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.


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.


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,



My online residency at Ceramic Review is underway.  Over at material word, there is a growing population of strange dialogues between literature and ceramics.


Head over there to read

TOTEM, gallery guide (detail)

TOTEM, gallery guide (detail)

My 15-part poetic narrative antilabe is now installed as part of Corinne Felgate‘s show TOTEM at AirSpace Gallery in Hanley, which also features collaborative works from Florence Peake, Camilla Emson and Marcus Boyle.  Drawing on the motives of the Lunar Society, Felgate’s installation explores the potential strengths and frailties of collective artistic dialogue, within the wider conversation about the legacy of the ceramics industry in Stoke-on-Trent.


My narrative is being projected across Felgate’s installation, flickering absently through itself in randomized order in an alcove.  It is also available in full and all at once in the gallery guide.


totem2TOTEM: Trajectories in Tragedy and Triumph is at Air Space Gallery, Hanley until October 26th, 2013.  Felgate’s installation was recently showcased in the BBC’s review of the British Ceramics Biennial and in a-n news, amongst other places.



stoc at the British Ceramics Biennial
Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 1BU
28th September – 10th November 2013
10am – 5pm: Tuesday to Saturday
12pm – 5pm: Sunday
Closed: Monday

stoc factory

stoc is a poetic sequence and reader-responsive soundwork exploring  post-industrial interruptive gardens in Stoke-on-Trent. It is now installed in the original Spode factory site as part of the British Ceramics Biennial‘s EXPLORE programme.

cratesPart of the installation is formed of squat towers of crates carrying thousands of biscuit bone china leaves.

Every last one is handmade.

The BCB Launch Party saw hundreds of guests walk by the small dark mirrors hidden on work benches, on shelves, under a vent.

A cautious few caught sight of a flicker underneath the surface.

Those that stood and read long enough heard the voices, the percussive chatter of a hundred hands at work.

stoc unit 1