Wednesday 30 August 2023

Gram Joel Davies, "Not Enough Rage"

Gram Joel Davies grew up in a council house in the Westcountry. Working class and university-educated, he is enthusiastic about psychotherapy and works as a counsellor in private practice. His poetry concerns itself with an experience of being (through rural and urban landscapes) and with belonging (in relationships marked by emotional disturbance). Publications have appeared over the decades in Magma, The Moth, Poetry Wales, The Centrifugal Eye and many other places. Not Enough Rage will be published by V. Press in October 2023. His debut collection, Bolt Down This Earth (2017), is also published by V. Press.

About Not Enough Rage

Not Enough Rage is very gutsy and very heady. Written over the course of two decades, it is something of a companion volume to Bolt Down This Earth, but pushes Davies' perceptions and style to new points of contact with the world. It is at once peripatetic and personal. Themes of awe and disaffection wrap around one another like wrestling dragons, equally matched. The poems often have a musicality that is intended to buoy meaning on a current of implicit feeling. Rather than exclusively literal or logical, this is writing that hopes cast a magnet into the back of the mind and bring up knots of association, as much sensed as seen.

You can read more about Not Enough Rage on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From Not Enough Rage, by Gram Joel Davies

A Taxonomy of Wingèd Serpents

When dragons, one bold as rusted pipework,
the other bluer than icebergs, pitch
and lacerate each other inside the mind,
at times I’ll plummet, while other days
I’ll walk a comet. Not caring much
what phylum/family/genus the symptoms are.

My doctor differs, mid-turn on his swivel
chair under the sincere light of his PC
with his coded manuals near: classification matters.
Medieval bestiaries, with their stunted
perspectives, draw commonalities through sea lions,
fishes and ducks. But, he assures me,

modern expertise puts little stock in superficial
characteristics, then loses me in split-tooth jargon...
Order Calidraco ... Dracoform ...
A web search churns up myths, citing creatures
who raise little boys in splendid palaces,
feed them riddles reinforced by scalds

and love, or heap approval on a bed
of starlit coins. By his screen light, the doctor
discredits links with Triassic lines –
you may be rough-mailed and warm in the marrow.
He even touches the genetic element, a stratus ribbon
helixed through a moody firmament,

most interested in the composition of the belch-
stain chemical breath. With swivelled eye,
he advises that identity, as it pertains
to conflicted dragons, has a crassness stigmatised
at meal parties (and better left unshared). My affect
wears the flare of rust and roars like glaciers.

In Which *I* Don’t Fit

*I* don’t look good     in bandana or tie-clip
and tattoos slip *my* skin     like film off cocoa
Clinique ‘Happy’ abandons *me*     up the extractor fan

*I* always admired thatch     cottages
from inside student digs     but council kids
took the posh piss     for the way *I* said
actually     the accents *I* tab through
are like game toons’     facial hair

*I* don’t     quite     qualify     for social housing
perhaps *I* belong     with the badger
drunk on fallen apples     so *I* buy craft ales
with *my* JSA     and sit in the park trying
to figure out poplar hybrids     by street-light

the skate-ramp runs cool     but *I* never learnt the fakie
everybody interesting     leaves the country     *I* do
Guardianistawaffle     then remain in tenements
with the names of men     coal-toting
up quicksand rivers     too heavy
in *my* face     for bachelor
honours     but groundsman     gutter-laying
don’t believe in     clinical     depression

though it’s BBC boffins     who give *me* the best buzz
*I* protest     against buying the licence

retail management     is afraid
*my* lexicon derogates     their intelligence quotient
it’s these entry jobs     which *I* enter
and re-enter     endlessly
the ones *I* step off     like Chaplin from a tram
HR greasing *me*     into tribunals

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Julian Stannard, "Please Don't Bomb the Ghost of My Brother"

Julian Stannard has written nine books of poetry including Sottoripa: Genoese Poems (a bilingual publication, Canneto, 2018). His most recent collection is Please Don’t Bomb the Ghost of my Brother (Salt, 2023). He teaches at the University of Winchester, having spent many years working at the University of Genoa. He has been awarded the International Troubadour Prize for Poetry and nominated various times for the Forward. He has written critical studies of Fleur Adcock, Basil Bunting, Donal Davie, Charles Tomlinson and Leonard Cohen. He co-edited The Palm Beach Effect: Reflections on Michael Hofmann (CB editions, 2013). He reviews for Poetry Review and TLS.

About Please Don't Bomb the Ghost of My Brother

Please Don’t Bomb the Ghost of my Brother is an extended elegy for a brother lost some twenty years ago. The title poem is part of a sequence which is mindful of the war in Ukraine and conflict in general. The poet’s brother was a soldier. The elegiac vein considers the loss of friends and the painful years of the pandemic. Yet the collection is never overly solemn.  Strangeness drives the work forward in a number of ways. The work is both international in scope and alludes, on various occasions, to Gogol’s Dead Souls.

You can read more about Please Don't Bomb the Ghost of My Brother on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From Please Don't Bomb the Ghost of My Brother, by Julian Stannard

Please Don’t Bomb The Ghost of my Brother 

He’s riding a white horse.
I was going to say he was riding into the forest. 
It’s more like a wood, a large wood 
with sycamore trees and silver birch 
and if you look you can see a Weeping Willow.
There are deer in the undergrowth 
watching carefully 
and there are a lot of small animals.
He’s talking to the horse and patting its neck. 
There’s no one else around
and the wood has a beguiling music.
The horse breaks into a canter. 
Rabbits listen and twitch. 
An oyster catcher flies overhead. 
And coming into view a long-winged buzzard. 
The horse slows and steps into the river - 
He’s a good horse, my brother’s a good horseman.
Now they’re getting out on the other side 
where there are fewer trees. 
The ghost of my brother finds a glade. 
There must be a score of white horses.
There’s sun light and there’s a breeze. 
The horses drink from the water. 
And the ghosts, soldiers like my brother,
strip off and throw themselves into the lake.
Some lie on their backs. 

My brother has slipped from view.
I bet you he’s taken a big breath 
kicked his legs and plunged down deep.
The horses stand under a tree.
My brother’s horse is whinnying.

Zoom Time  


One of the most wretched things about lockdown 
was being zoomed into hundreds of well-lit
middle class homes whose impeccable taste    
made me feel down at heel, even shitty, 
as if I were Edward Lear sitting at the table of Lord Stanley 
trying to make the soup not trickle into my beard 
and called upon at any moment to entertain (a singular fellow.) 

There was an Old Person of Cromer who stood on one leg  
reading Homer … 


Artfully arranged bookshelves frame the background 
of every Zoomer, the libraries of the baby boomer -
Sometimes I catch the titles on the spines: Proudhon
The 120 Days of Sodom, Plato’s critique of humour.  


The undoubted advantage of a Zoom conference, 
as far as I can tell, is that no one 
has banned smoking although I have to admit 
that when I took out a cigarette which I did 
without thinking, I am after all sitting in my room, 
not book-lined but nevertheless containing
an impressive collection of revolving ashtrays,  
so as to lift the familiar stick to my wanting lips, 
I understood I was smoking in the face  
of a global plague and suddenly I was afraid.  


The don from Cambridge is explaining that the poem 
he is about to read, I fear it won’t be short, 
required the reading of one thousand five hundred books. 
I suspect that behind him in that donnish room 
we can see the one thousand five hundred books. 


Oh fellow Zoomers
how much lovelier to think of a theatre 
An empty stage with blood-red seats  
and balconies with strips of gold. 
A man walks across the stage  
and stops and turns and smiles – 
Very old school, Ja, he says.
You think life disappointing? 
We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful.
The girls are beautiful. the orchestra is beautiful.
And for a tantalising moment we can see the girls 
and we can hear the orchestra 
like the shadow of a coachman outside a hermitage. 

Death (please) thou shalt die.


There’s a young couple in one of the boxes 
sitting entwined in comfortable repose.
The man’s hand is on the woman’s knee
and I’m wondering what would happen 
if, in the comfort of their sitting room, 
they forget that in panoptic mode 
fifty pairs of eyes can see how 
knee touching leads to greater acts
of intimacy; their caresses more ardent, 
more urgent – O Corinna, Corona!
Someone has turned up the wattage, 
some unexpected Zoomer frottage …

I notice the professor from St Petersburg  
has left his chair and I lean forward to see 
if I can make out titles in that august language.   
He has several shelves of Gogol 
(for a fleeting moment I thought he had the tales 
of Nikolai Vasilyevich Google) 
which brings me a sudden unbridled joy. 
I too will leave my place, if only to return,
like Banquo at the feast of Zoom - 
and let the viewers admire my wall of nothing.

                                                         I saw the shadow of a coachman 
                                                         who with the shadow of a brush
                                                         did clean the shadow of a coach 

Wednesday 16 August 2023

David Frankel, "Forgetting is How We Survive"

David Frankel was born in Salford and raised on the westerly fringes of Manchester. His short stories have been shortlisted in several competitions including The Bristol Prize, The Bridport Prize, The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, The Willesden Herald, and the Fish Memoir Prize. His work has been widely published in anthologies and magazines, and also in a chapbook by Nightjar Press. He also writes nonfiction exploring memory and landscape. Forgetting is How We Survive is his first collection. 

About Forgetting is How We Survive

A plane crashes. A boy drowns. A body is found on a dark lakeside. A woman tries to make sense of a strange memory from her childhood. A father searches for a missing dog – his only link to his lost son. A boy on the brink of adolescence embarks on a journey and gets more than he bargained for. Young lovers get their kicks trespassing in empty houses. A young man prepares to leave his hometown for the last time, and a giant sink hole threatens to swallow EVERYTHING.  

In Forgetting is How We Survive, people are haunted by ghosts of the past, tormented by doppelgangers and pining for the futures that have been lost to them. Each faces a turning point – an event that will move their life from one path to another, and every event casts a shadow. 

The stories in this collection come from another England in which earthy realism hides another world where anything is possible. 

You can read more about Forgetting is How We Survive on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the collection.

From Forgetting is How We Survive, by David Frankel

Ghost Story

More investigators come, so you tell your story again. Some believe you, others don’t. Some pay, others don’t. Sometimes you forget details, or the story gets muddled and you are forced to double back, retracing your steps. Sometimes you get excited as you describe what happened and, in your enthusiasm, you embellish — you are only human, after all. These variances create doubt, and you don’t want to be perceived as dishonest, so you begin to consider your words more carefully. Each time you recount the facts, your delivery becomes more refined. You know, now, how to project integrity, trustworthiness, and when to pause to allow the gravity of what you are saying sink in. You understand how to present your best side to the suspicious lens of the camera. 

Although you only ever wanted to tell the truth, you cannot remember what that strange mixture of feelings was like. You know only how it looked in your mind’s eye the last time you recalled it. Each time you recount what happened that day, you piece it together from what you remember saying the time before, the image resolving a little more with each re-telling, its edges becoming more clearly drawn, and you are comforted by this lack of doubt. So you tell the story of what you saw again; the memory of a memory of a memory. A ghost, if you will.

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Mahsuda Snaith, "The Things We Thought We Knew"


Mahsuda Snaith is winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize and Bristol Short Story Prize. Her debut novel The Things We Thought We Knew was chosen as a World Book Night Book and her second novel How to Find Home was read on BBC Radio 4. She was named an "Observer New Face of Fiction." Mahsuda has led Creative Writing workshops in universities, hospitals, schools and in a homeless hostel. She is a commissioned writer for Colonial Countryside and her short story "The Panther's Tale" is included in Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold. Find out more here.

About The Things We Thought We Knew

On the eve of the millennium, two girls’ lives changed forever. 

Ten years later, eighteen-year-old Ravine Roy spends every day in her room. Completing crosswords and scribbling in her journal, she keeps the outside world exactly where she wants it; outside. But as the real world begins to invade her carefully controlled space, she is forced to finally confront the questions she’s been avoiding. Who is her mother meeting in secret? Who has moved in next door? And why, all those years ago, when two girls pulled on their raincoats and wellies and headed out into the woods did only one of them return?

From The Things We Thought We Knew, by Mahsuda Snaith


I wake up to find my room has been entered ninja-style during the night. Streamers line the ceiling, balloons are taped to the corners in clusters and a giant holographic banner dangles crookedly on the wall. Below it a dozen photographs are tacked in a row. It’s like a museum timeline done on the cheap.  

Photo 1: 1992 - Birth of Ravine (shrivelled new born with too much hair) 

Photo 3: 1996 - Nativity Play (girl dressed as sheep, straw hanging from mouth) 

Photo 8: 2009 - New Year’s Eve (teenager lying in bed, party hat perched jaunty on head).  

If there were an award for the World’s Worst Listener my mother would win hands down. Give her the simplest sentence and watch the cogs of her brain pull in the words, twist them up and spit out a new meaning. You say you want a kitten: she buys you a coat. You say you don’t like cabbage: she cooks seven different cabbage recipes that week. You say you don’t want a party and you wake up to a sight that makes you sweat so heavily your pyjamas glue to your skin and you have to check your knickers to make sure you haven’t wet them. 

I rub my eyes as the smell of onion bhajis floats up from the kitchen. It’s mixed with the heavy scent of citrus breeze air freshener. I hope this is a nightmare. As I prop myself up the twisting of muscles and stabbing pain along my arm confirm the truth. This was real.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Gus Gresham, "Kyiv Trance"


Fresh from ditching an engineering career in the early 1980s, Gus Gresham found his road guru and lifelong friend Laurie lying stoned and unconscious at the edge of a vineyard in the afternoon sun, an empty Beaujolais bottle in the grass and a Jack Kerouac novel spread-eagled on his chest …

They picked grapes in the same picturesque French villages; laboured in olive groves on Crete and pumpkin paddocks in New South Wales; sought enlightenment in India and did the Auf Weidersehen Pet bit on building sites in Germany. They followed seasonal work doing pretty much everything from thousand-acre wheat harvests to beachcombing. They slept in cornfields and woke up at dawn to wash their faces in the morning dew and start hitchhiking …

Alongside hard travelling, Gus always had a passion for writing, and somehow in between it all he has been a mechanical engineer, environmental activist, English tutor, audio-book producer, interpersonal-skills facilitator, and mature student (MA in Creative Writing; MSc in Building Surveying). Currently, he juggles a building-surveying career with being a husband, father and writer.

A trip to Russia and three trips to Ukraine formed the inspiration for his latest novel, Kyiv Trance.

About Kyiv Trance

Haunted by the mysterious, tragic death of his girlfriend five years earlier, university tutor Richard Farr escapes his spiralling life in London by travelling to Kyiv, Ukraine, to teach English.

It is the winter of 2004 / 05, the midst of the Orange Revolution. Hundreds of thousands are taking to the streets to protest election-result rigging. Richard's arrival coincides with the first of a series of murders in the capital. Then he meets Nadya, who may turn out to be the love of his life or a femme fatale, or both. As they grow closer, her own tragic history is revealed.
Ultimately, Richard will tread a dangerous, obsessive path, seeking happiness against the odds – as his life, the reign of the serial killer, and the political unrest in Kyiv all lead towards a shattering, interconnected climax.

You can find out more about the book here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From Kyiv Trance, by Gus Gresham

Some experiences change you utterly. It’s not possible to go back to being who you were before.

Richard was never charged.

At the nadir of the ensuing grief, his philosophy to anybody who cared to listen was, “Shakespeare had it right. ‘Life is a tale, told by a fool’ … etcetera. Most people blunder through their days in a series of hypnotic trances. Barely conscious. Never taking the blinkers off for more than a few moments at a time. Blindly following some hackneyed script laid down in childhood, no matter what torment it brings.”

There was a little bar he visited every night, called Marrakech, where they served cloudy designer lager in frost-coated glasses. It went down well with tequila chasers. They had a reasonable lunch menu, too, and the bar was only a ten-minute walk from the university.
Because he was such a good English language and literature tutor, showing up at work half drunk was overlooked for a long time.

At some point in the dark early years of the new millennium, he was invited to resign. It was a comfort that he had substantial savings — once meant as capital on a house before Trixie’s death.

Autumn, 2004. London.

Never grasping where all the time had gone, Richard lay on the sofa reading a broadsheet newspaper one evening in late November 2004 when he saw the advert.

Kyiv School of English … Come and teach at our brand new facility … Immediate vacancies … Visas and flights arranged … contact Alexei Koval …

At the same moment, the TV news cut to images live from Kyiv, where the “Orange Revolution” had been gathering pace. Furious crowds filled Independence Square amid allegations of vote rigging.

Richard looked at the impassioned protesters waving their bright orange flags and banners. They cared about something. They looked alive.

He sat up straighter and read the job advert again.

Thursday 10 August 2023

"Nature, the Environment & Sustainability" Short Story Competition 2023


Photo: cocoparisienne @ Pixabay

Are you moved by our connections with the natural world? Are you interested in nature writing, climate fiction, the ecological crisis, the Anthropocene, nature and well-being? 

The University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing and Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability are jointly sponsoring a short fiction / creative non-fiction competition for East Midlands resident writers on the theme of "Nature, Environment, Sustainability." 

We are looking for compelling writing that fires the imagination, and allows room for hope. But this is an open brief and we’re interested in anything relevant you might produce. It can be fiction in any genre, or creative non-fiction in the form of personal essay, memoir, feature journalism, travel or a hybrid of forms.

We love writers like Richard Powers, Arundhati Roy, Annie Dillard, Amitav Ghosh, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Kolbert, Kim Stanley Robinson, Mark Cocker, Tim Winton and Barbara Kingsolver; TV shows like Wild Isles and Nature Watch, Big Garden Birdwatch and the Big Butterfly Count. 

At whatever point you are in thinking and writing about nature, the environment, and sustainability, tell us about it in fiction or creative non-fiction of 1500-2500 words.

The competition is free to enter. There are prizes of £600 for the winner and £100 for four other finalists, drawn from a shortlist of ten. The ten shortlistees will have the opportunity to participate in an all-expenses-paid nature writing workshop with the competition judge in February 2024. The five finalists’ works will be published on The Centre for New Writing’s Creative Writing at Leicester blogsite. The winning piece will also be print-published in The Leicester Literary Review. The winning and finalist authors will be invited to read from their work at a special event as part of the Literary Leicester 2024 festival in March alongside the competition judge.

The Centre for New Writing is an interdisciplinary research centre exploring and developing new directions in contemporary writing. You can see more information about our work here

The Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability  conducts research on the impact of the environment on human health. It was established in 2018 with the vision to improve human health and the health of the environment through cutting edge multidisciplinary research, in a changing world. You can read more about it here

Literary Leicester is Leicester’s free annual litfest, since 2008. Read more here

Meet the Judge

We’re delighted that our competition judge is multi-award-winning author, naturalist and The Guardian’s "Country Diary" writer Mark Cocker. Mark has published a dozen books on a wide range of subjects and contributed to two dozen more. To read more about Mark, see here

To Submit Your Entry

Email and include your full name, contact email and phone number IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL. 

The document itself should be anonymised. It should ONLY contain the title and text, and NOT show the author’s name anywhere. See below for details about how to format your document.

FINAL SUBMISSION DATE IS 11.59pm (23.59) on 15th November 2023.


  • Entrants must be resident in the East Midlands region, as determined by the Office for National Statistics at the time of the final submission date. See here for details.  Shortlistees’ residency will be confirmed prior to formal announcement. 
  • Stories must be between 1500 and 2500 words. Any submissions over or under the word length will be disregarded. They should be submitted as a Word doc or PDF, double-spaced, 12 font in Times New Roman or Arial (unless you have a strong stylistic reason to play with the visual form of the piece on the page).  
  • The final submission date is 23.59 on 15th November 2023. Late entries will not be considered in any circumstances.
  • Short fiction may be in any genre. Creative non-fiction can be memoir, biography, personal essays, feature journalism, travel writing. They should be written for a lay audience, rather than specialist. 
  • All work must be in English. 
  • Shortlistees’ and finalists’ names will be published on the Centre for New Writing blogsite and other social media.
  • All entries must meaningfully relate to the competition theme of "nature, environment, sustainability." The judge’s decision on relevance is final and cannot be questioned. 
  • All entries must be submitted by email to  and include your full name, contact email and phone number IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL. The document itself should be anonymous: it only contain the title and text, and NOT show the author’s name anywhere. No other method of submission will be accepted.
  • Entries should not have been previously published (including self-published, published on a website or broadcast in any way).
  • Entries must be entirely original work, written solely by the submitter.
  • No competitor may win more than one prize.
  • Work must not be produced or edited by Chat GPT or any other AI creation tool.
  • Copyright remains with the author but prize winners must give permission to have the work on the Creative Writing at Leicester website for a period of up to twelve months. The winner’s work will also be published in The Leicester Literary Review, subject to the magazine’s copyright provisions.
  • Current members of the Centre for New Writing or the Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability are not allowed to enter the competition.
  • Decisions of the judge(s) are final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding the decision.
  • Entries that do not comply with the rules will be disqualified.

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Rachel Eliza Griffiths, "Promise"


Rachel Eliza Griffiths is an artist, poet and novelist. Her recent hybrid collection of poetry and photography, Seeing the Body, was selected as the winner of the 2021 Hurston/Wright Foundation Award in Poetry, the winner of the 2020 Paterson Poetry Prize, and a finalist for the 2021 NAACP Image Award. Griffiths’s work has appeared widely, including in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Best American Poetry, Tin House, and many others. Promise is Griffiths first novel. It was written for her mother who died in 2014 and took seven years to complete. She lives in New York City. 

About Promise

Set in 1957, at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, Promise is a luminous celebration of sisterhood, family, and love set in a village community in New England. 

Ezra and Cinthy Kindred have grown up surrounded by love; love from their parents, who let them believe that the stories they tell on stars can come true; love from the Junketts, the only other Black family in the neighbourhood, whose home is filled with spice-rubbed ribs and ground-shaking hugs; and love for their adopted home of Salt Point, a beautiful New England village perched high up on coastal bluffs. 

But as the sisters come of age, they are increasingly viewed as threats to their white neighbours’ way of life and, amidst escalating violence, prejudice and fear, must find new ways to celebrate their love and power, as the world attempts to strip them, and their families, of dignity, safety, and hope.

Promise is a story of resistance and hope. A rich, evocative and universal celebration of sisterhood, family, mothers and daughters, music, food, joy and love; it is also an unflinching exploration of race, class, identity and power, and the search for freedom and belonging. 

You can read more about Promise on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the opening of the novel. 

From Promise, by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The day before our first day of school always signaled the end of the time Ezra and I loved most. Not time like the clocks that ticked and rang their alarms every morning; we knew that time didn’t really begin or end. What we meant by time was happiness, a careless joy that sprawled its warm, sun-stained arms through our days and dreams for eight glorious weeks until our teachers arrived back in our lives, and our parents remembered their rules about shoes, bathing, vocabulary quizzes, and home training.

More than anything, we prayed that the air would remain mild for as long as possible, mid-October even, so that we could retain some of our summer independence, free to roam the land we knew and loved. We weren’t yet grown, but even the adults could pinpoint when time would tell us we would no longer be young.

We mourned summertime’s ending and made predictions about autumn and ourselves. Mostly we repeated all the different ways that summer was more honest than the rest of the year. It was the only time we could wear shorts and cropped tops with little comment from our mother. Ezra and I were allowed to walk nearly anywhere we wanted—in the other seasons, we needed permission even to walk to the village docks. And the eating! How we could eat! Mama loosened her apron strings about salt and sugar. Each day, it felt like we were eating from the menu of our dreams—fresh corn, ice cream, sliced tomatoes with coarse salt and pepper, chilled lobster, root beer floats, watermelon, oysters, crab and shrimp salads, fried chicken, homemade lemon or raspberry sorbet, grilled peaches, potato salad,
and red popsicles.

In the summer, the wildflowers returned, even in the village square. Arranged around a small pond with a handful of benches, some dead local official once believed the village square was a civil idea. Indeed, it would have been charming except there was the sea. Steps away from the square, down the narrow central passage of our village, the main street opened into a slender, shining pier where everything happened.

Monday 7 August 2023

Jonathan Wilkins, "Love Poems"

Jonathan Wilkins, by himself

I am 67. I have a gorgeous wife Annie and two beautiful sons; I love to write. I am a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstone's bookseller and former Basketball Coach. I taught for twenty years and coached women’s basketball for over thirty years before taking up writing seriously. 

These days, I regularly teach at creative writing workshops in and around Leicester and I take notes for students with Special Needs at Leicester University. 

I have always loved books and reading, but nine years at Waterstone's nearly put paid to that!

I love to write poetry. I feel this is the best way to show emotion in writing and it gives me a wonderful sense of well-being.

I’ve had a work commissioned by the UK Arts Council and had several pieces published traditionally as well as on-line. I have had some of my work placed in magazines and anthologies and also exhibited in art galleries, studios, museums and at Huddersfield Railway Station Waiting Room. I have my writing on various blogs.

About Love Poems, by Jonathan Wilkins

This is a collection of love poetry written since 2011. The poems show how love can affect us all in so many different ways. This includes the pain that love can bring: the pain of loss and the bewilderment we sometimes feel when we are in love. How should we react to love's embrace? I am not sure I will ever know. What I do know is that I am in love and have been since I met my wife.

Below, you can read a poem from the collection. 

From Love Poems


I was weeding in my garden and between
the digging and forking and ripping
out of roots and grass and weeds and alien 
shoots I thought how good it would be if we could 
pick the parts of our memories we wanted 
to keep and throw away the rest. I know
that we need bad things to make us 
realise that what we have is good, but when the 
memories scar and refuse to let us move 
on then why should we keep a hold of them? 
How do we dispose of our dark times?
Too many lie back in the memories of the 
past, content to blame and fixate and never 
move forward because they see no point 
when in fact the very reason we have these 
memories is to show us what has been and 
what can be, so we live with hope afresh.
Why stagnate when it is your future that sets you free? 
Remove the weeds from your memory's soul, 
plant seeds and saplings and foster each with care. 
New dreams can and will come true, so dispose of the 
creeping roots that threaten to choke the 
fresh and embrace the life you deserve if 
you maintain your garden's fancy vagary.

Sunday 6 August 2023

Summer News 2023

Lots has been happening in the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester since our last News post (which you can read here), so we thought it was time for an update ...

Firstly, our well-known review site, Everybody's Reviewing, has recently passed 250,000 readers! Thank you to everyone involved over the years: our reviewers, interviewers, interviewees, readers and editors. We've also recently redesigned the site, and now have an Instagram account too (@everybodyreview). Creative Writing at Leicester has a new Twitter account: @cwaleicester.

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing graduate Rosalind Adam, whose poem "Market Square" has been published by Songs of Eretz Poetry Review here

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Joe Bedford, whose story "Maria" won third prize in the Evening Standard's Stories Competition 2023. You can read Joe's story here. And not only that: Joe's story "The Christening" was shortlisted for the prestigious ALCS-Tom Gallon Trust Prize, run by the Society of Authors. You can see the shortlist here. Joe has also written an article for Everybody's Reviewing: "A Book That Changed Me: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh," which you can read here

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing student Laura Besley, whose story "Safe" was shortlisted for the Free Flash Fiction Competition. You can read Laura's story here. Laura's story "More Than Sleep" has also been published by 50-Word Stories. You can read it here.

Louise Brown, MA Creative Writing graduate, has reviewed Eastmouth and Other Stories by Alison Moore on Everybody's Reviewing here

Tracey Foster, MA Creative Writing graduate, has written a review for Everybody's Reviewing, "Punk: Rage and Revolution," which you can read here. She has also started a new writing blog called Small Sublime, which you can see here

Beth Gaylard, PhD Creative Writing student, is editor of Frontier, University of Leicester's journal for PGR students. You can read the current issue here, which also includes an essay by Joe Bedford, "‘Giving Succour’ to Fascism? Nationalism, Indigeneity and Conspiracy in the work of Paul Kingsnorth."

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Kathy Hoyle, whose novella-in-flash, Chasing the Dragon, has been published by Alien Buddha Press. Kathy launched the book at a brilliant online event co-hosted by Writers' HQ on Thursday 6th July. You can watch a recording of the launch event on Youtube here. You can read more about Chasing the Dragon on Creative Writing at Leicester here. Kathy has also interviewed author Lisa Blower for Everybody's Reviewing here

Congratulations to undergraduate Creative Writing students Joseph JoyceMariam Lulat, and Emily Wood, who are joint winners of this year's John Coleman Creative Writing Prize for undergraduate prose submissions. 

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing graduate Hannah Stevens, whose book of stories, In Their Absence, has been translated into Bulgarian by Ana Pipeva, as Когато ги няма. It's published by Altera and is available from Helikon books.

Congratulations to Shauna Strathman, BA English with Creative Writing student, who is winner of this year's G. S. Fraser Poetry Prize. 

Jonathan Taylor, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, has published his new book of short stories, Scablands and Other Stories. You can read a complete story from the collection on Creative Writing at Leicester here

Paul Taylor-McCartney, PhD Creative Writing graduate, has written a review of Connective Tissue by Jane Fraser, which you can read on Everybody's Reviewing here

Harry Whitehead, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, has published a piece of creative non-fiction in Hinterland Magazine, called "On Dead Chickens." 

Lisa Williams, MA Creative Writing graduate, has published her story "Swipe and Pay on the Last Bus of the Day" on Friday Flash Fiction here. She has reviewed The Last Dance by Mark Billingham on Everybody's Reviewing here. Lisa will be featured on Leicester Community Radio every Thursday, reading her 100-word stories. 

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Jonathan Taylor, "Scablands and Other Stories"

Jonathan Taylor is a Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Leicester, where he directs the MA in Creative Writing. He is an author, lecturer, editor and critic. His books include the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), the novels Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012) and Melissa (Salt, 2015), and the poetry collection Cassandra Complex (Shoestring, 2018). His new book is a collection of short stories, written over many years, called Scablands and Other Stories (Salt, 2023). Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, he now lives in Leicestershire, with his wife, the poet Maria Taylor, and their twin daughters, Miranda and Rosalind. His website is here

About Scablands and Other Stories, by Jonathan Taylor

These are tales from the post-industrial scablands – stories of austerity, poverty, masochism and migration. The people here are sick, lonely, lost, half-living in the aftermath of upheaval or trauma. A teacher obsessively canes himself. A neurologist forgets where home is. A starving woman sells hugs in an abandoned kiosk.

Yet sometimes, even in the twilit scablands, there’s also beauty, music, laughter. Sometimes a town square is filled with bubbles. Sometimes sisters dream they can fly. Sometimes an old man plays Bach to an empty street, two ailing actors see animal shapes in clouds, a cancer survivor searches for a winning lottery ticket in her rundown flat. And sometimes Gustav Mahler lives just round the corner, hoarding rare records in a Stoke terrace.

You can see more details about Scablands and Other Stories on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an exclusive and complete short story from the collection. 

From Scablands and Other Stories

High Dependency

Then we went to the hospital. 

Then we came home. 

Then we went to the hospital. 

Then we came home. 

Then we went to the hospital. 

Our twins slept. A passing consultant mumbled something about vital signs, ups and downs. Machines bleeped, as if swearing to themselves. 

Then we went home. 

Then we went to the hospital.

Then we came home.

We ate a lukewarm takeaway. We ignored the phone. It kept ringing, ringing. We picked up the phone, and said: “Yes, yes, no, no, still no change.” We went to bed. 

We went to the hospital. In our dreams. 

We came home. In our dreams. 

We woke up and went to the hospital in reality. 

A couple of people visited. We got their faces and names mixed up with other faces and names. 

We came home. We watched World’s Worst Serial Killers on TV till three. 

We snored on the sofa. 

We woke up, had four hours in bed, then went to the hospital. 

Our twins cried, slept, pooed, slept, cried, pooed. 

Another parent muttered something about a case of meningitis on the ward. Then said we should always look on the bright side and pray – though whether to Jesus or Monty Python, she didn’t specify. 

In the afternoon, the neonatal nurses dimmed the lights and played Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to rows of premature babies. 

We went home. A lightbulb in the hallway had blown, so we had to change it. It blew again. The microwave burnt our tea. We tried to wash up, but the hot water was off. We turned the boiler off and on again. It still didn’t work. We rang a plumber, but couldn’t find a time when he could come and fix it and we’d be in. We rang another plumber. And another. We cried. We went to bed. 

Next morning, we went to the hospital. Without a shower. 

A passing consultant flicked through the twins’ notes, mumbled something about vital signs, downs and ups. Machines bleeped, as if swearing to themselves. 

We sat in the cafeteria for breakfast, slurping lukewarm soup. One of us went to express. The other stayed sitting for a while. 

When we both got back to the ward, they’d dimmed the lights, and were playing the prems Eine Kleine Nachtmusik again, orchestrated for strings and machinic bleeps. 

We reached through holes in an incubator, touched a hand the size and texture of a petal.

One day, we whispered, one day, in years to come, we will play you Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and it will trigger in you something distant, something infinitesimal, like an infection, like cells dividing, like the tiny zigzags on a monitor, the bleep-bleep-bleeps which will never stop. Must never stop. The four of us, we will not be stuck in this twilight world forever. There will be a future, not just an ever-recurring present, believe me – a future, years away, when we are not here, trapped in this enchanted circle. Then you will hear Mozart’s little night music, and it will remind you of something you can’t recall, something beyond memory’s horizon – it will teleport your unconscious back here, for a fleeting moment. A bleep, no more, and then gone. 

The petal closed.

We went home. 

Tuesday 1 August 2023

Maram Al-Masri, "The Abduction," translated by Hélène Cardona

Maram Al-Masri was born in Latakia, Syria, and moved to France following the completion of English Literature studies at Damascus University. She is considered one of the most influential voices of her generation. 

Her books include Métropoèmes, Je te regarde, Cerise rouge sur un carrelage blanc, Le Rapt, Elle va nue la liberté, Par la fontaine de ma bouche, La robe froissée  (all Bruno Doucey), A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor (Copper Canyon), Le retour de Wallada (Al Manar), Je te menace d’une colombe blanche (Seghers), and the anthologies L’amour au temps de l’insurrection et de la guerre (Le Temps des Cerises), Femmes poètes du monde arabe (Le Temps des Cerises), and La poésie des femmes kurdes, as well as several children books. 

She is the recipient of a number of prestigious literary prizes, including the Prix d’Automne 2007 de Poésie de la Société des Gens De Lettres, the Adonis Prize of the Lebanese Cultural Forum, the Premio Citta di Calopezzati for the section Poésie de la Mediterranée, Il Fiore d’Argento for cultural excellence, and the Dante Alighieri Prize.

She is a member of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones and was appointed Ambassador of the Secours Populaire in France and citoyenne d’honneur of Vendenheim. In 2017, the Maram Al-Masri Prize was created, which rewards poetry and graphic works.

Hélène Cardona is a poet, actor, translator, and linguist, the author of Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry), called “a vivid self-portrait as scholar, seer and muse” by John Ashbery, and Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry), described by David Mason as “liminal, mystical and other-worldly,” adding, “this is a poet who writes in a rare light.” Hailed as visionary by Richard Wilbur, Cardona’s luminous poetry explores consciousness, the power of place, and ancestral roots. It is poetry of alchemy and healing, a gateway to the unconscious and the dream world.

She has authored the translations The Abduction (Maram Al-Masri, White Pine Press), Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona, Salmon Poetry), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, White Pine Press), Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux, Éditions du Cygne), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings (University of Iowa).

Hélène is the recipient of over 20 awards & honors, including the Independent Press Award, a Hemingway Grant and an Albertine and FACE Foundation Prize. Her work has been translated into 19 languages. She wrote her thesis on Henry James for her MA in American Literature from the Sorbonne, received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut and Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, worked as a translator/interpreter for the Canadian Embassy, and taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University. She is a member of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones. Her website is here

About The Abduction by Maram Al-Masri, translated by Hélène Cardona

The Abduction refers to an autobiographical event in Al-Masri’s life. When, as a young Arab woman living in France, she decides to separate from her husband with whom she has a child, the father kidnaps the baby and returns to Syria. The Abduction is the story of a woman who is denied the basic right to raise her child. Al-Masri won’t see her son for thirteen years. 

These are haunting poems of love, despair, and hope in a delicate, profound and powerful book on intimacy, a mother’s rights, war, exile, and freedom. Maram Al-Masri embodies the voice of all parents, who one day, for whatever the reason, have been forcibly separated from their loved ones. She writes about the status of women, seeking to reconcile her role as a mother with her writing work. 

You can read more about The Abduction on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a sample poem from the collection. 

From The Abduction

Under the bed

Under the bed
I found the teddy bear
you smothered with kisses
the one you talked to, eyes wide open
waiting for the angel of sleep to come

Remember how it stopped
the storm of your cries
when I waved it at you
‘til the night of your eyes glistened
and even the Niagara Falls
stopped falling

You tore it from my hands
clutching it against you
It was your companion
to face the night
your silent friend
the one you neglected when busy
the one you looked for when sad

The teddy bear and angel of sleep
keep looking for you