Friday, 14 June 2019

PoetryFilm competition: the winners!

Oxford Brookes PoetryFilm Competition 2019

2019 is the first year that we have run a poetryfilm competition - and we've been delighted with the entries! Very many thanks to everyone who entered and responded so beautifully and powerfully to poems by our ignitionpress poets.

We will be sharing the winning poetryfilms on our website soon and will be holding a screening in Oxford during October of all the films that were entered. Watch this space for more details. We will also be sharing the films with our poets who, we are sure, will be excited and overwhelmed! You can find out more about ignitionpress and the poets’ work on our website.

The competition was conceived and organized by Theodora Vida, one of our Poetry Centre Interns for this year, and judged by our team of Interns and the Director of the Poetry Centre, Dr Niall Munro.

Because of the excellent standard and fascinating engagement with the poems, we sometimes found it difficult to choose between films; we were so impressed with the sympathy that filmmakers showed towards the subject matter of the poems and the deft and sensitive way in which they interpreted the words on the page. Thank you again for sending us such terrific work.

The results are:


Gabrielle Turner for her interpretation of Patrick James Errington’s poem ‘Half Measures’

You can read the poem here.


Marie Craven for her poetryfilm about Patrick James Errington’s poem ‘Half Measures’


Jane Glennie for her poetryfilm of Natalie Whittaker’s poem ‘Moss’

Read the poem here.


There were a number of films entered about Natalie’s poem ‘Moss’, but we felt that Jane Glennie’s interpretation really caught the elemental, vivid and unsettling nature of the poem. Brilliantly edited in a way that captured the organic growth of the images in the piece and with a truly evocative soundscape, Jane’s poetryfilm expressed so much in such a relatively short film - rather like the poem itself!

Find out more about Jane’s work here.

Marie Craven’s poetryfilm of Patrick’s poem ‘Half-Measures’ has the feeling of an epic condensed into just four minutes! This is a beautifully shot and edited film which subtly treats a poem about loss and reflection with some magically matched images: a figure is indistinctly framed as the voiceover describes their contemplation of pictures by the Dutch masters; images of halfness occur again and again - the slicing of half a loaf of bread, half a man’s face is illuminated in the sunshine; and a small child movingly hugs her toy bear as if to represent an attempt at comfort despite almost indescribable loss. This is a superbly realised piece that serves the poem wonderfully well whilst being its own form of art.

Learn more about Marie and her work here.

Everything about Gabrielle Turner’s poetryfilm of ‘Half Measures’ indicates it has been intricately conceived and planned. The concept of dividing the screen in half was a great innovation that not only suggests the speaker’s life before and after ‘she’ left, but also allows us to feel the poignancy of that loss by seeing past and present together at once. At times, this technique also throws up some remarkable parallels - on one side of the screen we see the protagonist making his bed, alone, whilst on the other we see a glimpse of the loving life that is now absent. Later in the film we see a calendar on one side full, we assume, with social occasions, whilst on the other side the calendar is completely blank. And later still, when the speaker thinks about the half measure in relation to ‘a child’s hands, still/sticky with the juice from a poorly-divvied fruit’, we see the child eating the fruit and gesturing towards the camera - an image that seems to taunt the speaker with what might have been. This is a poetryfilm that combines sound, word and image to not only tease out many of the key ideas in the poem but also to act as a powerful meditation on longing and loss.

You can watch more of Gabrielle’s work on Vimeo and more about her work here.

Many congratulations to all three winners, and thank you again so much to everyone who entered! We hope to run the competition again in 2020, so please stay connected with us by signing up to our Weekly Poem e-mail (also our newsletter) or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@brookespoetry).

Friday, 7 June 2019

Veterans' poetry workshops

In 2019, the Poetry Centre began a series of workshops at Oxford Brookes University for military veterans and former members of the armed forces. Drawing on the expertise of the Poetry Centre – a home for research into poetry and advocacy of its value in society - these workshops, designed and led by poets, veterans and academics, seek to explore how poetry can enable veterans to think through their experiences. In particular they consider:
  • how poetry might be read and used by military veterans
  • how far 'war poetry' represents – or fails to represent – military service
  • the role that poetry can play in post-war commemorative events.
The participants selected work towards the compilation of a fully accessible anthology that will contain poetry selected by and/or written by the workshop participants. The anthology will be promoted to veteran charities and organizations in the UK and US and beyond, and we will encourage organizers to use the texts at commemorative events.

Upcoming workshops

Building on the success of a previous workshop in March, our next workshop from 16-18 August will bring together poets, academics, and a small group of US and UK veterans to read and discuss poetry written about war, veteran experience and related topics. After our March workshop, participants described the event as ‘incredibly well run’ and valuable because ‘coming to understand the lives we live as vets in different countries can have great bearing on our work.’

We are seeking 2-3 veterans to take part in the workshop, and whilst you should be enthusiastic about reading and thinking about poetry, you do not need to be a writer to join us.

To apply, please e-mail a short statement (of not more than 250 words) by Monday 1 July, explaining why you would like to be considered for a place at the workshop to Given the small number of places available, the selection process is likely to be competitive, but the project team will make a decision quickly. If you are not selected, there may be a chance to take part in future workshops.

The project is funded by Oxford Brookes University, and travel to and from Oxford, accommodation, and subsistence will all be covered. For more details or information, please contact the project leader, Dr Niall Munro:

The three-day workshop will be run by Dr Niall Munro (Senior Lecturer in American Literature and Director of Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre), Susie Campbell (PhD researcher and poet - author of The Bitters (Dancing Girl Press, 2014; nominated for the Ted Hughes Award in 2015) and The Frock Enquiry (Annexe, 2015)), Alex Donnelly (founding director of the Oxford University Disability Law and Policy Project and former Naval Intelligence Officer), and Dr Rita Phillips (Psychology researcher at Oxford Brookes). Dr Jane Potter (Reader (Arts)) from Oxford Brookes is a consultant to the workshop.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

A review of a reading by poet Gillian Allnutt in Oxford, 20 May 2019

Bernadette Carter is an MA student at Oxford Brookes working on a dissertation about the work of Gillian Allnutt, Alice Oswald, and Kathleen Jamie and their representation of the natural world. Here she reviews a recent reading by Allnutt in Oxford.

To be present at Gillian Allnutt’s reading in Oxford recently was to experience ‘that nest of thin air – birthing what a moment ago was neither here nor there’. Her poems have few words, with plenty of space in between, but at the end of each poem she read – almost 20 – there was that ‘Emily Dickinson’ moment… (‘If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry.’)
Gillian’s poetry is naturally spiritual, but with its feet on the ground. It incorporates ancient history into the present and the new. As it stands on the page, with few notes, it can be tricky to access, but on Monday we were treated to fairly lengthy introductions, which were both insightful and entertaining. We heard how, sitting in the car eating sandwiches in London, Gillian and her partner watched a Moroccan bookseller putting away boxes of books from the street; it led to a conversation, and then to the poem ‘Bookshop’. We heard of Gillian’s work with asylum seekers, people who had nothing but the God they brought with them, and through whom ‘Stars’ and ‘Desuetude’ came to be written. Gillian had chosen a nature theme, but also an Oxford theme, starting with ‘O My Chevalier’, in tribute to Oxford man, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and moving on to a series of three poems based on the founding of the Oxford Botanic Gardens. And she read ‘Amplitude’ (my favourite), that beautiful poem about a slow spiritual awakening through life. She read from her two latest collections (of nine), wake (2018) and indwelling (2013).
The venue, Regent’s Park College, a small old college nestled in Pusey Street, added to the atmosphere of ancient and new. The room had to be changed at the last minute to the Chapel because of the numbers – they included fellow poets, ex-students of Gillian’s writing courses and a couple of old friends from Cambridge. English and Theological students from both Oxford universities came, along with many other devotees of her poetry. Gillian said later that her regular ‘followers’ seem to love her poetry for its spiritual quality. She spoke of her own journey, from ‘heavy’ religion as a child, to no religion, through Quakerism to an individualised and non-church-based Christianity. Beginning to write in London at 25, with the support of a women’s group, Beginning the Avocado,her second collection, was published by Virago. Gillian is now based in the North East and published by Bloodaxe and told us how Neil Astley ‘wickedly’ asks writers to draft the back cover for their own publications.
One of the nature themed poems Gillian read was ‘early spring’, and its last lines became something of a motif through the evening, used by Niall Munro as he introduced Gillian, and referred to by Gillian herself:
                                    by absence astounded
                        by presence astounded.

Privileged to be there as part of the audience, I could personally apply the phrase to the absence of egoism and presence of authenticity in the reading. However, the poem begins: ‘am without anger wounded’ and continues later with: ‘as ash by winter bound’. It hints at the depth of some misunderstood but honourable feeling, which is artistically and masterfully understated in this age of confessional poetry. There is mystery and mysticism in Gillian Allnutt’s work. Some things even she herself doesn’t understand, saying that she sometimes writes in a way that is ‘profounder than I am at this point in life’.  Of her poetry she says: ‘It remains as closed as I can and as open as I can’.

You can read more about Gillian's work on the Bloodaxe website and more about her most recent book, wake, here.
The Poetry Centre also featured 'Nearing Warminster', a poem from wake, as its Weekly Poem recently.