Bloodaxe Books

Bloodaxe Books is a British publishing house specializing in poetry.

Bloodaxe Books
FounderNeil Astley
Country of origin United Kingdom
Headquarters locationHexham, Northumberland
DistributionGrantham Book Services (UK)
Consortium (US)
Publication typesBooks
Fiction genresPoetry


Bloodaxe Books was founded in 1978 in Newcastle upon Tyne by Neil Astley,[2][3] who is still editor[4] and managing director.[4] Bloodaxe moved its editorial office to Northumberland and its finance office to Bala, North Wales,[2] in 1997.

In 2013 Astley deposited the Bloodaxe Books archive at Newcastle University's Robinson Library, Special Collections.[5][6]

Notable publicationsEdit

Published authorsEdit

European poetsEdit

United States poetsEdit

French poetsEdit

Irish poetsEdit

British-Caribbean diaspora poetsEdit

South Asian poetsEdit

Poets from elsewhereEdit

Poets whom Bloodaxe gave their first publicationEdit

British and Irish poets previously published by other imprintsEdit

Poets from earlier periodsEdit

New Generation PoetsEdit

The growth of Bloodaxe and other specialist poetry publishers coincided with the emergence of a new generation of British and Irish poets, mostly born in the 50s and early 60s, many first published by these imprints. Twenty of these writers were later tagged New Generation Poets in a promotion organised by the Poetry Society in 1994, but this particular grouping was artificial and should not be taken as a critical guide, for it excluded several key figures from that generation, including Jackie Kay, Ian McMillan, Sean O'Brien, Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney. The first anthology to represent this new generation was Bloodaxe's The New Poetry (1993), edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley, which became a school set text. Sean O'Brien’s The Deregulated Muse: Essays on Contemporary British & Irish Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 1998) is his account of poetry in the post-war period, from the generation of Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes to the new poets of the 80s and 90s.

Women poetsEdit

One of Bloodaxe’s most significant achievements has been to transform the publishing opportunities for women poets. For many years Bloodaxe has been unusual in having a poetry list which is 50:50 male: female, not the result of positive discrimination but rather in relation to literary excellence. The first of several influential Bloodaxe anthologies of women poets, Jeni Couzyn’s Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Women Poets (1985) was published at a time when very little poetry by women was readily available to readers. Others have included Carol Rumens’s New Women Poets (1990), Linda France’s Sixty Women Poets (1993), Maura Dooley’s Making for Planet Alice (1997), Robyn Bolam's Eliza's Babes: four centuries of women's poetry in English (2005), and Deryn Rees-Jones’s Modern Women Poets (2005), published as the companion anthology to her critical study Consorting with Angels (2005).

Wider notorietyEdit

Many other writers and books published by Bloodaxe have hit the headlines, arousing controversy and debate outside the poetry world. Tom Paulin’s essay collection Ireland & the English Crisis (1984) was savagely attacked by Enoch Powell for its political stance. Another cause célèbre was provided by Tony Harrison’s v. (1985), his book-length poem set in a vandalised cemetery in Leeds during the UK Miners’ Strike which captured the angry, desolate mood of Britain in the mid-1980s.

Two years after its publication, Richard Eyre’s film of the poem sparked a national furore, not over Harrison’s politics but over his skinhead protagonist’s use of ‘bad language’. The poem was attacked by Mary Whitehouse ("this work of singular nastiness") and by Tory MPs wanting Channel 4's broadcast to be stopped. The second edition of v. (1989) documents the media reaction to the film.


Neil Astley was awarded an honorary DLitt by Newcastle University in 1995 for his work with Bloodaxe Books.

In 2000 Bloodaxe received funding from the Millennium Festival and the National Lottery through Arts Council England for an educational initiative to build a stronger awareness of 20th century poetry. This involved the publication of the literary critic Edna Longley's Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry from Britain and Ireland and Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry.

Other activitiesEdit

In 2001 Jo Shapcott gave the first of the Newcastle/Bloodaxe poetry lectures at Newcastle University. Several other poets have since spoken about the craft and practice of poetry to audiences drawn from both the city and the university. These public lectures were published in book form in 2015 as Quantum Poetics: Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures.[13]

Other initiatives to introduce contemporary poetry to new readers have included working with reading groups in Nottingham and in libraries across the West Midlands.

In Birmingham, Jonathan Davidson's team at Book Communications have produced three touring theatre shows which have taken live poetry performances to venues across Britain. Themes have included Staying Alive; Being Alive; and Changing Lives, which was a theatre piece using poems from books published by Bloodaxe over the previous 30 years.


In 2008, Bloodaxe celebrated its 30th birthday by publishing what it believed to be the world's first poetry DVD-book, In Person: 30 Poets.[2] In Person was filmed by the film-maker Pamela Robertson-Pearce and edited by Bloodaxe's founding editor, Neil Astley. It features six hours of readings on two DVDs by 30 poets, together with an anthology which includes all the poems read in the films.

Bloodaxe's digital initiative has continued with further DVD-books featuring work by the poets John Agard and Samuel Menashe with films by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, as well as books published with audio CDs by Sarah Arvio, Jackie Kay and Galway Kinnell, and a new edition of Briggflatts by Basil Bunting featuring an audio CD of the work read by the author, and a DVD with a film portrait of Bunting made by Peter Bell in 1982.


  1. ^ "Sales | Bloodaxe Books".
  2. ^ a b c "Landmark anniversary for poetry publisher". BBC News. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Overview: Bloodaxe Books". Oxford Reference. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Astley, Neil Philip, (born 12 May 1953), Editor and Managing Director, Bloodaxe Books Ltd, since 1978". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U5902. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  5. ^ "Bloodaxe Books". Newcastle University. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Proof". Kate Sweeney. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  7. ^ Couzyn, Jeni (1985). The Bloodaxe book of contemporary women poets: eleven British writers. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe. ISBN 978-0-906427-79-8. OCLC 1166944537.
  8. ^ Markham, Edward Archibald (2001). Hinterland: Caribbean poetry from the West Indies & Britain. Newcastle: Bloodaxe books. ISBN 978-1-85224-086-8. OCLC 491823410.
  9. ^ Hulse, Michael; Kennedy, David; Morley, David (1998). The new poetry. Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 9781401359263. OCLC 919686720.
  10. ^ Longley, Edna (2000). The Bloodaxe Book of 20th century poetry: from Britain and Ireland. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 978-1-85224-514-6. OCLC 935577758.
  11. ^ Strong words: modern poets on modern poetry. Bloodaxe Books. 2000. ISBN 9781401359263. OCLC 1098261081.
  12. ^ Astley, Neil (2010). Staying alive: real poems for unreal times. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 978-1-85224-588-7. OCLC 750877264.
  13. ^ Lewis, Gwyneth (2015). Quantum Poetics Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures. New York: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 978-1-78037-203-7. OCLC 1162580834.

External linksEdit