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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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

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

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

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

A Storytelling Festival at Dynefwr

Beyond the Border festival 21I have just spent three glorious days at Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival. It was all outdoors, in sunshine and rain, beneath the towers of Dynefwr, a ruined Welsh castle. The atmosphere could not have been more fitting for my first post-covid literary event. Numbers were limited, of course, and there were social distancing rules in place, but it still felt truly magical.    Continue reading

Poet in Residence at the Cynon Valley Museum

poet in residenceFor the month of June I’ve been writing and posting new poems on the Cynon Valley Museum website, responding to their online art exhibitions, and artefacts from their collection. I was privileged to work at the museum for a few months last year, before starting my PhD, and was impressed by their high quality art exhibitions, some of which you can now see online.    Continue reading

Hay Festival 2020 – Digital Highlights

Hay Festival 2020 - digitalI plucked up the courage to attend the Hay Festival on my own for the first time ever in 2016, and I’ve been addicted ever since, so I’m glad that, despite financial uncertainty and the impossibility of running live events, the organisers have managed to create the next best thing – Hay Festival online. And there are benefits – no queueing for the toilet, no stampede in the book tent, no backache from those awkward plastic chairs, and easy access for so many who would normally miss out. But I really do miss the buzz of literary excitement, the roar of applause at the end of an event, and the delicious taste of Shepherds ice cream in the sun.

So here are a few of my highlights from Hay Festival 2020, celebrating the legacy of Wordsworth, the beauty of language, the culture of China, and the relaxation of reading…   Continue reading

Virtual Literature Festivals – Celebrate Literature from your Sofa!

literature festivals online

My blog was originally created to review, celebrate and promote literary festivals and events, as well as posting book reviews, and this has been a challenge in recent times – everything has been cancelled! But people are attempting to make the best of this situation, transferring their events online, so here’s a list of the virtual literary festivals and events still taking place…

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#Instagram #Instapoetry #Instaart – Engaging with Visual Culture

Image Works - Instagram Symposium

What better thing to do on a stormy Saturday than consider how Instagram might be influencing our perceptions of ourselves, our art or culture? The Image Works symposium provided an opportunity to do just that. And it’s also made me realise just how versatile social media can be, as a platform for artists, poets and researchers to engage with and potentially subvert social norms in an interactive digital space.

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Highlights from the Cardiff Poetry Festival 2020

Tony CurtisNow in its third year, the Cardiff Poetry Festival (run by Seren Books) has moved to a new venue. The Temple of Peace is a strange looking building, a cross-between a war memorial and a beacon of hope – it looks rather grim on the outside, especially in this weekend’s torrential rain, but it is quite magnificent on the inside. The festival itself included a mix of poetry readings, workshops and talks, but the highlight for me was Cherry Smyth’s performance of an incredible poetic sequence which evokes the horror and hunger of the Irish potato famine, accompanied by jazz singer Lauren Kinsella.    Continue reading

Looking Forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2020

Hay Festival sign

Here’s my annual round-up of all the literature festivals taking place in Wales in 2020. From the smallest of bookfairs run by local communities to the most popular literary festivals on a monumental scale…

Please use the comments below to add information about any literature festivals which I have missed out, and I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year. I should also add that some of the organisers are not able to announce their programmes until later in the year, so you may need to check back for further details.

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Inspiration from the Hay Festival Winter Weekend

Hay Festival Writers at Work signI’ve become a Hay Festival addict over the last few years but, until this week, I had never been to the Winter Weekend – a miniature version of the Hay Festival which takes place at the end of November. This year I’ve been involved in the Literature Wales mentoring programme for writers, which includes the opportunity to attend ‘industry days’ at Hay. I’ve written about the experience for the Hay Festival International Writers’ blog – click here to read it, and I’ve also included a few more photos and comments below…   Continue reading

Diary of a Creative Writing MA Student – The Final Year

MMU Creative Writing Summer School - coping with setbacks as a writerThere’s something inspirational about spending time with other writers, sharing a mutual interest in words and stories, poems and punctuation, and last week I attended the MMU Creative Writing Summer School – the perfect finish to my MA, after two years of study and creativity. I just have one final assignment to complete – a collection of 300 lines of poetry – and that will be it! I thoroughly enjoyed the summer school, and am now feeling re-energised and ready for a final burst of creativity over the summer…    Continue reading

Hay festival 2019 – The Novels That Shaped Our World

BBC Novels that shaped our world

Hay Festival event, photo by Chris Athanasiou

Last week at the Hay Festival I attended the BBC launch event of their new project – Novels That Shaped Our World. It marks the 300th anniversary of the English language novel, and involves a panel of six people (Mariella Frostrup, Zawe Ashton, Syima Aslam, Kit de Waal, Stig Abell and Alexander McCall Smith) selecting 100 novels for this impressive list. I thought this meant selecting novels that have shaped the world, but at the event, they made it clear that it is much more personal than that, and the idea is to spark discussion and debate…

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