Prose Poetry UK

Anne Caldwell writes:

‘I am delighted to announce that I have an Arts Council Award this year to research and edit a new anthology of UK prose poetry. It will be called the ‘Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry’ and will be published in May 2019. I am working on a web site at the moment and this will be open for submissions later in the summer of 2018. I am co-editing the book with Professor Oz Hardwick from Leeds Trinity University and it will be published by Valley Press, who are based in Scarborough. The project will involve workshops for young adult writers alongside Sheffield based writer, Beverley Ward and it will be evaluated by Glynis Charlton. 

Arnside Woods

Arnside Woods, by A. Caldwell

So, what is a prose poem, I hear you ask? It is a difficult form to define, but the poet Carrie Etter came up with this useful description of some of its properties: she sees the prose poem as ‘circling or inhabiting a mood or idea, perhaps remaining in one place (although not static) rather than moving from A to B as a poem does.’  

If you want to read more about the form, and its wonderful possibilities, you might be interested in an article I have written for the academic journal, Writing in Practice (Issue 4) , which is published by the National Association for Writers in Education:

The Journal’s principal editor is our own Dr Derek Neale, from the Open University.  I am also working on a new full length collection of work, which is in the prose poetry form and explores the idea of the North. 

Valley Press Website (C) Valley Press 2018

(c) Valley Press 2018

I will share details of the Prose Poetry Project via its new website later in June 2018. If you are interested in finding out more about the research, do get in touch with me.’ 


Anne Caldwell

Associate Lecturer, Open University

Latest Book: Painting the Spiral Staircase, Cinnamon Press, 2016 


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Unusual Places: Notes on short story writing by Louise Tondeur

Using live writing to create short stories

When I wrote my short story collection, I mainly used a technique that I call ‘live writing’. Others have called it ‘writing in situ’. I went to a particular place to write. I usually did this longhand in a notebook. Sometimes I spent the day writing a first draft of a story, on other occasions I got some ideas down and wrote the story at home – this depended on the environment itself. I wrote the second and subsequent drafts at home, referring to images of the places I had visited.

A patch of nettles: where it all started

I started using this technique at Totleigh Barton (the Arvon centre in Devon) when the tutors asked us to watch something outside for 45 minutes. This was a revelation to me (aged 19) as I had never watched anything for that long, and hadn’t meditated or anything similar. I realised how much detail you get involved in if you watch something for an extended period of time.

At Arvon we were simply watching – not writing. I watched a patch of nettles. I wrote afterwards. I began to understand that there was something about being in the environment itself that helped me to write. It wasn’t only the observation, it was also being immersed in the experience of being there.

The natural world

Most of the stories I have written using ‘live writing’ have been in towns and cities and weren’t – like my Arvon experience – about being thoroughly immersed in the natural world. However, nature does play a big part and I found that trees in particular were an unintentional theme throughout the collection. Again, unintentionally, most of my live writing excursions involved finding the natural world in an urban environment. I wrote at the Garden Museum in Lambeth, the College Garden at Westminster Abbey, in Chiswick Park, and in Kensington Gardens for instance.

Here’s the story I wrote in Kensington Gardens, called ‘The Swim’:

The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens, London, where I wrote ‘The Swim’. © Copyright Paul Gillett (licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons License).


I had a few guide books to help me find my way to quirky locations in London. The stories aren’t all set in London, but it was where I was living when I started. I began writing my short stories this way a while back (in the early 2000s) – and there seem to be several more books about hidden or secret or unusual London now. Try searching with those key words and you’ll see what I mean! I also found sites such as London Walks ( ) very useful.


Unusual Connections

I find I tend to make unusual connections between stories when I used live writing. For example, one character – someone whose face had been disfigured – came across very strongly and I realised that they were appearing in several of the stories, including ‘The Swim’. I turned this into one long short story called ‘Unusual Places.’

I named the whole collection ‘Unusual Places’ because of the way in which I set about writing the stories in the collection.


Four rules & several cafes

I had a few friendly rules which helped me to choose places to go and write:

  1. The place had to be free to get into. (I only deviated from this once – at the Garden Museum in Lambeth! )
  2. The place had to have something unusual, secret, hidden or quirky about it.
  3. The place had to have access to tea and shelter from the rain.
  4. There had to be somewhere to write – at least a bench, for instance.

This meant that I ended up writing in a lot of cafés, so cafés feature in the story somewhat. All of these are fictionalised. My favourite was the café in Red Ruth in Cornwall, with its cosy atmosphere and open fire place, which I think has since closed, and formed the basis of the story ‘Red Roof’ – of every fictional place I invented, I wish Red Roof was a real place!


Adventures by train

Now the collection is finished, I’m still using the technique to write. My most recent use of live writing was on a trip to the Cumbrian coast where I wrote on the train (it’s a long way from the South of England!). I find it very useful to write on a journey or an ‘adventure’ and to go somewhere I have never been before. I see this as a development of the live writing technique. I prefer to write short stories this way, rather than writing at my desk.


Where to find the collection

My short story collection comes out with Cultured Llama Press in May 2018, when it will be available from here:

Louise Tondeur, Sussex, March 2018.

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Nullaby: A poetry pamphlet by Patrick Wright

Nullaby pamphlet by Patrick WrightAssociate Lecturer and PhD candidate Patrick Wright’s poetry pamphlet, Nullaby, is now available to purchase through Eyewear Publishing:

The poems explore themes such as psychodrama in the domestic space, clandestine realities of love, and fears and anxieties in a modern relationship; the reflections on which most often occur in liminal states between sleep and waking or as a result of being kept awake at night.


Reviews of Nullaby:

‘Blindness, and seeing, are inseparable in Patrick Wright’s Nullaby. Deeply personal in the way they record illness and care, the poems often emerge out of darkness: in “The Blind Photographer”, typically, he relishes the dense particularities of his speaker’s situation, even as he goes about “invoking all that’s lost in the world / as blocks of visitation on contact paper.”’ – John McAuliffe

‘The sensual, anatomised poems of Nullaby travel through interior and external landscapes, “the body’s catacombs”, to track apparitions, hospital wards, the night terrors of illness. These places where “the joke begins to wear itself thin” nevertheless brim with light,colour, scent. At once loss and redemption, its song of “I” to “you” is almost unbearably intimate and always extraordinary. In this heart-aching collection Wright is “faithful all along” to lyrical form and its “limitless repertoire of love”.’ – Gail Ashton

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Review of Anne Caldwell’s poetry collection

Associate Lecturer Anne Caldwell’s latest poetry collection, ‘Painting the Spiral Staircase’, (Cinnamon Press, 2016) will be reviewed in the next edition of Stand Magazine (Vol.16.1) by Dr Stella Pye, who writes:

I have combined the review with some previously unpublished poems from Muriel Spark, and with Michael Sweeney’s ‘Inquisition Lane’. I’ve taken part of Michael Schmidt’s ‘Afterward’ to the Spark as a denominator common to all three collections, in which he says:

‘Even the most rigidly shaped are voiced, and even the most casual

are meticulously wrought, the diction, tempo and phrasing revealing

at once the drama of the narrative and the character of the narrator.’

Stand Magazine

Stand has been a fixture on the British and world literary scene since 1952, when the first issue appeared in London. It moved to Leeds in 1960, then to Newcastle, and it is now edited from the School of English at the University of Leeds in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University in the USA.

For a copy of the magazine, or subscription, visit

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Creative writers and copywriting – from Jules Horne

If you’re a recent creative writing graduate and are wondering how to make a living while you finish that novel or script, you may not have considered copywriting. It’s not on the radar of most creative writing students, and yet it draws on all the skills that are honed on a CW degree, including storytelling, viewpoint, tone of voice, research, characterisation, hooks, and a demon eye for editing. Good listening skills and the ability to cut through complexity to find a clear narrative thread are also useful.

Writing skills are highly sought after in the commercial world, but it can be hard for creative writers to know how to translate their skills for that different context. I wrote this book as a start-up guide for students, based on my experience of running Texthouse, a writing business in rural Scotland.

One of the unexpected privileges of copywriting is the fascinating range of people and businesses you meet. I’ve had the pleasure of working with divers, housing associations, dry rot specialists, hoteliers, chocolatiers, heating engineers, designers… people whose work I’d never normally come across in the comparative isolation of writing. For a curious writer, this is wonderful. And as I discovered, people in the world of small business are a lot like writers: independent, in pursuit of a strange vision, prefer working for themselves…

How to Launch a Freelance Copywriting Business is about startup nuts and bolts for creative writers and journalists, and doesn’t cover the writing side. If you’re a student and would like recommendations and templates around copywriting, email

Jules Horne is an Associate Lecturer on the Open University MA in Creative Writing and module A363, Advanced Creative Writing.

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Bringing a major Irish poet back home – from Nessa O’Mahony

As my co-editor Dr. Siobhán Campbell, one of the Module Team developing curriculum for the new MA in Creative Writing, writes in the introduction to Eavan Boland: Inside History, a new book of essays and poems on the work of one of Ireland’s leading poets of the 20th and 21st centuries, we belong to a generation of writers for whom Boland’s ‘presence as a poet, critic and teacher has been of major importance.’ But despite that importance, there had been few recent, Irish-produced critical studies of a poet whose work is so well known on the international stage. As Irish women poets and academics ourselves, we felt that this was something needing to be addressed.

Siobhán first approached me with the idea of a critical study in early 2012; at that point, we were aiming to publish something to coincide with Eavan’s 70th birthday in 2014. And although a number of events took place and celebratory publications were issued during that year (a special issue of PN Review, for example), our own project proved to have its own deadlines. As Siobhán and I discussed the sorts of contributions we’d like, we understood that it would take longer to assemble the range of writers and voices we wanted; not only academics who had written critically about Boland’s work, but also poets and writers who, as her peers, could give their own perspectives on the Eavan they knew, personally and professionally. Quite soon we realised that we’d also like to include poetry from other poets for whom Eavan’s work was significant; either as contemporaries or as writers for whom she was an important influence.

So we began to approach our wish-list of contributing authors. We knew the academics who had already written on Eavan, so the choice of Jody Allen Randolph, Lucy Collins, Patricia Boyle Haberstroh and Peter Dolmanyós were natural ones. But with the writers, it was more complex. Not every poet is a critic too, and although we had a really good response to the idea of the book, not everyone we first approached felt they had the time to commit to researching and writing a critical essay. But many did, and the essays produced by Gerry Smyth, Gerald Dawe, Eamonn Wall, Thomas McCarthy, Nigel McLoughlin, Chris Murray and Colm Toibín offer wonderful insights from the perspective of other writers who had lived through her times, or who had benefitted from her influence in their own literary development.

These essays offer many fascinating perspectives on Boland’s context within Irish literary and political history. For example, Gerald Dawe focuses on the political dimension, exploring the poems produced during the decade 1975 to 1985 in order to make the argument that Boland’s initiating engagement with, and opening-up to, the political and ideological conflict of the northern ‘Troubles’ is often over-looked and that she made a substantial contribution to what he terms the ‘debates’ of those troubled decades. Gerard Smyth concurs, arguing in his essay that beyond the personal in Boland’s work lies an engagement with what he terms ‘less distinct, often trickier notions of national and cultural identity.’ From his own position as an Irish poet based in America, Eamonn Wall takes the perspective of Boland’s position in Irish America, and explores the contention that a priority in Boland’s work is to provide an account of exile that is realistic, personal, and rooted in contemporary times.

The choice of publisher was as important a choice as that of contributors. We needed a person who would embrace our vision of what such a book might look like. In Alan Hayes of Arlen House, we found somebody with the imagination and generosity of spirit to run with our notion, and to improve upon it. We had initially thought that just a handful of poems might punctuate the book; Alan suggested expanding it to the number we now have (14 in total) so that each essay is separated by a poem. We are thrilled to be able to include poems by Paula Meehan, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Sinead Morrissey, Thomas Kinsella, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, John Montague, Medbh McGuckian, Eiléan Ní Chuileanáin, Katie Donovan, Dermot Bolger, Jean O’Brien and Moya Cannon.

Of course we recognised the symbolism of working with Arlen House on this project; Eavan herself worked as an editor there in the 1970s and Arlen published some of her early collections (In Her Own Image, The War Horse) so in a sense we were bringing the poet home. And we couldn’t have done it without the generous help and support of another one of her publishers, Michael Schmidt of Carcarnet, who was unfailingly generous in his granting of permissions to quote from her poetry and who allowed us to reprint the wonderful conversation between Paula Meehan and Eavan Boland – A Poet’s Dublin – that took place on the occasion of Eavan’s 70th birthday at the Abbey Theatre.

Both Siobhán and I feel as editors that with this volume we have just begun an important conversation and reappraisal of Eavan Boland’s position in Irish and world literature. As Irish women poets we both feel indebted to her, for opening doors and creating precedents that meant that neither of us faced the struggle for acceptance or opportunity that she and her contemporaries did. We’re excited to see the reaction this new volume will provoke, and hope that it will contribute to a more nuanced and broader discussion of her work and influence and provide an important new resource to students of her work.

Dr. Nessa O’Mahony, Associate Lecturer, Creative Writing

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Literary writers and the Indie Spirit – from Jules Horne

It’s fair to say the world of publishing is in turmoil. With margins squeezed in commercial publishing, mid-list authors are being dropped, and it’s harder than ever to find a publisher. Writing literary or experimental fiction? Forget it (mostly). I’ve been shocked to hear of major Scottish authors struggling to find publication after mainstream UK publishers let them go.

But while some avenues are closing down, others are opening up. All around, I’m seeing writers publishing their own work, whether as e-books or in print. I’ve been particularly impressed by younger writers embracing indie publishing, and not waiting for permission to have a voice.jules image 2

So I decided to try it for myself. Not just ethereal e-books, but solid, papery ones that have a smell and a heft, and real pages you can write on and fold (I know, I know). With ISBNs and my own Texthouse imprint. The whole indie author shebang.

My poet friend Andrew Forster wasn’t impressed. After all, poets have been producing their own books for ever. And it’s always been possible to get a short run done at your local printer.

But what’s new and impressive to me is the speed and ease of printing a new book. With print-on-demand, you can order a dozen, or even just one. You only pay for what’s printed, so the cost is low.

You do need patience to learn the ropes, and a techie mindset definitely helps. But printing your own book is incredibly empowering. And for literary and experimental authors who may not find mainstream publication, or regional authors with a strong niche, it’s a real eye-opener. The difference between you and a small press is vanishingly small. And what’s good enough for Virginia Woolf…

So here they are:

Nanonovels – experimental flash fiction, written one a day in the course of a year. Wrapped Town – a collection of stories from anthologies, competitions and radio.Jules image 1

Fellow OU tutor and sometime concrete poet Dr Mike Johnson was kind enough to call them ‘vibrantly original tales’ and ‘evocations of the spirit of Ray Bradbury and Angela Carter’. Pints on me!

And now I’ve done it, my mind is racing with the possibilities. Apart from all else, it frees up literary writers to write what they want, and bring it to their readers, without fretting about genres, markets or profit margins. It puts individual creativity back in charge. Exciting times!

That said, national agencies including Creative Scotland, Publishing Scotland and the mainstream press have yet to catch up. They don’t yet recognise self-published work – presumably because they want to avoid a deluge of submissions. But how long can they ignore this creative revolution? Especially with literary authors taking things into their own hands?

I’ll be blogging more about the indie author-publisher journey at

Jules Horne is a playwright and publisher who teaches on A363 with the Open University in Scotland. 

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A new poetry collection from Joanna Ezekiel

Joanna’s latest poetry collection is Homecoming, published by Scarborough publisher, Valley Press, winner of a recent Arts Council grant. The editors say:

Homecoming provis cover 7 v2‘By necessity, to come home is to look with fresh eyes at what is familiar. Joanna Ezekiel’s exquisite second collection captures this experience with a combination of quiet observation and vivid sensuality. She draws on her British Jewish upbringing and Indian Jewish heritage to explore what it means to belong to a family, to a country, to a culture in poems that sing with warmth and generosity. Playful juxtapositions of characters and landscapes create a sense of the unexpected, and her treatment of the past is as subtle as her commentary on the present. Evocative and tender, Homecoming is a collection that invites the reader into an unfamiliar place and makes them feel at home.’


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The attic sessions – reclaiming a space for the writer

From Nessa O’Mahony

Nessa atticLast summer, my husband Peter Salisbury and myself finally completed a task we’d been discussing for several years: the conversion of our attic into a workspace for us both.  Once the dust had settled (so much dust) and the cracks began to thread their way along the new staircase (very natural, apparently), we looked at our lovely new work area, with its velux windows opening up to sky and tree-tops, and dreamed about how we might use it to its best potential.

I now need to backtrack a couple of decades in order for the next part to make any sense. In the 1990s, I presented a weekly radio show about the world of writing for one of Dublin’s many community radio stations. Writers Ink. (cunning pun, eh?) ran for more than four years, and I was the regular presenter between 1997 and 1999. I loved the whole experience of finding guests, researching interviews, planning shows and getting to talk about my enthusiasms for a captive audience. The medium made it all the more attractive; I had no idea whether anyone was actually listening, but that didn’t matter in the least. This was community radio; audience figures weren’t part of the vocabulary.

But time passed, I moved jobs, then country for a while, and the connection with regular broadcasting was lost, until nearly twenty years later when I and my husband, a cameraman who had already colonised a neat portion of our new attic for his editing suite, looked at what we had made and wondered why we couldn’t do the show right here? And having dispensed with the notion of calling the show The Madwoman in the Attic (too literal), The Attic Sessions came into being.

The idea is for a series of monthly video podcasts in which we invite writers, musicians and generally interesting people up to the attic to have a chat about what ever interests them and us. We’ve set up a website and broadcast using our own dedicated YouTube channel. Although there are plenty of radio and TV shows that do similar things, the internet space is still pretty empty of this kind of show. There’s no shortage of podcasts on other themes, but we found it hard to find the model of interview/chat/performance we had in mind. So we began drawing up a list of people and topics we’d like to feature over coming months.

I knew that if we were going to begin broadcasts in March, the first person I wanted to feature was Irish novelist Lia Mills, whose novel Fallen, which tells the story of a young Dublin woman Katie Crilly, who gets caught up in events around the Easter Rising of 1916, had been chosen as Ireland’s first Two Cities One Book Festival choice for 2016

The centenary of the Easter Rising is being commemorated throughout the year, but March and April are the zenith of the celebrations so Lia was the perfect choice. She is a wonderful talker, and has done much research into the role that women played during the early years of Irish independence. We had a fascinating chat about why this period fascinated her, and the forgotten stories of Irishmen who went to fight in World War I and who subsequently got written out of the official narrative in newly Independent Ireland. You can listen to the whole interview here:

So the plan is to produce one podcast per month for the next few years, until we run out of energy or guests (the former is more likely than the latter). The next show is going to focus on the links between poetry and traditional music in Ireland; there’ll be a crime special (Irish noir is very big right now) and a discussion of the short story form. And that’s just for starters. The joy about this sort of enterprise is that it can go in any direction we like. We’ve no advertisers, no studio bosses, nobody to obey but ourselves. What fun.


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Success in the Summer

Anne Caldwell was long- listed for the National Poetry Competition this summer. She teaches on A215 and also works as a creative writing lecturer at the University of Bolton.

‘I was delighted to receive this news, as I have entered many times over the years and never got this far before’, Anne added. ‘It gives me encouragement to keep entering and makes the piles of rejections seem a little less harsh!’

National Poetry Competition

National Poetry Competition


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