- Marcia Hibberd reflects back on the opportunity to hear her tutors creative work at the recent staff reading evening hosted by Goldsmiths’ English Society.
With the launch of The Goldsmiths Prize, tipped as the successor to the Man Booker; our resident writers publishing new poetry and prose, and at least two of our students being nominated for the Young Poet Laureate- 2013 has been a stellar year for writing talent at Goldsmiths. This passion for writing continues through the work of both students and staff at the college. Which is why, on a cold November evening, around 60 students packed into a darkened studio to hear four of Goldsmiths’ creative writing tutors read their own work.
Naomi Wood opened the proceedings with an excerpt from her upcoming novel, Mrs Hemingway. She had this to say about the evening:
‘One gets very used to critiquing students’ work, so this reading was an excellent opportunity for students to critique ours. There was a wonderful atmosphere in the room, and, as a new member of the Goldsmiths Creative Writing team, I felt a real sense of the open dialogue between students and staff. It felt as if everyone in the room was all involved in – and obsessed by – this mystery of writing.’
Ardashir Vakil followed with deeply personal poems including At The Station, which, in Ardu’s own words, describes ‘the feelings of wholeness and joy looked back upon before a huge loss or break up enters one’s life’, and his final poem, Gift, a sad but ultimately optimistic poem, ‘about the special memories that a just departed, beautiful, and dear friend, left us with.’
After a short break for wine and chat Jack Underwood read a selection of his published and unpublished poems including Spring, 13 Say and Happiness. The latter enchantingly listed different forms happiness can take, from ‘goofy, ten gallon hats of happiness that children plant on us’ to ‘the two purple elastic bands around a bunch of asparagus’. After lamenting that his partner is not a writer Jack also read a love poem he’d written to himself, which raised a few laughs.
Adam Mars-Jones closed the reading with a dramatic passage from The Changes of Those Terrible Years, in his book Monopolies of Loss, a surprising story of self-deception and hero syndrome set within a hospice for men with AIDS.
The intensely moving readings were followed by a short Q&A session allowing students to probe the authors, who generously shared their wisdom on subjects such as how they work, when they find time to write, and how they generate ideas. Adam commented on his own experience of the evening:
‘I’m a tremendous ham, quite capable of reading myself into hysterical laughter or else a nervous breakdown, and it was great to have a substantial captive audience. ‘
The students who attended the event were also full of praise. Danny O’Sullivan said the event ‘bridged a gap between what we vaguely know about the lecturers and the concrete evidence of the work they do.’ While Sarah Thomas-Paddon, one of the many Creative Writing students attending the event, ‘loved being able to hear my tutors’ own writing – it’s amazing to know how they approach writing’. English Society President and event organiser, Giorgia Cowan, added, ‘I think it’s important to see that the tutors, these published authority figures, are human and have to work for their writing too. It inspires students when the staff participate in student-lead events and share their own creative work – there is also something deeply humanising about drinking wine from a plastic cup with your tutor and sharing mutual thoughts on the often challenging process of writing.’
I look forward to the next staff reading event – and would recommend this evening to anyone interested in creative writing!