Writing & Place – Celebrating the end of the PhD at Aberystwyth Poetry Festival

Aberystwyth - view from the castle ruinsAs an undergraduate creative writing student studying at Aberystwyth University, I struggled with the ‘writing place’ assignment. I didn’t feel any strong sense of connection with any particular location. Yet so many writers talk about the importance of place in their work. Many Welsh-born writers, in particular, celebrate their connection to the country of their birth. I have always been jealous of those writers who identify strongly with a particular place.
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An Ekphrastic Update: Exhibition, Course, and Conference

explore collective exhibition wales millennium centreAs my final year of being a PhD student draws to a close, I’m excited to be continuing my work on ekphrasis (writing poetry in response to art) in lots of different ways! First, there is still time to visit the Wales Millennium Centre where you can see our Explore Collective project exhibition: Freedom to Create.
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My Literary Highlights of 2023 – Publication, Art & The PhD!

poetry book - Octopus MindThis year has been an incredible milestone, with the publication of my debut collection Octopus Mind in July. It felt like everything was leading up to that moment, and the launch was a wonderful celebration of all that hard work, cheered on by the people who have encouraged and supported me over the past 39 years.    Continue reading

My Top 5 Books of 2023 – Fiction

Best fiction books of 2023For me, this year has been both immensely exciting and unbelievably challenging, in more ways than one, and through it all, these novels have kept me going. I struggled to pick my top five fiction books, so I’ve added a special mention at the end. These books were not all published in 2023, but they are all fairly new…  Continue reading

The End of an Era: Completing the PhD at Gregynog Hall

Gregynog in the sunIn December 2019 I visited Gregynog Hall for the first time – a gorgeous, rambling old mansion in mid Wales, where the annual Cardiff University Creative Writing retreat takes place. I was still working out what the plan would be for my PhD over the coming years, with no concept of what 2020 would bring.    Continue reading

What Are You Looking For? An Ekphrastic Interactive Exhibition

What are you looking for? An interactive exhibition.Last year I put together an interactive poetry exhibition at National Museum Cardiff, and loads of people took part, writing poems and other texts in response to the artwork and other people’s poems, drawings and comments. Since then, as part of my PhD, I’ve been writing my own poems in response – an ekphrastic response to ekphrastic response… and some of my poems have morphed from text into 3D objects!    Continue reading

The books have arrived! And upcoming readings…

Rachel Carney reading at the launch of Octopus Mind, her debut poetry collectionI am so so grateful to everyone who came along to my book launch last week. The room was full of friendly faces and my family came all the way from Sheffield, Manchester and Coventry, including my niece (age 7) who also writes poetry, and nephew (3 months) who slept through most of it. Clare Potter and Philip Gross gave wonderful readings, and we nearly sold out of books! I have now received my own big box of author copies, and will be selling them at other events.    Continue reading

PhD Progress, Poetry, Collage and My Book Launch!

Interactive collage - part of the exhibition in RomeI have struggled a lot with my health over the past few months, but I also have a lot to be thankful for in what is effectively the final year of my PhD. The two writing retreats I attended in December were fruitful. I spent much of January writing new poems based on the January Writing Hour prompts provided by Kim Moore and Clare Shaw, inspired by the response to my interactive poetry museum display last autumn. Continue reading

Creative Women: Matrix by Lauren Groff and Letters to Gwen John by Celia Paul

Matrix by Lauren GroffI’ve not managed to post many book reviews recently, as I’ve been struggling with chronic fatigue while completing my PhD and getting my own book ready for publication. So I’m going to post a few mini-reviews over the summer, reflecting on some of the incredible books I’ve read over the past year. The first two books are very different but they both focus on the experiences of women.    Continue reading

Book Review: The King Arthur Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell

King Arthur trilogy - by Bernard CornwellThe other day I was searching for something new to read, and I spotted my own review of a Bernard Cornwell novel, here, on my blog. The benefit of blogging is that, despite my imperfect memory, I have an accurate record of many of the books I’ve enjoyed. This post inspired me to look up his other work, and I am now part-way through the third book of Cornwell’s King Arthur trilogy, thoroughly enjoying every page.   Continue reading

The Joys of Poetry Editing and Writing Retreats

Totleigh BartonI love editing my poems. There’s a thrill in getting that first draft down on the page, but nothing beats spending hours, days, weeks, months (even years) pondering over a poem, testing out words, switching line breaks, finding the perfect form. However, I’ve never been in quite this position before, knowing that the final changes I’m making right now will end up as an actual book of poems. My debut collection Octopus Mind is due for publication in July, and the deadline is looming.    Continue reading

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