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 VuongIt 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!    Continue reading

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

Poetry Review: Wild Persistence by Katrina Naomi

Poetry Book - Wild PersistenceWild Persistence is the first book of poetry written by Katrina Naomi since she moved from London to Cornwall, and it is full of poems about change, about decisions and pausing to consider moments in time. I read this collection on my first day of the #SealeyChallenge (reading a book of poetry each day for the month of August) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book begins with celebration in ‘How to Celebrate a Birthday’, and it sets the tone for the whole collection, urging the reader to pause and contemplate, amid the busy-ness of life. Continue reading

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Bernadine Evaristo, Sebastian Faulks and More…

Bernadine Evaristo introducing Judith Bryan, Jacqueline Roy and Nicola WilliamsThe highlight of my day at the Cheltenham Literature Festival was seeing Bernadine Evaristo and Dawn French in conversation, but I must admit that I was too tired to take proper notes by this point (and too busy laughing!) so I can’t report all of what was said. It felt good, after the last two years, to be part of a live audience again, and it was fascinating to hear them discuss their own careers and compare writing techniques, both coming from a background of theatre and performance. They also discussed the controversial topic of white writers writing black characters, agreeing that so long as the characters are fully rounded, well-researched and well-written, it is good to create diverse characters in order to reflect the society in which we live.    Continue reading

Book Review: Salt by Catrin Kean

Book - Salt by Catrin KeanBased on a true story, Salt begins in Cardiff, in 1883, where young Ellen lives a dull and lonely life, working as a domestic. She longs to escape, but is forced to witness her mother’s daily turmoil, as she confronts the ghosts of her past. Then, one day, Ellen meets Samuel, a ship’s cook from Barbados. Despite the disapproval of some, they fall in love and get married, and Ellen is able to fulfill her childhood dream of running away to sea. Together, they set sail for San Francisco, working their way across the Atlantic Ocean, getting to know each other along the way.   Continue reading

Reading Poetry in August – The Sealey Challenge Days 21 to 31

Poetry books for the Sealey ChallengeI have completed the Sealey Challenge, reading a new poetry book each day for a whole month! Though I spent 3 days on one book (an anthology) and only dipped into some of them, that still means I have read at least part of 29 different poetry books over the last 31 days. And many of them have inspired me to write my own poems, so it has definitely been worthwhile. I’ve read several books that were simply sitting on my shelf un-read, as well as a few new ones ordered specially for the occasion, and some old favourites, plus a couple of poetry magazines. Here are my highlights from the final 11 days…   Continue reading

A Creative Writing PhD – The Second Year

notebooksMy first year as a creative writing PhD student was fairly eventful, with a pandemic taking over every aspect of life from March onwards. Looking back, I think the routine of PhD work, with the opportunity to immerse myself in research, was the main thing that kept me going through the lockdown. The second year has included teaching online, running workshops online, organising a conference (also online) and plenty of reading, mainly from the comfort of my own home. For obvious reasons, I don’t have many photos!  Continue reading

Reading Poetry in August – The Sealey Challenge Days 11 to 20

Poetry book - Road Trip by Marvin ThompsonI am beginning to realise just how challenging it is to read a whole new poetry book for each day of the month. Even just dipping into a new book takes time, and I’m trying not to rush, as I want to make the most of any inspiration that strikes while I’m reading. I have not stuck to the rules completely, but have still tried to push myself to read more. So here is an overview of all the poetry books I have read over the last ten days, with some of the main highlights…   Continue reading

Reading Poetry in August: The Sealey Challenge Days 1 to 10

Book - Identity Papers by Ian Seed

Identity Papers by Ian Seed

I’d never heard of the Sealey Challenge, but I jumped at the chance to challenge myself to read more poetry, to read a whole poetry book or pamphlet each day through the month of August. I decided not to put too much pressure on myself, and to not worry if I didn’t get to the end of every book. So here’s an overview of the poetic gems I’ve discovered in the first ten days of August, and some of the highlights…   Continue reading