The Story of Performance Poetry

p034j19l (1)Knowing how many of you like nothing more than having a good ‘slam’ in your spare time, I thought you’d like to watch this documentary on the story of Performance Poetry, available for 30 days on iplayer.


St Mary’s Creative Writing Graduate secures two-book deal with Canongate

canongate_booksSt Mary’s Creative Writing graduate  Jess Kidd, has sold her debut novel to publisher Canongate.  Louisa Joyner, editorial director of fiction, bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Himself in a two-book deal, from Susan Armstrong at Conville&Walsh.

The publisher described Jess’s debut novel as “by turns blackly humorous, mysterious and darkly chilling”. It tells the story of Mahony, a loveable thief and Dublin charmer who was abandoned as a baby and returns to the place of his birth in search of answers about his mother.

Jess completed her PhD after graduating from St Mary’s MA in Creative Writing.  The novel began as the central element of her PhD, supervised by St Mary’s lecturer and novelist Dr Russell Schechter and Professor Allan Simmons, before being revised for publication. ‘Jess’s remarkable talent was in evidence from day one,’ according to Schechter. ‘We learned new things from each other as the novel grew and came to life. I always believed she would be a star.’

Writing is isolating,” Kidd said, “so it was a joy to explore my writing journey, academically and creatively, with Russell and Allan. This collaboration has not only informed my first novel but, I’m sure, will continue to influence my future work.”

St Mary’s Creative Writing department welcomes PhD proposals in the novel, and its Creative Writing MA: First Novel, now specialises in tutoring first time novelists who want to complete drafts of their first novels. Lecturers and students at St Mary’s have been published by Bloomsbury, Canongate, St Martin’s Press and Picador.

National Poetry Day

WH-Auden-in-London-in-193-011National Poetry Day kicked off on the BBC this morning, with a programme on Radio 4, called We British, and the poem below by WH Auden. More here on the next few weeks of poetry specials across the BBC.

Look, stranger, on this island now

The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.
Here at a small field’s ending pause
Where the chalk wall falls to the foam and its tall ledges
Oppose the pluck
And knock of the tide,
And the shingle scrambles after the suck-
-ing surf, and a gull lodges
A moment on its sheer side.

Far off like floating seeds the ships
Diverge on urgent voluntary errands,
And this full view
Indeed may enter
And move in memory as now these clouds do,
That pass the harbour mirror
And all the summer through the water saunter.

He, She, It, They, Them,…things are about to get complicated.

AimeFirst Year student Amie Carden explains how some writers are seeking a radical shift in the use of pronouns:

I am gender-fluid. My gender flows from one, into another and back. I identify as male, female and agender, but not all at once. When it comes to pronouns, this is an issue which strikes deep at the heart of our gendered culture.

Everyone knows how to use ‘they/them’, ‘it/itself’ pronouns when you don’t know someone’s gender.

Say, you’re discussing an article posted anonymously, would you assume a gender? Do you know how to use ‘they/them’, when someone does not identify with a binary gender?

Most people don’t even know there are genders outside the binary, and I don’t blame them. Mainstream media has hidden the identity of trans and non-binary people.

As a non-binary person, I use ‘They/Them’ pronouns.

When referred to, my pronouns could change from ‘he/him’, ‘she/her’ or, ‘They/Them’. Recently, I was asked to provide a profile post for the St Mary’s Writer’s site, and faced the dilemma of referring to myself in the third person. I made the concious decision to refer to myself as ‘They’, and had to explain why I chose to write this way about myself so it wasn’t mistaken as a grammatical error.

I personally find it easier to stick with one pronoun, which fits with my gender ninety per cent of the time, than struggle with explaining which one fits me in that moment.

‘They/Them’ fits me best.

This term does pose a challenge to literature. There can be a lot of confusion between ‘They’, a non-binary person, and ‘they’ a group of people. It becomes a bigger issue when there are multiple characters in a scene who go by the same pronouns. We struggle with this when it comes to binary pronouns as well, if we have two same-gendered people in one scene you need to use other skills to define them.

There is less confusion for the reader when characters are happily gender defined and accept, ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’ pronouns in a scene together, as it’s so common. We could even play with the idea of having a way to distinguish between the two, like I have done in this piece.

I feel that if we started using neutral terms more regularly, it could be something we get used to; while at the same time I can see how gender neutral pronouns are going to be a struggle in literature. Our language and grammar is gendered, though less than other languages. Changing our use of pronouns may only be the start of a battle to defeat a gendered world.

Contains Strong Language: BBC Poetry Season

p02swxfpNeed a break from all the writing and reading of the first week? The BBC begins a poetry season this Thursday, with programming across television and radio. Hear exclusive readings and watch interviews with poets from TS Eliot to Kate Tempest. Words First on Radio1Xtra will be looking at the ‘underground’ performance scene, and the season kicks off with a documentary on the history of British poetry.

A brief history of Jamaican novelists…

marlon_james_3097758aI recently went to a reading night of Trinidad born novelists and poets. Afterwards, I confessed to writer and musician Anthony Joseph that I had never read a novel from the Caribbean. Two days later, and everybody is talking about whether Marlon James is going to win the Booker Prize. A Brief History of Seven Killings is definitely on my reading list this year. But what about other Jamaican novelists? Marlon James picks them here. 

Has Morrissey written the worst novel ever published?

morrissey-novelThe UK’s critics seem to think so. I would never judge a book by its reviews (that way, you can afford to ignore your own bad reviews). However, some of the extracts reprinted in the media this week have been truly execrable. Take a look. What do you think? As a student of creative writing, can you explain why the extracts chosen are being held up as examples of bad writing?