Friday 16 December 2022

Christmas News 2022

It's been a busy term, and before we break up for the holidays, we'd like to share some of the recent news from students and staff at the University of Leicester.


Third-year Journalism with Creative Writing student Ayan Artan continues to publish non-fiction articles. You can read two recent articles by Ayan here and here

MA Creative Writing graduate Jess Bacon continues to write and publish numerous articles for magazines and newspapers, including an article on Matilda the Musical, storytelling and trauma for the Metro, which you can read here

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing student Laura Besley, whose story "No Matter What" has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Sunlight Press. You can see more details here. Laura's micro-fiction, "At the fairground," was recently published by Paragraph Planet, and Laura's story, "A Closed Book," was published by 101 Words here

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Andrew Craven-Griffiths, who recently passed his PhD viva. 

Congratulations to Kit de Waal, whose memoir Without Warning and Only Sometimes was recently named by The Guardian as one of their "Best Memoirs and Biographies of 2022." More details here

November saw the publication of the two latest New Walk Editions pamphlets of poetry, co-edited by Nick Everett in the Centre for New Writing: Rebecca Farmer’s A Separate Appointment and William Thompson’s After Clare. See here for further details - and to order copies!

MA Creative Writing graduate Tracey Foster has reviewed Modern Nature by Derek Jarman for Everybody's Reviewing here

MA Creative Writing graduate Thilsana Gias has reviewed The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang for Everybody's Reviewing here

Undergraduate English with Creative Writing student Jess Hollis recently performed her poetry at Word! in Leicester. 

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Kathy Hoyle, winner of the prestigious Bath Flash Fiction Award. You can read her winning story, "The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson" here.

Felicity James's essay on Elizabeth Gaskell, "String Is My Foible," has been published by Slightly Foxed Quarterly

Congratulations to Karen Powell, who recently passed her PhD in Creative Writing. Her thesis was entitled Bloodlines: Exploring Family History in Poetry

Congratulations to English with Creative Writing student Georgia Sanderson, winner of the inaugural Belvoir Prize for Poetry. 

PhD Creative Writing student Jane Simmons has reviewed Standing Up with Blake by Philip Dunn on Everybody's Reviewing here and Kathryn Simmonds's Scenes from Life on Earth here

Congratulations to second-year English with Creative Writing student Shauna Strathmann, winner of this year's G. S. Fraser Prize. You can read two of her winning poems here

Jonathan Taylor's book of short stories, Scablands and Other Stories, will be published by Salt Publishing later in 2023. 

Congratulations to second-year English with Creative Writing student Sara Waheed, winner of this year's John Coleman Prize. You can read her winning story here

Harry Whitehead's groundbreaking research project, Creative Climates: Creatively Communicating the Climate and Biosphere Emergency, which links artists and writers with climate change researchers to create new art, received developmental funding from Leicester Institute of Advanced Studies (LIAS). 

MA Creative Writing graduate Lisa Williams's seasonal story, "I Believe," has been published by Friday Flash Fiction here. Her story "The Split" has also been published by Friday Flash Fiction here

Wishing everyone a happy Christmas and New Year from Creative Writing and the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester!

Friday 9 December 2022

Peter Thabit Jones, "A Cancer Notebook"


Peter Thabit Jones has authored sixteen books. He has participated in festivals and conferences in America and Europe and is an annual writer-in-residence in Big Sur, California. A recipient of many awards, including the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry (The Society of Authors, London) and the Homer: European Medal of Poetry and Art, two of his dramas for the stage have premiered in America. His opera libretti for Luxembourg composer Albena Petrovic Vratchanska have premiered at the Philarmonie Luxembourg, the National Opera House Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, and Theatre National Du Luxembourg. Further information is on his website here

About A Cancer Notebook, by Peter Thabit Jones

From the Foreword, by Patricia Holt

In A Cancer Notebook, Peter expresses, viscerally, purely, his emotions and thoughts while he is living with the reality of cancer. Being a poet, he does so in a way which can be integrated into another being directly, shattering the isolation, and giving each person a better understanding and acceptance of what they are going through - a precious step toward healing, emotionally and physically. This is the profound gift of Peter’s book. The poems are such a totality, each word adding to the whole, building within themselves to an integrated power and poignancy. 'Women’s Ward' and 'Words' are two such poems, among many others.

From A Cancer Notebook

The Bird in the Garden

Over two weeks
Since New Year’s Eve
And the word the surgeon said
Won’t leave. My thoughts try
To break through the ice of it.

I carry a bit of death for now -
Until it's removed. January
And a dunnock bird sits
In the swaying round feeder,
Unbothered by the cold breeze
Of a grave, grey winter, He pecks
At the hard, dry pool of seed.
I smile at the beauty of him.
He warms my emotions.
I love the positivity

In his need to survive.

Women's Ward

Midnight. I pass the women’s ward,
As I struggle, so slow, to the men’s room.
I momentarily think of their possible
Pains, maybe the loss of the features
Of their womanhood, the scars they
Will own for the rest of their lives.

The moon has always tracked their days,
Decided their mothering blood.
The ages enslaved them to kitchen
And bed, denied them the schooling seeds,
Denied them the flourishing voices
Of men. I pass their ward again.

'The eternal note of sadness'
Is always with us, it seems, unsettling 
Our lives and all that we are as humans.
Sleep well, sisters, caught by this thing 
Called cancer, and may your journeys
Be one to a safe and long future of wellness.

Note: 'The eternal note of sadness' is a line from Matthew Arnold’s poem 'Dover Beach.'

One Man's Notebook

Four weeks since my surgery.
What deep songs can I pull up 
From the well of my experience 
Of this thing called cancer?

I check my scar, healing to a crisp 
Dryness. Confined to my home
For now, unable to lift heavy things,
Restricted physically, I feel like a man

Stood at a crossroad with a number 
Of signposts. Will I ever be the same 
Again, after tasting a droplet of death?
Words have been the religion of my life,

The worship of their weights and sounds.
My mind pulls up emotions from the bright
Bottom of the strangest of months.
The splashes of inspiration will become

Phrases, lines, stanzas, and then poems,
One man’s notebook trying to record
The imagined and challenging road 
To a place I’m told is full recovery. 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Julian Bishop, "We Saw It All Happen"


Julian Bishop has had a lifelong interest in ecology thanks largely to a childhood in rural Wiltshire. He’s a former television journalist and apart from poetry has a passion for gardens, running and dogs although not necessarily in that order. He’s been widely published and was a runner up in the International Ginkgo Prize For Eco-Poetry. He lives with his family in North London. His website is here

About We Saw It All Happen

The poems in this first collection were written over seven or so years at a time when daily headlines brought more evidence of climate change and our increasing disconnection with nature. Bishop, a journalist who once worked as an environment reporter, talks in the preface about how he feels he failed in raising awareness about the seriousness of the crisis by reporting on the alarming data and hopes the more emotional engagement offered by a poem might have more impact. His approach is often formal, there are villanelles, sonnets and a lipogram among other forms. The book itself is divided into three sections which look at the impact of climate change on the natural world, a second more political and satirical section followed by a third more forward-looking section which offers some more hopeful poems. 

From We Saw It All Happen

At The Ice House

(An 18th century ice house was discovered during work on Regent’s Crescent in London)

Polished mahogany tables heaved
under the weight of Regency treats -
calves’ foot jellies, sweetmeats,
wobbling flummery poised on concealed 

ice-beds, hand-harvested
from Norwegian fjords. Numb-thumbed
cutters, slicing through rime, fashioned
brieze-blocks of ice to fit

into steamships, sawdust-stuffed
to stave off melt, cargoes stowed
between beams of deal below,
cubes cracked big enough

for an igloo the size of the O2. 
Staring now into the brick-lined 
void unearthed in grounds behind 
a stuccoed row, it hits you

how a division of spoils is where it begins: 
with the convivial aristocratic clack
of a vintage hock or an Escubac 
on the rocks, how tickling a gentleman's 

gins counts more to those in power
than the cost of a frosted bourbon, 
those who only ever reflect on 
melting ice when it is raised in a tumbler.

Dung Beetles

(Could vanish within a century - Biological Conservation journal)

Strange that catastrophe should announce itself
on such small feet 
among such humble collectors of dirt, 
street-cleaners, shovellers of stools, 
tunnellers through filth.

Ancient Egyptians saw gods in them, suns in dung
shaped into spheres 
dragged into creepy-crawly underworlds;
guided by starry skies, they deep-cleaned fields,
deodorised cattle dumps.

Photographers fawned over tigers, meercats,
svelte giraffes 
while caddis flies withered in the wings - 
no lightbulbs exploded as spiders dived for cover 
beneath piles of calcified scat.

Globetrotting beetles wade through cesspits
teeming with tailings,
cowpats contaminated by worm controls.
Bugs that make the world go round push up
the daisies, while the planet goes to shit.