Wednesday 23 June 2021

Mona Dash, "Let Us Look Elsewhere"

Mona Dash is the author of  A Roll of the Dice : A Story of Loss, Love and Genetics (Linen Press, 2019) winner of the Eyelands International Book Awards for memoir, and the very recent, Let Us Look Elsewhere (Dahlia Books, June 2021). Her other published books are A Certain Way, Untamed Heart, and Dawn-drops. Her work has been listed in leading competitions such as Novel London 20, SI Leeds Literary award, Fish, Bath, Bristol, Leicester Writes and Asian Writer. She has been widely published in international journals and more than twenty anthologies. A graduate in Telecoms Engineering, she holds an MBA, and also a Masters in Creative Writing (with distinction). She works  in a global tech company and lives in London.

About Let Us Look Elsewhere, by Mona Dash

A young boy refuses to ferry his boat. A woman orders a British accent to fit in. A lover sends messages into the void.  

Disconnection and desire go hand in hand in this powerful collection.  From the bustling streets of Mumbai to the glitz and glamour of Vegas, and the everyday streets of London, these beautifully observed stories explore human frailties and triumph.

This is a collection of fourteen short stories, many of which were listed in various short story competitions and an earlier version of the entire collection was also shortlisted in the SI Leeds literary award. 

The settings are in turn exotic, remote and also familiar; and whether it is in the Arctic region, or a little village in Odisha, there are two themes stitching the stories. Firstly, multiple and diverse identities, the travesty of belonging and feeling like an outsider: many of the stories explore situational belonging and identity, such as 'Natural Accents,' 'Golems of Prague,' 'Temple Cleaner,' 'The Sense of Skin,' 'Boatboy.' Though 'Boatboy' is different, as it is the only one based on a real incident in history.

Desire, passion, sensuality, especially of women: this is the second theme running through the collection. The women in the stories are trying to find themselves, often through love, intimacy; they are sometimes rebelling against the spaces they have been forced into. This exploration into the complexity of a woman’s mind and her often ambiguous secret world is explored through the stories like 'Lovers in a Room,' 'Secrets,' 'Watching the Aurora,' 'Inside the City,' 'Formations,' 'Fitted Lids,' 'That which is unreal,' 'Why does the cricket sing?'

You can read more about Let Us Look Elsewhere on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a sample from the collection.

From Let Us Look Elsewhere

From 'The Sense of Skin' 

I watched Ana sleep, her mouth open, the butterfly tattoo on her shoulder poised to fly. Her skin, lavender soapscented, paper-dry, dolphin-cold. I spooned her and she continued sleeping. 

The morning had been busy, with several animals to do. Foxes, rabbits, minks; tool sharpened, inserted into the skin like a needle, taken off like a sock, skin discarded like clothes. We’d learnt from our fathers and uncles who worked on the farm and came home in the evenings, their breath like ice, to the crackling fire in the living room. They brought back pelt that was slightly damaged and unfit to be sold, so we always had warm rugs, furs on our mothers’ and aunts’ shoulders. They brought back cold cuts of rabbit to pickle or eat with coarse dark rye bread. Here in Ostrobothnia, the scent of skin was always alive. 

At home, in the evening I filleted the fish, scales collecting on the blade, while Ana watched me, lips parted, teeth uneven like small pebbles. Ana loves animals, she’s the kind who walks other people’s dogs, rehomes straggly cats and lets spiders spin webs in dark corners of the house. 

‘Do you skin your animals alive?’ she asked, her bright green eyes trying to hide her disgust. It wasn’t the first time she had questioned, or the first time I’d explained.

‘We look after our animals. They die peacefully before we skin. Besides, live animals fight back and can hurt with sharp 6 claws, their fur could get damaged.’ 

‘Over-fed, then slaughtered and skinned. Nice.’ 

‘Have you been talking to the Oikeutta eläimille again?’ 

‘I don’t need to talk to animal activists. Don’t you think I know? Those Arctic foxes in small cages. You ever seen the fear on their faces?’

‘It’s not that bad at all.’ I was sure she had been talking to someone.

‘I went for a walk the other day, over to your cousin’s side of the farm. The poor foxes, they don’t even howl anymore. Scared to silence. They can smell the scent of dying skin.’ 

‘I can take you for a tour if you want. Please don’t walk around like that on your own.’ She worried me for an instant, I needed to be careful about what she saw.

Friday 18 June 2021

Charlotte Barnes, "All I See Is You"

Charlotte “Charley” Barnes is an author and academic from Worcestershire, UK. She is a Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton, and has guest lectured at a number of other West Midlands institutions including the University of Birmingham and University of Worcester. 

Charley has published a number of poetry works, most recently her debut full collection, Lore: Flowers, Folklore, and Footnotes (Black Pear Press, 2021). Alongside this, she writes crime fiction under Charlotte Barnes. Charley is predominantly interested in representation of (violent) women in contemporary crime, and this is reflected heavily in her fiction. 

Her most recent publication, All I See Is You, was published by Bloodhound Books in May 2021. Charley’s next novel, forthcoming with Bloodhound Books, is due for release in August 2021.

About All I See Is You, by Charlotte Barnes

All I See Is You is a psychological thriller narrated by M. 

Hinged on memory lapses, misplaced characters and suspected murder, the novel follows M as she tries to locate memories that have been misplaced through childhood and into adulthood.

While M is working with a counsellor to try to recall these missing experiences, she is also trying to nurture a new romantic relationship with Caleb who lives across the street from her. 

But Caleb doesn’t yet know M exists …

The book is an intricate narrative packed with twists and unreliability, making it the perfect read for fans of a narrator you can’t trust. 

Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From All I See Is You

It seems strange to confess to something that you don’t know for certain you’ve done.

At heart, I’m an honest person. One of my earliest memories is of finding a man’s wallet on the pavement, not fifty yards up the road from our house. I picked it up and, without looking inside it, I took it home to my father. He glanced inside and made a show of checking the cards. But, when he thought I wasn’t looking, he took a slim fold of notes from the back of the wallet and stashed them into his trouser pocket.


‘Kid?’ He raised his eyebrow. At the age of nine, this felt like a challenge.

‘Nothing,’ I said, then went back to my business of identifying flowers along the roadside, which probably felt more important to me at the time anyway.

At heart, I’m an honest person, yas. But I’ve never been especially big on confrontation. One of the reasons this is one of my earliest memories is that my parents spent the majority of my formative years arguing with each other – not over me, I hasten to add. I was never a troublesome child – at least, not that they were aware of. But over pretty much everything else there was to argue about.

‘Did you pay the water bill?’

‘What do you mean you didn’t get beef?’

‘How are you breathing so damn loud?’

Minor issues, really, in the grand scheme of things. But it doesn’t take a therapist to work out that the issues they were arguing over probably weren’t really the issues they were arguing over. It did take a therapist to reassure me it wasn’t unusual that I couldn’t remember it all though. The first time I relayed my pick-and-mix childhood to a counsellor – at some point during my three years at university, when well-being is shoved down your throat – I asked whether it was normal, to have misplaced these things so easily.

‘What is normal?’ she asked.

I hate people answering a question with a question. But I said, as plainly as I could, ‘Being able to hold on to your childhood memories, for a start.’

She laughed. ‘They’re unpleasant though. Why would you want to hold on to them?’

‘Is that how it works?’

‘Sometimes.’ She made a note of something. ‘Do you remember everything bad that’s ever happened to you?’

It felt like a trick question. ‘I mean, how would I know?’

‘Okay, do you remember everything good?’

‘No, I suppose not. How could I?’

‘So, with this limited filing system available to our brains, why would we use that space up by holding on to memories that are bad, when we don’t even have enough space for memories that are good?’

It didn’t seem like the most sophisticated explanation for the human psyche I’d ever come across, but it sort of made some sense. For the years after that, I never thought there was anything strange in misplacing things that didn’t fit inside the proverbial filing system of my mind. Argument with a friend? No, thank you. An exam grade I wasn’t happy with? Absolutely not. Being fired from a job? Eesh, pass.

There’s a problem with that though.

See, at heart, I’m an honest person. But I’m not exactly the most reliable …

Thursday 17 June 2021

Pattie McCarthy, "wifthing"


Pattie McCarthy is the author of seven books of poetry and over a dozen chapbooks. wifthing (2021) is her sixth book with Apogee Press — previous Apogee books by McCarthy include, most recently, Quiet Book (2016) and Marybones (2012). She is a non-tenure track Associate Professor in the English Department at Temple University, where she teaches Literature and Creative Writing. 

You can read more work by Pattie McCarthy on Creative Writing at Leicester here.

About wifthing

By Susan Howe

Pattie McCarthy's meticulously researched wifthing sequence traverses history's gaps and silences throughout the medieval English vocabularies she has always been drawn to. Beginning with the fourteenth century English mystic Margery Kempe who wrote through spirit dictation, wifthing scours vows of chastity, devotions, pregnant queens, cross-dressing heretics, goodwives, births, daugherthings, boychiks, court records, kaleidoscopic New England witchcraft testimonies. McCarthy's ear is sharp, her eye, demanding and disciplined. Eighty unpunctuated sonnets, both austere and rebellious, are carefully arranged on each page as verbal grid maps through pre- and postmodernity. Small things, various hagiographies, fabric [Latin textus], piecework syntax, 'The goodwyf will call you back.' Through threads and threats of mothering history the intercession of love pardoned and restored with fury and reverence.

Below, you can read three poems from the book.

From wifthing, by Pattie McCarthy


you wolf   what is this cloth that you put on
you strumpet   a dated noun of middle
english unknown origin   not of her
own cunnyng   thou art comyn here to lure
our wifthings from us & whether she means 
with her heart what she does with her mouth   
vernacular patience with ostentatious 
weeping it's a lucky creature escaped the fire
take it in the barn & sound
it out figure it out amongst yourselves
margery kempe gives birth & gives birth & gives
birth & gives birth & gives birth & gives birth &
gives birth & gives birth & gives birth & gives birth
& gives birth & gives birth & gives birth & gives

qweyne wifthing

my daughter asked me how babies are made
I told her they're made when a tudor twice
your age fucks you you've got to lean
into it like a volta or a polska
& like a volta   which elizabeth
the future will dance with leicester     she'll make
it semi-respectable but not dignified
doughter & heyr   keep your dress from flying 
up with your left hand & his right hand firm
beneath your busk his left thigh against your right
a busk is a splinter a stiffening
strip that shifts      the volta should appear here
tastes like something on fire in my mouth
where is his body now   the relict asks


tastes like something on fire in my mouth
I want to live forever whisper
that into your husband's ear tonight abed
my invisible scrutinized midlife
goodwyf body   minivan & tankini
my children say back to me phrases I 
say to them in darkness things fall silent
at dinner you could start an argument
this creature bled for fifty-two days &
the goodwyf body splits up the middle
winged textured like paint two figures
looking at a landscape shoulder to shoulder
facing opposite directions it comes
back to you like this without the word for it

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Ruth Stacey, "The Dark Room: Letters to Krista"


Ruth Stacey is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Worcester, England. Her first poetry collection Queen, Jewel, Mistress was published by Eyewear Publishing, 2015, and her second full collection, I, Ursula, was published in January 2020 by V. Press Poetry. Her pamphlets include Inheritance, published by Mothers Milk Books in 2017. A duet with another poet, Katy Wareham Morris, the collection explores 19th century experience of motherhood, contrasted with a 21st century mother's voice. Inheritance won Best Collaborative Work at the 2018 Saboteur Awards. Three books have been published with the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. A poetic memoir, How to Wear Grunge, was published in 2018. An experimental pamphlet, Viola the Virgin Queen, illustrated by Desdemona McCannon, was published in 2020, and Ruth's latest work, The Dark Room: Letters to Krista, a collaboration with Krista Kay, was published in 2021. Stacey is currently writing an imagined memoir in poetry of the tarot artist Pamela Colman Smith, as part of her PhD study. 

Ruth's website is here. You can read more about her collection I, Ursula on Creative Writing at Leicester here.

About The Dark Room: Letters to Krista

By Ruth Stacey

I contacted Krista (a Portland, USA, based photographer, who photographed some of the people from the 90s Seattle scene) about using a photograph of her friend Demri Parrott for the cover of my poetry memoir, How to Wear Grunge, but due to a message being missed that didn't happen and I commissioned a painted portrait of Demri instead. Following the publication of the HTWG book, Krista saw the message and contacted me in early summer of 2020, during the pandemic. What followed was a correspondence that revealed many common interests and enabled conversations around the themes of loss, nostalgia for youth, memory, vibrant life and tragic death, preserving memories, whilst sharing our photography and poetry. Those conversations become prose poem letters in The Dark Room, which Krista answered with her enigmatic and compelling photographs. I really enjoy working collaboratively with a visual artist. Creating a sequence with text and image to tell a narrative allows different pathways through the stories that are told. Being able to meet another artist and create a new artefact, and a friendship, was an uplifting experience during a difficult year of lockdown, and these poems reflect the light that is found through art and friendship.

By Krista Kay

This book, The Dark Room, is a collaboration between Ruth Stacey, a sensitive, lovely, deeply talented writer, and myself. We have built a friendship and exchanged letters over the past year or so and many topics we have discussed revolve around memory, nostalgia, regret, love, loss. Ruth has written about Demri before (How to Wear Grunge) and I was struck by her profound ability to think deeply and encapsulate with words the importance of understanding complicated lives. Demri has often come up in our conversations. Demri inspired everyone she touched and made the people around her feel beautiful. I have wanted to share her in a way that honored her bright energy and this book is one way to begin to do that. Ruth and I honor others in our lives that we have lost and together we seek to make sense of their absence and our lives forever changed.

Below, you can read an excerpt from The Dark Room.

From The Dark Room: Letters to Krista

Monday 7 June 2021

Stephen Johnson, "The Eighth: Mahler and the World in 1910"


Stephen Johnson studied at the Northern School of Music, Manchester, and composition under Alexander Goehr at Leeds University, then at Manchester University. Since then he has written regularly for The Independent and The Guardian, and was Chief Music Critic of The Scotsman (1998-9). He is the author of Bruckner Remembered (Faber 1998), and studies of Mahler and Wagner (Naxos 2006, 2007). As a BBC broadcaster he presented Radio 3’s Discovering Music for fourteen years, as well as a series of fourteen programmes about the symphonies of Bruckner. He is also a regular contributor to the BBC Music Magazine

Stephen's radio documentary, Shostakovich: Journey into Light, was nominated for a Sony Award in 2007. And in 2009 his radio documentary, Vaughan Williams: Valiant for Truth, won a Sony Gold Award. His book about music and mental health, How Shostakovich Changed My Mind (based on the Shostakovich documentary) was published in Spring 2018, followed in 2020 by a book about Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, The Eighth: Mahler and the World in 1910 (Faber). In 1997, Stephen began composing again. His orchestral work Behemoth Dances had its premiere in Moscow in April 2016, followed by its UK premiere in London in May. In January-February 2019 his Clarinet Quintet Angel’s Arc was performed by Emma Johnson and the Carducci Quartet. The premiere of his String Quartet, to be performed by the Brodsky Quartet, is planned for November of this year. 

Stephen's website is here. You can read more about his book How Shostakovich Changed My Mind on Creative Writing at Leicester here

About The Eighth: Mahler and the World in 1910, by Stephen Johnson

As the title suggests, this book attempts to shed light on Mahler’s epochal achievement in composing and staging the premiere of the Eighth Symphony by putting it in as broad a cultural and political context as possible. It is therefore also a book about the extraordinary period of Mahler’s lifetime in which adopted home city Vienna became a kind of modern Athens: a fiery crucible in which so many ideas that inform the modern world had their first, dazzling flowering. Not just in music, but also in literature, the visual arts, and in the revolutionary new discipline of psychoanalysis, the energy created when freshly emancipated Jewry met and embraced the greater German artistic and intellectual traditions had far-reaching consequences. At the same time there were ominous political undercurrents, soon to lead to far darker consequences. The book attempts to show how Mahler’s Eighth Symphony reflects and engages with all of these, and goes on to examine the work he began in 1910 and very nearly finished, the Tenth Symphony, concluding that understanding of Mahler is incomplete if its message is ignored.

Below, you can read an extract from the book.

From The Eighth: Mahler and the World in 1910

A Gift to the Nation

One comment Mahler made about his Eighth Symphony has baffled several of his commentators: he refers to it as his "gift to the entire nation" (Geschenk der ganzen Nation). Mahler goes on to call it "a great joy-bringer," thereby aligning the work directly with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and particularly with its concluding Ode an die Freude, "Ode to Joy." But where the Schiller text set by Beethoven offers its "kiss to the whole world" (Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!), Mahler offers his to "the entire nation" (der ganzen Nation), by which, it seems clear enough, he specifically means the German nation. Mahler a German nationalist? It seems unlikely, and yet it is possible to argue that there were aspects of the Eighth Symphony that Mahler considered specifically German. For a start, there is the setting, in the symphony's significantly larger second part, of the final section of the iconic text by the iconic German writer and thinker. We have already seen how closely Mahler identified with Goethe, to the extent of knowing passages from Faust Part II by heart. As Mahler would have been well aware, he wouldn't have been alone in this, at least not amongst educated German-speakers in the first decade of the twentieth century. For many in the larger German world, and particularly in the recently unified German lands, Goethe was the proudest of all the young nation's cultural exhibits. The breadth of Goethe's achievement was awe-inspiring in itself: poetry, novels, dramas, literary and aesthetic criticism, research into botany, theory of colour and, from the age of thirty-three, a career as a highly active and influential statesman at the Ducal Court of Weimar - it must have seemed that there was nothing Goethe couldn't do. He was the type of the Universalische Mensch, the "universal man" - or rather, since the word Mensch is supposed to be non-gender specific, "universal human being." (Mensch remains, however, a masculine noun). Though Goethe had been dead for nearly eight decades in 1910, his stature and his contemporary "presentness" was as high and as relevant as ever. For some, Goethe was more a prophet than an artist: hadn't he predicted in Faust Part II, with almost forensic precision, the way human society would develop after the Industrial Revolution - an epochal event, it was now argued, with far more important long-term consequences than the French Revolution? (Downplaying French attitudes and innovations had become fashionable in Germany since the newborn country's emphatic victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1). 

By 1910 Goethe had become a figure of almost religious significance. To take just one example, as Mahler was preparing for the premiere of his Faust-centred Eighth Symphony, Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher, mystic and founder of the science (or pseudo-science, if you prefer) of Anthroposophy was making the first designs for his fifteen-hundred seater Goetheanum - a cathedral-like synthesis of artistic design and sensory effects consecrated, naturally, to the Universalische Mensch. At one point in 1910, Stefan Zweig was rendered "dizzy" by meeting the daughter of Goethe's physician, Dr Vogel. Zweig later developed quite a flair for meeting people who offered a touch of physical contact with "the heights of the heroic and Olympian world ... But nothing stirred me so much as the face of that old lady, the last among the living to have met the eye of Goethe himself. And perhaps I, in my turn, am the last who can say today: 'I knew someone whose head was touched tenderly by Goethe's hand for a moment.'" Nor was this kind of reverence exclusive to the intellectual elite. I remember, on one of my earliest trips to Germany, meeting an old man who delivered, after several beers, an unexpectedly hilarious account of his modestly middle-class family hymning Bismarck to the theme of the final of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, while the bust of Goethe beamed approvingly from his place of honour on top of the family piano, just as he did in countless other German households ... 

Sunday 6 June 2021

Emma Lee, "The Significance of a Dress"

Emma Lee’s most recent collection is The Significance of a Dress (Arachne Press, 2020). Previous publications include Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, UK 2015), Mimicking a Snowdrop (Thynks Press, 2014), Bitter Fame (You Write On, 2011) and Yellow Torchlight and the Blues (Original Plus, 2004). She co-edited Welcome to Leicester with Ambrose Musiyiwa (Dahlia Books, 2016) and Over Land Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge with Kathleen Bell and Siobhan Logan (Five Leaves, 2015). Her essay “Spoken Word as a way of Dismantling Barriers and Creating Space for Healing” was included in Verbs that Move Mountains (Sabotage) and she presented a paper at the Jungle Factory Symposium organised by the Leicester Migration Network. Emma Lee reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip, Sabotage Reviews, was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib and blogs at She was the first person to win the Saboteur Award for Best Reviewer twice.

About The Significance of a Dress

These are poems informed by and immersed in politics. Whether investigating the lives of refugees, families or women in crisis, everything has a significance beyond the surface. Here are beautiful, hair-raising words and form, utterly from the heart.

You can read more about The Significance of a Dress on the publisher's website here.

Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 


From The Significance of a Dress, by Emma Lee

The significance of a dress

          Refugee camp, northern Iraq

Even if home is makeshift and her carriage is a borrowed
pair of shoes that dance over gravel baked in the desert heat,
a bride still wants to feel special, at least for one day.
No one can afford to buy when twenty neighbours share
a latrine and there's a constant vigil against disease.
Tulin, named after a daughter, offers gown hire, make-up 
and hairstyling that will withstand humid evenings.
"I don't ask how old they are," says the beautician. A mural 
outside shows a girl in a white gown holding a teddy bear.
The future is tomorrow. Next year is a question.
A wedding is a party, a welcome, a sign of hope.
The dresses sparkle with sun-reflected diamante
but the gravel paths of the camp leave the hems stained.

I saw life jackets left on the beach

           Kos, Summer 2015

I asked the waiter, but he shrugged.
Later he loaded crates into the manager’s car.
She looked dead on her feet, said something
about an extra sitting at dinner.
But there weren’t any new guests.
It was my two weeks in the sun. 
I’d eaten nothing but lettuce
for weeks to look OK in my bikini.

The waiter stopped flirting, went quiet.
I followed him to the derelict hotel where tents
had sprung up like mushrooms overnight.
He didn’t want to talk. I didn’t push it.
You learn that at a call centre. Some people
think you’re a machine and they just poke buttons.
Others, you’re the only person they’ve talked to all day.
I’d only come to sunbathe 
so helping give out food didn’t seem much.

One mother told me men drifted around
and she didn’t think her daughters were safe.
After their journey, they didn’t want confinement
to a crowded room. I became a chaperone.
I taught them hopscotch on the beach.
Their laughter such a strange sound.
Paperwork’s slow at the best of times.
I left my euros for the hotel to pass on.
I hope it helped. I bought them sanitary pads.
People don’t think about that: 
their bodies capable of creating life. 

Friday 4 June 2021

Stephanie Carty, "Inside Fictional Minds"


Dr Stephanie Carty is a writer, trainer and NHS Consultant Clinical Psychologist living in Gloucestershire. She runs sell-out courses called Psychology of Character and offers character clinics to authors. Her short fiction is widely published and has been shortlisted and placed in competitions including Bristol Short Story Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and the Bridport Prize. Her novella-in-flash Three Sisters of Stone won Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards. She is represented by Curtis Brown. Her website is here.

About Inside Fictional Minds, by Dr Stephanie Carty

With a focus on practical application, Inside Fictional Minds provides a summary  of psychological approaches to understanding and developing characters. A wide range of topics and tasks aims to help the writer uncover why their characters act as they do and how to take the reader of this journey of discovery. 

You can find more details about the book on the publisher's website here.

Below, you can read an extract from the book. 

From Inside Fictional Minds


If you have a narcissistic character in your story you may find it useful to consider what lies beneath the apparent self-belief.

A narcissistic character will act as if they are superior to everyone else. They believe they should be revered and get what they want without any effort as they are special. They have superficial relationships that exist only to gain admiration.

However, this can be viewed as a ‘mask’ that the character wears to protect themselves. Underneath, they are fragile with an intense focus on how others view them. They can’t tolerate being a ‘normal’ person who may make mistakes, not be highly regarded by everyone or show any needs. They constantly belittle others and seek praise in order to avoid any painful truths getting through about their lack of ‘special’ status.

If this sounds like your character, then they may have ended up that way through two different paths. One is a spoilt child who was given everything, not taught limits or to follow rules, and lavishly praised by parents despite making no effort. They learnt to expect to be treated as ‘special’ which is not how the real world operates. The other path is those who couldn’t meet the high expectations of their parents and learnt to cover their shame at feeling not good enough by lying, boasting and inventing the mask of being ‘special.’

  • If you have a character with narcissistic qualities, does your story show their intense focus on others’ view of them? 
  • Do you have or could you add key scenes that show a time when the reality of them not being ‘special’ threatens to rise to awareness, so they step up their narcissistic behaviours or use another defence mechanism to avoid this? 
  • Considering the two pathways above, what was the route to your character developing these traits?

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Rachel J Fenton, "Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York"

Rachel J Fenton is a working-class writer from Yorkshire now living in Oamaru, Aotearoa. Her poems have been published in English, The Rialto, Magma, Landfall, and Ethel Zine, and widely anthologised. Her blog is here.

About Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York

By Rachel J Fenton

Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York (Ethel Zine and Micro Press, 2021) began as a journal of the research I was undertaking in New York, in the Public Library and the Morgan Library and Museum, for a graphic biography of Brontë’s best but little-known friend Mary Taylor. 

Thematically arranged around the archive, the poems in Beerstorming explore what it means to go looking for correspondence between two people and find much more, with help from friends and a few beers.

Below, you can read two poems from the collection.

From Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York

Referencing the Collection 

Charlotte, how do you feel, here
among the brownstones instead 

of Helstones? That “lump of perfection,”
Rose York? What can be said in longhand

next to your rushed slant? Cursively,
we are not alike, as Martha to Mary

Taylor. Not sisters but friends, 
merely miles by moorland in one respect

though continents, nay worlds
apart where we will end.

Permission to Take Photographs

Hours from now I will pin-point the difference between undulate and pivotal when referring to tassels twisted from lucky threads to titillate six or five old men while a woman takes pictures with her phone for her husband who has his back to the stage. He is turning red. A jazz band plays old time hits making much of a trombone. Lederhosen-wearing wait-staff compete for our service. My friend knows the barkeep and introduces me. I say: You look like my grandfather, when he was alive, obviously. My friend decants a pitcher into the two large glasses we have drained. It’s my fault. I had instructed: tea, food, beer, in that order. We are here via a French café and Korea Town. The burlesque dancer has beautiful breasts, has never fed children; her nipples will respond to giving the way a stoic hardens to loss. Of course, I would say that after a tankard and a half in Bierhaus NYC. But this is Monday morning. I am in The Morgan and I have permission to take photographs of Mary Taylor’s letters to her best friend Charlotte Brontë. The only stipulation, I must sign, they are for my private research use, must not be shared. The Berg has its own rules.