This recent hike in blog posts is largely the result of finishing my PhD papers – but also because I managed to have a bad fall last Tuesday but one. I’ve got hypermobile joints so it’s not the first one I’ve had, but I think it was one of the worst. I was trying to step onto the bus at the university underpass after my last tutorial, but as I did so my hip dislocated and I instead fell into the gap between the bus and the curb. I ended up half under the bus and along the way I sprained the ligaments in both ankles (the right worse than the left), whacked my left shin very badly and did a number on both my Achilles Tendons again. Unfortunately the impact means I’ve knocked other joints out of alignment as well, which means everything is clicking in and out. So over the last week or so I’ve been doing an excellent impression of a rainbow from the shins down. At the moment I’m trying to keep my feet elevated and stay still – a good time for blogging and reading!
I had a very busy May and start of June – hence why this wrap up is so late! As the end of my first year as a PhD student approached things have got really hectic and I didn’t get much reading done that wasn’t directly course related (I’ve included some of the poetry I read on my Books Read 2016 list but only the collections I’ve read for the first time cover to cover). I spent a lot of time pulling my papers together for my end of year review – editing poems and doing a near-complete revamp on my research proposal. I also had a crash course in reminding myself of the MHRA style guide for my bibliography – lord I hate those things.
At the same time I was working on our summer online conference. The majority of the contact time for the Creative Writing PhD at Lancaster takes the form of one to one sessions with your tutor a couple of times a month. But once a term we also have online conferences through Moodle, where we can post several poems at once to be critiqued by our fellow PhD students. This is the third one I’ve participated in and I think it was the one I got the most out of as I’ve started to work out what work is best to post.
The conferences can be quite a lot of work in a concentrated period of time, but they’re well worth it. Not everyone joins in every term, so you can get different perspectives on your work throughout the year. Working one to one with a tutor can narrow your horizons a bit – especially if you tend to agree with your tutor – so it’s great to have a bit of controversy. The conference is a great chance to hear some very different opinions and can have a profound impact on your work. It’s also particularly useful to me. as this year I’ve ended up writing in sequences. The conferences offers me the opportunity to submit a longer sequence with four to six poems highlighted to critique. This allows me the perspective of someone who is reading to work as a whole for the first time rather than showing it to my tutor in stages.
I got it done in the end, even though I was up in Skye at the time, and I also managed to sort out the majority of my papers before I came back. My end of year review was this morning and I’m passed – woohoo! – so I can move on to year two in October. I’ve got a long summer of writing ahead of me!
I’ve been pretty quiet for the last month for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. But I’m at a bit of a lull in the RL-Madness at the moment so I’m trying to catch up. I’ve made a bit of progress through my list for the Book Buddy Readathon and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far.
I’ve been waiting to re-read ADSOM for a while. The first time I read it I was suffering from some sort of bizarre anxiety that it wasn’t going to be as good as I hoped and I didn’t feel like I could truly let myself be swept up in the story. I remember that I was so relieved when I finished it and it’s a wonderful book that deserves a much better response than that. It was a pleasure to reread and, although it was already a 5* for me, it only improved the second time round.
I was delighted that I could then jump straight into A Gathering of Shadows,with the events of the first book still clear in my mind. The world-building balloons in this instalment and that’s so wonderful, but the best thing was the character development. Lila, Kell and Rhy change from page to page but it doesn’t feel forced or rushed, instead it unfolds in a completely natural way. Ms Schwab, I take my hat off to you.
I was determined to read A Portable Shelter whilst I was in Scotland and I’m glad I did – this book really plays into the mystical atmosphere of the country. I was lucky enough to hear Logan read a couple of these stories before the book’s publication when she did a reading for Litfest, so it was nice to recognise a few. But the majority of the book was very new to me – there were aspects of it that I loved and aspects I found very frustrating. I’m not going to review it in full yet as this book was the buddy read for the challenge. Once Jess has got round to reading it we’re going to do a joint review which I’m really looking forward to!
I read some really good poetry on holiday – some old favourites in revisiting Heaney outside of the classroom and falling in love with his ‘bog’ poems all over again and some new-to-me poets too. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Alice Oswald’s writing but I still wasn’t prepared for Memorial’s emotional impact. It’s truly a poem to be read in one sitting and it’s a pleasure to read aloud. The pace builds throughout then pulls us back in surprising moments with the double refrains of a kind of Greek chorus. The imagery is simply stunning. Sarah Howe’s prize-winning collection was also a first time read. Loop of Jade is layered, deeply felt and packed with exquisite language, it’s easy to see why she came out on top and makes the ‘scandal’ surrounding her selection all the more ludicrous.
We’ve got a packed programme coming up in the next few months so it’s all go at the moment. We’ve got Dominic Kelly coming up to Lancaster on the 5th July for a very special evening of storytelling and music. There’s still some tickets going if you’re interested and you can buy them and find out some more information –here.
We’ve also released the new dates for our course Telling Tales so I’m currently fielding enquiries for that too. Both the tutors (Dominic who I’ve already talked about and Jo Blake Cave) are performing in Lancaster before they appear on the course so it’s an excellent chance to see what they can teach you. If anyone’s interested in this there’s more information on our website.