Forward March

I nearly fell off my chair when I read the email from those wonderful people at Structo Magazine, who had written to say they were nominating my poem, Lunch in Ars en Re, for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. I am so glad I ate lunch in Ars en Re that day… it was a very fine lunch too- in fact here is a picture of it…


Moving on…

I enjoyed the Small Stone exercise but have been so busy with other writing and poetry-related activities that it has fallen away to the roadside as I have jogged on, trying to keep up with myself for the last month.

I’m about far enough away from the experience of my last year at university to have the beginnings of some perspective on it. A vague way of saying that I think I have come through the worst of the MFA-dissertation-and-teaching-qualification madness I succumbed to.

The dust is settling after a total of five years of full time higher education and it feels good. For a long time afterwards I was rushing everywhere, panicking about not getting things done on time, until one day, quite recently, I realised I can set my own agenda now. There is, at last, more time for other things apart from writing assignments.

I feel happier than I have done in years.

Apart from that though I have been feverishly filling up that time with writing projects….of course… More about those and other stuff soon.

















The Imaginarium, Millenium Square, Brizzol

Pushcart Prize Nomination

One of the poems I wrote for my dissertation, Lunch in Ars En Re, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the wonderful people at Structo magazine, who published it earlier this year in issue 10 of their excellent journal. It’s a lovely surprise and I feel honoured.

The Pushcart Prize was established in 1976, and is a highly regarded literary project, based in New York. It represents the best of the small presses, which nominate up to six short stories, poems, essays, memoirs or novel extracts from their published output during the year, for possible inclusion in the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series.

You can read a post here at the Structo blog about the nominations. It is a great magazine and I feel very lucky to have had two poems published in it this year. The nomination is the cherry on top!

University of Life

I’m delighted that Gingerbread has published the blog post I wrote after running The Big Fun Run. I am hoping to run the British 10k for them next July but running has been happening in fits and starts since the end of October. Something to do with the increasingly cold weather and the fact that I seem to be busier then ever- how did I ever make time to study?

The dust is settling after the handing in of my dissertation and the excitement of receiving my results. I have been enjoying having more time to spend with my son and be a mum. The house is looking less like the scary scene out of the film Brazil with the paper flying everywhere, and resuming its status as a home which contains far too many books (I know, there is no such thing…) and neat piles of paper which are slowly being filed away in boxes marked ‘Recycle’ , ‘Research, ‘Review’ (aka- dunno wot to do with this).

I have hardly written a word, apart from a few lines here and there, updated my cv and started applying for jobs… it’s been good to take a break from it and give my creative writing muscle a much-needed break. But I have written down a brief plan for a new writing project which will keep me busy for, at least, the next year and possibly longer.

Because this is just the start- not the end. This is where I get to be a writer without the safety net of university, although I do hope to go back to higher education to teach because it was the highlight of my last year of academia.

Up the Hill Backwards

I shouldn’t be here…shhh…this is a very quick post, whilst I am mid-essay writing and getting ready to hand in the dissertation at the end of this week. Thirty one poems and a critical essay will mean the completion of my MFA in creative writing, and the end of five years of full time study in higher education. Quite a week…not freaking out at all then…

I drove my son to Wales at the weekend where we stayed with wonderful friends who looked after him on Saturday and Sunday, while I drove to another wonderful friend’s (sister of other friend) house to work. The house is blissfully quiet and the back garden looks onto a steep hillside where every so often I would look up and see horses wandering about grazing. At one point I lost count of how many were there, an inspiring and novel sight for me – I have the A3, a major arterial road running into central London, at the back of my house (which I hate). It’s the perfect place to sit and write and I am very lucky to have such good friends who have supported me and made a real difference to my being able to finish this postgraduate degree.

My dimwitted, one-track, stressed-out-state-of-mind was improved both mornings by the twenty minute drive to this idyllic writing setting. The mist-covered hills were alive with the sound of Bowie, blasting out of the open windows of my little Fiesta as it motored through the valley and I drank in the epic scenery. I vow to climb up one of these mountains every time I visit but I haven’t managed it yet…maybe next time…after this is all over.

What is it about Bowie this year? I’ve revisited his music in a big way, and it’s influenced my poetry. His lyrics are endlessly quoteable, and the song Where Are We Now? has been buzzing around my head since its release, and was my internal soundtrack for the whole of my recent visit to Berlin, especially as I ventured to some of the sites in Schoneberg where Iggy and Bowie lived and hung out in the 70s. I was really sad not to get to the exhaustive exhibition of his archive, which was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum earlier this year, but with all the other commitments I’ve had, some plans had to be sacrificed and unfortunately that was one of them…

Going to Wales always feels like going home. I don’t know if it’s the warmth, loving hospitality and sense of fun of the friends we have there, or the landscape which never fails to leave me in awe. Maybe it’s that time slows down an iota or two, and gives everyone a chance to breathe and be a bit kinder to each other in general than they are here on the outskirts of the Smoke.  It is probably a combination of all three but especially the first. My son was adamant that he did not want to leave and has told me he wants to spend the whole of the summer holidays there next year…

I hand the work in on Friday and that will be the end of a life-changing, intense and thoroughly enjoyable five years of study. I’ve never worked so hard for something in all my life. I hope it pays off as I wend my way back into the ‘real world’ and start to earn a living.

What does writing a dissertation do?

Just a few thoughts here, as they come tumbling out of my overwhelmed brain…what does a dissertation do? A badly formed question- but I suppose what I mean is what does writing a dissertation achieve? What do you learn from the process? Last year I wrote 15000 words of prose, which I wrangled over for months but in the end felt more confident with knowing what I was doing, being able to reflect on the process of writing, and the aim at the end.

This year I am dancing my way through writing a collection of poetry, which has been growing slowly since last September, and it feels not intangible exactly but arcane definitely. I hope that doesn’t make me sound pretentious, I just haven’t quite got to the bottom of what I’m doing yet.  I know that I know what it is but I am not able to articulate it correctly, yet. It is partly intuitive and playful, partly analytical to the point of dissection.

I am playing my cards close to my chest, both in my work and my possible explanation of it- I am facing a paradox- which pleases me. I feel like that means the work is going somewhere interesting…enough… At this point I do tend to take the line of Leonora Carrington- watch the video and hear her response to questions about the meaning of her work.

However part of the point of writing this dissertation, and the attached critical essay, is for me to do exactly what La Carrington avoided doing, and didn’t have to do, and why should she…. I have to expound on my work, the reasons I wrote it, the choices I made/ am making, the influences, my own research, where it falls (if it does) in the canon…in other words the academic bit. And I want to know too- because that clarity allows for a greater control in my own writing process and therefore, I hope, in the end better poetry. Also, with a teaching qualification now under my belt, my own experience of completing this dissertation and what I learn from it will feed into the advice I may give students in the future.

I find writing poetry significantly different from writing prose. Each poem is a construction, crafted in a few or over many stages, which may change given the context of the work surrounding and accompanying it. As the collection grows the poems take on new meanings, or lose them completely, and lose their place in the work as a whole. Prose does the same thing- the parts must keep their place, be consistant, keep the intention and integrity of the whole piece. I feel even more with poetry though, that the consituents of the collection must stand on their own, each line, each word even, must stand up to scrutiny…no pressure then…