To look at Shane Rhodes’ achievements, it seems he is a man determined to single-handedly put Hull on the international literary map.

“I always said you can’t keep saying something’s bad without doing something about it and that’s why I started Wrecking Ball Press.”

Since its humble origins at the back of The Green Room café in Spring Bank, Hull, Wrecking Ball Press has grown to international prominence.

Shane Rhodes says he owes his introduction to literature to song lyrics – in particular, Leonard Cohen.

“I thought it was just me and him, him talking and me listening,” he said.

“Joni Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones and Tom Waits were others I would spend many an intimate evening with.”

He used to combine his love of music with his love of literature, putting on live jazz music and poetry reading at the café before opening Wrecking Ball Press in Hull’s High Street.

Students used to bring their poems for Shane to read. Although he couldn’t articulate why at the time, he knew the poetry was bad and this was the moment Wrecking Ball Press was born.

Shane, who was already a published poet at the time of running the café, said: “People brought their work to me because of what I’d done. I always said you can’t keep saying something’s bad without doing something about it and that’s why I started Wrecking Ball Press.”

 He got together with graphic designer and friend, Owen Benwell, who was working for Shane as a part-time cook at the time, and came up with the concept for his poetry magazine, The Reater.

Both men continued with their day jobs while working away in the storeroom reading manuscripts and creating something which would cause a stir.

The first issue of The Reater was published in 1997, bringing together challenging new British writing and the best on offer from Southern California. Every issue has been published in paperback format and features established names alongside talented newcomers. Issue 3, from 1999, featured the first ever published interview with Charles Bukowski, by Arnold L. Kaye.

One of the reasons for Shane’s growing success is his uncompromising approach to quality writing. “It’s subjective of course but as an editor you have to decide there and then if it’s right for you and your readers. I feel that bad writing just reinforces its own right to anonymity and therefore obscurity. End of story.”

This year Wrecking Ball Press plans to publish a further 10 books of poetry and prose from international and UK based authors.

Shane also continues to invite members of the public to send in their poems via the Wrecking Ball Press website. He promises to read everything he receives, but makes it clear he cannot promise publication.

So, if you are a budding poet, you could find your writing bound for an international audience. Just be prepared to hone your words to near-perfection.

In addition to running Wrecking Ball Press, Shane Rhodes is also the director of the city’s annual Humber Mouth Literature Festival. This is a celebration of literature, language and text-based arts from authors, speakers and artists from the UK and around the world.

Established in 1993, Humber Mouth has grown to become one of the region’s major festivals, recognised throughout the literary world. The festival combines author events with special commissions and community projects, and builds on a year-round programme of literature development activities.

There’s also a parallel literature festival for children and young people, called New Generation, in which 14-19 year-olds get involved in providing literary ideas of their own. This will take place alongside Humber Mouth in November.

With the City of Culture 2017 approaching fast, Hull’s future as a hotbed of literary talent looks secure.

Posted: 29/05/2014