Thursday, 20 July 2017

Centre for New Writing Wins Impact Award

By Corinne Fowler



The Centre for New Writing (CNW) has been awarded Best Cultural Impact for its work on literary development. The CNW was established in 2013 as a practical response to the research findings of its founders, particularly in relation to the exclusion of British Black and Asian writers. The aim was to diversify literary voices beyond the metropolitan mainstream.
 
The CNW subsequently raised regional writers’ professional profiles through a series of funded projects: ‘Grassroutes’ (Arts Council), ‘Sole2Soul’ (about Harborough Museum’s shoe exhibit) and ‘Affective Digital Histories' (AHRC, http://affectivedigitalhistories.org.uk/). Our research identified creative commissions as a key support mechanism for promoting  writers outside London. Accordingly, the CNW has commissioned 74 pieces of writing since 2013. Among these are 6 major commissions for the Affective Digital Histories project, performed at The Phoenix, soon afterwards published as a book and accompanying smartphone app called Hidden Stories (2015). Two CNW commissions have won literary awards and another CNW-commissioned work is being made into a film. A further CNW commission is the subject of an article (authored by Corinne Fowler) in The Cambridge Companion to Black British Writing (2016) of which the writer SuAndi states ‘with steadfast determination, champions of the Black British voice … have stepped forward [to] recognise the value of our literature across all genres’.

A central CNW strategy has been to tap into infrastructural support for regional writers by using creative writing to enhance non-Arts research. As the managing director of the spoken word organisation Tilt observes, the Writing and Research initiative ‘makes a case for literature …This is something to be admired (and sustained).’ Some key collaborations include: ‘Women’s Writing in the Midlands’ (using creative writing to raise awareness of 18th women activists) and ‘Life Cycles’ (a commission to help the Diabetes Research Centre combat sedentary behaviour). A further CNW commission, ‘Artificial Intelligence,’ promotes the public benefits of new technologies. The CNW also commissioned a writer to produce a script for a short film, presented by Brett Matulis from Geography, to influence policy-making at the World Conservation Congress, a global environmental forum. In a 2015 survey of the region’s literary scene by The Asian Writer, anonymous respondents said of the CNW: ‘The Centre for New Writing is … leading the country and perhaps the world in its field, presenting a tremendous variety of literary events with an enormous scope and revolutionary discourse.’ Another respondent said: ‘Leicester is practically undergoing a renaissance! It has been galvanised by the Centre for New Writing ... as the centre has supported writers and the overall literary scene both page and stage’”. The free Literary Leicester Festival has been central to this strategy.

The CNW wishes to thank Leicester's literary community, and all its partners, for their consistently brilliant and constructive input.

 
Photos courtesy of Osborne Hollis Photography

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

We All Belong, by Rosalind Adam

By Rosalind Adam



The programme for this year’s ArtBeat Leicester Festival was packed with activities. They ranged from Israeli dancing to philosophy in the pub to a Gurdwara visit with curry lunch. I ticked off the most appealing events but I knew that it would be impossible to attend them all. I was going to have to be selective. 

The festival theme was 'We All Belong' and this was the topic for this year’s ArtBeat poetry competition. I submitted two poems and fully intended to turn up to the prize-giving event but, as I said, it was a busy week. Did I mention the Lindy Hop or the Indian Folk Dancing or the Maypole Dance Workshop? It was a true test of stamina. 

Last Tuesday, with all thoughts of Artbeat behind me, I attended my regular poetry group meeting. I settled down to a morning of workshopping, only to find myself the centre of attention. The Festival organiser had chosen that morning to present me with a certificate, or to be more precise two certificates. To my embarrassment I’d scooped not only 1st but also 4th place in the 'We All Belong' poetry competition. 

There is a lesson to be learnt here. If you enter a competition, make sure to give top priority to attending the prize-giving event, no matter how busy your week is. Here (below) is the poem that won first prize:



The Top Class 

Winner of the Artbeat Leicester ‘We All Belong’ Poetry Competition, 2017


It was our morning mantra: 
Linda. Here, Miss. Andrew. Here, Miss. 
Lee. He’s not here, Miss, and we knew
the Board Man would be on his way.
He’d not go round the back like us.
He’d knock on Lee’s front door 
while Lee hid because that’s what you did 
when The Board Man called.

After the register we all lined up
for assembly in the hall. 
Cross-legged by the back wall 
we flicked paper pellets and sang
about Jerusalem being builded here 
in our green and pleasant land 
which was really grey and full of soot 
from the factory down the road.

In class we sat at desks with lids,
did handwriting with pens that had spiky nibs
and pounds, shillings, pence sums on squared-paper.
We longed for Miss to say, playtime,
and give out bottles of milk from the metal crate. 
In the playground we skipped with the long rope, 
and we chose the song, jelly on the plate, 
because we were the top class. 

We stayed out for PE, for the fresh air,
and spun hoops round our waists, 
round our necks when Miss wasn’t there, 
but games on Friday was the best, 
going to the field, clambering onto the bus, 
racing for the back seat and us all singing
Ten Green Bottles and falling about laughing
because we always got the numbers wrong.

Soon we’d sit the 11 plus test 
and they’d split us up for ever.
We’d be sent to the sec mod down the road
or the big grammar school in town
where we’d be streamed and given homework,
where we’d have to read stuff by Shakespeare, 
do logarithms with a book full of numbers
but for now we were the top class.



Rosalind Adam is a writer and student on the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Her blog: http://rosalindadam.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, 17 July 2017

Two Poems by Scott Freer

Scott Freer lives in Leicester, is an English Literature lecturer and is editor of The Journal for the T.S. Eliot Society (UK). Turning the Wild West of an allotment into a friable tilth is meant to improve your worldview and vocabulary. The title of the poem ‘Omniscient Certainty’ (below) is borrowed from Jonathan Taylor's book Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (2007), with particular reference to Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Enlightenment quest for total knowledge.  





Omniscient Certainty

Look towards the edge 
of the allotment
and find a bucket 
to carry the water
to feed a little life into the dried tubers

A tiny hole at the rusting base 
creates a trickling effect
and by the time you cross the earth
from the sunken stream
a continuous trace will lead you back

In the summer the potatoes multiply
And the guttering arches on the shed

Life seems so certain here
Surveying this cherished patch 



Chickenshit

She goes to the allotment
Carrying the chickenshit
To fertilize the potatopatch

I, on the other hand,
Return to our bed
And my morning
Poetic arising

But where’s my chickenshit?
Only a muddy-ascending-noise
And nothing
Material
Rises
Except the cat of course
From out of a duvet-patch

Now, I could tell you about
Our Buddhist neighbours
Whose earth onto-theology is
Plant deep 
Nurture
And wait for 
The mysterious white chickens

Chickenshit, I say,
Without the magical compound
Nothing material (potato/poem)
Rises 




Friday, 14 July 2017

Poem by Shelley Roche-Jacques

Shelley Roche-Jacques’ poetry has appeared in magazines such as Magma, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House and The Boston Review. Her pamphlet Ripening Dark was published in 2015 as part of the Eyewear 20/20 series. She teaches Creative Writing and Performance at Sheffield Hallam University, and is interested in the dramatic monologue as a way of examining social and political issues. Her debut full collection Risk the Pier is just out, from Eyewear.



Shrink

In here I’m fine. It’s watercolour prints
and plants, and wisely-chosen magazines.
I’ve thought all week about the goals we set.
How I must stop and think and draw deep breaths.
You said we need to figure out what triggers
the attacks. Did you call them attacks? 
What’s triggering the rage. The incidents.

I’ve really thought on that. The one at work
the other day. For God’s sake! They’re good guys!
Collecting for charity - dressed for a laugh
in floral blouses, lipstick, sock-stuffed bras
and heels – I guess I knew one shove would do. 
I didn’t mean for him to break his leg. 
But he was asking for it dressed like that.

I still can’t quite believe they called the police.
Second time in a week. Who knew that taking
adverts down on trains was an offence?
I had to climb onto the seats to reach,
but then the plastic casing slid clean off.
I wrenched the poster down and stared at it.
Are you beach body ready? I was not.  

There’s no getting away from it.
Even at night
it’s all bunched up tight 
in a sack of dark
above my head.
Or it stretches away 
like the pier, or hospital corridor, 
through the stale bedroom air
and there’s me at the end of it
there –  tiny – 
shaking my fist silently.

But let me try to keep my focus here.
The worst of it is when I hurt my son.
A children’s party is a hellish thing.
And this one had a clown who made balloons:
a flower or tiara for the girls, 
swords for the boys. I didn’t say a word.
I simply smiled and helped set out the food.

I nearly made it past the party games.
Musical statues. Robin Thicke. Blurred Lines
There comes a time – a limit, I should say:
it’s five year olds gyrating to this song.
The music stopped -  I yanked my frozen son
and scrambled through the streamers to the door.
Through You’re a good girl. I know you want it.

Unfriending soon began – and Facebook throbbed 
into the night – She calls herself a mum.
She’s fucking nuts. It’s just a fucking song.
And worse, the snidey stuff, the faux concern.
It must be awful to be in that state
where something like a song can trigger that.
She has some issues. Let’s give her a break.

A break! Yes please!
I’m sad face, sad face. Angry face.
The trolls of Twitter 
sent me almost off the edge.
Why d’ya hate men so much @suffragette?
Look at her! Jealous!
The bitch needs shutting up.
I know where you live.
I clutched the blind,
and stared into the dark
each night for months.

I lost the fight online. Or lost the will.
I said I’d try to focus on real life.
Now that’s become as messy and as grim.
I keep returning to the Town Hall steps.
I must have played that scene a thousand times.
I knew the strip club bosses would be there
in James Bond suits and aviator shades.

The dancers, I had never seen before.
I left the meeting, having said my bit
and found them waiting cross-armed on the steps.
One blocked my way, with eyes I won’t forget:
so green and angry. What right did we have?
Did we want them to lose their fucking jobs? 
It was alright for us - the la-di-da’s.

I’m not alright. I think that’s why I snapped.
I really wish that I could take it back. 
I don’t remember everything I said. 
I’m pretty sure I mentioned self-respect
and then the men came out and shook their heads.
If I had stopped and thought and drawn deep breaths
would that have worked? What else do you suggest?




Friday, 30 June 2017

Two Poems by Reuben Woolley


Reuben Woolley was born in Chesterfield, UK but now lives and works in Zaragoza, Spain. He has been published in various print and online magazines such as Tears in the FenceThe Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter's House, Domestic Cherry, The Stare's Nest, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Poetry Shed, Nutshells and Nuggets, Yellow Chair Review, Bone Orchard Poetry, and The Goose. His first collection, the king is dead, was published by Oneiros Books in 2014. A chapbook, dying notes, was published by Erbacce Press in 2015 and a short collection, skins, about and for the refugees was published in 2016 by Hesterglock Press. He edits two online magazines, I am not a silent poet for protest poems about abuse, and The Curly Mind for exploratory work.




lazy suggestions

so

they suggest

lips whisper 
these spaces.they do not 
sew

like spiders

a pattern of air 
      i’ll eat 
a wing & liquify 
my solid dinners

suggestively

the exercise of speech.i'll 
trap the wholly

innocent

i am

immaculate 
 
                     hungry

this is the way 
the world was chewn



requiems & other souvenirs

this

particular

now 
is when things fell 
apart.look

at the present

mythologists

busy 
in my future

they walk the underground 
where minotaurs 
don’t go

                   oh invent 
another story / where 
we can dance our funeral songs


Reuben Woolley

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Creative Writing Varsity 2017: Leicester vs DMU, by Luke McNamara

Article by Luke McNamara

So, I know, I know: the first thing you might be thinking is – “A creative writing varsity? That’s a ‘thing’?” – and the answer is yes, yes, it is. How does it go down you might also ask? Well, both teams choose their champions, eight-a-side to be precise, and half of each team present a prose piece of five minutes, and the other half a poetry piece of three minutes each. This year, The Exchange was our host, in the heart of Leicester city on the 23rd of March; the event ran from 7:30pm-10:00pm. 

The pieces are written by the performers and are marked on the quality of the writing as well as its delivery by three judges; this year the judges were Leicester University’s Creative Writing lecturer Jonathan Taylor, poet Jess Green (check her out on YouTube!) and novelist Rod Duncan. The scores are added up and of course the team with the most points wins – as well as this, there are awards for "Best Prose" and "Best Poetry," respectively. There was also a charity raffle to enter for 20p, where you could win the works written by the judges. 

We all good on the ins and outs, the who and where, the hows and whats? Splendid. Let’s talk about the performances. 



In the low-level ceiling, cosily lit downstairs sitting area of the pub, the audience sat comfortably and observed the performers at the front who spoke into a mic, ensuring they could be heard by everyone. 

SPOILER ALERT: the University of Leicester won, sorry DMU. However, this shouldn’t suggest that it wasn’t an evenly fought contest. On the contrary, it was a very close contest that could have gone either way, as I’m sure the judges will tell you. 

Pictured above is Leicester University’s own Kassie Duke. She won best prose of the night. Remember her face. Remember her name. You will more than likely see it in a local bookshop very soon. Her sublime wordplay, coupled with her ability to convey mature themes such as insecurity, family relationships, and the nature of storytelling through colloquial contexts made Ms. Duke’s "The Great Divide" a pleasure to listen to. There was something irresistibly charming about listening to a great writer give a narrative that meditates on such thematic concerns as Kassie’s, in a tale where a bad story teller who "didn’t want to write about myself, there was nothing there" – oh the irony. The innovative, witty irony. Please give me your talent. 



And here, ladies and gentleman, is De Montfort’s Sammy Mitchell. I would say here was very much a case of "save the best for last." Her intelligently provoking, lyrically rhythmical, and profoundly moving poem "Left like a Boiling Kettle" struck me. It was so quotable – where do I begin? - “a poem is more than a poet” – so true. Please could all poet’s come to this realisation? “Leave your insecurities by the bedside” ha! I wish I could. “This is more than a product” – damn straight, this is art. This is poetry. Such works make me ponder why it is poetry is sometimes neglected by the modern reader? Why do we so often by novels instead of poetry collections? I leave that for you to decide.  

Who won what aside, I was moved that night. I listened to the pieces of every person, and there were several common themes I felt resonated with everyone in the room. The increasingly unstable political climate we live in, as well as mental health issues that so many students are suffering from, and feminism, and gender equality. 

I found myself unable to look away, my attention undivided, from several performers; Lydia Bell, Rosie Holdsworth, and Dominic Hynard touched on issues of identity, and introversion that afflicts many talented young writers, unfortunately. 

Yet, what for me was the most emotional performance of the evening was given by Abbie Curphey. Visibly nervous, with rubs of reassurance from her friends the young poet delivered an elegant work: "Just… don’t worry." She put it plainly that "everyone will experience anxiety in a different way," and highlighted truthfully that "you don’t want to inconvenience anyone." A heart-wrenching reality for most sufferers of depression, and other mental issues is that they often feel like a nuisance when they shouldn’t. More writers like Abbie need to discuss these issues; it’s so important for our generation's experiences to be conveyed through poetry, as well as prose.  

So, my final thoughts on the evening. I felt quietly optimistic that the art of the future will, as it should, bear out the voice of our generation. The Brexit generation, the generation that cried out for feminism, and demanded a change in the current climate. But we are also a generation capable of beautiful work, that if nothing else, like all literature of the past, helped me to realise we are one as a species feeling the same emotions, even if our experiences differ. We grind through life – it’s tiring, heart-breaking, difficult, and a struggle, yet it is filled with love, beauty, happiness, friends, family, and relationships. But above all else, it showed me that through art we bond, we connect and unify through the expressions of those brave enough to share their work with us, and boy, am I grateful for it.