Wednesday, 20 September 2017

"The Looter": A Short Story by Aiysha Khan

Aiysha Khan is a MA Creative Writing student at the University of Leicester. She is enjoys writing horror stories and psychological thrillers which have unconventional twists, and that reveal parts of human nature and intense emotions not experienced in every day life. She is currently working on a short story collection and collaborating with an illustrator, to creative a graphic novel. The following story forms part of her Creative Writing Dissertation.


The Looter



He walked into the forest at the crack of dawn as the early morning light crested over Mount Fuji. He was going to score big today, he just knew it. September had the highest yield of any month; he’d definitely find a few mobile phones and iPods, hopefully some expensive jewellery and maybe he could steal an abandoned car. His hands started to twitch at the thought of treasure lying a few steps away, ripe for the taking. 

Before he took off down the path, he gave a quick look to his left and right. The last thing he needed was a police patrol coming his way. They might think he wanted to kill himself. 

‘No Keiji-san, I’ve just come to loot the bodies …’ Yeah, that would go down well.

With this in mind, he crept down the path and passed a bunch of wooden signs along the way. 

YOUR LIFE IS A PRECIOUS GIFT FROM YOUR PARENTS

caught his eye as he passed a sign and he shook his head at how feeble these words were. A precious gift from your parents. ‘No. Your life is your own,’ he thought. Not that he particularly cared, he was here for one thing and one thing only. Money. 

He had walked for about an hour before he decided it was time to venture off the path. When he thought he had found a good spot, he opened up his satchel bag and took out a roll of neon pink tape. He wrapped it around the nearest tree multiple times, to make sure it was secure. With a final tug, he set off from the path and meandered his way across roots and lava rock. The forest was silent. All that could be heard was the crunching of twigs underneath his booted soles. He nearly fell a couple of times and cursed out loud, kicking loose rocks and roots that threatened to topple him. He carried on like this for some time, unwinding the pink tape behind him, before he saw something through the trees that caught his eye. A yellow tent. He hurried over towards it but as he got nearer, he crouched down and watched for any movement. The last thing he needed was for someone to actually be in the fucking tent. 

He crawled through the trees, around the tent until he came to the entrance. It was empty. He got up and went to investigate. He found old men’s clothes, papers and a book. He picked up the book and turned it over. Kuroi Jukai by Seichō Matsumoto. 

‘Of course, it fucking is,’ he whispered as he tossed the book to the ground. If there was one thing he was definitely going to find on his little raids, it was always Kuroi Jukai and Kanzen Jisatsu Manyuaru by Wataru Tsurumi. 

‘If these guys knew how literally people took their words about this place, would they regret writing their books?’ he wondered, before he concluded, ‘Probably not. They’ve made a shit ton of money.’

He left the tent and, to his right, he saw a yellow line of fresh tape leading further into the forest. Maybe the tent guy was up ahead? He decided to follow it. He left the pink tape, which had practically run out, for the yellow one, ducking under branches until he came to a stop. Hanging from a tree in front of him was a body. He could see a glint of metal on its wrist. He hurried over and saw it was a watch. It wasn’t anything fancy but it would get a few thousand yen if he flipped it to the right person. He went to reach for it, but he stopped as he realised the wrist was still warm. 

The Looter took a step back and looked at the body in front of him. Usually, he didn’t care. They were just corpses, rotten and deformed, no longer human. But this one had been alive not too long ago. Something on the ground caught his eye, and he noticed a brown, leather wallet. He opened it.  Inside was a few hundred yen and an I.D. 

Takahashi Itsuki

According to the I.D. the kid was sixteen years old. Sixteen years old! What could a sixteen-year-old possibly have to worry about that they needed to hang themselves in a place like this? Itsuki was spelt with the kanji 一喜 meaning ‘One and Only Happiness’. How insulting. He placed the wallet back on the ground and looked at the body once more. 

‘Well, Itsuki-kun, you’re one with this Sea of Trees now. You probably won’t be found and your body will swing here as it rots. Is this what you wanted?’ 

He shook his head as he watched the body sway. His eyes darted towards the watch and the wallet, but he thought to himself, ‘Not this time.’ 

The Looter looked around the forest once more before he set off back the way he came. This place was giving him the fucking creeps.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Short Story by Sonia Tailor

Sonia Tailor is studying an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. She is a peace activist who enjoys writing short stories and monologues. She has organised vigils and demonstrations, and in 2007, she travelled to Jordan to make a documentary about Iraqi refugee children. For many years, Sonia was the Youth Page editor for Peace News (newspaper) and she currently runs a book blog on Instagram: @soniareads. 

Below is a story-monologue she has written for her Dissertation. 


Aaliyah





I’m woken by the airhostess taping my shoulder. 

‘Here’s your vegetarian meal, Mrs Abbas,’ she says. She hands me a compressed curry with a small bun.

‘Thanks,’ I reply.

‘And here’s your food, Miss Abbas,’ she says with a huge smile. She hands Aaliyah a smaller version of my food and an activity pack.

‘Thank you, Miss Aeroplane Woman,’ replies Aaliyah, who’s sitting next to me.

‘You’re very welcome,’ says the airhostess as she walks away with her trolley.

I give Aaliyah a kiss on her head and unwrap her food. She has my headphones on and is happily nodding to Bebe’s ‘No Broken Hearts’. This is one of her favourite songs. Her father, my husband, introduced it to her. Every Saturday he would play pop music on his laptop and Aaliyah would dance with him. Then the next Monday Aaliyah would always tell her class about the different songs they danced to. 

Bebe’s song was also playing in the car when my husband parked at Heathrow airport this morning. 

‘Daddy, daddy, please come to holiday with us,’ said Aaliyah. My husband turned down the radio.

He squeezed her tightly. ‘Sorry I can’t come, my cutie pie. I have very important work things to do. But I hope you have a really nice time. Love you so much,’ he gave her a loving kiss on the cheek. ‘You mean the world to me.’

He then looked at me with his deep, brown eyes.

‘Have a good time, Amina,’ he said. ‘Say salaam to your Mum and Dad from me, yeah? I’ll pick you guys up at the same spot when you get back.’ He gave me a hug and a quick peck on the lips. His touch, warm. His lips, tender. My handsome, cheating husband.



Aaliyah’s given up on the curry and is now colouring in a picture of an aeroplane from the activity pack.

‘Mummy.’

‘Yes, sweetie?’

‘Can I show this picture in show and tell in school when we come back to England?’

It’s then that I tell her: ‘We’re not going back, honey. Pakistan will be our new home from now on.’

Monday, 4 September 2017

Short Film about the MA in Creative Writing

The University of Leicester has made a new short film about the MA in Creative Writing, which you can see here:



It can also be viewed at this link: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhkQUxpIHo8

Many thanks to current MA in Creative Writing student, Sonia Tailor, for talking so eloquently about the course. 


Monday, 21 August 2017

Poem by Michelle McGrane

Michelle McGrane's collection The Suitable Girl is published by Pindrop Press in the United Kingdom and Modjaji Books in South Africa. She lives in Johannesburg.





Michelle writes of the following poem: "The poem was included in a beautiful anthology of poetry and art, edited by Agnes Marton, called Drifting Down the LaneFor a while I've been intrigued and enchanted by the magical work of French scientist, botanist and artist, Patrick Blanc, and his creation of green walls and vertical gardens, the new life he's created for buildings' exteriors and the positive effects these living walls have had on people's lives. I wanted to write something that I felt would be relevant to our lives in cities today all over the world: environmental devastation; the decline of wildlife in urban areas, and spiritual decline, too - the effect that being surrounded by soulless, lifeless places and a lack of greenery has on our psyches."






The Architecture of Leaves

It's a breathing tapestry, a solar shield,
a canvas of ferns, vines and epiphytes
rising six flights in a city besieged
by billboards and exhaust residues.

It's a hydroponic lung, a capillary song,
a glissando of blooms, shrubs and grasses
colonising nooks and crevices, meshed
roots threading through propagation felt.

It's a verdant beacon, an urgent semaphore,
a nitrogen enriched, drip irrigated 3-D mural.
It's sedge, old man's beard, mile-a-minute,
coral bells, mandevilla and climbing fig.

It's riotous bougainvillea, feathery acacia,
mauve wisteria, plumed buddleias and shy violas.
It's long-awned stipa, creeping jenny,
saxifrage rosettes and dusky pink sedums.

It's a wind-borne destination, a butterfly haven,
a rendezvous for starlings and sparrows
amid ovate, palmate, dark glossy trifoliate,
white-veined, heart-shaped, variegated leaves.

It's arachnid hieroglyphics, a ghost in the machine,
the ciphers concealed in spores and seeds.
It's a pulse among blue-chip glass and steel,
above footsteps, fag-ends and fast food debris.

It's a chlorophyll dream, a green hallelujah,
a living tourniquet, a shrine to Gaia,
an antidote to banks and strip-lit malls,
heat islands, car parks and concrete flyovers.




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