Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The Ekphrastic Review and Lorette C. Luzajic

Lorette C. Luzajic is a writer and mixed media artist from Toronto, Canada. She studied for a Bachelor of Arts in journalism at Ryerson University, but always gravitated towards more creative pursuits, especially painting, art history and poetry. She has four independently published books of poetry: The Astronaut's WifeSolaceThe Lords of George Street, and Aspartame, and her poems have appeared widely in online and print publications like RattleThe FiddleheadGrainGeezPeacock JournalTaxicabKYSO FlashCultural WeeklyArt Ascent, and more. Her award-winning visual art has been collected and exhibited worldwide, including Mexico and Tunisia, and has appeared in galleries, museums, banks, hotels, laundromats, nightclubs, billboards, a luxury jewellery company ad campaign, and numerous literary journals and poetry book covers. In 2015, Lorette founded The Ekphrastic Review, an online journal devoted entirely to literature inspired by art.

Lorette C. Luzajic, Wonder Woman for President

About The Ekphrastic Review
By Lorette C. Luzajic

The Ekphrastic Review is a rare literary journal dedicated wholly to ekphrastic writing. "Ekphrastic" is a Greek word that simply means "to explain." Along the way, it came to mean writing that specifically described a work of art. In contemporary times, it usually means "writing inspired by art." 

It's a very old form of writing that Homer, Plato, and Socrates used or talked about. Ekphrastic poetry was essential to the Romantics and the most famous example is probably John Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn." William Carlos Williams, Rainer Maria Rilke, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Charles Simic are just a few famous poets known for their ekphrastic writing.

When I started the journal, it was really meant to be a hobby blog where I collected and shared interesting paintings and poems for my own enjoyment. My own artwork is often inspired by poetry or literature, and my most satisfying writing is about art, so ekphrasis was the natural intersection for me between my major life passions. I really didn't anticipate becoming an important archive of ekphrastic literature or having a devoted readership. The blog started as "Ekphrastic: writing on art, and art on writing." I posted paintings I liked that featured text or people reading, and occasionally shared a poem about art. But we began to attract an audience of serious writers rather quickly, and so I changed the name accordingly to denote the importance of the genre to its fans. We become The Ekphrastic Review.

I believe very strongly that contemplation and writing is the most important way we can approach art and art history. Whether we study only the surface of an artwork, or delve into its backstory and the artist's biography, our experience of art is enriched. It's an intimate process of learning to look at art, to find new ways in. The process of ekphrastic writing deepens a writer's own practice, too - we learn new ways of thinking, reflecting, and asking questions. Our imagination is fired in unexpected directions. Memories surface, connections form. We are led by curiosity into different worlds, different stories.

We have been blessed to feature over 800 writers from all over the world. (We keep an alphabetical list of writers for easy reference- interested readers can see it here). 

Until now, we have focused on ekphrastic writing, but as we continue to evolve we want to feature essays or articles that are about the craft of ekphrastic writing, ekphrastic book reviews, interviews with writers about ekphrases, and also translations of ekphrastic poetry from other languages. Submissions of these categories is especially encouraged moving forward. We also accept poetry, prose and fiction submissions that meet our ekphrastic guidelines. See:

We are especially pleased to have recently formed a prize nomination committee, so that we will able to nominate our amazing writers for Best of the Net and Pushcart awards from now on. We are also going to have our own annual best Ekphrastic nominations.

Finally, we have biweekly prompts - look for our challenges every other Friday. The art varies widely in order to inspire a range of work.

Here is a poem from our archives, inspired by Gas, a painting by Edward Hopper (USA, 1940):

Gas, 1940

Pegasus, a faded red, about to fly off
into the sky, which stretches above the dark 
pines, the rural road running by, a river,
all curves and meanders. The white paint’s
flaked off the wooden shingles,
and the Drink Coca-Cola! sign is stained
with rust, but the light in the window
casts a yellow glow on the cement.

I think my parents are about to cruise up
in their Buick, a big gray boat of a car,
the one that was up on blocks during the war,
and they have no idea what darkness lies
up ahead. She’s happy, leaning back 
on the plush seat, the night air riffling 
her page boy; he leans his arm out the window,
the ash of his cigarette eddying to the ground.

The lone attendant fills their tank, checks the oil,
wipes both windshields until they gleam, then returns
to his metal chair, his solitary vigil, keeper 
of the lighthouse, pilot of the night.

Barbara Crooker

This poem was previously published in Barbara Crooker's book, More (C&R Press, 2010). 

Thursday, 8 August 2019

G. S. Fraser Prize: Winning Poems

The G. S. Fraser Prize is an annual poetry competition for students at the University of Leicester. This year's winner was Jane Simmons, and Colin Gardiner received an honourable mention. You can read their poems below. 

Jane Simmons is a former teacher/lecturer who has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. She is now a PhD student at the university of Leicester, where her research project is The Poetics and Politics of Motherhood, a practice-led exploration of motherhood through an environmental and political lens, engaging with the theme creatively and as it is treated in contemporary women’s poetry. As a reviewer for The Blue Nib literary magazine, Jane has built a significant publication history of writing about contemporary women’s poetry. A small selection of her own poems appeared in the March 2019 edition of the magazine. Her collection From Darkness into Light – poems inspired by the Book of Kells – was published in 2018. Further poems will appear in two anthologies to be published by Pimento Press, also in 2019: The View from the Steep, and Seasonal Poems from Pimento Poets. Jane regularly reads/performs her work in the Lincoln area. 

Never After

In that hard winter to end all winters,
small birds fell frozen from an Arctic sky.
My mother fitted bolts to all the doors
against the thieves who would come in the night,
stood astride the claw-footed bath, pouring
scalding water down the swollen, ice-bound pipes,
while her bitter tears fell, jittered, skittered
like hailstones across the bathroom lino
to ricochet off the peeling skirting-boards.
I scrabbled after them, strung them on a necklace,
worried at them through the wide-awake nights
when a witch’s wind wailed in the chimney
and the big, bad wolf howled outside our door.

Maternal Line

Emily, daughter of Jane, daughter of Ella,
daughter of Jane, daughter of Eliza-Ann,
daughter of Eliza, daughter of Mary,
but Mary – what of her, before her, before all.?

All daughters of county and countryside,
chalk hills, clay levels, and rolling wolds, 
flat fenlands, of big skies and wide vistas,
and circumscribed lives – following, following,

footsteps of mothers, footsteps of men
farm to farm, field to fold, hawthorn-time 
to harvest, harvest to hiring, hiring 
to hiring, hiring to work to work-house.

Mothers of the living, mothers of the dead,
mothers of sons tried at county assizes,
poor widows bought cloaks from parish funds,
all trudging from hardship to hardship,

through village after village after village,
medieval, Viking, Anglo-Saxon, and back –
through tons and hams, through thorpes and tofts,
through bys, along byways – to bye and beyond.

Colin Gardiner is currently studying an MA in creative writing at the University of Leicester. He is originally from Birmingham and now lives in Coventry.

High Street Blues

My closed-circuit eyes focus on the line
Of butterscotch clouds melting in plum skies.
In this new dawn, ginger tom stretches, yawns.
Indifferent to raspberry school-run horns.

Treacle traffic blocks my arterial streets.
Slap of church-bell heart attack thunders
Through the pale snooze of the cemetery.
A soundtrack to my Monday high-street blues.

Soft-focus on doorway shadows. Cardboard
Bed is shed in a methylated shrug.
Alcoholic Scorpio, water sign.
Sorrows drowned in a foam of Special Brew.

Quick cut to convoy of caffeinated
Parents, herding squabbling sisters and
Brothers through academy doors. Floors
Confected with litter and unicorn glitter.

Lens-flare flash on a green baby-buggy.  
Pushed neatly, discreetly crossing the road.
Narrowly missing the crates of fruit and
Vegetables. Chased by coarse market curses.

Flash cut to wild-haired earth mother, reeking
Of essential oils. With a wide-eyed child
In hand. Running from a Co-op spillage.
Calamity Jane denies any damage.

Lavender dusk falls. I wear my shroud of
Sodium. My myopic yellow lights
Flicker and strobe in the wake of rush hour.
Chip-shop breeze in greasy hair of tired trees.

Late-night edit of leopard skins and white
Shirts, who colonise safe spaces in a
Conga-line stagger. Not like Jagger. A
Smithereen carpet for Uber hangovers.  

Post-club fade on brazen foxes, frozen
Under broken swings. Howling lullabies.
Savouring scraps blown in ghost-town whispers
Of my decline. Camera now off-line.

The Canal Knows

I walked from the car. I was fly-tipping
the contents of my head onto the 
towpath. I followed the incantation 
of traffic from the flyover.
The dissonant notes and drifting motes were 
commas, suspended in the heat-haze.
A languorous puzzle. I joined the dots 
for a while. 

As I walked beside the stillness, I traced 
a liquorice line that trickled through 
the veins of the city. 
I came upon a minor hex, 
a prickling cloud of midges, seething in 
the prism of shattered rear-view mirrors.

The manspread of pylons played snakes 
and ladders with the long grass,
their power-stance loomed over scrapyards. 
I followed a winding ley-line, that led 
me through skeletons of warehouses,
the occult pulse of power stations,
and rows of drunken locks.

A clearing in the bushes revealed an 
aviary of cans and bottles.
Sunken treasure. A meth nest, best left 
Then suddenly a sodden pirate   
staggered into view. With laminated 
eyes, he was screaming at the sky,
‘They're frying up the sea life centre.’

I slipped away through weeds yielding to the 
mid-day breeze. Secret machines were sleeping 
by the disused railway track, deluded 
in their dreams of reactivation.

I paused by the paper-mill. A pair of 
geese eyed me warily. They were guarding
their little pool. They were celebrating
their union in oil-slicked water. 
I held up my camera. Their hissed curses 
chased me through the mire.

I stumbled through the bramble and the shade.
Before me stood a signal box, 
pebbledashed with pigeon shit.
Humming with mysterious potential.
A transmission down a copper wire. 
A broadcast to the wildflowers growing 
in lacunas of corroded coil sprigs. 

I heard the music in the echoes of 
the basin. A phantom wall of noise 
caressing curving concrete. Spaghetti 
intertwined. The tunnel whispered:
‘Have I seen you here before?’

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

I.M. Dave Reeves

By Jacqui Rowe

Dave Reeves, who has died at the age of 65, played a major part in establishing the vibrant poetry community of the West Midlands. An entertaining and original poet himself, Dave was generous and hardworking in promoting others. From 1995 to 2008, he edited Raw Edge, a free magazine available from libraries; at its height 16,000 copies of each edition were produced. I was one of many poets  who were first published in Raw Edge, thrilled to appear along side well-established names. Dave was an excellent editor, as I saw when we judged the Black Country Living Museum Poetry Competition. He was knowledgeable, meticulous and always looked for the good in a poem. 

After Raw Edge, Dave moved on to Radio Wildfire, where he still promoted writers, this time through recordings. Being  a guest on the monthly live shows was a memorable experience, so enjoyable I’d beg to go on. One of the funniest people I’ve ever known, Dave would entertain us while recordings were playing, the guests sometimes struggling overcome our laughter to resume our serious discussion. 

Over the years, Dave was involved in more projects than should have seemed humanly possible, and I was always delighted to find myself working with him. Last year, we were both involved in Still Lively at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, aimed at older people as participants. The people leading the activities also had to be over a certain age, and Dave even managed to get us all to find that amusing. A lot of laughter has gone out of my life with his passing, but the poetry and poets he inspired are still there.

Dave leaves his partner, Ali, his son, Vaughan, and his granddaughter, Harlow.

Monday, 15 July 2019

MA Student Publications 2019

It's been a great year on the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Students are now in the middle of their final Dissertations, which are handed in at the end of September. So it seems like a good time to celebrate the publishing successes students have had during their course. Here below is an incomplete list of some of the publications by students on the MA in Creative Writing, 2019. I've linked as many of the pieces as possible, so there's lots of wonderful writing to read and enjoy. 

Rosie Anderson's story 'Just a Cat' is published by Fairlight Books here

Louise Brown's poem 'The Deep Blue' has been published by Acumen Magazine, May 2019. She has also had reviews published on Everybody's Reviewing here, here and here.

Colin Gardiner has a flash story, 'The Stick Man,' published by Ink Pantry here. His reviews for Everybody's Reviewing are published here and here.  

Kathy Hoyle's flash fiction 'Blank Space' is published in Virtual Zine here. Her poem 'Cabin Crew' is published by Ink Pantry here. She's also had great success in a number of competitions: in 'Crossing the Tees' Short Story Competition, her story 'Nancy' was longlisted, and subsequently published in the competition anthology; her story 'Licking the Toad' was shortlisted in the Exeter Short Story Competition; her flash fiction 'Baby Dolls' was longlisted in the TSS Flash Fiction Competition; her flash fiction was also shortlisted in the Ellipsis Zine Flash Fiction Competition; and her memoir piece 'Hometime' was shortlisted in the prestigious Short Memoir Competition run by Fish Publishing. 

Karen Rust's flash fiction 'A Parting Gesture' is published by Ellipsis Zine here, and she has another piece of flash, 'Deliverance,' published by Ink Pantry here

Sally Shaw has had various reviews published on Everybody's Reviewing - for example, here, here and here. Her story 'A School Photograph' was published by New Mag in February. You can read another story by Sally, 'Cherry Scones,' which was published in March on Ink Pantryhere

Lisa Williams has reviews on Everybody's Reviewing here and here.  

Lee Wright's flash fiction 'Father' is published by Flash Flood here. His short story 'We Can Have You There by Noon' is published by Fairlight Books here. You can read his poem 'The Safe Cracker,' published by Burning House Press, here, and 'The People v. Sid Vicious' here. He has written extensively for Everybody's Reviewing, and interviewed many authors for the site. See here for a selection of these. 

.... And there are more publications forthcoming in the next few weeks and months. Congratulations to all!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Featured Author: Laurie Cusack

Congratulations to Laurie Cusack,who has just successfully completed his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. 

Laurie is Leicester-born and his parents hailed from western Ireland. He has recently completed a collection of short stories called The Mad Road about the Irish for his PhD. Cusack’s stories deal with the gritty reality of submerged existence which he portrays in new dark humorous ways. The underbelly of the Irish living in Britain is explored in provocative fashion throughout. His narratives often deal with the politics of the work place and the blood, sweat and tears of the everyday. He has several short stories in print. 'The Bottle and the Trowel' was recently published in the award-winning anthology, High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories, edited by Jonathan Taylor and Karen Stevens. Below, you can read an extract taken from that story. The piece deals with a young Irish working man in crisis talking to his hospitalised Irish friend, who is in a coma from an accident that happened through negligence on a construction site in London.

Extract from 'The Bottle and the Trowel'

That smarmy safety officer sidled up to me the other day, Jerry, as I was setting me profiles up. A firm’s man through and through: ‘Look, lad, we all know how you feel. It’s agreed that there was a glitch in McLain’s system, that wasn’t picked-up. Which has now been rectified. New stratagems are being put in to place for the next build. Is that OK, my old son? I don’t think recrimination is the way forward, do you?’

‘Yeah, and my mate’s up shit creek without a paddle. Will ye cop on for feck’s sake!’ I fired back at him.

He stormed off with the huff, ‘You just can’t talk to some people, you’ll never ...’ mutter, mutter, mutter, Jerry. Those yellow fecking jacket boys do your head in, don’t they?

Then a soft union skin came in to the canteen, as I was eating me scran, ‘Look, Lorcan, it’s not worth rocking the boat over this,’ he said, in a hushed sort of a way.

I know they’re shitting their knickers over the Health and Safety Executive’s visit next week, Jerry. They’ve got wind of my bolshie mutterings around site. I should’ve been keeping me head down. Now they’re really pressurising me to sign. What would you do, Jerry?

Hughie Cairns, my old tradesman used to slag our gaffers off to fuck: Mushrooms, that’s all we are to them. They like to keep us in the dark and feed us shit. Mushrooms. Then he’d laugh his head off, Jerry. I learnt stacks from Hughie. Super glue that in to your mind, gosser, he’d say, as we pointed our brickwork up. Hughie would have seen this coming a mile off.

I don’t want them to get away with this, I really don’t, but the way things are ...

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Featured Poet: Helen Ivory

Photo by Dave Gutteridge

Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is a tutor for the UEA/NCW online  creative writing programme. Fool’s World, a collaborative Tarot with Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press), won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me appeared from KFS in 2016, and a chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City was published by SurVision Press (Ireland) earlier this year. She lives in Norwich with her husband, the poet Martin Figura. Her website is

About The Anatomical Venus
An Anatomical Venus is an eighteenth-century anatomical wax sculpture of an idealized woman, a heady mix of eroticism, death and biological verisimilitude. Venus could be opened up and pulled apart by all the men that studied her. She would give up her secrets the first time of asking. The Anatomical Venus examines how women have been portrayed as ‘other’; as witches; as hysterics with wandering wombs and as beautiful corpses cast in wax, or on mortuary slabs in TV box sets. A hanged woman addresses the author of the Malleus Maleficarum, a woman diagnosed with ‘Housewife Psychosis’ recounts her dreams to Freud, and a sex robot has the ear of her keeper. The Anatomical Venus imagines the lives of women sketched in asylum notes and pictures others, shut inside cabinets of curiosity. You can read a poem from the collection below, and see further details about the book here

The Hanged Woman Addresses The Reverend Heinrich Kramer 

To conclude. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.
Malleus Maleficarum  1486, Revs Kramer and Sprenger 

Do you cower in your crib at night
against encroaching evil tongues?
I picture you skittish inside your nightgown
as swollen tempests swoop upon your roof
and rattle the door you bolted thrice
against the dark invisible.

You said my womb knew such hunger
that I might devour a man entire.
Pray tell me in your clearest chapel voice
what tales they told you at the breast? 
A pretty Devil’s pact that would render
your creeping flesh delicious!

A sough of wind stirs papers on your desk.
You say women have weak memories,
then you shall be perplexed
that, despite my ruined body in the noose,
I recall each gnawing passage of your book.
When the sun awakens, they will cut me down.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Featured Poet: Helen Calcutt

Helen Calcutt's poetry and criticism has featured in publications including the Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Brooklyn Review, and Southbank Poetry. Her debut pamphlet Sudden rainfall was published by Perdika Press in 2014. It was a PBS Choice. Her full-length collection, Unable Mother, described as 'a violent and tender grapple with our cosy notions of motherhood' (Robert Peake) was published by V. Press in September 2018. It was re-created into a dance-theatre performance, and then into short film, by Redstorm Productions under the title Naked.

Helen was awarded a professional development grant from Arts Council England to write her second poetry collection A mountain that is your grief you can't utter in April 2019. She is creator and editor of acclaimed anthology, Eighty-Four (Verve Press, 2019), a book of verse on the subject of male suicide, grief, and hope. It was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards 2019.  Helen is also successful dancer and choreographer, working with a specialism in the conversation between text and movement. She also works as a tutor and mentor for the likes of Poetry By Heart, Writing West Midlands, and The Poetry School, and is a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. Her website is:

Below you can read a poem from her collection, Unable Mother


This stable feels like a boat. Its roof rocks the hollow. 
There are windows on every side, concealed.  
Though it feels like a heart exposed, 
if hearts are water.
There are horses hanging like oars. 
The darkest pool touches their eyes, 
where their lives are suspended. 
My hands are trembling. 
I imagine they’re wings. That my mind could navigate 
the darkest crossing, 
if these crossings were waters, 
or a drowned field –

and by field, I mean
the resting place of my daughter. 
The animal world that keeps her, 
before I wake her.