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

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

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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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

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 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

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

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