To start a new season in Fragmented Voices, we looked back at the past year….
What a year! I have been researcher, editor, performer, teacher, financial director… like many of us, I have become used to a never-ending carousel of hats – many of which I did not expect. 2020 yielded opportunities I couldn’t foresee, even as my crammed diary of planned projects and contracts dissolved.
I was commissioned by the NewBridge Project to research the experiences of asylum seekers in lockdown last summer, and respond with a spoken word piece writing into the gaps. I contributed to Poetry NI’s global poem ‘Covidioms’, as an international community wrestled to come to terms with a world on fire. Most recently I have been shortlisted for the East Riding Festival of Words Poetry Competition, and published in two anthologies. Overwhelmed by how beautiful, diverse and intimate the global poetry community has become, as even competition moved to virtual platforms. I was crowned Oooh Beehive UK Slam Champion in December, and have performed in online gigs as opposed to pubs, concert halls, and parks! My teaching and literacy work has moved online, and involves 100% more sock puppets, to the delight of my students.
Through it all, our little press – humming with potential, the joy of working with close friends and colleagues, and navigating the complexities of an international company in the middle of Brexit. Our anthology, which celebrates so many voices, was an unexpected treasure in the chaos.
I cannot wait to see where 2021 will take us.
This last year has been different in so many ways to any other year, most certainly challenging and at times devastating as Coronovirus has touched all of our lives to varying degrees and extremities, but it has been an exciting year for Fragmented Voices. For one, we have seen the introduction of a third team member, Rue Collinge join our original Natalie duo. A host of wonderful writers have been published online at our new beautiful website. We have seen the publication of our first book in print, a poetry anthology of love poems. As poetry editor, I was delighted to select 50 beautiful poems for this book. The isolation of the past months has been fruitful for my own creativity. In the lonely warmer months I found inspiration from the outdoors, and more recently from inside the seclusion of four walls of my apartment and from my head, as the weather has become colder and darker. This past year I have had new poems published in various literary magazines online and in print including Stand, The Dark Horse, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis, Agenda and The Interpreter’s House and elsewhere. I have poetry forthcoming in The Poetry Review. A short piece, ‘Acute Admissions Ward’, was commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition 2020 on the theme of diversity, which I read from the pages of the competition anthology at the festival in Birmingham. I was awarded second prize in the Newcastle Poetry Competition 2020 with a poem on the subject of coercive control, ‘Girlfriend-Watch’. I was thrilled when a little poem received a special mention by judge Ilya Kaminsky in the Poetry London Prize 2020. In recent weeks I achieved a high commendation in the Folklore Poetry Prize with my poem, ‘Sister is Still and Light’.
Communication has transitioned to an online setting in many spaces, and I have participated in and enjoyed viewing countless literary events online during long nights in lockdown. My work as a creative-practitioner-in-residence at the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University is continuing, with regular zoom meetings and socially distanced project meetings in the park between myself and the artist I am collaborating with, MA art student Lorna McKay. I am into the second and final year of a creative writing MPhil at Newcastle University supervised by Bill Herbert and Tara Bergin, writing to define a poetry of violence in the work of Simon Armitage and Pascale Petit, whilst drafting a sequence of poetry, ‘Lee’, to narrate a pathway to violence in the life of a male from childhood to early adulthood.
I feel that 2021 will be a good year: hope is in sight. Reading the creative work that enters our inboxes brings genuine interest and light to our days and nights as editors, and I look forward to enjoying more poetry subs and giving a voice to many more writers and artists.
Without a doubt, last year was challenging: stress, isolation, uncertainty, bad news, worse news, dreadful news, Zoom fatigue and simple physical and mental exhaustion… I made more mistakes than I can count, which I would not have made otherwise. The new year with its promises brings only a glimmer of hope – and that is one of the things we want to go against in Fragmented Voices. Let us overcome obstacles. Let us celebrate what goes right and learn from those things that go wrong. Let us bring down borders and bring people together through creativity and arts. Our first publication came out in December and we hoped to launch our CIC simultaneously. However, we did not anticipate the bureaucratic difficulties to open a business bank account. Who would have thought that as a UK non-resident, you can register a business, but most banks do not want you at all, or you have to produce an outrageous amount of money (we are talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds) to be eligible? Now, we have got one (thank you, Rue Collinge) and we can hopefully grow, transform and gain more support for our small press.
But all this time, Natalie Crick, Rue Collinge and I have remained close friends who support each other through highs and lows, who celebrate each other’s achievements (we are all working authors as well as editors and publishers). I am very happy to say that not only was I recognised internationally for my writing last year (The Selkie or High Commendation in the International Proverse Poetry Competition to name but the few) but in January 2021 I was honoured to be invited to join the Czech Centre of the Pen Club International, which I happily accepted.