Natalie Crick: Celebrating the Launch of Bridges Anthology 2019


Photos by Jiye Lee, Frances Mulholland and Natalie Crick


On Monday 2nd December 2019 we celebrated the creative work of students of MA in Creative Writing and MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University and Poetry School London, with the launch of the Bridges Anthology 2019.

The Bridges Anthology 2019 was edited by Rue Collinge and Fragmented Voices co-editors Natalie Nera and Natalie Crick. Rue Collinge designed the striking cover and typesetting inside the book. Newcastle University Fine Art students India Hibbs and Amy McCartney worked hard to create the beautiful illustrations for this anthology.

Contributors to the anthology, guests and students from various disciplines in the university gathered in the Old Library building to enjoy drinks, nibbles and a host of wonderful readings of poetry and prose from contributors to the book.

Each contributor was given a copy of the book and guests were invited to make a small donation to the National Literacy Trust upon purchasing the anthology. The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity working with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literacy skills to succeed in life.

Pippa Little, an award-winning poet, translator, reviewer and editor, wrote about the book: “This rich sparky collection showcases the best writing from Newcastle’s MA. It’s a delight to come across so many strong voices.”

Cherise Saywell, novelist, short story writer and winner of the V.S.Prichett Memorial Prize, added: “Ambitious in scope, at turns moving, disturbing, funny – the work anthologised here engages and delights.”

The Bridges Anthology 2019 will also be published with Bandit Fiction, a new voice in digital publishing with the goal of offering additional opportunities to new and emerging writers.

All profits raised from the sale of Bridges Anthology 2019 will go towards the National Literacy Trust charity.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event to launch this beautiful book with us, particularly the readers, illustrators, contributors and their guests; some of whom travelled from London to enjoy the evening with us.

The week was also a time to celebrate winter graduations for some of our writers. Huge congratulations to all MA Creative Writing and MA Writing Poetry students who graduated in Newcastle this week.









The Return of the Lost Daughter: Where Is My Home?

Haydon Bridge
I used to live in Haydon Bridge. Photo by Natalie Nera


By Natalie Nera


I have spent a life time of not belonging so when I became an immigrant in the United Kingdom, it was not a new experience for me. I spent years not fitting in, being different, not by choice but by the nature of my being, feeling lonely and unhappy, misunderstood.

It is not an act of self-pity; it is a statement of a fact. It is also the reason why my teenage years and my twenties were utterly miserable, the time I would not want to go back to. I understand today that I have always lived in exile of some sort, be it an inner exile or becoming one of the life’s nomads without a home. I also used to long for roots, for being accepted for I thought it was important. I believed you could not exist without it.

Jungian scholar Bettina Knapp[1] talks about two different types of exiles. Refugee writers are forced to leave, I never was. All of my exiles have been self-imposed although I could argue that in a way, I did not have much choice. This is who I am. I live in my head, exhausted from the effort of pretending. It is much more natural to be an observer, to watch and remain on the outside.

This week I am on my ‘return’ trip to the place and country that was my home for fifteen years, and these questions seem more relevant, still open-ended like an oozing wound.

Where’s your home, little swallow?
It’s with my husband and my kids.

I wrote these lines some years ago in my early attempts in English but they still hold true. I am home where the people I love are. It is all right not to belong, and it is pointless wasting years of pondering over the fact that you were born weird. Or at least I am. I am all right with it now.

I realise there is more significance to this journey than I originally appreciated. It has been six months since I became an exile in Prague, my home city, after twenty years of being “the foreign woman” in other countries. The collection of friends who were desperate to meet me upon my flying visit involve a German, a Spanish, an American, a New Zealander and about ten born and bred Brits.

Somehow, they all are part of my tribe, and we all belong to each other. My tribe has other people in Bucharest and Krakow, as well as Hong Kong. My friend Natalie Crick, the breathtakingly talented Newcastle poet you know from our blog posts, is a lot younger than me, she is English, yet, whenever we speak, it feels like we grew up together.

When you speak to most creative people, they will probably tell you similar stories of being the ones who do not fit. What I am trying to say is that it is all right to be that way because there are people out there who are just like you. They are your tribe so go and find them.

[1] Bettina Liebowitz. Knapp, Exile and the Writer: Exoteric and Esoteric Experiences: A Jungian Approach (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991)


P.S.: I apologise to professional photographers for the quality of the photo, yet it is dear to me. I used to live in Haydon Bridge, a Northumberland village who gave residence to two famous personalities of the creative world – artist John Martin and poet Philip Larkin. I snapped this on my mobile phone on the way from switching on Christmas lights, an annual event on the first Sunday of December, during which community gets together.


NATALIE CRICK: Publication of a Pamphlet; ‘Co-Incidental 5’

This month I was excited to read my poems published in a beautiful little pamphlet by The Black Light Engine Room Press, edited by p. a. Morbid, with co-authors Ceinwen E C Haydon, David Rudd-Mitchell and Richard Cooper.

Poems of mine which feature in the pamphlet have been written at various stages of my MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University over a two year period. The featured poems are all fairly surreal and sinister, with subjects of death, reincarnation, witchcraft and notes of violence throughout.

Upon reading the pamphlet for the first time at the weekend, it was wonderful to enjoy imaginative and diverse poems from my fellow writers in the pamphlet; Ceinwen, David and Richard. It was also nice to see subtle areas of comparison between our poems.

The pamphlet can be bought directly from the editor at

I will be reading some poems from the pamphlet this Saturday (30th November 2019) during the last monthly BLERoom night of 2019, at Off The Ground Coffee in Middlesbrough, which showcases other excellent performers including Ann Cuthbert, Julie Easley, Iulia Ioana Iliescu and Jane Curran.






The Return of the Lost Daughter: Why Poetry?

By Natalie Nera

fire and ice by robert frost
Photo by Ayat Zaheer on

If you ask me who I am as a creative beast, my answer would be “a prose writer”.  However, I also write a lot of poetry. I have read books on poetry writing. Why? What is the point if a) English is my second language and I know I am not a genius like Ilya Kaminsky or Kapka Kassabova, b) I will probably never be published?

The explanation is simple: poems teach me about the inner workings of the language, they teach me about its music and tonality. I play with words, I try out metaphors. I enjoy, rather masochistically, to struggle through the muds of natural rhythms. This seemingly pointless work later reflects in my prose pieces. The economy of expression in poems translates well into fiction, it helps me to create “verbal short cuts”.

Think of the nineteenth-century writers who needed pages and pages to create a dinner scene. Today’s writers need a paragraph, or sometimes only a sentence to achieve the same. They only spend pages on a particular dinner scene if there is a good reason for it. In other words, in modern fiction, less is more.

If you can weave images into your fiction, you spur the reader’s imagination and make them want more – the ultimate goal of every writer.

However, there is also a danger of overdoing it or overwriting if you like. It is a particular pain of mine that I tend to cram my early drafts with too many metaphors, images, likening this to that, thinking of clever words and expressions.

In the past, I tried to curb my enthusiasm for playing with words and sentences but it stopped me from writing at all. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from my creative practice is that it is all right to overwrite, it is all right to use flowery language (partly coming from my Czech background), it is all right to be sentimental, and it is all right to be wrong as long as you keep writing.

When you finish your first draft, you have succeeded. Now, the craft of a fiction writer begins with re-drafts. Is the structure sound? Have I kept the point of view? Is the story character-driven? Have I thought through the characters?

In the last re-drafts, it is time to scale down the language, remove all unnecessary decorations, simplify the sentences wherever you can. The remaining metaphors have to be spot on. They gain the power to shock, to surprise. The text is no longer overloaded and burdened with its own possibilities. Instead, the story is the star, supported by images, structures, and words.


Natalie Crick: Emotion


The Girl from the Woods[30059]
Jaco Putker, The Girl from the Woods, 2014



I choose extreme words to impact upon the reader. I am aware of the full magnitude of how a reader can feel when taking a poem in. The presence of a poem can be so physically and emotionally charged that we can encounter ourselves in response to it.


           Language is a living thing and it reciprocates when I flatter it with attention. I feel the suppressed strangeness swelling within me. My language has no life unless I give it my own.


I write poetry about the dead and the missing. My words and losses converge. To live with grief is to live with desire. Robert Hass in his poem ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ writes: ‘Longing, we say, because desire is full/of endless distances’.[1]


I can see eternal spaces, gaps and holes. We can be almost removed from loss, it is rarely graspable. I struggle at times; my language choices have a powerlessness to express the indefinable.


A poem is different. It is a mother-root, or a thorn in the brain. You cannot ignore it or you could miss something significant.



Ilya Kaminsky asks me: ‘Why such intensity? Is it too much?’[2]


‘Think assailable thoughts’, writes Jane Hirschfield, ‘or be lonely’.[3] I think this statement is very true. I am naturally an introvert and a poet; both can be isolating.


Sometimes it is less threatening and more self-fulfilling creatively to be lonesome.

I feel I must be vulnerable to write successfully about vulnerability.


In his poem, ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’, Wallace Stevens celebrates the autonomy of imagination. I read his poem and notice that the narrator’s self-sufficiency is depicted as bottomless, evocative loneliness, which paradoxically deepens to his last statement: ‘And there I found myself more truly and more strange’.[4]



         I look at myself in the glass mirror.



        Ruth Pitter says: ‘our only obscurities ….should be those we are driven into, then a sort of blessing may descend, making such obscurity magical’.[5]



A poem is written.


[1] Robert Hass, ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ in Praise (New York: Harper Collins, 1999), p. 4

[2] Ilya Kaminsky, ‘Of Strangeness That Wakes Us’, Poetry, (January 2013)


[3] Jane Hirshfield, ‘Sentencings’ in Poetry, 197.3 (December 2010)

[4] Wallace Stevens, ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), p. 72

[5] Ruth Pitter, Collected Poems (New York: Pan Macmillan, 1969), p. xii


The Return of the Lost Daughter: Over to You

person holding fountain pen
Photo by Janson K. on


Natalie Nera


I have been honest about my self-doubt, struggles with rejections, the thoughts that are destructive in any walk of life but especially when you are a creative beast.

We have to be sensitive and wear our hearts on our sleeves when we write, we have to do our research, study hard, look at what other writers do but when it comes to the other side of the business, we have to toughen up. Forget sensitivity, emotions, cry on your pillow or on your friend’s shoulder because of yet another rejection. Cry because someone was harsh in their critique but then wipe your tears and keep going. There is a pile of manuscripts that have been accepted, look at the successes not failures to find your strength. And then, with a clear head look at your failures to improve your craft, how to do it better.

Sometimes it is about sending your manuscript to the wrong publication at the wrong time. Sometimes you go through hard times that don’t allow you headspace for a lot of writing. It is OK not to be OK. That is life.

Now, it is over to you. Natalie Crick and I will keep producing our blogs but will happily replace it with observations and experiences from other writers. Moreover, we are also open to accept essays, prose, and poems, all of which can be previously published provided there are no restrictions on re-printing it online (some magazines and competitions stipulate that you are not allowed to use your work elsewhere for a period of time, so please check).

Here are our guidelines:

  • Send us a Word document to On the subject line please write “Submission” followed by the type of submission, i.e. “Submission Poems”. The usual formatting applies: 12 Times New Roman, spacing 2 for prose, essays, and blogs; spacing 1 for poetry.
  • Please include a brief biography, no more than 80 words. Do not forget your contact details.
  • Blog entries: on aspects of writing or writer’s life (including poets, scriptwriters etc.). Around 800 words.
  • Essays: creative essays or essays related to any interesting subject. Up to 3,000 words.
  • Prose: short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, creative non-fiction. Up to 3,000 words.
  • Poems: no more than 5 poems, up to 14 lines. Any topic.
  • Illustrations. images and photos: send in a format that is printable online.
  • Unfortunately, we are not able to pay for these submissions at the moment. This is not the rule for our book publications where the usual contract agreements will apply.


Many thanks. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Keep creating and keep smiling.





NATALIE CRICK: On Writing ‘Changeling’


Changeling, J.P. Lynch, 1986
Last year, a poem of mine, ‘Changeling’, was published online at Stirring: A Literary Collection. You can read ‘Changeling’ alongside another of my poems, ‘Garden Witch’, here:

I’ve provided an insight into the thoughts behind my writing process and inspirations for my poem, ‘Changeling’.

Listening to Ailbhe Darcy read poems from Insistence in The Culture Lab, Newcastle, 2018, I was both disturbed and fascinated by her choice of words: ‘I’d a snip cut in his tongue. / Blood scissored down his chin’.[1]

The scenarios I invent in my poetry are often uncomfortably tragic because I wanted to encourage an emotional response in the reader. I write with an air of intimate disclosure towards the reader.

‘As a child, relatives wouldn’t hold her. She was splintered wood and sea water. They said she reminded them of the war.’[2]

Warsan Shire’s harrowing disclosure about this child in her poem ‘The Ugly Daughter’ initiated my strange ekphrastic story, ‘Changeling’; a tale of a horrifying child (though more a parasite) growing inside a weakening mother and beginning to advance in power.

I wanted to establish a physical closeness between parent and parasite as well as the duality behind the origins of the traditional folklore surrounding changelings; the ‘sickly, evil, or precocious substitute’ left instead of a real child who is ‘kidnapped by supernatural beings’.[3]

The child is seemingly questionable child and the parent mild-mannered, in contrast to much of my poetry when childhood innocence is essentially stolen or kidnapped by cruel motivations of dominant adults.



[1] Ailbhe Darcy, ‘After my son was born’ in Insistence (Hexham: Bloodaxe, 2018), p. 41

[2] Warsan Shire, ‘The Ugly Daughter’ in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (London: flipped eye books, 2011), p. 31

[3] Seamus Mac Philib, ‘The Changeling’, Béaloideas, 59 (1991), 121

The Return of the Lost Daughter: Do what You Preach



black ball point pen with brown spiral notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on


By Natalie Nera


I am very bad at taking my own advice, such as write every day for at least fifteen minutes. I have not done that for the past two months. Writing a blog at least once a week is a good incentive to keep going even though muses are not with you. When I say muses, I mean in actual fact, I don’t have a headspace to be creative.

Several months ago we made a decision to move house and move countries. Ever since (and several years before that for other reasons), my life has been a roller coaster. As lovely as my parents are, living with them is not easy. Not having my own chair or desk, or bed for that matter does not help. I do not sleep well. When staring into the ceiling in the early hours of the morning, I constantly churn in my head if I made a big mistake.

I also work. On top of that, I try to manage the completion of an anthology back in Newcastle. My sons, especially the older one, find the transition hard.  I need to pay the property tax for the apartment we are moving in January,  completing a form that is barely comprehensible. I still have to book appointments for my sons at a dentist. And myself. And an optician. And a GP. Plus work, cleaning, cooking and a lot of criticism for not hitting some impossible standards for a housewife. And a mother.

It is a place from which it is difficult to start working creatively and believe that somehow you are good enough, or at least all right. You cannot use your precious half an hour with a mindset that tells you that you are a complete failure. How do I survive this? Just keep writing even a blog entry once a week. Or a letter. Keep reading. And keep waiting for the storm to be over and to have your own desk and chair that would give you the happiness of creation and return of your own self.  For it is easy to lose that sense when everybody demands a piece of you and everybody expects perfection.  It is safe to say that I am beginning to look the way I feel.

So for those of you who recognise these struggles, please do not despair, there are many of us like this. There are many of us who have had struggles, pauses, breaks or even breakdowns. You bounce back. You always do.

On that hopeful note, I would like to open our blog to submissions. Please watch our website this week for the guidelines.  Natalie Crick and I will make an announcement about our projects next year soon.

Natalie Crick: Versioning

Edvard Munch 'Inheritance'
Edvard Munch, Inheritance, 1897 – 99

Discussing his own collection of ‘versions’, Don Paterson muses that ‘versioning allows a poet to disown their own voice and try on another’.1

I enjoy experimenting with extremes of theme and language in my drafts. My habit of the autobiographical ‘I’ is sometimes cushioned by borrowing material from inherited sources.

Despite writing often in the first person, my poetry is not to be read as autobiographical. Instead, I often write in the voices of damaged people; a form of ventriloquism.

Like Paul Muldoon, I feel that ‘form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini’.2 Having always written in free verse, I find writing in formalistic structures to be ‘strange company’.3

Writing in Poetry Review, Philip Gross comments, ‘There’s a mask behind a mask’.4 Paterson goes on to ask ‘Who was that masked man?’, or girl maybe, when referring to myself. I enjoy writing poetry loosely inspired by my own creative inheritance. Are we actually referring subconsciously to our own little ghosts of truths when conjuring make-believe stories? Writing some of my more triggering poetry can be thrilling and disturbing in equal measure. Why does it provoke such a feeling?

As both a writer and reader, my favourite poems exist in word-worlds where ‘the dark and against the grain stand out’5 and, like fiction writer Ali Smith, I do enjoy deploying ‘edge’ which ‘can cut. It’s the blade’.6

I am, however, mindful to use the ‘blunt part of the knife too’7 to provide contrast and variation in my poetry. I employ visceral, sensory language to give light relief from violence in other areas.

I feel that alluding to prose strengthens implementation of the first person ‘I’; a story is being told.


1 Don Paterson, Orpheus: A Version of Rilke (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p. 84

2 Ian Kilroy, ‘Transatlantic Poet’ in The Irish Times (19 April 2003), 8

3 Paterson, Orpheus, p. 84

4 Philip Gross, ‘Wriggling on a Pin’, Poetry Review, 83.4 (1993/94), 57

5 Robert Lowell, Imitations (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), p. xi

6 Ali Smith, Artful (London: Penguin, 2013), p. 126

7 Smith, Artful, p. 126



The Return of the Lost Daughter: The Way In

By Natalie Nera

black and white city electric train electrical wires
Photo by Pixabay on



There are many ways you can be inspired to write your story.  Inspiration comes from perception but ultimately, it differs from person to person. Naturally, I read a lot and every day. I am not restricted to one genre because you can learn a lot from reading crime, thriller or romance even though your goal is not to write in those genres. However, there are many of their techniques you can use as building blocks.

My short story The Journey (about to be published by The Selkie) started with a newspaper article about the colonies of people trying to get to the USA. I ended up writing about a woman going into a lager to Siberia. It is not as big leap as it sounds. That article prompted me to look at the photos and materials I collected during my two and a half years in Lithuania (2002 – 2004). I spent several evenings pondering over the faith of those poor people in the 1940s simply picked up at night and transported to Siberia, many of whom never survived the journey. I viewed many old black and white photos of that era. History repeating itself.

When I presented the draft I was quite happy with, I was told that the love for Chekhov is palpable from the whole story. It is true that I love Chekhov, – and I am lucky enough to have read his works in the original -, he is probably one of my most favourite authors ever. I admire his modernity, his timeless style, his knowledge of the human soul. Some writers who were big in the 1980s feel dated today. Chekhov, even after more than a hundred years, feels contemporary. But that was entirely subconscious.

One thing I did in full knowledge, was the structure of the story. I used the structure of romantic novels to build sexual tension between the heroine and a stranger she encounters on the journey.  The difference is, of course, that the dubiousness of his background and doubts over his true mission never go, and there is no happy ending.

When I wrote my first novel, the first publisher I addressed said that she did not like crime stories as a low genre. She did not read more than three pages. You may say that I failed as an author because I did not engage a person who decided not to publish it. However, the publisher failed as well – she let her own prejudice get in the way of reading the novel and seeing that the crime genre was a device and in fact, if the work belonged into any box, it would be best described as social satire.

I am not the best writer in the world but I like learning from the best. And what the best writers show the rest of us is that there are no small or low genres, and there is always something new you can learn.