dylan-homerThis autumn (oh hey autumn! You’re looking pretty lovely from where I’m sitting in July’s sweaty palms) I take up a new residency at the Bristol Poetry Institute.  The BPI is hosted by the University of Bristol and run by Danny Karlin, Winterstoke Professor of English, with Rachael Boast, whose works include Sidereal, winner of a Forward Prize and Pilgrim’s Flower which was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and I am dancing at the opportunity to be a part of this vital project for poetry in the city.

I am grateful to the BPI for inviting me to lead a series of workshops on site-specific poetry for students at the University of Bristol, and I will also be holding consultation hours for students to receive one-to-one support with their own writing.  The residency will end with a public reading on the 13th December 2014 and I’ll post more details nearer the time.

poetryschoolIf you’re a student at Bristol or you’re interested in booking a place on the workshop series, get in touch or check this page for further details.

If you’re not a student or if you don’t live in Bristol or if you’re not planning on going outside or away from your computer or into some trousers any time soon, then I can still come to you!  In (hopefully) a less (but probably more) terrifying shape than is pictured in the CAMPUS cover (left), I will also be teaching online this autumn.

The Poetry School have invited me to teach as part of their 5 Easy Pieces course on CAMPUS, their online teaching forum.  Alongside the awesome Harry Man, Kim Moore, J T Welsch and Jen Campbell, I’ll be leading a session on something strange and, for now, secret.  When I can, I will let you know more and I will appear, pleased pink and looming behind your screen.

While I whittle my new projects (including one big splintery one soon to be announced!), I have started woodworking.  Actually.  Truly.  On my tenon saw and sliding bevel, no word of a lie.

It’s so familiar a strategy it should probably be considered part of writing, part of an artist’s practice.  Emily Dickinson baked.  Gabriel Orozco throws boomerangs.  I’ve been given a rusty plane and I’ve got no patience.

Perfect. I’m three weeks into my course at Bristol Women’s Workshop and I’ve been allowed to bring home my first foul thing.  I would be too embarrassed but I want to document the start: a book stand.

Or, more accurately, a book limiter.  Since the panicky book-swallowing days of university, I’ve developed a bad habit of reading too many books at the same time and amongst the complicated expansion of overlaps, there are always some books that never get finished before they are lent to a friend or eaten up in a house move.

So now, my unfinished, unvarnished book limiter stands on my desk, operating a one-in-one-out service for my fidgety reading pattern.

And for my fidgety hands, I am now onto dovetails and chisels and tricky, slow patience.

bookstand

spikeopenyardReady the trumpets.  I have recently been approved as a permanent studio holder at Spike Island, which means I am now dusting my desk for tonight’s launch of the Spike Island Open 2014.

If you want to explore this former Brooke Bond tea packing factory after hours, poke a nose into a painter’s studio or ask a performance artist what they do with their days, you should come.

Marko Wilkinson, who shares Studio 82 with me is currently installing a camp fire and a one-man tent and a one-man-sized flatscreen erected in the middle of the studio. And if this isn’t enough to have you pitching up tonight, have a look at the weekend’s brochure.

I have set up a temporary library of poetry magazines, pamphlets and artist’s books, alongside stoc, which takes visitors along the balcony corridor and displaces the chatter and clatter of the Aynsley China factory to the corner of my studio.

studioopen

The work was originally installed in the original Spode Factory site for the British Ceramics Biennial 2013 and is still tightly tied to Stoke as a place (or places) and the ceramics industry that sometimes manages to exploit and elide these same places.  The plates displayed in my studio (above) are from Spode’s ‘Stafford Flowers’ range, made in ‘Staffordshire’ but manufactured both elsewhere and separately; the small plate in India, the larger in Thailand.  In its original placement, stoc occupied the dead spaces in a derelict factory: air vents, damaged ware benches, storage cases where the gilded plates had been abandoned after the factory’s closure.

Transferred now to the bright corridors of the balcony studios, stoc starts looks a little more like a chintzy china shop.  Perhaps I am enjoying this transformation more than I had anticipated.  Perhaps I will host a tea party or two.  If I do, here’s your invitation:

openinvite

 

Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/15 Mentors and Mentees at The Hurst

Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/15 Mentors and Mentees at The Hurst

Ahead of tomorrow and the beginning of The Cruellest Month, March has been all yes yes and oh boy by gum.  After a long winter of rewriting, good news arrived like buses.  In a single Monday morning, two double decker party buses of good news pulled up.

Bus One.  My name appeared amongst the Highly Commended poets in Faber & Faber’s announcement of the winners of the Faber New Poets series.  For those waiting, it was a long one and I am still checking the press release to make sure I haven’t made this up.  My wildest congratulations to the winning poets – Rachael Allen, Will Burns, Zaffar Kunial and Declan Ryan – whose pamphlets will be out in the autumn.  YES!  Thrilling things, for sure.

And as if that wasn’t enough to have me high-fiving my way through some writerly celebration montage, fist pumping to Woman’s Hour and waltzing with a plant pot, etc. the phone rang again. Arvon were calling to let me know that after my interview, Clare Pollard had selected me as one of three poets to be part of the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.  The radio and the pot plant went out the window and I think I had to have a little sit down.  Oh March!

And so.

I have just returned from The Hurst, where nine emerging writers – three poets, three novelists, three playwrights – began our year together with our Jerwood mentors with an intensive week of workshops and eating, late nights and bright mornings.  It was incredible.  I am enormously excited about the year ahead as I begin to work on my projects with Clare’s guidance – and I am privileged to be doing this alongside poets Deborah Stevenson and Ian Dudley, whose performances last Friday night were so beautiful, so good I almost ate my own hands.  Also, workshops in movement with David Eldridge and narrative voice with Jenn Ashworth punched tiny holes all through my writing, and I am indebted to David in particular for making us speak only in vegetables for an hour. Mangetout, mangetout, mangetout – (thank you) – to all of you, and especially Arvon and the Jerwood Foundation for having me on board the bus.

© holly corfield carr

© holly corfield carr

The wonderful Kirsty Logan invited me to be her latest blog burglar as part of Thievery, a series in which writers share the stories behind their stories.  It’s a lovely dream of half-heard songs, re-read books and grainy photographs of childhood, riotgrrls and Rasputin.  Have a read.

So, I add to this my photograph of my mum and sister walking into the fog.  They look a bit casually dressed for the apocalypse.  It was only supposed to be a short walk.  My sister’s ankles are bare.

This is the photograph I took of the fog in 2010.  I add to this readings of watermelon snow, rakfisk recipes, Patsy Cline lyrics, a family trip to Bleik in 1999.  Somewhere in all of this, I find Fog, a short story of mine published in Ambit 209 in 2012.  Read my Thievery post here.

What do you think?  Does it help to know where I was when I started the story?  What does it mean to hold one fiction inside another (because who knows whether I was listening to Patsy Cline? whether I have found minced beef loose in the freezer drawer? whether I went to Norway? whether I ran away?  whether the weather? whether the hell-for-leather? whatever?).

Perhaps this is a defensive position to take but as I started to put together my thieved thoughts, I started to write another story.  The same story, I guess, but a different angle.  And I got to know my writing self a bit better, fictionalising her.  Maybe that’s what this is all about.

Thanks, thanks, thanks to Kirsty for giving me the opportunity to wander through the fog again.  I found more than I expected.

And if you can, have a read of Kirsty’s own thievings; her first collection The Rental Heart and Other Stories is out with Salt next month and this blog feels like a gorgeous bundle of secrets ahead of the publication day.

ShitJobPosterToday The Shit Job Machine will begin filling The Front Room in Cambridge with endless lines of Lawrence Epps’ clay commuters.  From now until the 24th January, over a tonne of clay will be pumped onto the floor of the gallery.

Lawrence asked me to produce a new text to accompany the work.  Still steaming from the press, Dreckapotheke, a small pamphlet of filth pharmacy will be available to read at the show.  A short extract below:

on being turned out, the ulcerous body should be swabbed and scrutinised for irritants: hairs or desk crumbs; dirt, blood, filth.  Some employees may try to hide their private lucre, their ulcer, their glistening cache.  Look at it any way you like, they’ll say, but this  h i d d e n   a s s e t  will, unsurprisingly, only ever be  e n d e d   a s   s h i t.  Because, and this is the argument at its most essential, people will tell you  t h i s  is  s h i tIt is, is it? Take no notice.  Sew the body back up.  A pen or cotton bud can help push back into shape the fingertips, the nose, the pulse at the wrist.

Lawrence Epps
The Shit Job Machine
10th January – 24th January
The Front Room
23-25 Gwydir Street, Cambridge CB1 2LG
Private View on Thursday 9th January, 6pm-8pm.  All welcome.

archipelagoSince September, I have been running weekly walking and writing workshops around Spike Island, a real/unreal island in the middle of Bristol.  Mapping walk over walk and working in collaboration with each participant, this project has been gathering itself under the name Spike Archipelago.

site

The project culminates today at Spike Island, the gallery, with a special and free workshop for writers and artists who work with text.  After a final exploration of this strange slip of land, participants will work together and with the project’s archive to compose new work which can then be turned into miniature viewfinders, little guides for looking, for sharing our point of view.

footbridge

This project also marks the beginning of the end of my residency at Spike Island and is supported by Arts Council England.

Come sightseeing with me, one last time.

Spike Island
133 Cumberland Road, Bristol, BS1 6UX
For how to get there, click here.

Sunday 1 December,
2–5pm
FREE

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