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Wood engraving by Edwina Ellis
(from A Christmas Carol, 1984)

Sudden Immobility
Selected Poems of Molly Holden.
Summer 2021

Bordering on the Sublime
Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press.
Late 2021

Sudden Immobility:
Selected Poems of Molly Holden

with numerous wood engravings by Andy English

Estimated Publication: summer 2021

For many years, Molly Holden (1927-81) has been one of our favourite poets. Poetically she is the successor among English poets to Edward Thomas, of whom Sir Andrew Motion, poet laureate from 1999 to 2009, said that he occupied “a crucial place in the development of twentieth-century poetry” in bringing modern sensibilities to traditional subjects. With Ted Hughes and Sir Geoffrey Hill, Molly Holden is certainly one of the foremost late 20th century British poets of nature and rural life. She writes of the landscapes of the countryside, of trees, gardens, birds, and flowers, and of village life and history, with the understanding of the heart:

Each walk, each ride reveals a new perspective
though all the land has now been generation-planned.
Hedge, tree-stump, post, duck-pond, and landscaped moat,
in only half-a-mile or mile at most are thick
with history’s compost, imagination’s dust,
      and, most, the very exclamation of their being.
And would be true all England over – a various land.

If this were all, it were enough to make her worth reading – but it is far from all. In her mid-thirties, Holden was stricken with multiple sclerosis, and in her remaining twenty years her poetry deepened and intensified in proportion as her attentions were focused and sharpened by what she called the ‘sudden immobility’ which had become her daily life. In her poem ‘Illness’, she says

Poetic justice is imperfectly exemplified in me
who, as a child, as a girl, was persuaded that
I felt as earth feels, the furrows in my flesh,

buttercups curdling from my shoulder blades,
was what I saw. The rain would fall as pertinent on me
as on the lichens on the flint-embedded wall.

I had always a skin too few . . .

Molly Holden published five books of verse. The first two were only small pamphlets, but the last three were collections in the ‘Living Poets’ series of Chatto & Windus, and received fine reviews. However, excepting a handful in one or two anthologies, Molly Holden’s poems have not now been in print for many years. We were delighted to receive permission from her son and daughter to publish this selected edition, and they have given us a great deal of help in these early stages, including giving us copies of their mother’s first two rare privately printed chapbooks, and providing us with several poems for the book which have either never appeared in book form, or remain unpublished. Sudden Immobility will include almost two hundred poems.

We were further elated to discover that Holden is a favourite poet of Andy English, who has illustrated four of our previous books and therefore might be thought of as our ‘house engraver’, and he eagerly agreed to provide a number of engravings, bringing his own ‘modern sensibilities to traditional subjects.’

In consultation with Jan, Crispin selected and arranged the poems into nine substantial sections, and has designed the book’s typography and layouts. Sudden Immobility has been in production since April, 2020, Apollonia busily hand-setting the first sections of the text while work on Bordering on the Sublime continues. Jan will continue to print Bordering on one of our Vandercooks, while Polly proofs and prints Sudden Immobility on another press. She and Jan will print Andy English’s engravings together, providing Polly with the opportunity to learn the finer techniques of printing engravings from Jan – who is now, after thirty-five years, one of the most experienced printers of engravings presently working. Crispin, needing an occasional break from the complex settings of justified prose and ornamental work in Bordering on the Sublime, will join Polly in setting some of the poems. The text type is Eric Gill’s Joanna, a favourite face which will be familiar from our Endgrain Editions series, but which we haven’t used for a literary text since Inishbream in 2000.

We anticipate completing the presswork in the early winter of 2020, for publication in the summer of 2021.

Sudden Immobility: Selected Poems of Molly Holden will be published in two states, which provisionally will take the following forms:

DELUXE. Probably 70 copies. Crown Quarto: 10½ by 7½ inches [267 by 190mm]. Hand-set in Joanna with Nicholas Parry’s Tiern for display in a variety of colours and black on Zerkall White laid, with the engravings printed from the wood. Bound in half morocco, skived leather spine label, with a patterned paper over boards, slipcased with a portfolio containing a suite of a selection of the engravings for the book.
PROJECTED PRICE (subject to change): C$1,250.00

STANDARD. Probably 45 copies. Internally the same as the Deluxe state, but half cloth with a printed paper label and patterned paper, and slipcased.
PROJECTED PRICE (subject to change): C$950.00

Please note that as of December 2020 both states are largely reserved, with only a very few copies remaining. To reserve a copy of either state, please contact the press. Verbum sat sapienti.