Penned in the Margins acquires Arji Manuelpillai’s ‘remarkable’ poetry collection about extremism

Blog | Published on December 21, 2021

Improvised Explosive Device examines extremism and hate crime in all its forms in the UK. In this ‘remarkable’ debut, to be published in October 2022, Arji Manuelpillai questions what makes a person radical, how the British government polices this thinking, and how marginalised groups are at risk.

Unusually for a poetry collection, the book is informed by interviews conducted by the author with figures from a cross-section of society including the mothers of former ISIS members, former English Defence League and National Front members, academics and writers. Sri Lankan British, London-based Manuelpillai also interviewed members of his own community who have been affiliated with terrorist group The Tamil Tigers.


Director of independent publisher Penned in the Margins, Tom Chivers, said, “What Arji is doing in Improvised Explosive Device is remarkable; I’ve not read anything quite like it. The level of technical skill in the poems is outstanding and they are thrilling to read, full of sudden twists and turns. His uncompromising focus on violence, or the suggestion of violence, is laced with gallows humour and framed brilliantly against the mundane detritus of life – from supermarket aisles to the lonely glare of laptop light. These poems are strange, side-swerving, unnerving and totally fresh.”


World rights were acquired direct from the author.

Notes to editors

Arji Manuelpillai is a poet, performer and creative facilitator based in London. For over 15 years Arji has worked with community arts projects nationally and internationally. Recently, he was the Jerwood Arvon Mentee mentored by Hannah Lowe. His poetry has been published in magazines including Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Bath Magg and many more. He has also been shortlisted for many prizes including The Oxford Prize 2019, The Live Canon Prize 2020, The National Poetry Prize 2021 and Winchester Prize 2021. He has also come runner-up in the Robert Graves Prize 2020. Arji was provided a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England in January and has been using the time to interview and discuss extremism in its many forms in the UK. Arji is a member of Malika's Poetry Kitchen and London Stanza. Arji's debut pamphlet Mutton Rolls was published with Out-Spoken Press.

Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. From small beginnings as a reading series in a converted railway arch in south London, Penned in the Margins has grown over the last decade into a respected, award-winning literary arts company producing new work live, in print and online. Their books have won or been shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Award, Griffin Poetry Prize, TS Eliot Prize, Forward Prize for Best Collection, Costa Poetry Award, Gordon Burn Prize and the International Dylan Thomas Prize. In 2017 they were shortlisted for the inaugural Clarissa Luard Award for Independent Publishers.

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