A poem and an interview with Eleanor Stewart, the 2011 recipient of the new Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia.

 

By The Icarian Sea

It was a good orange, firm
but with a spring to it.
Shepherd cast a glance
towards his sheep (all there)
then dug a fingernail in.
It was a good orange.
He proceeded, with care,
to carve out a land for himself,
smiling when the peel came away
in one piece in his hand.
He turned it this way and that
and pondered on what map it could be,
if he knew any geography.

He considered throwing it
at Ploughman, a little to his left,
but thought the better of it
(Ploughman had muscles).
Instead he threw it out to sea
in a high, wide arc,
where the wind caught it
and turned it to a scudding,
orange-bellied gull.

Shepherd watched its flight
leaning from the cliff-edge,
devouring juicy segments.
There was a mass of foaming feathers
amongst the crests and peaks
of waves and more carried by the breeze.
One caught, sticky, in his fingers
and he wondered what strange
bird it came from.

The orange peel fell.

And in his last breath
before the water,
Icarus thought that the
sun had decided
to fall with him.

 

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

If I sit down to write a poem, it’s usually at home in my room (I currently live in a shared student house). If the weather is good then I might attempt to write outside although this doesn’t tend to prove very productive as I get too easily distracted by passing wildlife or overheard conversations.

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

Preliminary ideas and very rough workings of poems – an odd line or two – go down in a notebook, but I generally write and edit full drafts on my laptop as I find it really helps to be able to move things around easily.

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

At the moment I aim to write at least one poem a week, in order to keep up with the demands of the MA. The amount of time spent writing varies from poem to poem but I like to spend a good few days, preferably weeks, just thinking about a possible poem and perhaps researching it, too. An invaluable part of the MA is the workshop session, which is three hours per week, sometimes followed by a half hour tutorial.

4. What time of day do you usually write?

At any time of day, though most often in the evening.

5. What does it feel like to write?

Writing the first draft of a poem often feels quite instinctive, perhaps because I’ve usually spent a lot of time contemplating a poem beforehand. It can feel exhilarating. After the intuitive first draft, though, I’m beset by doubts and anxieties and the harder work begins.

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

I find myself more and more inspired by art in other mediums; paintings, sculptures or other artifacts. Listening to instrumental music often puts me in a good frame of mind for writing, too. I’m a member of the UEA Choir and often find that Monday evenings after rehearsals are usually quite productive in terms of poetry – there’s something about singing in a group that feels amazingly uplifting and invigorating. Perhaps engaging with different art forms alerts me to a wider range of poetic possibilities.

7. What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on a collection of twelve poems to submit for assessment on the MA. I use the term collection loosely, though, as there isn’t a particular unifying force. The course so far has been a wonderful opportunity to experiment with different voices and forms and to follow my own interests, exploring subjects such as classical myth, the natural world and the paintings of Bruegel.

8. How has the scholarship affected your writing?

I feel immensely lucky to have been awarded the scholarship as it has given me a year in which to focus almost solely on writing. Working with such inspiring tutors at UEA is an absolute privilege and it is wonderful to be learning alongside my course mates in what is a brilliantly stimulating and supportive environment. It is proving to be a very enriching experience that is shaping and changing the ways in which I think about poetry and also the poems that I write

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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