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Best Friends Forever: call for submissions

Best Friends Forever (BFF) is a new anthology of poems on female friendship edited by Amy Key, to be published by The Emma Press.

This new anthology aims to reflect the scale of intensity within female friendships – the intimate and the casual, the life sustaining and the life changing, as well as the tensions and the joys – and will feature a mixture of commissioned poems (from poets including Annie Freud, Helen Mort, Warsan Shire, Angela Kirby and Martha Sprackland) and poems selected through open submissions.

Fancy submitting a poem? Now’s your chance. Amy is currently welcoming submissions from all genders. We spoke to her about how it all happened, and how you can get involved:

How did Best Friends Forever come about?

Amy: A major thing was the launch of a new literary journal, Tender, edited by Rachael Allen and Sophie Collins inspired me to write a poem – a love poem – to my close friend, the poet Camellia Stafford. I tweeted about this, and friends and fellow poets responded by saying they wanted to read more poems about female friendship. I said ‘there should be an anthology!’ then I said ‘I want to edit it” and before I knew it I was pitching it to Emma Wright from The Emma Press. I’d worked with Emma on The Emma Press Book of Mildly Erotic Verse and thought she’d love the idea as her press was established because she wanted to publish a book of poems by her dear friend Rachel Piercey.

I want to do this because I’ve fallen cock-a-hoop for friends and I’ve fallen out of love with friends. I’ve been dumped and I’ve rediscovered friendships when they seemed lost to me. At times it’s felt I’ve been able to live because of the friendships I have. I find it exciting that there will be new friendships to come that won’t spell the end of my existing ones. My ambition for this book is that it will be something someone can use to help them tell their friend they love them.

Is this the first anthology you’ve edited? Are your energies directed towards editing rather than writing at the moment?

Amy: I co-edited the three Shuffle Anthologies with Jacqueline Saphra and Gale Burns so I’d had a taste of it before, but I think this will be a very different experience. I’m completely responsible for the shape of the book and in doing so I will curate my own idea of friendship.

I am not a prolific poet, so I really love having poetry-related projects to work on while I’m not writing, it helps make me feel connected to the poetry world and to the practice of reading poetry, which is terribly important in developing my own work.

What role does female friendship play in your writing life? And male friendship? Is there a difference?

Amy: I’m certainly inspired by my own friendships and by poems about female friendship. Some of my favourites include Annie Freud’s ‘Feminine Problematics’ and Emily Berry’s ‘The Tomato Salad’. The role friendship plays in my writing is in sharing experiences and moments that may be captured in my poetry, but also the camaraderie and friendship of the poetry world itself. Though my friendship circle is somewhat biased towards poets, the group is incredibly diverse in terms of age and background, which brings a real richness to my life and to my own appreciation of poetry.

For me there is a difference between my male and female friendships, but I’m not quite sure how I might describe how. In making the anthology explicitly about female friendships, I’m hoping I might come be able to articulate this and get at what is unique to friendship between women.

Who are your favourite literary / artistic / filmic female friendships – among artists or their creations?

Amy: On TV I love the tentatively developed friendship between Lindsay and Kim in Freaks and Geeks; Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins mutual admiration in Parks and Recreation; the contrast of Donna and Audrey in Twin Peaks and the trio of Angela, Rayanne and Rickie in My-So Called Life. More recently the friendships in TV show Girls have captivated me.

On film, the friendship between mother and daughter Big Edie and Little Edie in Grey Gardens fascinates me. And I love the friendship between Janey and Lynne in Girls Just Want to Have Fun, I am very interested in representations of friendships that act as an axis for going in a new direction as a person.

In books the most recent friendship to fascinate me is between Sheila and Margaux in How Should A Person Be?. The passage about both Sheila and Margaux buying the same yellow dress, and how it causes a problem between them really affected me. Later in the book Margaux writes to Sheila to say ‘I cannot be your sometime friend. That means I cannot be your friend at all.’  Sheila reacts with ‘nothing but this feeling, and the love of Margaux, which I had known but now the dark of  Margaux which is all I would ever know; the last I would see of her as she walked away, remembering how generous she had been when I was deserving of her.’ When I read this I burst into tears and I’ve not been able to pick up the book since. The grief of a friendship failing is as painful as romantic relationships, and this book was definitely in my mind as I put together the pitch for the anthology.

Can men submit poems for the anthology?

Amy: Yes, submissions are welcome from all genders including male, trans*& intersex.

How should people submit?

Amy: All the details are on The Emma Press website:

Please send a maximum of 4 poems in a single file to [email protected], along with a brief covering letter introducing yourself. Individual poems should be no longer than 1.5 sides of A4 paper.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 16th December. I am reading all the poems over Christmas and New Year, so you’ll receive a response by the end of January.

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Image: Huck embroidery. Image credit: Victoria Pickering