Synergies: Creative Writing in Academic Practice, ed Lucy Newlyn and Jenny Lewis; vol 1 Sea Sonnets; vol 2 Breaking Moulds.
In 2002-4, I was involved in a collaborative teaching/research project with poet Jenny Lewis, to investigate the benefits of integrating creative writing into the academic study of English. The experiment was funded by the Institute for the Advancement of University Learning, and involved writing workshops with students at St Edmund Hall. As a result of our collaborative work, we published Synergies: Creative Writing in Academic Practice, a two-volume anthology of student writing, with commentary by ourselves. The project received excellent reviews and our methodology has been adopted by several creative writing courses elsewhere.
Madame Alembic’s Studio
Her hooded cloak hangs on the door.
Silently she comes and goes
at an uncertain hour,
incognito. Only her shadow knows
what she does all day
at play in her tall white studio.
Her paintings turn the other way
like half-formed memories,
or figures she’s unwilling to portray.
A single sheet of canvas lies
stretched on her easel, waiting –
bright and blank as a disguise.
Her cornices are trailed with writing,
in trembling spidery threads
parting, bending, touching, uniting
like luminous underwater weeds
that slowly sway from left to right,
or hieroglyphs an unseen translator reads.
Above, through an open skylight,
shape-shadows twist and fall
from an immense blue height
on tilted easel, mirror, table, wall.
Cloud-dapple, wing-flap, leaf-motion
swarm in jars and phials, all
their fluctuation distilled into a potion
and veiled in thin green glass,
like micro-organisms in a gelid ocean.
When dusk pulses under the day’s traces
Madame Alembic will unmask her faces.