‘On Commemoration’ reviewed in the TLS

On Commemoration: Global Reflection upon Remembering War has been reviewed by Professor Jay Winter (Yale) in this week’s Times Literary Supplement. Professor Winter praised the collection for the way it draws attention to ‘the need to extend our catalogue of commemorative forms and sites to include many other media, including literary texts, testimony, music, prayer and silence’.

The key problem the book identifies, Professor Winter suggests, is ‘that of linking remembrance, understood as the process of reflecting on the past, usually but not always with other people; and memory, understood as the product of such reflections each of us carries’.

My research is interested in how trauma interrupts the processing of experience into memory, asking how we can find forms able to express what is often inexpressible. The poems I published in the collection use ink and redaction techniques to engage with these ideas. It’s very gratifying to see these creative-critical engagements, in dialogue with more conventional essays, so well received.

You can purchase On Commemoration here: https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/68826

Archives, Collage Poems and Zoom

It was wonderful to finally arrive at Homerton back at the beginning of October. Due to Covid restrictions, the recruitment process for the Poet-in-Residence role had been totally online. Since I was appointed, I’d had many Zoom coffees with new colleagues but nothing could compare to arriving at the leafy campus on Hills Road.

The remit of the Jacqueline Bardsley Poet-in-Residence is simple: to put poetry at the heart of college life. The residency is named after Mrs Jacqueline Bardsley, a college alumna who passionately believed in the power of poetry to foster self-expression and build strong communities.  In service of this aim, during my residencies I’ve organised my time around three strands: writing and performing new poetry; teaching and interdisciplinary research.

I began the residency by using poetry to engage with the college’s archives. My PhD research sought to engage with the way that archives curate meaning, translating it into poetic form. I’m particularly interested in how archives work as an amalgam of material facts juxtaposed with absences and silences. Extending this idea at Homerton, I’ve been working with physical materials to produce ‘collage poems’ as well as novel poetry.

One of the definite highlights of the residency is teaching. I kicked off our poetry-writing workshop series in October with sessions focused on exercises and games students can use when they are feeling uninspired. Over the course of Michaelmas, we’ll work on shaping these initial ideas into fully-fledged poems and the stunning results will be published on the college website and in an anthology next year.

Listening to our guest poet for the term Marvin Thompson

On the interdisciplinary research front, I’ve been thinking about what poetry-writing methods can bring to other subjects. The College has a strong track record in Education and I’ve been collaborating with Homerton Changemakers to ask how poetry might help us produce graduates with the dynamic skillset needed to address the ecological, geo-political psychological questions of our time.

It’s been a strange start to my time at Cambridge (teaching via Zoom and ‘live-streaming’ my writing via social media are certainly new to me!) but a positive one, nonetheless. This is not least because of all the support given to me by the Cambridge community. I look forward to how the residency will continue into the new year.

Two New Poems

I have two new poems coming out in magazines over the next few months.

My poem ‘Ashes’, which is taken from the collection I’ve just finished as part of my PhD, will be published in the December issue of Streetcake Magazine. Streetcake is a magazine of experimental writing and a fitting home for this collage poem.

I’ll also have a new poem in the November issue of perhappened mag. perhappened are interested in what they call ‘the frayed edge of memory’ and again, this seems a perfect home for my poem ‘Fox Studies’ which thinks so much about memory, trauma and expression.

I wanted to write a bit about these poems because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the submissions process. I’m doing a lot of private mentoring and teaching now (click here for details if you’re interested) and have a lot of students who are focused in getting their poems into the ‘big’ magazines like Poetry Review and Granta etc. Those magazines are great but no matter how good a poem is, sometimes it just won’t be a good fit. I try to encourage my students to find magazines that publish poems that are similar to theirs in terms of tone, form or theme. I know from my own experiences editing bath magg, we encounter some great poems that just aren’t in line with what we’re trying to do. So if you’re thinking about submitting some poems, really do read the magazines first and try to find somewhere that is dialogue with your own work.

When my new poems are published, I’ll be sure to put links in the ‘Poems’ section of this site.