Poetry in the Art Museum: In So Many Words

Interactive Poetry Display board at the museumFor the past nine weeks I’ve enjoyed seeing my PhD theories come to life, in the form of an interactive poetry display at National Museum Wales. The response has been phenomenal, beyond anything I could have imagined, and it’s been a real privilege to see so many people interacting with the display in different ways.    Continue reading

Poetry review: Pearl & Bone by Mari Ellis Dunning

Book - Pearl and Bone by Mari Ellis DunningPearl & Bone is Mari Ellis Dunning’s second poetry collection, focused on the theme of motherhood. Her poems are full of fragility and vulnerability, but also strength and celebration, evoking the strange miracles of pregnancy and birth. I enjoyed the simple, audible delicacy of some of these poems, especially those that use very short lines, pulling you through from start to finish.   Continue reading

Book Review: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensWhere The Crawdads Sing is full of despair, poverty, prejudice and loneliness beyond all imagining. But it is also a book that delights in the wonderous gifts of the natural world. It tells the heart-breaking story of Kya, the ‘marsh girl’. Her mother walks off when she is still a young child, walking away without saying goodbye or even waving. She’s too young to understand what’s going on, but then her older brothers and sisters leave too, and soon she is left alone with her father, a veteran of the war, drinking his way steadily through their small income, unpredictable in his rages.   Continue reading

Exciting Publication News: My Debut Poetry Collection!

A big tick for my most impressive poetry acceptance ever

I am unbelievably excited to announce that I have just signed a contract with Seren Books to publish my debut poetry collection Octopus Mind in July 2023! After years of hard work, and many many rejections, this really is a dream come true, especially when I remember that I gave up on the poetry dream for nearly a decade. It was this blog, and the welcoming arms of the Cardiff poetry scene, that spurred me on to start writing and submitting once again.

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Poetry Review: Black Cat Bone by John Burnside and Bird-Woman by Em Strang

Books - Black Cat Bone by John Burnside and Bird-Woman by Em StrangI have had John Burnside’s collection Black Cat Bone on loan from the library for nearly a year now, and I keep returning to his long poem ‘The Fair Chase’. There’s something mesmerising about it, not just in the compelling rhythm, but also in a narrative that never seems to end. On the one hand, it is a depiction of hunting that seems violent and bloody. On the other hand, it is a kind of doomed, ongoing quest towards a deeper understanding of the self, which can never be fully realised, reminiscent of both Actaeon and the Ancient Mariner.     Continue reading

Recent Summer Reads: Historical Fiction

historical fiction booksI’ve been busy lately (with PhD work etc.) so rather than reviewing lots of books in separate blog posts, I decided to review a few of them together. I love historical fiction, both as time travel and escapism. It’s also a genre that makes you compare your own attitudes to those of others – other people living in different times and different cultures. And though it’s difficult to pinpoint how, I am sure that some of these characters and ideas are subsumed into my subconscious and resurface, often years later, in my own poems.    Continue reading

Soaking up the Poetry at Ledbury Poetry Festival

The Market House at LedburyI’ve just spent two fabulous days losing myself in the delights of language at this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival. It was hot and sunny, and although many of the events were available to watch online, I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of being right there, in the old town of Ledbury. The workshops were held upstairs in the Heritage Centre, a quaint (and very wonky) building, with a sloping floor.   Continue reading

Literary Festivals and Workshops – Summer 2022

Daljit Nagra reading at a previous Ledbury Poetry festivalTomorrow, I will be heading to the Ledbury Poetry Festival. I’m looking forward to some time out from the busyness of the PhD to swap roles and become the workshop attendee, rather than the workshop facilitator. I really enjoy running writing workshops, but I also love attending them, and often write some of my best poems in the relaxed (but also high-pressured) space of a festival workshop.     Continue reading

Book Review: The Word by J L George

Book - The Word by J L GeorgeThe Word is a compelling dystopian novel, set in a future that feels unnervingly familiar. It follows the stories of five youngsters born with supernatural powers: they can compel others to obey their commands. This strange plot device could have felt gimmicky, but J L George succeeds in creating a world that is believable, and particularly unsettling as a result. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster, and a gripping read. I read the book in just two sittings.    Continue reading

A Creative Writing PhD – The Third Year (Part 1)

Poetry books by Emily Berry and Ocean Vuong

It feels like this year has been busier than ever, probably because in-person things have started happening again, and it’s so nice to see real people!

The academic year started off with a bang, as my first ever peer-reviewed journal article was published online! The title is ‘Shaping the Lyric: Literal and Metaphorical Blank Space in the Poetry of Emily Berry and Ocean Vuong’ and it’s freely available online if you’d like to read it. It began life as a 2000 word essay for my MA, a few years ago, and I’ve spent many, many, many hours re-working and extending it for publication. I initially tried a different journal, and made it all the way through the peer review process, only to be turned down at the last minute. I’m so glad I decided to try again!

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Poetry Review: Much With Body by Polly Atkin

Poetry Book - Much with Body by Polly AtkinPolly Atkin’s second poetry collection is a book of unpredictable creatures and their ever-changing habitats, many of which are watery or wild. The opening poem draws you in to a world where ‘Everyone is talking about the moon / The full wolf moon’, ending with the unsettling image of the sky growling and creeping forward ‘ready to take us down’.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: All the Men I Never Married by Kim Moore

Poetry book - All the Men I Never Married by Kim MooreI’d been looking forward to reading Kim Moore’s new collection for a while, having heard her read many of these poems at various literary festivals and events. As I opened the book and began to read, I could hear her voice in my head. These are lyrical poems, designed to be heard as well as read. They are poems that speak with a clear, unapologetic, feminist voice, breaking the taboos of acceptance and denial. Each poem feels larger on the inside than the outside, and several of the poems seem to echo in your mind, long after you’ve read them.    Continue reading

Five Favourite Reads from 2021

Five favourite reads of 20212021 was a busy year (PhD, teaching etc…) so I’ve not been able to spend as much time as I’d like reviewing books. Here are five of the books I’ve enjoyed over the past year, with just a quick summary or comment for each one, rather than a full review…     Continue reading

Poetry Review: 100 Poems to Save the Earth

Book: 100 Poems to Save the EarthHow can poetry ‘save the earth’? The introduction to this anthology explains that the title is intentionally provocative, because ‘our crisis is fundamentally a crisis of perception’. And that is where poetry comes in. It is only when you read the poems that it becomes clear what this might mean. This is not just an anthology of eco-poems. It includes poems that examine humanity as well as nature. Poems that interrogate the very concept of exploitation and inequality. Poems that acknowledge their own ignorance.   Continue reading

Book Review: Heavy Light by Horatio Clare

Book: Heavy Light by Horatio ClareI first heard about this book when Horatio Clare was interviewed at one of the online Hay Festival events. It describes the author’s experience of hypomania and mental breakdown. This led to him being sectioned in a psychiatric ward, followed by a long period of recovery. It is clear from the first few pages that this book is more than just a book. It is, on the one hand, a somewhat surreal but honest portrayal of how one writer experienced a mental breakdown. On the other hand, it is an investigation into the current ‘mental health crisis’ in the western world, highlighting the inadequacies of a system that relies on long term drug treatment, even though scientists still don’t understand exactly how they work.     Continue reading

Poetry Submissions: An Update on the #100Rejections Challenge

Poetry submissions recordBack in 2019 I was intrigued by the concept of the #100Rejections challenge. The idea is that if you are aiming for rejections, you will feel a sense of achievement, rather than disappointment, each time a piece is rejected, and maintain a more positive outlook as you press on towards your yearly goal. Having found that the average response time for UK based poetry magazine is between 3 and 6 months, I decided to adapt the challenge to make it a little more realistic, so my aim was to send off 100 batches of poems by the end of the year.    Continue reading