Friday 27 October 2023

Rosanna McGlone (ed.), "The Process of Poetry"


About The Process of Poetry: From First Draft to Final Poem, ed. Rosanna McGlone

The Process of Poetry is a unique collection of interviews with contemporary poets at the height of their craft. How does a subconscious thought become an award-winning poem? Journalist Rosanna McGlone speaks to some of the country's leading poets to find out. Don Paterson, Sean O'Brien, Gillian Clarke, Pascale Petit, Hannah Lowe, Regi Claire, Joelle Taylor, Victoria Kennefick and others explore the development of a single poem from rough notes to a final version to provide invaluable insights for writers and poetry enthusiasts alike.

You can read more about The Process of Poetry on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read about the editor and from the Preface to the book. 

Rosanna McGlone is a journalist, writer and poetry tutor. She has written more than a 100 features for both national, and international, publications including: The Guardian, The Independent, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Weekend Australian and Rosanna has lived in Australia and El Salvador. Her first radio play, based on the massacre at El Mozote, was shortlisted for the BBC’s Alfred Bradley Bursary Award. Her work has been supported by, amongst others, Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Hull Truck Theatre, Vault Festival, Green Curtain Theatre and The Old Vic New Voices Programme. Writing residencies include Capricorn Hill, NSW, Australia and The Hosking Houses Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

From The Process of Poetry

From the Preface, by Rosanna McGlone

No poet publishes a first draft, at least, not until now. Invariably, what you see are carefully honed words, nurtured into being, but what goes on before those words reach the printed page? From my own experience as a poetry tutor for many years, it is clear that most writers have little awareness of the skill and stamina involved in crafting a poem. This was the motivation behind what you are about to read. The Process of Poetry offers an opportunity to explore early drafts by fifteen of the nation’s leading poets and to hear the reasoning behind their development.

These poets have been the recipients of numerous awards including the T. S. Eliot Prize, The Forward Prize for Poetry, The Costa Book of The Year, The Eric Gregory Award, The Creative Scotland Award, The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Foyle Young Poet of the Year and The Wilfred Owen Award. 

One has been the Scottish Makar and one has been The National Poet for Wales. Several poets have work on school syllabi. Moreover, their expertise extends beyond poetry and includes editing, publishing, judging, translating, lecturing, and overseeing spoken word events. 

How was the project undertaken? I approached a number of poets whose work I admired, poets who come from highly diverse backgrounds and represent us all. I was aware from the start that they would need a willingness to make themselves vulnerable in order to share their expertise. 

Initially, each contributor sent several poems, from which one was selected which best exemplified their craft. Some poets offered very early drafts, or even journal notes, whilst others provided later versions still in need of improvement. The aim was to showcase a wide range of writing styles and redrafting techniques.

A series of interviews was conducted, enabling each poet to discuss the development of their work, some of which is based on traumatic events. Whilst a few writers have given a broad overview of their working methods, others have chosen to focus on the minutiae. Some have analysed single words, others a change to title, subject or form. It is these interviews which form the basis of this book. 

The aim of this project is not to identify and scrutinise every single alteration in each poem. The book raises a number of questions. Where does a poem originate? How do you decide on a title? When do you choose the form for your poem? What are the best approaches to editing your work? When would additional input help? How do you know when a poem is finally finished? What should you consider when assembling a collection? What is a publisher seeking? 

Contributors have offered their guidance on the skills that a working poet requires, entering competitions, translating and writing for performance. Whilst often their advice concurs, I love that it is, occasionally, contradictory. I trust that, as a reader, you will respond to the variation that is presented and take away with you what is most helpful. 

My hope is that this book will preserve the unique insights and materials of living poets for the next generation. Better still, that the value of this undertaking will be recognised and that there will be an opportunity to expand it more widely in the future ...

Friday 20 October 2023

Kim Wiltshire, "NHS Verbatim Poems"

Dr Kim Wiltshire is a scriptwriter and fiction writer, with much of her creative work being political, issue-based or exploring health and well-being. Plays include: Polarised (2004 – Burnley Youth Theatre), about the 2001 race riots (later adapted as a film for schools); The Loser (2009) for Scenepool at Camden People’s Theatre; Sing When You’re Winning (2010) for Bolton Octagon; Joy With Child (2010) for Organised Chaos in Manchester (shortlisted for the 2009 Bruntwood Prize); Triple The Price Of Fruitcake as part of the Come Closer event at the Royal Exchange (2015). Short films include Living To Die for Let's Go Global/Mothers Against Violence and Transitions for Lime and the CF Unit. In 2014, supported by Bolton Octagon and Arts Council England, with Paul Hine she toured Project XXX, a multimedia play, and in Autumn 2017, The Value of Nothing, directed by Joyce Branagh, toured the North West and the Midlands. Both plays have been published by Aurora Metro.

In December 2015 her book, Writing For Theatre: Creative and Critical Approaches, was published by Palgrave Macmillan (now with Bloomsbury Academic) and in September 2018 the book she co-edited and co-wrote with Billy Cowan, Scenes from the Revolution, was published by Pluto Press. She has also had various academic articles, essays and short stories published. 

In 2022 she became a British Academy Innovation Fellow, working with the arts team of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), known as Lime, to explore ways of embedding the arts into healthcare settings. 

About NHS Verbatim Poems, by Kim Wiltshire and Caro C

NHS Verbatim Poems is one of the projects that came out of the British Academy Fellowship. Working with musician and sound artist Caro C, Kim interviewed a range of nurses both onsite at Manchester Royal Infirmary and across the city with the District Nurses. Using a range of questions, Kim and Caro formed the interviews into ‘poems’ using the clips from the recorded interviews, with Caro adding original music to these pieces often using found sounds from the working environment. At time of writing, there are three poems with a fourth planned for 2024. The poems can be found here.  

One Day, One Ward was showcased on the BBC Arts and Idea podcast (BBC Radio 3 - Arts & Ideas, New Thinking: Writing the NHS) and two of the poems formed part of an immersive dance theatre piece of the 2023 Being Human Festival in Liverpool, Be My Guest, working with Fusion Dance Company. 

The reason we wanted to use verbatim for the poems was because of the truthfulness of what was said in the interviews. As the writer, Kim shaped the words and sentences, formed them into a poem, but the phrases, statements, ideas are those that came from the nurses and healthcare staff we interviewed. Their words can paint a picture of what life is really like as a frontline healthcare worker so clearly, including not only the difficulties of their working life, but their homelives, giving a rounded picture of a whole human being who just happens to do an amazing job, rather than the faceless heroes/angels that the public were encouraged to bang pans for on their doorsteps every Thursday evening during the pandemic. These poems were created to honour and show appreciation for that work. 

Below is the transcript of One day, One Ward.

One Day, One Ward

Today Today Today Today Today Today Today

Today started with having a handover,
There was plenty of staff
Compared to yesterday.
Thereafter, we served breakfast.
I began to do my medications,
I also assisted the support workers.
Personal care,
The way you would care for your parents.

Today, quite a few surprising things happened.
Everything is kind of unexpected.
I got complimented off the matrons for excellent care.
My manager has said she would be very happy to be cared for by me.
A family member was very grateful of our support.
There is always someone who appreciate the little things you make to them.
There is always someone who’s smiling at you for no reason, you know.
That is why I’m in this profession,
I just want to make a difference in the lives of others,

Today the hardest part of my day 
Was trying to fit in seeing every patient that needed to be seen. 
Waiting for linen to come in to be able to get on with work.
Taking the observations of the patients, 
When patients’ families get upset because they’re in hospital.

Today for my break I just had summat to eat and a chill out time.
Cup of tea and my rice crispies.
Surfed a bit of Facebook, just to catch up on what’s going on.
And then I rang my family as well.
In my break, I sat, forgot work and ate tranquilment.

I’ve not eaten anything yet, not had chance today.

Today I haven’t had a break.

Today I heard that some patients passed away 
Before my shift started.
Our wish is to see every one of them go back to their family, you know, 
And when this tends to happen, we really feel it, you know, but …
Afterward, we move on.

We move on.

We move on.

Today I’ve heard call bells, door buzzers, fire alarm,
Patients shouting out.
Lots of interesting conversations between patients,
Shouts, screams, laughter, crying,
Obs machine, the IV fluids.

I’ve heard people smile.

The sound that was the most profound.
The fire alarm go off.
The fire alarm, because someone broke it.
The fire alarm.
The fire alarm went off, where is it, you know, 
Checking the toilets and the bay
To see if there is anyone smoking.
I asked why did you press it? 
He said, I don’t know, it was there.
The fire service, they came in and turned it off.
That was today you know.

Today at the end of the shift,
I would reflect about how the shift has gone.
Change into my regular clothes and then hurry off to the car.
I will go home, kick my shoes off, ask my daughter 
To make me a nice cup of tea. 
And relax.
Relax and watch champions league.
My plan is to make lots of macaroons, 
Coconut macaroons, 
For tomorrow,
For the patients.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up early and get myself ready for work,
Because I’ll be coming back tomorrow.
Probably do pretty much the same thing as what I’ve done today.
Tomorrow is my day off, and I’ve got to wait in for the gasman.
Tomorrow I’m expecting to look similar to today, 
But I’m hoping it will be better.
Tomorrow I’m back again, 
I’m very passionate about my job.
Tomorrow is my day off. 
I’ll look after my children in the morning before they go to school.

Tomorrow? Heh. I come back to work!
And give some macaroons away.

Monday 16 October 2023

Teika Marija Smits, "Umbilical"

Teika Marija Smits is a UK-based writer and freelance editor. She writes poetry and fiction, and her speculative short stories have been published in IZ Digital, Parsec, Reckoning, Shoreline of Infinity, Best of British Science Fiction and Great British Horror 6. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Russian Doll, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in March 2021, and Umbilical, her first collection of short stories, was published by NewCon Press in August 2023. Waterlore, her micro short story collection, is due to be published by Black Shuck Books in November 2023. A fan of all things fae, she is delighted by the fact that Teika means fairy tale in Latvian. Teika is on Twitter/X @MarijaSmits and her website is here.  

About Umbilical

Containing 21 stories of motherhood and mythology, science and spirituality, that traverse both space and time, Umbilical delves deep into the human psyche and the power of creativity. Smits’s writing dances between multiple genres, taking in science fiction, fantasy and horror, and the stories range in tone from dark to light and feature well-known figures from long-ago tales such as Bluebeard, Baba Yaga, the Minotaur and the Green Man.

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

From Umbilical, by Teika Marija Smits

The Green Man

“Olly, we know you can hear us,” said Jack. “So are you coming to The Green Man or what?”

Olly opened his eyes, put his hand to his earpiece and disconnected himself from the cloud. He sat up, the thin plastic mattress rucking up beneath him.

“It’ll be fun,” said Selma, “an adventure. They serve mead. Real mead.”

“You’re shitting me,” said Olly.

“No, we are absolutely not shitting you,” insisted Mohinder, his face as serious as ever. “But we’re making plans and need to know if you’re up for it.”

Olly’s eyes flicked over to Nate’s mattress. It was empty, and for a moment his face revealed the panic he felt.

Selma laughed. “Don’t worry. Lover boy’s just gone to the loo. But he wants to come with us.”

Olly reddened, told them all to fuck off, and laid down again, his back to the three of them. As he reconnected to the cloud, music and updates streaming into his consciousness, he heard Jack again: “We go on Friday. When there’ll be a full moon. A Green Grass Moon.” Selma said something about bicycles.

Olly began to doze. And as he slipped into sleep his neural feed suddenly filled with strange images: a lime-coloured moon; blades of grass; a grinning man, his green face covered in leaves.

Friday 6 October 2023

Welcome and New Academic Year News 2023


Welcome to all our new BA, MA and PhD Creative Writing students, and welcome back to all our current students. We thought it might be a good time to share some news from Creative Writing students and staff. 

General News

Firstly, congratulations to all MA Creative Writing students who completed their course in mid-September - it's a huge achievement.

Our blog, Everybody's Reviewing, has now had 300,000 readers. Thanks to all - our editors, reviewers, readers and authors - involved. Creative Writing at Leicester has had over 180,000 readers. 

The results to this year's Joe Orton Creative Writing Competition are now out. This year's joint winners were Hazel Morpurgo and Amelie Houseago, and the runner-up was Chloe Howe. You can read more here.

New Walk Editions, which is co-edited by Associate Professor Nick Everett, will be publishing two new pamphlets in early November, Derron Sandy’s The Chaos and Blake Morrison’s Never the Right Time.

Student News

Congratulations to Joe Bedford, PhD Creative Writing student, whose story "Image of a Rabbit in Dirt" has won third prize in the Aurora Writing Prize 2023. Joe was also longlisted for the Hastings Book Festival Short Story Competition 2023. And Joe was one of this year's judges for the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing student Laura Besley, whose story "After and after and after before" was longlisted for the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2023

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing graduate Constantine, whose new novel J├Âtunheim has just been published. You can read more here. You can read a review of the novel by Katherine Hetzel on Everybody's Reviewing here

Congratulations to Laurie Cusack, PhD Creative Writing graduate, whose book of stories, The Mad Road, will be published this Autumn by Roman Books. He is holding a joint book launch, with Jonathan Taylor and Charlie Hill, at the Emerald Centre in Leicester on the evening of Tuesday 21 November 2023. All are welcome - further details to follow! Laurie has also written a review of Kyiv Trance by Gus Gresham for Everybody's Reviewing here

MA Creative Writing graduate Tracey Foster has written reviews of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan here, and the Punk: Rage and Revolution exhibition at Leicester Museums and Art Galleries here

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Kathy Hoyle and MA Creative Writing graduate Sam Dawson, BOTH of whom were longlisted for the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. You can see the list here. Kathy's story has now been shortlisted for the prize. Her story "An Orange Fruit Will Ripen in Its Own Good Time" has also been published on WestWord here.  

Amirah Mohiddin, PhD student in Creative Writing, has had her story, "Honour," published by The Bookends Review here

Congratulations to English with Creative Writing student Georgia Sanderson, who has won the inaugural Belvoir Poetry Prize, awarded to the year's best undergraduate portfolio of poetry. Georgia received the award from the Duchess of Rutland and poet Tim Grayson, who established the award, at a special presentation at Belvoir Castle last month.  

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing graduate Lisa Williams, who is now Assistant Editor of Friday Flash Fiction. Lisa has also written a review of Flatlands by Sue Hubbard for Everybody's Reviewing here. Lisa now has a regular slot on Leicester Community Radio on Thursdays, reading her 100-word stories. Lisa has written a review of Jonathan Taylor's Scablands and Other Stories for Everybody's Reviewing here

Monday 2 October 2023

Anna Vaught, "The Zebra and Lord Jones"

Anna Vaught is an English teacher, Creative Writing teacher, mentor, editor and author of several books, including Saving Lucia, Famished, Ravished and These Envoys of Beauty. Her short creative works and features have been widely published, and she has written for the national press and has had a column with The Bookseller and Mslexia. In 2022 Anna launched The Curae, a new literary prize for carers. Anna is also a guest university lecturer, a tutor for Jericho Writers, and volunteers with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is the mother of three sons, comes from a large Welsh family and lives in Wiltshire. The Zebra and Lord Jones is her third novel and seventh book.

About The Zebra and Lord Jones

A listless aristocrat, Lord Jones, finds himself in London during the Blitz, attending to insurance matters. A zebra and her foal, having escaped from the London Zoo during a bombing, cross his path, and he decides to take them back to his estate in Pembrokeshire. Little loved by his fascist-sympathiser parents, something in Lord Jones softens, and he realises he is lost, just like these zebras. 

The arrival of the zebras sparks a new lease of life on the Pembrokeshire estate, and it is not only Lord Jones but the families his dynasty has displaced that benefit from the transformation. Full of heart and mischief, The Zebra and Lord Jones is a hopeful exploration of class, wealth and privilege, grief, colonialism, the landscape, the wars that men make, the families we find for ourselves, and why one lonely man stole a zebra in September 1940 – or perhaps why she stole him.

You can read more about The Zebra and Lord Jones on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From The Zebra and Lord Jones, by Anna Vaught

It is the autumn of 1940 and the staff of the London Zoo have been hard at work on the preparations for keeping the animals safe. Soon, the Blitz will begin. All the venomous creatures have already been destroyed in case of their escape, or perhaps to prevent their falling into the wrong hands; as in other menageries, the seals have been sequestered for submarine-detection training; in food shortages, some of the smallest creatures have been fed to the biggest and hungriest. Londoners have taken to the animal-adoption scheme to help keep the creatures in food and bedding; some of the tiniest are boarding with families, with the dormice shoeboxed out. It is some miniscule recompense for owners of the 750,000 pets put down when war broke out. But then, late one September night, the zebra enclosure suffers a direct hit, and Mother the zebra and her foal Sweetie escape and outrun the keepers. This is a true story, and is recounted in the journals of Dr Sidney Huxtable, eminent zoologist and director of the zoo, who gave directions that night for the seal pond to be drained in order to provide more water for the firefighters. 

Also in the city that night – as the zebra and her foal ran amidst the flames and rubble, through a tableau of extraordinary suffering – was Lord Robert Ashburn, Baron Jesmond (to be known to you as ‘Lord Jones’, for which read on), attending to his family’s property in Mayfair and Knightsbridge (a little late, as ever) and accounting for insurance expectations in the event of destruction by Hitler, about which the family had serious concerns (in terms of guarding bricks and mortar) ...