The Lumen – a long gestation but worth the wait!

A couple of years ago I responded to a call for submissions to a new University of Edinburgh journal of medical humanities to be called The Lumen, a magazine for new literature and visual art dealing with the themes of illness, medicine and healthcare. The theme was ‘sharp and numb’ and the editors were looking for art, photography, poetry, fiction, non-fiction and short reviews.

The poem I sent was accepted and edited and then all went quiet. I don’t know the full story, but I gather the project went through various vicissitudes. The team persevered and found the means to bring their baby (and mine) to birth. A few weeks ago, the beautiful print edition landed on my door mat, and last Friday the digital edition went live at the launch of the journal. Sadly I wasn’t able to attend – so far away – but one of the editors read my poem. It was a joy to hear that but a first to hlumenave someone else reading my work aloud to an audience in my absence. I found myself quite moved by that.

It’s a great journal/magazine full of wonderful images and writing – have a look at The Lumen (there’s a call for submissions for the next edition on page 92).


Rankings = money = the value of education?

At The University of Nottingham we are committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring our students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. Our purpose is to improve life for individuals and societies worldwide. By bold innovation and excellence in all that we do, we make both knowledge and discoveries matter.

p.4 Strategic Plan 2010-15, University of Nottingham

Of course, and hooray, and it does! There is so much to commend the University of Nottingham, and I’d happily advise anyone to consider studying there. I feel sure they would, in the main, have a brilliant time and a rich experience. It is a particularly good university for folks like me with disabilities of any kind. But…

The students and alumni of the University of Nottingham’s BA (Hons) Creative and Professional Writing course continue to try and establish the reason or reasons for its closure in 2017. Perhaps current students will receive clearer information at a meeting next Friday.

The University’s statement about the closure says:

“With shifting patterns of recruitment and recent changes in staffing, it was an appropriate time to reconsider the strategic fit of the course with the School of Education’s longer term plans. Following a thorough business review, the School leadership decided the programme should close; the final graduates will complete in 2017.”

The first sentence was addressed by Thursday’s post. What of the second (apart from the inaccuracy: for graduates read undergraduates)? Any institution needs funding, no quibbles there. The course was not making a loss, but perhaps that was not enough. One source of income for a university is research. In product and financial terms it forms part of the life and business of a university. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) ranking of a university matters both because it demands excellence in research, which has to be beneficial to the teaching of students as well as the big, wide world, and because it influences funding, income and earnings. Such is the belt-tightening age we live in that monetary value matters increasingly, though hopefully in partnership with educational, personal and societal value. Is a lack of research the cause of the closure? Well, it might be but perhaps need not have been.

I am told that research happens in faculties at Nottingham. The course’s misplacement in the Faculty of Social Sciences, which requires all research to have a social science focus, made it impossible for the course leader to generate research that was valid for creative and professional writing AND a fit for Social Sciences. If, however, the course were moved to the School of English, or its research location made more flexible, a different picture would emerge. Look at the English staff research lists and you’ll find listed the writing of poetry collections, a radio drama and plays. To the best of my knowledge, the CPW course leader wrote and had published two novels during her employment in Nottingham. But, unlike in the School of English, where staff can provide teaching cover for sabbaticals etc, she was the only permanent member of CPW staff, her colleagues being employed sessionally.

So the question remains: Why will the course be closed rather than moved? I emailed the very pleasant Sir David Greenaway, Vice Chancellor, to ask him simply that. He replied quickly and kindly but did not answer the question.

If we receive an answer that explains the closure, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, thank you for reading and for your response. A bit, though nicely, overwhelmed by it up here in my study to be honest. But I have writing to do to send to my crit group and a new publication to celebrate.

(In case you were wondering, look also at de Montfort Leicester or the University of East Anglia to see that is is eminently possible to undertake varied and valuable research in the field of creative writing beyond the production of new writing, but it takes time, and staff, and yes, money.)



Finding a voice

Not many people come to writing through necessity. I needed a poem about disability for a church service. Not being able to find one, I wrote one. It was an awful poem, full of cheesy alliteration, and will never be seen or heard again.

Something in the doing of that poem ignited a new (for me) form of self-expression. Poems came spasmodically at first and then in a flood. Between 1992 and 2000ish, I must have written 500. They were autobiographical and shared only with  those closest to me. They spoke when I could not. Literally could not.

For some months, some years ago, my voice box could only sustain a whisper. I developed a stammer, in part I think from the awkwardness of not being able to be heard. A lovely NHS speech therapist helped me through all that, though my vocal power never fully recovered.

Since starting the BA course, I’ve enjoyed writing in all forms, and poetry has seeped into the style of my prose. Perhaps, for me, that will be the best reason to scratch away at a poem now and again.

But I find poetry hard work in terms of art, craft and emotional cost.

I meet three friends – proper poets – once a month and we critique each other’s work. I enjoy reading poetry, and I enjoy listening to it. I’m delighted to be involved with Beeston Poets – if you live in or near Nottinghamshire, come to an event, Martin Figura will be performing ‘Whistle’, 5th July, 7.30pm. Award winning, not to be missed.

Now I’m pretty excited about that because he’s very good, and the more poetry I hear, the more I’m inspired to write it. Contemporary poets shake my box and tip me out for a while. Let loose, my words make little forays into freedom and away from conventionality. Sadly, I appear to be attached to the inside of the box by bungee elastic, so on the rebound I fall back in and the lid slams shut.

Oh, that’s provoked an earworm…

Hmm, Poetry Group meeting at mine this Friday….