has set for four voices. The Australian Chamber Choir, which first commissioned Holley to write them some carols, premiered one of the carols (“The Carol of the Two Crows”) in 2022 and will sing that and “Koel Carol” in its 2023 Christmas series; Fiore Ensemble sings three more of them this November in Melbourne, and the book, including a new Advent Overture (a ghazal) written for the occasion, appears in November to catch the Christmas trade to accompany the performances by ACC and Fiore. The book is stunningly designed and illustrated by Gerhard Bachfischer, and printed and stitch-bound by Carbon8 in Marrickville. It perfectly showcases these beautiful contemporary carols, instances of the plainspoken lyricism Five Islands hopes to publish more of in its reincarnation. Other publishing initiatives will be announced early in 2024.”