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The Apple Anthology


Update 3 May 2014:

The Apple Anthology has been shortlisted for a Saboteur Award for Best Anthology 2014! The prize is publicly nominated and results are decided by online voting. If you'd like to participate, you can do so here. The award ceremony will be in Oxford at the end of May. In addition, the ebook version of The Apple Anthology is now available for Kindle. To celebrate the Saboteur shortlisting, Jane Commane is offering a special price of £1.99 this month. Please spread the word to friends, family and networks, if you have a moment.

Read the review

The Apple Anthology is a rich harvest of new, recent and ancient poetry, prose and visual art from a global array of writers, artists and scientists. The Anthology tells the story of how apples migrated from Northeast China to
Europe, how to make zyder and why apples are such potent symbols of beauty, temptation and sexuality. Here you will encounter an apple clock, fruity surrealism, apples from Chernobyl and a tree called Camilla. You will meet King Byerd, Lady Henniker, The Bloody Ploughman, Pig's Snout, Slack MaGirdle and countless other characterful apple varieties.

Pushing the boundaries of genre and subject specialism, all of these creations look at apples in new, challenging and surprising ways. With a foreward by David Morley, contributions from members of the Worshipful Company of
Fruiterers, and a range of intellectuals, creators and collagists, The Apple Anthology is bursting with flavour and delight.

A limited number of printed copies of the anthology are available to purchase through Inpress.


Scrumping is the stealing of fruit from orchards and gardens, a dialect variant of the word scrimping. It also suggests scrumpled: something rumpled and shrunken and wizened, an old apple past its blushing prime. This anthology has broken into a number of orchards to steal just the right kind of apples from other people’s trees: apples that will refresh our comfortably wizened notions about this most familiar of fruits.

Many of us have personal stories, memories of apples, to draw on, and some of the work herein will be familiar, other parts surprising, stretching and reminding us of how we relate to apples, but also showing how apples relate to and depend upon our roles as selectors and shapers of food and nature. As with individual apple cultivars, each tree has a particular shape, fruiting time and flavour of fruit; to some, trees even seem to have their own peculiar personalities. Northern Greening fruits enthusiastically, and woodpeckers tend to drill holes into its hollow trunk; Bramley’s Seedling is a gigantic green knight, producing fruit the size of a baby’s head. The richness of cultivars’ names, some familiar from supermarkets, others distinct to particular regions or uses — cider or chutney-making, baking and juicing — are a history of imagination, of place and of human activity.

Editing this anthology has been like gathering a rich harvest. Although the illicit frisson of scrumping isn’t there (for copyright reasons) we have enjoyed the thrill of firstfruits alongside biting into centuries-old textures and symbolisms. And unlike that scrumpy cider some of us made all those years ago, we feel we’ve got the blend right this time. An impressive array of poets, young and established, brings delectable produce to the feast. Horticulturists and scientists bring fruit of a different kind, no less inspiring for its insights: stories of how different varieties of apples have arisen, how they made the long journey from Asia to Britain, how old varieties can be preserved. Sociologists, writers and literary critics have provided juicy articles about temptation, cider, politics and art.

What these pieces share is a concern with the cultivation of apples and orchards, but also with culture. Those two words, culture and cultivation, come from a common Latin rootstock. It’s surprising just how much culture and cultivating have in common. When you’re writing a poem, it seems to be a living thing with a will of its own; you need to prune it gently and with skill in order to let it bear fruit. One slip of the shears and you stunt it. Let it grow unruly and you end up with something untrained and hard to work with.

In assembling this primer to the apple, we aimed to cultivate a mini-encyclopaedia, a diversity of perspectives and a reminder of how much can sit within a single slice. Charles Olson once wrote of the importance of doing a ‘saturation job’, of learning as you venture deeply into a single subject — “barbed wire” or “pemmican” were his suggestions — that everything connects to everything else, to a vast range of human experiences and non-human understanding. We also drew inspiration from the wonderful Animal and Edible series published by Reaktion Books, in which an author delves into a single subject from the natural world. We hope to enrich those approaches, showing how many voices can cohere into a similarly expansive sensation.

The vast monoculture of a supermarket bookshelf, with its rows of identical bestsellers, begins to resemble the bland, extensive fields of agribusiness. Many of the pieces published here capture moments when culture and cultivation are carried out differently, either more innovatively or more traditionally, on a smaller scale or more organically. The poems, essays, photographs, translations and artworks in this anthology show that not everyone thinks in monocultures and we invite you to join us in thinking through a community of voices, about how much flavour you can hold in the palm of your hand.

Yvonne Reddick & George Ttoouli

The Apple Anthology