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.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Meet the Interns - Emily

Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is delighted to have a group of interns every year who assist with the Centre's events and projects and run projects of their own! Over the next few weeks we're introducing you to these invaluable members of our team, and our third introduction is to Emily Simms.

What are you studying at Oxford Brookes?

I'm in my second year of a BA in Publishing Media.

Why did you want to become an intern? What do you enjoy about it?

I really enjoy going to hear poets read aloud. Jay Bernard was a really interesting poet to see perform because they used multimedia to bring their poetry to life. I also like lots of cake: poetry events and cake go hand in hand!

Tell us about one of your favourite poems or collections? Why do you like them?

One of my favourite poets is Christina Rossetti and her classic poem 'Remember'. I discovered her in a battered Penguin Book and have loved her ever since. I also love T. S. Eliot and all of his poems that inspired the musical Cats, because who doesn't love a good cat poem?!

Finally, a recommendation: if you haven't read them already, Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey and The Sun and her Flowers are great representations of contemporary, honest poetry, and the illustrations are something to marvel at too.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A review of Heath by Penelope Shuttle and John Greening

Heath by Penelope Shuttle and John Greening (Nine Arches Press, 2016).

Poetry Centre Intern Joanne Balharrie reviews Penelope Shuttle and John Greening's 'wild chorus of poems written in call and response across Hounslow Heath'.

A collection of poetry about an airport and its surrounding area is perhaps not the most conventional reading material; Heath however provides plenty of food for thought, alongside clever imagery and poetic power.

Shuttle and Greening’s joint collection merges voices on the impact of Heathrow Airport on Hounslow Heath, and the things we’ve lost as a result of it. Heath delves into the mystical aspects of the Heath and explores the deep and rich history it has seen.

Reading through the collection as a whole, the distinctive voices of Shuttle and Greening merge together as they adopt aspects of each other’s writing and poeticism, forming a collection that flows together as though written by one person. The variety of forms used, from traditional to the more experimental, complement the themes of the old and the new. This is especially apparent in ‘XIX’, mimicking the rhythm of its ghostly and spiritual subject, ‘the ghost/ of Kneller Hall’.

Certain poems, such as ‘X’, really resonated with me through their focus on the change in the landscape. This poem in particular, with its layout in the form of its subject the scarecrows, is one of my favourites. Not only is it visually interesting and entertaining in its aesthetics, but the emotion is poignant also. The personification of the scarecrows is perhaps most crucial to this, creating a frame for the world as it changes.

I also enjoyed the manipulation of images, such as the ‘metal birds’ that can be found throughout the collection. The poetry is thought-provoking, and causes reflection on an aspect of life (flying) which is quite often taken for granted. Although there are often protests and articles in the news against proposed expansions of airports, we rarely consider what has already been lost through the creation of the current airports. The contrast between historical settings and modern life thereby encourages thought and consideration into the way we’re treating the world around us, and the further implications of our behaviours and decisions.

As ‘Thanks ever so much for your help. Have a nice Christmas’ says: ‘History repeats itself again and again/And no good ever comes from it. None.’ We need to consider the impact of proposed expansions and new developments on the environment, and the potential consequences that will follow. The environment is incredibly important, and this collection helps illustrate the aspects of the environment we may have taken for granted and stopped recognising.

However, the extent of the collection means the ideas and themes seem almost repetitive towards the end. A lot of different aspects of the history of Hounslow Heath feature in the collection, from witches to highwaymen, but the overarching idea of sadness for what we’ve lost in the development of Heathrow Airport becomes monotonous. Whilst for the most part each poem focuses on a different aspect of the Heath’s rich history, they all can be considered to link back to this mourning of what has been lost. It’s emotional, but in my opinion, it is not sustained across the collection. 

Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Meet the Interns - Joanne

Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is delighted to have a group of interns every year who assist with the Centre's events and projects and run projects of their own! Over the next few weeks we're introducing you to these invaluable members of our team, and this time it's the turn of Joanne Balharrie.

What are you studying at Oxford Brookes?

I’m a second-year Publishing Media with English Literature student.

Why did you want to become an intern? What do you enjoy about it?

I wanted to be an intern so I could gain some work experience in publishing whilst trying to figure out which specific area I would like to work in. I’ve enjoyed working with ignitionpress and the Poetry Centre because of the wide variety of activities they are involved in, and because of the wonderful poetry they have published.

I have attended an editorial meeting, and have helped with running different events with the centre, such as the launch of the Wretched Strangers anthology at Waterstones in Oxford. I’m currently planning an event with my fellow intern Zoe that will hopefully be interesting (once we work out a few more details…), so watch this space!

Tell us about one of your favourite poems or collections? Why do you like them?

I particularly enjoy the works of instapoets, such as Leena Norms and Rupi Kaur. Their poetry is accessible and aesthetically pleasing, and I enjoy how easy it is to dip in and out of it. 

My favourite type of poetry at the moment, though, is Dave Gorman’s ‘Found Poetry’. I recently found my collection of it the other day, and forgot how funny it was! Gorman’s work is made up of comments from news websites on different events, compiled to make a surprisingly coherent narrative on a topic. He’s performed these poems in his TV show, Modern Life is Goodish, but they’re also available as a nice little pamphlet that rivals the design of Faber. If you fancy giving his poetry a try, I recommend this one – it’s a response to the announcement that Big Ben would stop chiming for four years for maintenance (the actual poem starts at 1:22). I’ll admit it, Gorman is no Keats or Burns, but he’ll make you giggle at the very least.

You can read Joanne's review of Heath by Penelope Shuttle and John Greening here.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Meet the Interns - Ruby

Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is delighted to have a group of interns every year who assist with the Centre's events and projects and run projects of their own! Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to these invaluable members of our team, starting with Ruby Daley.

What are you studying at Oxford Brookes?

English Literature and Publishing Media, 2017-2020.

Why did you want to become an intern? What do you enjoy about it?

I applied to the internship programme because I’ve been inspired by the transformation the poetry world has been through recently, with its metamorphosing into a more performance-based art with slam poetry, spoken word and poetry-music culture. I really wanted to get involved with the event organising at the Poetry Centre; to curate my own events from concept to delivery.

I’m extremely excited about the event that I’ve been working on for the past few months, ‘Beatin’ the Blues’, a fusion performance of jazz and poetry. The concept aims to give aspiring poets, particularly students, the platform to share their work and collaborate with other artists from different mediums. We are hosting electronic/jazz band Wandering Wires who will be playing alongside 6 winners of a previously run competition that asked them to respond to one Wandering Wires’ songs. It should be an exciting, vibrant evening and I’m really looking forward to it!

Tell us about one of your favourite poems or collections? Why do you like them?

A collection of poetry that I have felt inspired by recently has been the collection River by Ted Hughes, which is a text I am studying for my English Literature module 'Human-Animal'. I’m very drawn to mystical poetry, particularly work that includes strong symbols or trope and which is often inspired by religious or spiritual material; this collection was the embodiment of this. The imagery is so poignant in that it so subtly blurs the distinction between the human subject and its natural surroundings. The reader is drawn into a kind of spirituality, through the description of the natural sublime, without completely realising it. My favourites from the collection are ‘Creation of Fishes’, ‘After Moonless Midnight’, ‘Salmon Eggs’, and of course ‘The River'.

Beatin’ the Blues is at 8pm on Sunday 28th April in Cafe Tarifa.
You can buy your ticket here.