A poem and an interview with Katharine Duckney, the 2013/2014 recipient of the Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia.

 

 

 

Gamete

 

When you talk about the children you’d rather have

with the future instead of my body -

the mirror, the basin, the walls

go. I feel the black-pink dark

of a shutting rose.

 

Blank knocking of spines in the night, back to back. I told you

I shake in the fridge-pods of alien beds, featureless

sides fusing in thickscum, spawnmist:

what my face asked of you

was lost in it.

 

 

 

Seven Questions

 

In this occasional series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process.

 

1.  Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus journey that you find yourself and your writing?)

 

I like to be outside and I like to be moving. But when I’m making notes it’s often without a notebook. It’s important for me not to carry pen and paper around with me constantly like a hopeful little talisman, self-consciously thinking ‘poetry, poetry’ whenever I see something beautiful or overhear a peculiar conversation. For me, that’s how things get forced and familiar. I want occurrences to settle with me in life before they cement into a literary idea, and I think I become way too conscious of experience in the context of poetry if I’m making notes as I go about my day. There’s a stagnancy to that. It deadens experience too fast and therefore limits what you can actually write about it because you’ve already established an event as an idea. Kind of like thinking ‘ha, that was great. I can’t wait to tweet about that when I get home’: the presence of the moment is over as soon as your mind tries to freeze it. I think I’m always thinking of poetry dormantly though – perhaps I’m lucky to possess the capacity for storing details that I can then take back to a quiet room and write down after I’ve lived another day, letting things reappear to me naturally as I write rather than seizing on a desperate detail that I have to wedge in.

 

2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)

I was advised by Lavinia Greenlaw last year to write your poems by hand in a notebook: ‘it should be difficult, the process should be long’, she told me. And I agree. I think typing straight onto a computer can often make you feel, because the text is perfect (the straight lines, the flawless eligibility) that what you’ve written is also that distinct. In my scrawl every word matters. Nothing is automatic. I think… I did that. I made that shape. Nothing did that for me. Why did I do it? I question less on a screen. I think I trust it more than I trust myself, so I think less deeply.

 

2.   Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)

 

At the moment I’m studying for an MA in Poetry at UEA, so a great deal of my time is spent reading and annotating the work of fellow students as well as developing my own writing. It’s a wonderful experience. Each week we receive a batch from a mixture of classmates – always so rich and eclectic – and I never anticipated how invested I’d become in the growth of this writing. I love the workshop process. It’s such a positive environment, and the feedback I’ve received since September has been consistently helpful. Time management is a severe issue for me: I need to see the skeletal finger of a Deadline beckoning before I can wrench myself away from Gilmore Girls, so if there’s ever a lull in workload I’d like to think more about submissions. Certainly.

 

3.   What time of day do you usually write?

 I like the night. I like the night a lot. There have been some rare occasions where I’ve made ragged attempts to fall out of bed onto my yoga mat (developing this new one-move sequence I call ‘unconscious child’s pose’) before pretending to enjoy some acrid green tea as an accompaniment to the cleansing morning flow writing process. It never works. I feel too purposeful.

Writing when I can’t sleep is the best. That’s when things are stopping me from shutting down and I want to know why. I want to explore and resolve these issues with the background of a whole day behind me. Plus I always feel strange, alone, dark, sexy. Burn some candles. Put on some ‘weed track’ I found on ‘the other side of YouTube’.

 

4.   What does it feel like to write? At times it has been vital, cathartic. That was when I was very unhappy, and although I feel like poetry ‘saved’ me, I can’t honestly say that it saved my poetry. It often seemed like there was a black line drawn underneath every piece I wrote, seeming to say ‘this can go no further’. I’d made up my mind that there was nothing that fascinated me more than nothing itself, so my work couldn’t expand beyond that oblivion I wanted so much. I’m not ashamed of the poetry I wrote around that time at all. It was honest and bare and not without subtlety, but I couldn’t push it any deeper. There’s definitely something to be taken from Anne Sexton’s naked poetry, a woman I admire endlessly for her sexual and emotional courage. But now I feel more connected to Louise Gluck or Mary Oliver, softly coming out of it, being able to view a fiercely difficult time with the steadiness of the present. Things make much more sense now.

 

6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

I like dreams. I like the furtive, unspoken, secret taboo world beyond expression. I like reaching for things we can’t possibly know and then finding a place for language within what language can’t express. It’s not really possible, and I like seeing the limit, the yearning, the frustration in my work – I think it keeps it active and open. I’m scared of stagnancy and cliché. Shit scared.

Also women. I like women talking unashamedly about being women. Blood and tears and holes (and why not ink and sweat while we’re at it?)

 

7. What are you working on now?

My next MA submission! Don’t remind me!

  

And as you are a recipient of the Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship, we thought we’d add an eighth…

 

8. How has the scholarship affected your writing?

 

I feel a tremendous freedom. I really do. I think it’s every writer and academic’s vision of near-perfection to have the space and time to focus on their work without constantly having to panic about how they’re ‘supporting themselves in the meantime’. The feedback I’ve received over the course of this term has mainly been ‘hey, Kate, your writing should not be tamed, don’t let anyone tame it’. I think this has a great deal to do with the fact that I feel so unencumbered, that I have so much time to read badass and highly imaginative female authors I never would have heard of before, like all the women in Arielle Greenberg and Lara Glenum’s Gurlesque anthology, Eileen Myles, Ariana Reines, Anne Carson, Emily Berry, C.D Wright and so many more. I’m so thankful to Kate Birch at Ink, Sweat and Tears for providing me with this opportunity and, without doubt, my favourite ever academic year. What could be better than poetry in the name of fluids?

 

 

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A poem and an interview with Jennifer Grey, the 2012 recipient of the new Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia.

 

Seven Conversations with the Undertaker

 

I

You turn the lights on when you come home: tobaccoflame, click, spark.

 

II

You put splinters in your hands at work again, shutting the lids one by one. You close your eyes. I ask about tetanus jabs. You put your green thumbpalm on my blue wristvein, stifle the pulse.

 

III

you touch my hand/my bones fray/your bones touch/my hand is frayed/you fray my touch/my hand bones/hands on bones/you fray me/you fray me

 

IV

We turn our backs in bed. Your fingertips leave cysts, hiving up my breast. I count them one on one on one.

 

V

At the dinner table, you fiddle with your fork. I send you smoke signals. You lick out the ashtray.

 

VI

i dreamed my lungs – grew little trees – within each alveoli – which grew and shed – and split out through me – slid right through my ribs   -   my god just watch me grow a headdress headstone headpiece over this

 

VII

At the twelve week scan, doctors slam out cardiacspeak. You send a text: don’t wait up.

 

 

 

Seven Questions

 

1. Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus journey that you find yourself and your writing?)

I mainly write in my bedroom with the curtains closed, sometimes in the absolute dark. This can make it very hard to see what I’m doing. I also have to have black tea, no sugar, preferably by the gallon.

 

2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)

I always write onto a computer. I’m a big fan of the delete key. My notebooks are just lots of lines crossed out for the first three pages and then blank, because the mess has upset me so much I’ve been forced to abandon the notebook.

 

3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)

I’d like to say I try for at least seven hours (an hour a day) but that might be a lie. Sometimes lots more, sometimes lots less. It depends how much tea there is in the house.

 

4. What time of day do you usually write?

Any of the times during which I can wear pyjamas. I’d like to say that means either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but it’s more likely to actually be halfway through Sunday lunch. I like pyjamas.

 

5. What does it feel like to write?

Like a cross between a massive relief and a massive panic attack. Exactly like falling into a fast flowing river and simultaneously remembering that you’re both an Olympic standard swimmer and hydrophobic.

 

6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

If I could pinpoint that, I’d be a much better writer! Or at least a more prolific one. I tend to be in the middle of something completely unrelated and just find myself playing word games in my head. If I find them acceptable, I write them down.


7. What are you working on now?

A poem for the Writers’ Centre Norwich 26 for Norwich project about the writer Amelia Opie. Unfortunately, all of the poems I’ve tried to write about Amelia Opie recently have ended up being about something completely unrelated, such as the Apocalypse, which is a bit daunting.

 

This annual Scholarship is available for students wishing to study for the MA Creative Writing: Poetry degree course and will contribute to the recipient’s full course fees for one year. Established by Kate Birch, a friend of the University, the Scholarship is named after Ink Sweat & Tears – a creative writing webzine run by Kate and edited by Bloodaxe poet Helen Ivory – which celebrates poetry, prose poetry and short fiction and promotes work that combines word and image. The Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship will be awarded by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) on the recommendation of a Selection Committee from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.  Find out more about the IS&T Scholarship here.

 

 

 

 

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What makes writers tick – Andrew Greig answers IS&T's questions

In this series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process.


1.    Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus journey that you find yourself and your writing?)

I write prose books in a converted garden shed. I like leaving the house for a designated space, and my wife, novelist Lesley Glaister, likes me out of the house when she is writing. Poetry tends to happen anywhere – bed, train journey – and goes longhand into a notebook – to be revisited in the garden shed.

2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)

See above. Prose I mostly write straight onto computer. I am slightly surprised this works for me. I now find my handwriting distractingly bad. I revise by printing out, hand editing, then entering changes.


3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)

I would guess about 30 hours. But once you count in email and YouTube…


4. What time of day do you usually write?

 Hard prose work from c. 9.30 to lunch. Admin and revise in afternoon. Poetry whenever it presents itself – often early morning in bed.


5. What does it feel like to write?

Lit up, turned on, tuned in, properly alive. When it works, it’s the only time I feel intelligent and interesting to myself. Life moves from problem to topic.


6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

Nothing reliable, but walking or reading someone else I’m into, often does it. It’s a palpably different way of attending to the inner and outer world. It’s a shift out of yourself.


7. What are you working on now?

 Poetry. After At the Loch of the Green Corrie I have nothing much left to say in prose (I hope that changes). Revising poems for autumn 2011 Bloodaxe collection As Though We Were Flying. Also a book-length sequence of poems that came very quickly last autumn, Found At Sea will need looking at after a break. But other new poems still coming – the latest ones out of illness-induced insomnia. Multiple drafts of three of them are on my table here.



*Andrew Greig 
has published eight collections of poetry, most of these with Bloodaxe, including The Order of the Day (Poetry Book Society Choice), This Life, This Life: New & Selected Poems 1970-2006 and now As Though We Were Flying (2011).  His six novels include In Another Light (Weidenfeld
& Nicolson, 2004), which was Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. He
lives in Edinburgh and Orkney with his wife, novelist Lesley Glaister.
His most recent publication is Getting Higher: The Complete Mountain Poems


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What makes writers tick – Angela France answers IS&T’s questions

In this series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process.

Nine Questions

In this new series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process and craft.

1. Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus or train journey that you find yourself and your writing? etc)

Mostly on the sofa in my living room.

2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer? etc)

These days, straight onto a laptop; I used to write in a notebook – always in pencil, never pen – but it has changed over time. That is only the getting it on the page though; I invariably write early drafts in my head, while I am walking the dog, or driving, or doing household stuff.

3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions – give a daily average if possible)

Around 20-25 hours a week. My ‘day job’ sometimes means working in the evening, but if I’m not at work or out then I spend evenings on writing related activities.

4. What time of day do you usually write?

Evenings – see question 3.

5. Do you set yourself a daily target for writing?

Because of working full-time in a job that can be unpredictable, it is more usually a weekly target but occasionally I’ll decide I have to get a poem finished on a particular day. I wouldn’t be happy if I’d gone a week without writing something whether it’s poetry, essay, review or whatever.

6. What does it feel like to write?

That depends on how it’s going. Most of the time it is hard, frustrating, uncertain, but the only thing I want to be doing. Then very occasionally, not often enough, there are those times where it just takes off – surroundings and distractions fade away, the language comes alive and a different part of oneself takes over – then it’s like soaring; exciting and a bit scary.

7. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

Reading poetry, going to readings, reading about poetry and the making of it – but also walking (I walk very early every morning and it is essential for me), having the time and mental space to watch life.

8. Do you work in silence or have background noise? If you do have sounds, what are you listening to now?

I tend to have either TV or radio on as aural ‘wallpaper’. Once I get going, I couldn’t tell you what was on. It needs to be something that is bland enough not to catch at my interest. Right now, it is CSI.

9. What are you working on now?

I am two years into a part-time PhD, so working on the poems for the PhD collection but also reading a lot and thinking about process and thinking about the shape of the commentary. I am trying to move in a new direction and challenge myself to write out of my comfort areas so I’m finding it slow. It is too easy to slip back into writing poems I know I can produce without too much effort (and will probably get into journals) but which leave me feeling dissatisfied.

*Angela France
writes poems, reads poems, studies poems, and runs a poetry reading
series but the day job sometimes gets in the way. Her collection, Occupation is available from Ragged Raven Press. She is an editor for the ezine The Shit Creek Review and features editor of Iota.  Her new pamphlet
Lessons in Mallemaroking is due out from Nine Arches Press in early July.

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What makes writers tick – Tamar Yoseloff answers IS&T's questions

Seven Questions

In this series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process.


1. Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus journey that you find yourself and your writing?)

I have two writing places in my house – one is a desk in the study, and one is a shed in the back garden. The garden shed is too cold to use all winter, but I like the sound of the squirrels running over the roof. All my poetry books are in the study, so I’m most often in there. But I do like writing on trains.

2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)

I am very attached to my computer, and most drafts start there. I like being able to see the structure, to move things around while I’m redrafting. I print out all my drafts and staple them together, so that I can chart the process of each poem. I also have a little notebook that I carry around in my handbag in case I have an idea, but it’s really just for note-taking. The only time I will write a draft in my notebook is on the train, and then I tend to write sonnets, because the notebook is sonnet-sized.

3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)

If you count teaching prep and reading students’ poems, then I would say it’s 9 to 5, five days a week (with some time given over to the usual distractions). I tend to read the newspapers at the weekend and watch bad television.

4. What time of day do you usually write?

I don’t have a regular writing time, nor do I stick to a certain number of hours a day, but I do like writing in the morning. Not too early – I’m not one of those crack-of-dawn writers. But I’m fresher then, and perhaps less distracted by the trivialities of the day.

5. What does it feel like to write?

I don’t know that it feels any different to anything else; it’s so much a part of me and how I think. Writing has always been my way of finding order the world.

6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

I am a very visual person, so it will often be something I’ve seen. And more recently, paintings have been an enormous inspiration. I’m really a frustrated artist, so writing poems about art is the next best thing.

7. What are you working on now?

I usually have a bit of a hiatus between books, simply because I find each collection is a way of working through a particular theme, and once I’ve finished, I’m looking for the next thing I want to write about. I’ve written a small handful of poems since The City with Horns, but already a theme is emerging to do with boundaries and borderlines, so I would like to see where that leads me. I’m also writing a series of ‘informal’ sonnets to go with photographs taken by my friend Vici MacDonald (http://artanorak.tumblr.com/). She likes the same unloved bits of London that I do, places that Iain Sinclair calls ‘the dirty folds in the map’, so it’s a very exciting project.

*Tamar Yoseloff is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The City with Horns, published by Salt last month. She is also the author of Marks, a collaborative book with the artist Linda Karshan, published by Pratt Contemporary Art, and the editor of A Room to Live In: A Kettle's Yard Anthology. She is a freelance tutor in creative writing and has run a number of site-specific poetry workshops in venues such as the Fitzwilliam Museum and Tate St Ives. Her blog, Invective Against Swans  explores the intersection between poetry and art.

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Clare Pollard talks to IS&T about her writing process

Seven Questions

In this series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process.

1. Where do you write?

Mainly in my head. My poems are at least half-made before I begin physically writing.  My best ideas always come when I give myself some thinking time, so usually occur whilst walking; in a deep, hot bath; lying in bed or swimming in London Fields Lido.

2. How do you write?

Once the poem is ready to be put down, I type directly onto my laptop. I try to save drafts, although I’m not as conscientious as I should be.

3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities?

Well, I’m freelance, so it varies, but basically most of it.  During term-time I teach writing 11 hours a week, and with preparation, that’s about 16 hours – plus all the travelling across London.  On top of that there are school visits, translations, readings, bits of journalism, mentoring sessions, commissions, admin, events to organize.  I’ve just been editing Magma 50, so that’s been at least day a week for about four months. I’m currently out of term for a month, and am spending a week of that teaching an Arvon course in Devon, another learning vocal techniques at Cove Park, and a third working on a translation project in Hungary.  With all the travelling I do, I also read about two books a week.

I realize I’m very lucky, but it’s quite hard to make a living. At least half of the invitations I get to read, write poems, edit, travel etc are unpaid – and they’re often the ones I want to do (all my work for Magma is unpaid, for example).  And it’s hard to find time to actually write in this blizzard of work. I mainly write in the summer, when there’s a bit of a gap in my schedule.  Aside from three commissioned poems I haven’t written anything else yet this year.

4. What time of day do you usually write?

Any, as long as it’s after 10am – it takes me a while to come round. Although in the evening with a glass of red wine is probably best.

5. What does it feel like to write?

I’ve always found it very easy. I’m usually euphoric when I’m writing. I always think I’m writing something brilliant! It’s only afterwards that wears off… And I love how absorbing it is. You can move words around for what feels like no time at all, and then you look up and the sky has gone dark and four hours have passed.  Even when I’ve been worried or depressed or grieving, I will have completely forgotten about that for four hours.

6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

Big personal events, obviously – I guess I’m known for being confessional.  New experiences.  Travel.  Other writers often inspire me. For my new book, Changeling, it was getting into folk music, and then ballads, and then Yeats. Philosophy inspires me.  When I read Hannah Arendt there was a shift in my work, and a lot of the new work is about politics, power – good and evil.  Recently I’ve reading Simone Weil and Karen Armstrong and contemplating mysticism and the universe…

7. What are you working on now?

Promoting the new book, Changeling.  Getting into short stories – I have been guest-editing fiction for Horizon Review and tentatively having a go at them myself.  I’ve also nearly completed a new translation of Ovid’s Heroides. Which translates as Heroines. I’m very excited about that – hoping to finish it as soon as I get some time!

*Clare Pollard's fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is The Changeling.  She is an editor for Magma and co-editor, with James Byrne, of the anthology Voice Recognition: 21 poets for the 21st century (Bloodaxe Books, 2009).

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Esther Morgan talks to IS&T about her process

Nine Questions

In this series Ink Sweat & Tears talks to practicing writers about their process and craft.


1. Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus or train journey that you find yourself and your writing? etc)

I do have an office but oddly I hardly ever write creatively there – it’s where the pc is and my brain associates it now with practical work. So if I have a day at home my favourite place to write is actually in bed – partly because I feel the cold but also it seems to put me in a more relaxed frame of mind than sitting at a desk. I also write on the bus journey to my day job in Norwich – many of the poems in my next collection were first dreamt up on the 588 Anglian Bus service. I try and get a seat near a window and put my ear plugs in and start scribbling – that seems to do the trick. Finally, I have high hopes of the summer house we took all summer to construct – it’s tiny, but I like the idea of a space away from the house and domestic distractions. All we need in there now is a source of heat!


2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer? etc)

I always write into a notebook. I need blank pages too, no lines – I like the sense of freedom that gives. My process seems to be to write a draft and then ‘talk’ to myself about it on the page – what’s working, what isn’t as I try and home in on the core of the poem. I have a tendency to try and finish things too quickly, tying everything up so it’s nice and neat. That’s why I don’t type up drafts until quite late in the day as it makes them look finished even if they’re not. When I’m not working on a draft I try and write a kind of loose journal entry – notes, observations, thoughts – just to keep my cogs oiled.


3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities?

(writing, editing, correspondence & submissions – give a daily average if possible)
On average I guess it’s about an hour and half a day, though there are phases where I don’t do much and other times when it’s a lot more. Half an hour of that would be on admin tasks – sending stuff out, responding to writing-related emails [answering questionnaires!] etc.

4. What time of day do you usually write?

My best time is in the morning, definitely. I’m not disciplined enough to rise at dawn, but on a day at home I like to get underway by 8am. The first couple of hours are crucial. Things go off the boil around lunchtime [is there any poet who writes best in the afternoon? I’ve never met one.] Then things improve again around dusk – I love being in the house on my own at that time of day. I find it conducive to mulling over ideas and the work done in the morning. I’m hopeless at night – I’d love to be one of those writers sat in a pool of light at 2am beavering away while the world sleeps – there’s something really alluring about that image, but I’ve never been able to function well late.


5. Do you set yourself a daily target for writing?

No – I suppose I try and check in to my creative process at least once a week, even if I’m really busy. It isn’t helpful to me to think in terms of output – how many poems this month etc. I’ve written at very different paces at different times and have learnt to trust that. As long as I’m making a regular space for the writing then I feel that poems will turn up eventually.


6. What does it feel like to write?

It depends what phase I’m in. The first rush of an idea and a draft can be nervily exciting – there’s the buzz as you realize you’re on to something that feels genuinely new and surprising, but, for me, also the agitation that comes with wondering whether I’ll be equal to expressing the idea, trying to pin it down on paper before it slips away. Then there’s the scratching the head, re-assessing phase – that can start off disappointing – oh, I didn’t get it right first time [why that realization still comes as a surprise I don’t know!]. But actually once it’s underway, I really like the re-drafting phase. It can be hugely absorbing and satisfying trying different approaches to make the poem come good. I’m accentuating the positive here – there are plenty of moments when writing makes me feel like a six year old who’s scribbled out the picture she’s been working on all day because it doesn’t look right.


7. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

I find I need less stimuli not more. I need to be on my own and very still so I can start to listen. I don’t do formal meditation but it’s that shift into a more settled, observant state which seems to be a precursor to writing something.


8. Do you work in silence or have background noise? If you do have sounds, what are you listening to now?

Silence, definitely. Any noise is a real distraction. Hence the bus ear plugs. I love ear plugs, they should come free with your Poetry Society membership.


9. What are you working on now?

I’ve just completed quite an extensive redraft of my third collection so I’m actually lying fallow at the moment. That took a big creative push and though I’ve got a couple of ideas knocking around, my creative energies need time to recharge.

*Esther Morgan's third collection Grace, published by Bloodaxe, is due out in October 2011. She is an editor and historic recordings manager for The Poetry Archive. She currently lives in rural Norfolk where she's waiting for another new arrival – her first baby due in June.

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