Tuesday 22 March 2022

Gregory Wilson, "The Civil Service Fast Stream - Career Opportunities"

On Thursday 31 March 2022, 10-11am (online via MS-Teams), there will be a special guest talk and Q&A by members of the Civil Service Fast Stream, working across government. The presenters will talk through the application process, their experiences on the Fast Stream and careers in the Civil Service more generally. You can read more about the Civil Service Fast Stream in a special blog post by a Leicester University graduate below. 

About the Civil Service Fast Stream, by Gregory Wilson

The Civil Service Fast Stream is The Times Top 100 number 1 Graduate Employer for the third year running! It is also a Disability Confident Leader Employer, and prominent on the Social Mobility Employer Index.

My name is Gregory Wilson, I studied my English BA at the University of Leicester, starting in 2014 and graduating in 2018. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do next, and after doing some work for a restaurant and then a year in local government I applied for the Fast Stream and was accepted into the 2020 cohort, starting in October of that year.

The stream I was accepted onto was the Finance Fast Stream, but it is worth mentioning there are fifteen different streams to apply for, with some changing each year. From English to Finance was a bit of a change in direction, but that just goes to show the varied skills they look for in each stream: you don’t have to know finance to start finance … Believe me!

Many of the streams offer qualifications alongside. For the Finance Fast Stream, you have an option of several routes into becoming a Chartered Accountant with the study support and the course funded, alongside a competitive salary. There are also several other streams that offer industry-relevant qualifications which can really give you a kickstart in a new career.

You will be placed on year-long postings and rotated to different departments and locations. This is one of the most exciting parts of the scheme for me - the opportunity to work within different departments, with different teams. Experiencing the diverse work accomplished within the Civil Service is a fantastic experience.

My first posting was with the Home Office. Starting during a pandemic meant I joined and left the team having never been into the office or met any colleagues face to face! Despite this, it was still a positive experience, and working from home was well facilitated and seamless. But it must be said, I am far happier on my current hybrid working arrangement at the Department for Transport, coming into the office and seeing colleagues in person.

The applications for starting this September/October are closed, but will open again for the 2023 intake in September. There are very useful FAQs on the website here.

For me this has been a life-changing opportunity to do work that makes a difference and train for a very relevant skillset, I hope there is something it can offer you, or maybe someone you know.

Thursday 17 March 2022

Guest Lectures, Masterclasses and Events, Spring 2022

There are lots of forthcoming Creative Writing events happening this term in the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester. Here are some of them! They are all free and open to students, staff and the public. If you'd like to attend one of them, and aren't already registered, please email Jonathan Taylor, jt265[at]le[dot]ac[dot]uk for further details. 

Anita Sivakumaran: Guest Talk on Writing Fiction
Tuesday 1 March 2022, 2-3pm, Attenborough room 002

Anita Sivakumaran is the author of several books. Her first was a poetry collection titled Sips That Make a Poison Woman. Her novel The Queen fictionalised the life of a famous South Indian film star turned politician and was adapted into one of the most successful Indian television series of 2019. The Birth of Kali, a short story collection, followed, reimagining Hindu myths from a feminist perspective. Her latest novel, Cold Sun, published by Little Brown in 2021, is the first in the 'DI Patel' series, following a Leicester-born Scotland Yard detective. Cosmopolitan called it 'a super-gripping new thriller series ... will have you totally hooked.' The Times describes Anita as 'an exciting new name in crime fiction.' The second book in the series, set largely in Leicester, is due out this summer. Anita has Masters degrees from Bangalore and Lancaster Universities, and a PhD from the University of Leicester.

Kadija George: Guest Lecture on Decolonising Publishing through Independent Black Publishers
Monday 21 March 2022, 4-5pm, Ken Edwards room 527

Mainstream publishers are becoming more diverse in relation to their human resources and in the authors they publish. Do independent Black publishers still have a role in decolonising publishing? Dr. Kadija George Sesay is a scholar activist with a focus on radical publishing. She set up the Inscribe Writer’s Development Programme for Black British writers at Peepal Tree Press in 2004. Her role includes publishing a series of anthologies and chapbooks. She freelances for other publishers on book projects such as co-editing IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain with Courttia Newland. She is the founder of SABLE LitMag and an app, ‘AfriPoeTree.’ She recently co-authored This is the Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf in 50 Books with Professor Joan Anim-Addo and Dr. Deidre Osborne. She has edited several anthologies and received several awards for her work in the creative arts.

Literary Leicester Festival 2022
Wednesday 23 March 2022 to Saturday 26 March 2022

Free and open to all! You can see the full line-up for this year's events here

Leicester University Student Creative Writing Showcase
Wednesday 23 March, 430-545pm, Attenborough Arts Studio 1

Free and all welcome! As part of Literary Leicester Festival, we'll be holding a showcase event for University of Leicester BA, MA and PhD Creative Writing students to read and perform their poetry, stories and scripts. If you're a student and would like to get involved, please email Jonathan Taylor on jt265[at]le[dot]ac[dot]uk. 

Barbara Cooke: Guest Talk on Editing and Publishing 
PLEASE NOTE RESCHEDULED SLOT: Wednesday 30 March 2022, 10am-12, Attenborough room 111.

Please pre-book if you'd like to attend this session but aren't registered on the MA in Creative Writing. Places are limited. 
This session, which is part of the MA in Creative Writing but also open to others, will look at the day-to-day tasks and demands of entry-level editorial jobs. Barbara will also be looking back on how work experience in a publishing house can benefit your professional writing life, from understanding how production works to collaborating with an illustrator. Dr Barbara Cooke is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University and Co-Executive Editor of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh. She began her career in 2007 as an Editorial Assistant in London, working on such challenging and groundbreaking titles as Xtra Naughty Cakes and Take the Kids to Paris. Later, she collaborated with illustrator Amy Dodd to produce the biography Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford.

Cathi Rae: A Masterclass on Performance Poetry
Wednesday 30 March 2022, 2-4pm, Attenborough room 204

Please pre-book if you'd like to attend this session but aren't registered on the MA in Creative Writing. Places are limited. 
Cathi Rae is a spoken word artist and performance poet, performing as headline poet throughout the UK. She is a multiple Slam Poetry Champion and is currently teaching a class on "How to become a spoken word poet" at the Attenborough Arts Centre. She has been described as " A spoken word icon" by no less a poet than Joelle Taylor. Her workshop, which is part of the MA in Creative Writing but is open to all, will cover:

  • The nuts & bolts of the UK spoken word scene
  • The reasons why a poet may want to develop a profile via spoken word poetry
  • Discussion around some of the best talent currently working in the UK

There will also be practical work around performance and writing for performance. Participants will need to bring at least one poem that they feel might work as a spoken word piece.

Civil Service Fast Stream Q&A Session
Thursday 31 March 2022, 10-11am, online via MS-Teams

This one-hour session is an opportunity to learn about careers in the Civil Service. It will be hosted by Civil Service Fast Streamers, working across government. Please bring along any questions you have relating to the Fast Stream and wider Civil Service. The presenters will be happy to talk through any part of the application process, their experiences on the Fast Stream or anything else related. You can see more information about the Civil Service Fast Stream here

Jenny Kane: Perfecting Your Fiction Masterclass
Wednesday 11 May 2022, 10am-12, Attenborough room 210

Please pre-book if you'd like to attend this session but aren't registered on the MA in Creative Writing. Places are limited. 
Writing the draft of your first novel is just the beginning of the journey towards publication. To make sure that your novel reaches beyond a publisher or agents slush pile, you need to ask a number of questions of your work. Does this story work on a sentence-by-sentence level? Is it written in the best possible order? Am I drowning in exposition? Jenny addresses these questions and more in her two-hour masterclass, dedicated to elevating your editing process to the next level. This masterclass is part of the MA in Creative Writing, but there are also a limited number of places open to others. Over the past 17 years, Jenny has written 36 novels under the pen names Jenny Kane (romcoms), Jennifer Ash (medieval crime), and Kay Jaybee (erotica). Sixteen of these novels have been bestsellers, including the Midsummer at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange and Winter Fires at Mill Grange series, A Cornish Escape and Another Cup of Coffee (written as Jenny Kane), The Folville Chronicle series, (written as Jennifer Ash), The Perfect Submissive series, (written as Kay Jaybee). Jenny is currently working with two publishers, Headline and Head of Zeus, as well as the audio company Spiteful Puppet, for whom she writes audio scripts for ITV’s popular 1980’s television show, Robin of Sherwood. As co-manager of Imagine, a creative writing tutoring business operating across the South West of England, Jenny has helped launch many new novelists’ careers. You can learn more about Jenny here and here.

Val McDermid: 10th Annual Creative Writing Lecture: Killing People for Fun and Profit
Thursday 12 May 2022, 6.15pm, Peter Williams Lecture Theatre

Val McDermid, photograph by KT Bruce

Please pre-book tickets for this guest lecture here.
Dubbed the Queen of Crime, Val McDermid has sold over 15 million books to date and is translated into over 40 languages. She is perhaps best-known for her Wire in the Blood series, featuring clinical psychologist Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan, which was adapted for television starring Robson Green. Her most recent novel Out of Bounds was a number one bestseller and her brand new novel Insidious Intent was published in August. As well as producing a bestselling novel every year, Val is a regular on TV, radio and in print. Her recent projects include two BBC Radio 4 dramas, chairing the Wellcome Book Prize and captaining the 2016 winning University Challenge alumnae team! Her awards, too numerous to list, include the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award, the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year, the Grand Prix des Romans D’Aventure, the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award and the LA Times Book of the Year Award, as well as Celebrity Mastermind champion. She is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Val will be discussing her writing, her inspirations and the fatal attraction of crime fiction! 

Amitav Ghosh with Clare Anderson, Mark Williams and Caroline Upton: The Climate Emergency: Creating A Dialogue Between Science And The Arts  
Tuesday 7 June 7, 2022, 6:00pm-7.30pm, Online Event. 

Please pre-book tickets for this online event here
It's 2022 and everybody is talking about the climate emergency, but what does it mean in a global context with plural perspectives? Join Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) and The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2022), and a panel of experts chaired by Clare Anderson as we engage in dialogue between the sciences and the arts in thinking about the climate emergency.

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Rebecca Hurst, "The Fox's Wedding"


Rebecca Hurst is a writer, opera-maker and illustrator. She was born in East Sussex and now lives in Greater Manchester. Rebecca’s poetry has appeared in various international magazines, including The Rialto, PN Review, Agenda, Aesthetica, The Clearing, and Magma Poetry. In 2021 a selection of her poems was published in the Carcanet anthology New Poetries VIII. Rebecca has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester and was artist in residence at the John Ryland’s Library from autumn 2019 to spring 2020. She is co-founder of the Voicings Collective.

Reena Makwana is a London-based illustrator creating illustrations using drawings, embroidery and print. Her work is influenced by the city, characters, creatures, social past and present. She has produced work for clients including Vittles, Pit Magazine, Endeavour Agency, Lecker, Big Family Press, OOMK and At The Table. Visit her website here

About The Fox's Wedding, by Rebecca Hurst, illustrated by Reena Makwana

Rebecca Hurst’s debut pamphlet is woven through with fairy tales, folklore and landscape. She uses the natural world, family mythology and the theory of fairy tales to unpack, embroider, and explode traditional tales and tropes, exploring themes of voice, concealment, and transformation. Prickling with magic and spells, the poems in The Fox’s Wedding lead us down a twisty path to find – what? A prince made of needles? A cursed box? A golden key? Take care and keep your wits about you; if you’re lucky you might just find your way home.

From The Fox's Wedding

The Unreliable Narrator

Not a field,
a forest.
Not a key,
a hammer.
Not a sword,
a spindle.
Not a chair,
a ladder.
She barks
like a vixen
boxing with shadows
in the midnight garden.
No guide,
she leaves you
on the mountain pass
to wake in the precinct
at dawn
in a nest of newsprint
while around you
rowdy as rooks
gossip, smoke, spar.
If there is truth
in her
she has yet to find
its edge.
Still, when she gives you
a sprig of larkspur
or a glass of tea
take it.
The amber leaves
blossom as they steep.
The glass sings.
Take a scalding sip.

Monday 14 March 2022

Shreya Sen-Handley, "Handle with Care: Travels with My Family (To Say Nothing of the Dog)"

A CNBC and MTV journalist and producer, and East India head for Australasian Channel [V], Shreya Sen-Handley has authored three books for HarperCollins: the award-winning Memoirs of My Body (2017), short story collection Strange (2019), and travelogue Handle with Care (2022). 

A Welsh National Opera librettist, the first South Asian woman to write international opera, she has written for their film series Creating Change (2020), and operas Migrations (a 200-performer production touring Britain in 2022) and Blaze of Glory (2023). Her play Quiet premiered in London with award-winning Tara Theatre (2021). 

A columnist for National Geographic, CNN, The Guardian, and more, she also writes a syndicated newspaper column for India. Her essays can be found in anthologies, including the University of East Anglia’s Writing Places (2019) and Hodder Education’s British secondary school English textbook, Detectives (2020). 

Her short stories and poetry have been published, broadcast, and shortlisted for prizes in Britain, India and Australia. In 2020, her poetry spearheaded a British national campaign against hate crimes.

She teaches creative writing at British and Indian institutions, including Cambridge and Nottingham Universities, illustrates for Hachette, HarperCollins, Welsh National Opera, Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, and Nottingham City Council, translates literature for National Literacy Trust, and commentates on BBC Radio.

About Handle with Care: Travels with My Family (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

Shreya Sen-Handley’s Handle with Care is a blithe and zippy travelogue that chronicles her adventures around the globe. In tow, most of the time, is the ‘quirky clan’ comprising her British husband, their two children, and their dog.

Here are tales of the world beyond south Kolkata and Sherwood Forest – places they call home. From much-loved Indian locales like Rajasthan and Kerala to bustling international capitals like New York and Paris, from English idylls like Dorset and Haworth to the sleepy pleasures of Corfu – the journeys are described in vivid detail, seasoned with humour, and sprinkled with wise trip-tips. No matter how gruelling the trek, you weather the storms well, and while you’re about it, have tons of fun, food and epiphanies. Mishaps or not, one learns, there is always magic to find.

These are delightful stories that’ll take you places without having to move an inch!

Here is author, naturalist and TV presenter Lee Durrell’s description of the book: “I feel a deep personal connection to this book. Gerald [Durrell] always told me that one of the reasons for his family’s move to Corfu was that his mother, Louisa, missed India terribly. She had been born, married and brought up children there, relocating to England only because of the sudden death of her husband. In the grey, damp and cold, she pined for the vibrant sights, sounds, scents and tastes of India, for the company of a warm and generous people, and the vivacity and colour her life had once had. Corfu, so like India in these many ways, rekindled her love of living. In this book we’re immersed in India, Corfu and all other points of the compass, the author skillfully guiding our way and revealing the treasures that each and every place surely has. But above all, this is a book about love – romantic, parental, familial and whatever the word is for the family dog. About love of place, history, literature, poetry and art, all around the world. It celebrates adventure and fun.”

From Handle with Care, by Shreya Sen-Handley

From the chapter ‘Corfu: Garden of the Gods’

Exploring the villages and beaches, we stopped to refuel at the open-air tavernas that dotted every jetty, roadside, and spit of white sand. As delicious as the food was, with an abundance of aubergine, lamb, and feta cheese, the joy of taverna-hopping was as much about the varying views it offered each time. The finest were, of course, on the beach, looking out at the cobalt blue Mediterranean Sea, but the roadside ones were perfect for watching people, who were as colourful and chaotic. We enjoyed sniffing out markets just as much, some big and bustling, others secretively tucked away, and a few twinkling around harbours like seashells lost in the sand. From these we bought baskets of fresh, flavoursome food, and the occasional trinket. We swam in the sparkling sea too, but it was a cooler summer than usual, and more joy was to be had in walking along its pristine shore. These delights were entwined with our search for the Durrells’ old villas – the strawberry pink, the daffodil yellow, and the snow white, preserved in my memory from childhood.

We decided to give many of the better-known and disputed sites a wide berth for the hidden gems, even if their links with that famous family were just as weak. This took us to many quiet lanes, overgrown copses, and deserted watering holes no one had set foot in in years. Some we set out to find and never did, some we discovered to be disappointing, so devoid were they of mystery and romance, and others we stumbled upon by chance. Many we drove up to, especially if they were on elevated ground, smelling of evergreens and dusk, so late in the day did we arrive after hours on the hunt. To get to a few though, we had to abandon the car and walk down dense tracks, following glimmers of sunlight, and our instinct for the hidden and the glorious. In an abandoned orchard we followed a pearly glow to find a diminutive but dazzling edifice that was well worth the nettle stings, but not likely to be the Durrells’ snow-white villa for how few of their extensive menagerie of guests and pets it could have held. Down a path of long grasses heading out to sea, we discovered a vibrant yellow establishment, like a sunflower in a field. But we both agreed after a cursory search that it lacked the required je ne sais quoi to be their daffodil-yellow villa.

It was on our way back from this find that we decided to stop for a picnic in a sun-dappled olive grove we’d spied earlier. After a satisfying meal of fresh bread, olives, and feta-stuffed tomatoes, we decided to explore. It was then that we discovered the house concealed in the cypress trees. A house we weren’t expecting because it wasn’t on our map. In a patch of land humming with life but deserted by humans, stood a faded ruby villa, large enough for a boisterous family and its many wards, but not so large that it couldn’t lose itself with time and the onrush of vegetation. We circled it, standing on its vine-entwined porch, looking in through its weathered windows, but as desolate as it clearly was, it felt oddly lived-in too.

We sat on the porch, breathing in the tranquillity of the moment and the reticent beauty of our setting. When my husband put his arm around me, I lay my head on his shoulder, and a few kisses were exchanged. When he leaned in for the fifth (or thereabouts, I don’t often count when kissing), we heard a noise in the house. It could have been a chair pulled back for a better look at what was outside. Or a harumph – the clearing of a human throat – to indicate the undetected presence of an onlooker. We jumped, casting around to ascertain who or what it could’ve been. ‘Can you hear a goat?’ my new husband hazarded, proving himself not very well acquainted with goats. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a part of Kolkata overrun with goats, and knew a cloven hooved critter when I heard one. ‘Human, I think,’ I whispered to him, as we made for our car. We had largesse in the back, in the form of mouth-watering food with which we did not intend to part. Nor did we want to be arrested for trespassing, or for our spate of kisses. Scrambling into the car, we were sure it felt more crowded than when we drove in, yet thought nothing further of it.

Suddenly our own villa was quiet no longer. We heard the tread of unfamiliar footsteps in the empty kitchen. The splash of water when no one was in the pool. Whispers in the garden that weren’t leaves in the breeze. And on one occasion, another of those harumphs we’d heard at the apparently abandoned villa.

Thursday 10 March 2022

Jim McElroy, "We Are the Weather"


Jim McElroy is winner of the 2021 Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, the 2021 Poetry Business International Book and Pamphlet Competition, and the 2020 winner of the Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award. In 2019 he was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions, runner-up in the Bridport Poetry Prize, and awarded an Individual Artist Award by Arts Council NI. He has been shortlisted for the Rialto Pamphlet Award, Gutter Edwin Morgan Prize, Bridport Poetry Prize, CĂșirt New Writing Prize, runner-up in the Fingal Poetry Prize and nominated for Pushcart and Forward prizes. His winning pamphlet, We Are The Weather, is published by Smith|Doorstop.

About We Are the Weather, by Jim McElroy

We are the Weather is the winner of The Poetry Business International Book & Pamphlet Competition 2021. It is a mature and coherent first collection by a distinctive and compelling writer. The poems present vivid and often pungent scenes of rural life in exuberant and hardworking language, with childhood and family relationships at their heart.

You can see more details about We Are the Weather on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From We Are the Weather

Pouring the yard 

We shovel sand and stones into the chunter,
shake in cement. The gravel scratch 
of crushed aggregate scrapes 
in the mixer’s churn; hosed-in water 
dampens the crackle of the mortar’s 
lime reaction. The steel belly tilts 
to the turn of the dump wheel, 
remade earth slithers from its iron pout, 
slumps on the ground, buries 
hoof pock, boot print, rut of cartwheel. 

The concrete’s moist slurp greying our boots, 
our shovels shunt its mass across 
the sections, spread its clad to the party wall 
of the link shed; tamper planks 
race the hardening time, slap it flat, 
agitate in ridges, angle gullies for run-off. 

The poured yard drying, hosed-on gallons 
slake its drouth, seep to the darkness beneath. 
Bunkered earth gulps its pallid leech; 
bugs, slaters, scuttle for cover, worms, grubs,  
squirm deep, root growth diverts for light. 
Concrete ripples stiffen across the screed, 
its load bearing ridges grip for tyres.


My Father took the weather personally, 
watched buds unfurl in whispers, 
the low sun fix its eye on sticky petals. 
The skies spring cleaned, let him work 
in quick skifts. The clouds swept out rains, 
watched his retreats to the shed. 
Its tinny discussions beat the roof, 
spouts gushed to gable barrels, overflowed 
to Buchan traps. Downpours made a river 
of the Hill Road. On Radio Four, 
Athlone, he listened for forecasts, saw 
the mercury drop on the hall barometer. 

The wet patter eased, wider isobars of highs 
circled in the pulsed ripple of puddles. 
The sun cast its width, swole blisters 
on road tar; bullocks snogged the lusty grass. 
On the breeze, the pollen whoosh of rye, 
and boysadear, the hay fever sneeze. 
Then the mood swing: June’s parched glare 
lowered the reservoir, caked earth 
cried out for water; tightening isobars 
swooped, winds swirled, reeled him in. 
His eyes would peel the horizon 
as the wielded knives of Siberian easts 
hacked his cheeks, ripped off petal and leaf. 
In the verge, grounded leaves buried each other. 

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Fiona Linday (ed.), "Making Our World Better"


About Making Our World Better, ed. Fiona Linday

The Making Our World Better Project was launched in April 2021. Fiona Linday led this Arts Council England supported writing activity across the University of Leicester campus. The resulting collection presents the expressive writing of learners from the Attenborough Arts Centre. They were joined by many service users of Leicester Arts in Mental Health, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, and several Creative Writing students from Leicester’s Centre for New Writing

For a year, workshops prompted these three groups to respond to the title of Making Our World Better. Fiona helped develop these pieces of work, by encouraging wide engagement and collaboration. The contributors were inspired to write poetry and flash fiction reflecting on their wellbeing during lockdown while considering their future within our environment.

The anthology features work by Mark Gwynne Jones, the commissioned poet from the partner organisation Renaissance One and guest author Matthew Tett. Fiona also models her writing alongside sharing that of others, joining in this active learner challenge by contributing new poetry and stories. The anthology includes creative work by University of Leicester students Isobel Copley, Will Preston, Laura Besley, Tracey Foster and Sam Bouch. 

Below, you can read about the editor, and a sample from the Foreword to Making Our World Better. You can find more details about the anthology on the publisher's website here

About the editor

Fiona Linday’s background is in school learning support. She is a Creative Mentor with the Mighty Creatives. Fiona presents this second Leicester anthology collaboration extended to students. That project comes after a decade of the freelance facilitating of vocational creative writing to lifelong learners. In 2019, her first commissioned anthology, Family Matters, featured a dozen new Attenborough Arts Centre writers alongside established guest authors. The Arts Centre offers a diverse arts programme to inclusive learners. With the help of several partners and Dahlia books, during lockdown she adapted her practice to achieve comprehensive engagement through delivering blended workshops.

From Making Our World Better, ed. Fiona Linday

Foreword, by Michael Attenborough, CBE 

Amidst the widespread chaos and distressing scale of deaths, the current pandemic has coincidentally thrown up a number of valuable indicators for our collective future. The concern for people’s mental health; the thrilling revelation of a cleaner environment; the scale and sense of loss at the absence of the creative arts; the importance of an enriching education; a greater appreciation of the natural world.

Climate change has brought us to the brink of self destruction. We now need, as a matter of urgency, a creative response from humanity. Focused, articulate and passionate.

Creativity lies at the epicentre of that humanity. It nurtures the invisible part of our health; our emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

Our ability and freedom to express ourselves is a basic human right, one which feeds humanity’s understanding of itself and its relationship with the rest of the world. Cultural communication has the capacity to enlighten, challenge, excite and inspire. It expresses our individual and collective identities, needs and aspirations. A civilised society is one that is in constant dialogue with itself, one of evolutionary discovery and growth.

This exciting new anthology is one vital part of this creative movement.

Monday 7 March 2022

Judi Sutherland, "Following Teisa"

Judi Sutherland was born in Stoke-on-Trent to Geordie parents, spent some time as a child in Northern Ireland, and since then has lived all over England from Sussex to Durham, as paid employment has dictated. She trained in Microbiology and Biochemistry at the Universities of Leeds and Nottingham respectively then pursued a career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, developing new medicines. 

Judi obtained her MA in Creative Writing in 2012 at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she was awarded the Margaret Hewson Prize. Her poetry is mainly concerned with place, identity and belonging, and she has an interest in landscape and history. Following Teisa was written between 2014 and 2020, when she was living in Barnard Castle, County Durham. Her poems are widely published in magazines such as Oxford Poetry, Prole, The North, New Statesman, and online. She blogs at judisutherland.com. Her first pamphlet The Ship Owner’s House was published by Vane Women Press in 2018. 

She is currently living in Malahide, North County Dublin, Ireland, with her husband and two rescue cats, where she is writing poems about her new surroundings – Fingal – the Land of the Fair Strangers.


About Following Teisa

Nobody seems to know much about Anne Wilson, who, in 1778, self-published a 1600-line poem tracing the Tees from source to mouth (see here). The title, Teisa, is allegedly the Celtic name for the River Tees, or of its genius loci, a water goddess. The poem was written, unsurprisingly for its time, in heroic couplets, with many classical allusions, appeals to the muses, and a long, rambling Arthurian story that intrudes at Rokeby Park.

Judi moved to Teesdale in 2014 and felt dreadfully homesick for her previous village near the Thames. She started walking by the Tees as a way of getting to know and love her new environment and decided to repeat Anne Wilson’s poetic journey for a different generation. 

Her strategy for this work was to walk most of the Teesdale Way from the Pennines to the North Sea, as well as to research as much as she could about the towns and villages on both banks of the river. She remains convinced that the contrast between the upper and lower reaches of the Tees is much greater than anything a southern river can offer. 

Following Teisa is published by The Book Mill, Penrith, Cumbria. You can read a review of Following Teisa on Everybody's Reviewing here. Below, you can read a sample from the book. 

From Following Teisa, by Judi Sutherland

Middleton in Teesdale to Kirkcarrion

Middleton, a place, Anne Wilson tells,
of people neither splendid, rich nor poor
where Hudeshope Beck pours from the fell
to meet the river here, beside the livestock mart
where Swaledale ewes and gimmer lambs,
mules and rams are penned for sale; thick-coated,
curly horned, speckle-legged and bold. 

Under the arch on Masterman Place
is a Newtown of neat and convenient cottages -
the chaste and appropriate design of Mr. Bonomi;
a village heavy with lead and temperance
for the most deserving workmen
of the London Lead Company,
whose Quaker sensibilities
abhorred the scourge of alcohol. Instead
let the miners take their toxic chances
hewing blue-grey bouse from the adit
with pick and hammer, plug and feather
crowbar and candle. 

Above the town, a stand of pines on a barrow,
Bronze Age elders whose watchful eyes
follow. Turn around, you’ll swear they’ve shifted
in their rootball, their wooden footfall
silent on the hill. In comes the Lune
from its lonely dale, escaping the broad dams
of Selset and Grassholme. 

Friday 4 March 2022

Anastasia Taylor-Lind, "One Language"

Anastasia Taylor-Lind is an English/Swedish photojournalist covering issues relating to women, war and violence. She is a National Geographic Magazine photographer, a TED fellow and a 2016 Harvard Nieman fellow. She writes poems about contemporary conflicts and the experiences she cannot photograph.

About One Language                                                                                                                 

From the perspective of a female photojournalist, these concise but complex and insightful poems draw on first-hand experience of war to explore how damage is generated and perpetuated. The book’s title expresses the contradiction between the lingua franca of photography and the equally universal language of violence. One Language comes to an understanding of personal history and global conflict in poetry that is as immediate and evocative as the most urgent of dispatches.

You can see more details about One Language on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a sample poem from the collection.

From One Language, by Anastasia Taylor-Lind


It’s 9/11 the first time you stay. 
In the morning you bring Taliban poems back to bed.
I drink cardamom coffee and you read their tender lines
‘May you not be hungry in the desert, my dear.’
Their loving as ordinary as mine.

I see wilding men shouldering RPGs 
by the swimming pool of a warlord’s compound 
and think they’re beautiful, watch a dentist 
fall to Earth from an aeroplane rising over Kabul. 

Human payload slipping from the undercarriage,
falling through swipes, scrolls and clicks.
Rewind the tapes, see the little man flying upwards, 
returning to his life, 
rewind the tapes.

Like Bruegel’s Icarus, he touches down with a splash
in a rooftop water tank 4km away, 
his suffering unnoticed except for a casual 
cell phone recording. Twenty years ago, 
the twin towers man fell too, 

twisting and turning, tie fluttering, 
past flames and smoke, for a moment head first 
over Manhattan. Rewind the tapes, 
see the little men flying upwards,
returning to their lives, rewind the tapes.

You and I lie under a marigold embroidered 
bedspread bought in Afghanistan. 
My old friend Tom took me on that shopping trip
in an armoured vehicle with his bodyguard

and I remembered the summer before the end of uni, 
how we sat up late, drinking Jameson, 
listening to Johnny Cash 
and imagining our own deaths, 

together, somewhere in a dusty alley,
all golden light, slow motion and elevated camera angles.
We took it in turns who was doing the dying 
and who was doing the cradling.

Thursday 3 March 2022

Sue Hubbard, "Swimming to Albania"


Sue Hubbard is an award-winning poet, novelist, broadcaster and art critic. She has won numerous prizes and, as The Poetry Society’s only Public Art Poet, created London’s largest public art poem, Eurydice, at Waterloo station. Her poems have appeared in The Irish Times, The Observer, The London Magazine and many leading poetry magazines and anthologies, been read on Radio 3,  Radio 4 and RTE, and recorded for The Poetry Sound Archive.  Twice a Hawthornden Fellow, she has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and in 1999 was awarded a major Arts Council Award. She has published three previous collections of poetry, a collection of short stories and three novels. As an art critic she has been a regular contributor to The Independent, Time Out, The New Statesman, The London Magazine, and published a book of essays on art, Adventures in Art (Other Criteria). Her latest poetry collection is Swimming to Albania (Salmon Press). Her website is here

About Swimming to Albania, by Sue Hubbard

Swimming to Albania is my fourth collection. It deals with memory, loss, desire and the process of ageing. Divided into three parts, there are elegies to both my parents and tactile, Proustian remembrances of childhood and the everyday. The poems wander between the west coast of Ireland, Lisbon, Siena and Greece in an attempt to find reconciliation, forgiveness and meaning, to come to terms with different forms of grief.  As I say in the final section, 'we travel to discover who we are.' Threaded through the collection is the sense of an Odyssean journey, a longing for an idealised home, which is captured in the title poem: 'Swimming to Albania.' 

From Swimming to Albania

Lost in Space

There are galaxies inside me,
interstellar stars and dust. 
I am full of dark matter,
quarks and spirals
of deep love that cannot
be seen with the naked eye,
lives that might have been
different under other alignments.
Somewhere amid the black holes
and absorption of light,
beyond the mass of the Milky Way,
there’s a distant room:
the walls covered with faded flowers,
a meadow of flecked sunlight, 
where a child lies beneath 
a bleached quilt in a narrow bed 
dreaming of a boat 
with a single blue sail,
a boat that will take her home.

And soon …

                          soon, it will be over,
the voyage’s end coming into sight
like a bright spit of unmapped land,

as the old yawl turns slowly back into harbour
with its arbour of rusty fish sheds
shrouded in late evening fog.

The saffron light of portholes already dimmed,
the tattered sails lowered,
halyard and spinnakers stilled and trimmed,

furled jibs lashed against the mast.
A sea away I wait on this Atlantic headland
where icy galaxies keep me company in the dark

and a dog-fox barks in a high wet field.
While in those far off Surrey hills
you falter and wane, so I wish my childhood songs

had not been mined in dust and pain,
those black diamonds of hurt and absence.
And now, when all that’s unspoken

is cinders on my tongue, I want to call out:
daddy, oh my daddy, I’ve been here all along,
waiting, waiting across this cold violet sea.