Friday 29 March 2024

Spring News from Creative Writing at Leicester

It's been a few months since our last news post (which you can read here), so we thought it was time for an update, now we're at the end of the Spring term. There are some great news stories to share from Creative Writing and the Centre for New Writing. Wishing everyone a great Easter break!

General News from Creative Writing at Leicester

There have been some great events, guest talks and masterclasses at the University over the last few months. You can read about some of them here - and there are still more to come next term. Do take a look.

As part of this year's amazing Literary Leicester Festival, we ran our third annual Creative Writing Student Showcase. It was a lovely event, featuring brilliant readings from BA, MA, PhD Creative Writing students and graduates, including Beth Gaylard, Grace Klemperer, Hannah Mitchell, Lisa Williams, Kathy Hoyle, Jack Peachey, Laurie Cusack, Daneil Hibberd, Tracey Foster, Rob Reeves, Isobel Copley, Alexander Osani, Oleksandra Korshunova and Laura Besley. 

The final results of the "Nature, the Environment & Sustainability" Short Story Competition were also announced at Literary Leicester Festival. Congratulations to joint winners Lee Wright and Sophie Sparham, as well as Alice Newitt who was specially commended, and runners-up Sam Dawson and Carol Rowntree Jones. Joint winner Lee Wright is a current PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester, and Sam Dawson is one of our MA Creative Writing graduates. You can read about the final results on Creative Writing at Leicester here.  

Congratulations to Creative Writing graduates Sam Bouch, Matt Walton, Nina Walker and all those involved in the writing and publication of the inaugural issue of Amateur Hour, a zine of poetry and prose by members of the eponymous writing group in Leicester. You can read more details about the zine on Creative Writing at Leicester here

Thank you to all the Creative Writing students and graduates, Kristy Diaz, Georgia Sanderson, Kathy Hoyle, Laura Besley, Hannah Mitchell and Grace Klemperer, all of whom came to talk to our External Examiners, Chris Jones and Karen Stevens, on Monday 18 March. It was a really insightful and fascinating discussion. 

Recently, our review website Everybody's Reviewing passed 375,000 readers and Creative Writing at Leicester is about to hit 250,000 readers. Our Facebook group has over 1,600 members. Thanks to all our contributors, authors, reviewers, editors, members, designers and readers! 

Student News from Creative Writing at Leicester

On Tuesday 23 April, PhD Creative Writing student Joe Bedford will be appearing at Waterstones Cardiff, and again on Wednesday 24 April at The Tabernacle, Mumbles (Swansea), promoting his novel A Bad Decade for Good People (Parthian Books, 2023).

MA Creative Writing graduate Laura Besley's story, "Conditions for Living," has recently been published by Gone Lawn here

MA Creative Writing graduate Constantine is continuing his work as editor and co-founder of Coalville C.A.N. Community Publishing. The organisation is a resource for local writers, with special consideration given to neurodiverse and disabled writers and those from under-represented backgrounds. You can read a blog by Constantine here and can view Coalville C.A.N. Community Publishing's website here.  

PhD Creative Writing graduate Laurie Cusack has had a beer (6.5%) named after his book, The Mad Road. The beer was sold at the Ale Stone Pub on Aylestone Road, Leicester, over Christmas. Proceeds went to the Emerald Centre in Leicester. Cheers, Laurie!

MA Creative Writing student Kristy Diaz will be co-authoring An Untold History of UK Emo (working title), to be published through independent record label Big Scary Monsters, anticipated release in 2025.

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing graduate Tim Hannigan, whose book The Granite Kingdom was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Book of the Year 2024.

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Kathy Hoyle whose story "Cockleshell Girl" is published in South Florida Poetry Journal here

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing graduate Tionee Joseph whose work was featured at the International Working Class Story Festival at Upstairs at the Western and online on March 23rd-24th. The festival was a showcase of talent from working-class artists and academics in the UK, USA and Australia.

Congratulations to Grace Klemperer, BA English with Creative Writing student, who performed her poetry at the "Run Your Tongue" open-mic poetry evening in Leicester. This regular open-mic poetry evening is run and compered by PhD Creative Writing student Rob Reeves. 

Congratulations to Creative Writing graduate Amrita Manku, whose play The Incident was performed at the Discovery Showcase Event at The Curve Theatre in Leicester on Friday 1 March. You can see more details here.

Amirah Mohiddin, PhD Creative Writing student, recently presented a conference paper at the Historical Fictions Research Annual Conference (2024), in Malmo, Sweden. Her paper was entitled "A Thousand and One Nights Meets Morocco’s Fight for Independence in a Historical Fantasy," and explored how Young Adult fantasy can be a powerful mode to decolonise history. The paper is linked with her practice-based research, where she is writing a YA fantasy novel interrogating storytelling as a mode of heroism and salvation. You can read more about Amirah's PhD here

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing graduate Karen Powell-Curtis, whose poem "Mary Wilson" has been published in the new issue of Allegro Poetry Magazine. You can read the poem here.  

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Jane Simmons whose poem "The Poet Writes an Abecedarian for her Maiden Aunt" won third prize in the Mslexia Poetry Competition

Congratulations to Charlie Wilkins, MA Creative Writing student, whose latest novel, History Is a Haunted House, was recently published. You can read more about it here

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Kit de Waal, "Why Do a Creative Writing MA?"

Writing is a lonely business. When writers aren’t living in their heads, staring out of a window or into a coffee cup, when we’re not watching how people talk and move so we can use it later on, we are on our own writing, re-writing, editing, re-editing, lamenting and occasionally celebrating. Then comes the sharing bit. You know when you ask your best friend to read what you’ve done and you send the email and you wait and wait and hope that they say, "Oh wow! Brilliant!" because anything else has you reaching for the tissues. And then back to the screen for another bout of editing and refining.

Creative Writing courses - BAs, MAs, short courses and diplomas - all offer an alternative. Of course, you’re still going to be writing all on your own but you might do some of it in a classroom with other people struggling to get the great stuff in their heads down on to the page. And the feedback you get will likely be from someone who has been there, done that and lived to tell the tale and see their book in Waterstones.   

So often we hear that "the greats" (by that, people usually mean the mostly blokes that wrote the classics) didn’t do a Creative Writing degree, so why should I? Let’s think about that. Firstly, there were no Creative Writing degrees when, say Dickens was alive or Shakespeare or Flaubert or even Graham Greene. Secondly, most of "the greats" spent many, many years honing their craft, had many rejections, spent their days discussing Creative Writing with their friends (a course by any other name) and had editors and agents who polished up their manuscripts. And there are many examples of contemporary writers who have been published who didn’t do a Creative Writing degree. And there are just as many that did. Just like football or dressmaking or photography, some things are better achieved when there is a modicum of talent, but as well as talent you also need desire, opportunity, support and guidance.

What does make a good writer is a respect for the craft. Just as a chef or a tailor or a carpenter has to know the basics, has to know what tools to use and when, has to work for many years as an apprentice and learn from an expert, so too the good writer will know what good writing looks like and how the author has achieved the result. Like a good chef can taste a dish and say "too much salt," a good writer will also know what doesn’t work and be able to articulate why: "the character was not well rounded because …" or "the ending didn’t work because …" or "the middle was loose because …"  And good writers know the ingredients of a good story – plot, characterisation, dialogue, crisis, resolution etc. – and can put them all together in fresh and exciting ways.  

The Creative Writing MA at Leicester will help you find out what sort of a writer you are, help you discover your writing voice (the thing that makes you different from everyone else, just like your audible voice), and will help you develop confidence and connections. You will hear from published writers, agents and industry professionals and be accountable so that you keep writing and you keep moving forward. It's time spent working on something you love and that occasionally loves you back.

There are many routes to publication and a Creative Writing Master's is no guarantee of success. Neither is working alone without any professional input or support, without a class full of people all working towards the same goal, all interested in the exact placement of a comma or a line break and celebrating your success.

Come and join us, lonely or not. 

See here for further information about the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. 

Kit de Waal is Professor in Creative Writing and Jean Humphreys Writer in Residence at the University of Leicester. Born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, she was brought up among the  Irish community of Birmingham in the '60s and '70s. Her debut novel My Name Is Leon was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and won the Kerry  Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017. In 2022 it was adapted for television by  the BBC. Her second novel, The Trick to Time, was longlisted for the Women's Prize and her young adult novel Becoming Dinah was shortlisted for the Carnegie CLIP Award 2020. A collection of short stories, Supporting Cast, was published in 2020. An anthology of  working-class memoir, Common People, was crowdfunded and edited by Kit in 2019. Kit founded her own TV production company, Portopia Productions, and the Big Book Weekend, a free digital literary festival in 2020 and was named the FutureBook Person of the Year 2019. Kit is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. You can read about her memoir Without Warning and Only Sometimes on Creative Writing at Leicester here. Her author website is here

Friday 15 March 2024

Richard Byrt, "The Trouble with Carruthers"


Richard Byrt has tried to improve and develop his poems since completing an MA in Creative Writing at De Montfort University, following his retirement from his day job in 2011. He has published poems in his collection, Devil's Bit (2015), in several co-authored collections and in Glitterwolf LGBTQ+ magazine. Richard facilitates Creative Writing at SoundCafe Leicester, a charity for people with many talents and abilities, who have experienced homelessness or insecure housing. He is actively involved in Pinggg...K!, a monthly poetry event in Leicester, and occasionally reads / performs his work. 

You can read a review on Everybody's Reviewing of Devil's Bit here. Below, you can read one of Richard's more recent poems, "The Trouble with Carruthers."

About the Poem "The Trouble with Carruthers," by Richard Byrt 
This was the fourth poem I drafted on a long railway journey on 24 November, 2023 - immediately after working on some rather depressing poems on artificial intelligence, war and terrorism. I often write funny poems after drafting more serious stuff. I think I wrote "The Trouble with Carruthers" as a bit of light relief, and as a contrast to the previous three poems.  I did some revisions after the first draft, but not a great deal. The poem is probably influenced by my reading of the P. G. Wodehouse stories about Jeeves and Wooster and the Blotto and Twinks comic detective stories by Simon Brett, set in the 1920s. Part of me wonders whether I should just write comic poetry, but I also enjoy including grim humour in some of my more "serious" poems.   

The Trouble with Carruthers

The trouble with Carruthers was that none of the chaps 
Knew who he was, or where he was from.
Some of the chaps rumoured that his people 
Were – well – not quite from the top drawer.
It was said, though no one could remember by whom,
That Carruthers had an uncle who owned a manufactory, and that his pater 
Had even – horror of horrors – attended a polytechnic.
It was noted by some of the chaps that Carruthers
Vulgarly chewed gum and failed to hold his fork properly when dining
In the way chaps should.  Naturally, none of the chaps could speak to him.
But what a relief when the chaps discovered that the rumours about Carruthers
Were about a different Carruthers, and that the Carruthers this poem is about  
Was the eldest son of the Duke of Malmesbury.
And so, the chaps concluded, it could not be vulgar for Carruthers
To chew gum and hold his fork differently.
After all, as the chaps remarked, he was an aristocrat, so what he did must be tickety-boo.
And very soon, after the chaps discovered who Carruthers was,
They all started chewing gum and holding their forks
Just like he did.

Monday 11 March 2024

Siobhian R. Hodges, "Untitled Decade"


Siobhian R. Hodges is a Leicestershire writer, author of the Young Adult novel Killing a Dead Man and anthology Untitled Decade. Siobhian has a BA in Creative Writing and Film Studies from De Montfort University and an MA in Creative Writing from Loughborough University. During her studies, she was both scriptwriter and script editor for Gatling Gun Productions (the not-for-profit film company she set up alongside her dad and sister). She has since written, edited and supervised several scripts, and even directed her own book trailer under the production company. With her experience in and passion for film, Siobhian’s novels and short stories can often be described as cinematic. In her free time, Siobhian enjoys reading and taking long walks in the countryside with her daughter and fiancé. Her favourite authors are Patrick Ness and Kevin Brooks – if you haven’t read their work, you definitely should! Killing a Dead Man was published in October 2019. Siobhian is currently busy working on her next big project. Her website is here

About Untitled Decade
By the end of each decade, we all have stories to tell. Here are mine

A coming-of-age anthology like no other ... This part-fiction, part-memoir anthology spans the years of the author’s youth with a unique collection of twelve individual short stories. Like an encrypted diary, each story was written between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five and reflects the events that she (like many) faced during that time. 

With moments of heart, humour and horror, Untitled Decade is a personal exploration of a young adult’s imagination. This anthology will draw you in with its twisty, fast-paced stories as much as the relatable journal accounts.

From Untitled Decade, by Siobhian R. Hodges

“Just shut the f**k up.” His words, cold as ice, slap me like the hit I knew was to come. His eyes were glazed over from the joint he’d finished half an hour ago and his hands were shaking in unwarranted anger. But I couldn’t back down. It’s not the way I was raised.

“All I was saying,” I said, as calm as I could, “was that everyone deserves the right to vote.” 

He presses a button on his laptop, pausing the game he’d been playing. “Yes, but you’re missing the point,” he said.

“Which is …?”

“That some people are stupid and don’t know what they’re voting for.”

I shrug. “Still doesn’t mean you should take away their vote.”

He slams his hand down hard on his desk, making the line of ash hanging from the incense stick break off. Shame, I was seeing how long it could hold on.

“What the hell do you know about politics anyway?” he said.

“More than some, less than others,” I admit. “But I’m not arguing politics. I’m on about people’s rights to –”

“Just SHUT UP!”

He stood up from his computer chair and I instinctively rose from the settee I’d been slouched on. He came at me, spittle flying from his dry lips. “Dumb bitch, you think you know everything, don’t you?”

I could feel my knees trembling. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. “I don’t think I know everything,” I said.

“Damn right, you don’t,” he said. “Because you’re stupid too.”

“No I’m not.”


I flinch, and then he begins closing the gap between us. Not good.

I stuff my phone into my jeans back pocket and keep moving: down the hall, past the kitchenette … until I eventually back into the front door of our flat.

Friday 8 March 2024

Anne Caldwell, "Neither Here Nor There"


Dr Anne Caldwell is a writer and editor, based in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. She lectures in Creative Writing at the Open University as well as working as an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund. Her writing has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and internationally, including The Rialto, Spelt Magazine, Tract, Poetry Wales, Rabbit and Axon. She has published a number of poetry collections including Painting the Spiral Staircase (Cinnamon Press, 2016). In 2019, she was the co-editor of The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, alongside Oz Hardwick. Her fourth collection of prose poetry was Alice and the North (Valley Press). She was the co-editor of Prose Poetry Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2022) with Oz Hardwick. Anne writes about the natural world, our relationship to it, and revels in the stories, place names and characters of the north of England. This year she is a winner of a James Tait Prize, and has a new pamphlet of poetry out called Neither Here nor There, with SurVision Press. Twitter (X): @caldwell_anne 



About Neither Here Nor There 
Neither Here Nor There is a prize-winning pamphlet of prose poems that celebrates the in-between places and states of mind we can inhabit. The writing is firmly rooted in a sense of place and eco-poetics, as well as an exploration of the turbulence of climate change and the pandemic. Prose poetry is a flexible form that is brilliant at holding contradictions and juxtapositions: qualities that are exploited in a search for love and a deep connection with a wilder, natural world in these quietly immersive poems. Inspired by Anne Carson, Anne has used a double justified rectangle of text in each of the poems, so that the work resembles the grid squares on a map. The organising principle of the work is the prose poetry form and the way it can present a series of vignettes that mix the details of ordinary life with dreams and myth, the real and the fairytale, where humans transform into birds and language is lost and found. The world of this pamphlet is spinning out of reach. The prose poems explore landscapes, urban and rural, where our connections to each other have been fragmented and stretched. As the poem "Unrequited" suggests, "The language of now is short and full of gaps." Here is a sense of playfulness in the writing, as the prose poems combine the down-to-earth cadences of prose and the lyrical, musical intensity of poetry at the same time. 

You can read more about Neither Here Nor There on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample prose poems from the collection. 

From Neither Here Nor There, by Anne Caldwell


Walls were less rigid when I was young. Bedrooms expanded when love bloomed and contracted as grief swallowed the family, made it lemon-sour and pithy.  Hiding in the bottom of the wardrobe, I would listen to the bitterness of mother and father. I’d a penknife, a lucky stone and a ball of string.  I owned a hand-me-down bike and found a cycle route to Astbury, cutting beneath the canal aqueduct.  The air was damp and cool; the brickwork smothered in moss. 

A stalactite childhood lay here, lingering beneath that body of water. Beneath tadpoles and crested newts; beneath rusty shopping trollies and lead fishing sinkers. 

Glass Blower 

And this dim-lit life is a glass vase in the making. Needs blowing and warming. Alice loads her rod with molten liquid from the furnace, rolling the orange glow to over 900 degrees in wet newspaper. Life begins to cool a little and harden. She doesn’t wear gloves as she dips the glass in powdered cobalt. She blows, then places her thumb over the rod until the glass begins to swell into a sphere, catching an air bubble at its centre. Keep turning. Keep blowing. Find life’s heat and joy. Don’t stop moving. 

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Martin Figura, "The Remaining Men"

Martin Figura was (some time ago now) described in a hospital referral letter (bad back) as ‘a pleasant 58 year old gentleman.’ His collection and show Whistle were shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and won the 2013 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Show. Shed (Gatehouse Press) and Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine (Cinnamon Press) were both published in 2016. During the first lockdown he began the monthly Zoom event Live From The Butchery with Helen Ivory and Kate Birch. It won the Best Spoken Word Night Saboteur Award. In 2021 he was Salisbury NHS Writer in Residence, with a pamphlet My Name is Mercy from Fair Acre Press. Some of this work has been filmed with Olivia Coleman and published in the Guardian. A second pamphlet from Fair Acre Press, Sixteen Sonnets for Care, from a commission for Social Care charities was published in 2022. His new collection The Remaining Men came out with Cinnamon Press in February 2024. He lives in Norwich with Helen Ivory and sciatica. The show Shed is returning to the stage in April 2024, three years after its Covid postponement. Martin has performed his work all over the place from Diss to New York to New Delhi and on BBC 1 Breakfast. His website is here

About The Remaining Men, by Martin Figura
The collection is I suppose a reckoning - an attempt to make sense of how we and I got here, from when I arrived on the scene in 1956. It includes just a few autobiographical poems, but mostly looks outward to small human stories. There are some poems about political leaders, that I have mostly tried to reduce to that same human level, whatever the colour of their politics. I realise it is quite ambitious and wide in its range, but hope I’ve manged to pull the threads together in a convincing way.

As the title implies, I have touched on what has been expected of men, particularly working-class men, and how they have been discarded as the world has changed about them. In an age when men are widely looked on in a pejorative way, and with plenty of justification, I hope I’ve managed to do this with some tenderness and understanding. I am not tackling the so called ‘culture wars’ - that minefield doesn’t need another old white man blundering about in it. In addition to my own experiences, I’ve also drawn on residences including a Miners’ village in Durham, the NHS, The Soldiers’ Charity and Social Services. 

You can read more about The Remaining Men on the publisher's website here. You can read a review of the book by Peter Raynard on Everybody's Reviewing here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From The Remaining Men

The Remaining Men 

When the men surfaced for the last time and dispersed 
some were left over. These men wandered about the town 
until they each found their own particular sweet spot.  
Then they just stood there, looking out over the scarred coast
through red-rimmed eyes to the rough brown sea.  

As the days went by people gave up asking them 
why so still and could they fetch someone 
or something? They became like street signage, 
A-boards, parked prams or tied up dogs; something
to be manoeuvred around. As the months went by 

the men became hardened to difficult weather 
filling their coat pockets with hail. During the great storm 
of Eighty-Seven, their caps blew off and went cartwheeling 
down the streets with bin lids. As the years went by 
the slagheaps faded to green and saplings were planted.  

The men began to petrify into monuments. When 
the new road for the business park went through 
a lot of them were tipped back onto trollies, like the ones 
railway porters used to use, then loaded on to flatbed trucks 
with the traffic cones. Most were broken down for aggregate.  

The lucky ones were sold off as novelty porch lights 
and stood outside front doors on the new estate 
illuminating small front lawns and driveways.  
As the decades went by, saplings became sycamores 
and elms and named Colliery Wood. In autumn

the early morning light on them was glorious 
and cycle paths made their way there. The remaining 
men were defaced by graffiti and badly worn 
by then, many considered them to be an eyesore.  
When children asked what they were, not everyone 

could remember and of those that did, few were believed.  
As the centuries went by, they all but disappeared, 
only the circle in the park remained. Archaeologists 
and historians disagree about how they came to be there 
and what they might have been used for.

Harold Wilson Rows Towards Bishop Rock  

Harold, knees like little moons, bends 
his back, puffs through the clamouring
halyards of the bay. Always six moves ahead 
of the other buggers, be they Old Etonians 
or fellow grammar grubbers.  And where else 
to escape serious concerns, but these Scilly Isles.  
The cormorant is attentive company 
at the blunt end of the boat, kinked wings 
hung out to dry, Harold’s words gulped down 
like slippery fish. The oars are worn soft 
in their locks, while he rows he recalls himself
a boy in a school cap, at the steps of Number Ten. 
On the slipway, Mary diminishes to the red dot 
of her coat.  The lighthouse lays down her path, 
tugs the glow of Gannex mac and pipe smoke 
through the net curtain of mizzle. Mary turns,
heads up the slope towards the archipelago’s 
clustered lights and their ugly little bungalow.

Monday 4 March 2024

Rhian Elizabeth, "girls etc"

Rhian Elizabeth was born in 1988 in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, and now lives in Cardiff. She is a writer and a trainee counsellor. Her debut novel, Six Pounds Eight Ounces, was published in 2014 by Seren Books and is currently being adapted for TV, and her poetry collection, the last polar bear on earth, was published in 2018 by Parthian Books. Her prose and poetry have been listed in various competitions and prizes and appeared in many magazines and anthologies, as well as being featured on Radio 4’s PM programme. She was named by the welsh agenda as one of Wales’ Rising Stars - one of thirty people working to make Wales better over the next thirty years. She is a Hay Festival Writer at Work and Writer in Residence at the Coracle International Literary Festival in Tranås, Sweden. Her next poetry collection, girls etc, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in 2024.

About girls etc
The language in Rhian Elizabeth's poetry feels instinctual: the poems in girls etc pulse and ripple with energy, their rhythms perfectly pitched. Elizabeth writes of personal experience with an intensity and sharpness that challenges you to look closely. girls etc showcases a defiance, alongside the beauty and vulnerability, which resonates long after the last page is turned. Rhian Elizabeth brings a breath of fresh air to contemporary poetry.

You can read more about girls etc on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From girls etc, by Rhian Elizabeth

i am the captain

in films and tv shows
they always give boats female names
so i name this one after
the best lover
i ever had
it is rude to say 
now i can ride her!
i never did learn
how to properly handle a vessel
as mighty as a woman
i turn the key in the ignition
the open ocean beckons
her engine rumbles
and i am the captain.

if we could just go back i’d push you higher

at the playground the stink from last night’s fire on the 
mountain infiltrates the summer air, lingering like bad breath

you send the pushchair toppling, come flying out of the seat 
as soon as i release the clip like you’re a parachuter ejecting 

i sit on a bench and watch you zoom around, 
free falling between the various apparatus  

up the steps and down the slide up the steps and down the slide 

swinging from the bars 
like a curly yellow haired little monkey

you ride the seesaw solo
adamant that it’s a unicorn

up the steps and down the slide up the steps and down the slide

until you summon me over to the swings 
where i push you half-heartedly

chubby toes wriggling in your sandals
clumps of pink varnish spread haphazardly across the nails 

as if you’ve been colouring outside the lines
but you insisted on doing it all by yourself 

or maybe i was too busy?

this poem is a memory

19 years old and playing at being a mother  
the way you played with your dolls

you deserved so much better, so much better
and now it spins and it spins and it spins

guilt is a roundabout   
                        that won't ever let you get off.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Z. R. Ghani, "In the Name of Red"


Z. R. Ghani is from London. She graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University in 2012. Her poems, which explore themes of identity, femininity, religion, and nature, have been published in literary journals such as Magma, Black Bough Poetry and The Adriatic. In 2021 her first collection of poems was shortlisted in the Poetry Wales Pamphlet Competition.

About In the Name of Red
From lips and warmed cheeks to silk and falling leaves, the subjects of Z.R. Ghani's poems radiate with redness. Sometimes a cloak, often a shining symbol, Ghani's reds are sacred and dazzling: pomegranates ripening to jewels and perfectly-placed bindis shining like suns.

But something darker lurks beneath the ruby depths. A city is held hostage by a heatwave, a flame is lit in a dark room, a ballerina twists inside a jewellery box.

As though developing photographs, Ghani shines a deep light over her poems as a tool to slowly make the unseen visible, the unsaid audible. This is a debut book rich with desire, shame, grief, faith, love, and at the forefront of it all: the colour red.

You can read more about In the Name of Red on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a sample poem from the collection. 

From In the Name of Red, by Z. R. Ghani


There are reasons to grieve today.
Mother runs a cold tap
over slabs of laundry,
cursing the day she was born.
That unwashed stench of hospital—
flesh, sweat, placenta
lolls over me like a suicide.
Her fourth daughter is a week old;
I’m not the youngest anymore.
I can’t help but steal glances,
though I’ll soon hear haunting  
thuds as she beats herself, 
or threatens to drink bleach.