News

Haitian Studies from Liverpool University Press

LUP’s mission is to disseminate high quality research and to promote learning and culture through our publications. As such we’ve compiled our list of titles which study and explore Haiti in response to recent demand for a lasting conversation on the subject. Exile and Post-1946 Haitian Literature
Haiti Rising
Writing on the Fault Line 
The Colonial System Unveiled 
Friends and Enemies 
Tropics of Haiti
Beyond the Slave Narrative 
On the Edge: Writing the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic 
Haiti Unbound
The Haiti Exception 
Architextual Authenticity 
Fathers, Daughters, and Slaves
The Caribbean
Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean

Having encouraged publishers, scholars and the twittersphere to share their knowledge and resources on this subject, we asked Marlene Daut, (Associate Professor of African Diaspora Studies at the University of Virginia and Editor of H-Haiti) to comment:

‘The robust response by many journalists, scholars, and the general public contesting President Donald Trump’s insulting and racist characterization of Haiti and Haitians has been gratifying in so many ways. However, learning about Haiti’s history, so as to be able to think and write thoughtfully about the country and its people with intention, reflexivity, and care, will require that we read much more than a series of Op-Eds. I truly hope the general reading public might take this as an opportunity, then, to engage with the robust and longstanding scholarship on Haiti produced by Haitians, the Haitian diaspora, and scholars from across the world. Creating lasting change will require all of us, including, politicians, journalists, students, publishers, and scholars, to consent to re-education about not only the language we use when discussing Haiti and Haitians, but our core beliefs about people who may be different from us.’

Forthcoming in 2019:

Migrations and Refuge Haitian Literature from the Eco-Archive by John Patrick Walsh

This book will deliver an innovative theoretical approach that combines the historical awareness of Haitian studies with postcolonial ecocriticism. It will challenge the idea of a tipping point of a global refugee crisis by taking up an array of stories on Haitian migrants and refugees, past and present.

(John Patrick Walsh is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Pittsburgh)

For the month of February we’re offering 40% off of all of our Haitian studies titles. Please use discount code HAITI40 or follow this link for the discount to be automatically applied.

 

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Poetry

The Inspiration and Storytelling of And She Was: In Conversation with Sarah Corbett

Natalie Bolderston caught up with Sarah Corbett to discuss the parallels of poetry and cinema and the inspiration and storytelling behind her gripping collection And She Was

And She Was is described as a ‘verse novel’, as the poems connect to make one continuous narrative. What made you decide to combine the two forms? Did you face any difficulties?

I’ve always had an interest in narrative and storytelling (I’m currently writing a novel) and narrative verse, and in pushing my practice as a poet …there comes a time when every ambitious poet has to try out the epic! I had the idea for three linked tales or novellas based on a series of recurring dreams some years before starting the book, which was written as part of a PhD in Critical and Creative writing, but attempts to find a narrative prose voice came to nothing. It wasn’t until I read Deryn Rees-Jones’s Quiver that I thought ‘Ah, that’s how I can do it’. As I got deeper into the work (and three books became two) I started to play with aspects of novelistic technique – point of view, voice, tense, time, characterization – alongside aspects of the poem – form, line, image, stanza, page – I was beginning to investigate how far I could push the lyric in the service of narrative and visa versa. The work was written quite quickly in short bursts, then underwent many years of resting, re-writing, development and revision. It took a long time to finish because I wanted to bring the same density to each line, each page and each poem as I would to the briefest lyric poem – and in over seventy pages. In some ways it is one whole poem. In the end I had to trust a great deal to my instincts (for example I reversed the original order of books one and two to create a circular narrative structure), and to the wisdom of the imagination. The opening triptych was written after the main text was finished, and within a couple of days. Deryn asked me if I could write that third book – I couldn’t, it would have taken too long, but the three poems do the double job of summing up the central themes and filling in the ‘gap’ between book 1 (‘The Runner’) and book 2 (‘Pinky’).

Your poems feature many arresting and unexpected images, e.g. ‘They patched up my hymen, / Made a mouse ear / Of my stomach[.]’ How do you maintain the ‘element of surprise’ when writing?

I write very instinctively – and very much from my visual imagination. As a child I drew obsessively, and wrote and illustrated stories and made little books, so the connection between the felt, the visual and language – the hand-eye-mind connection – has always been very strong for me. I both see and feel and hear the images and am often working through the difficulty of language to reach and express the clarity of that image for the reader. I’ve always done that, so I know when to trust it – you get that raising of the hackles when you know it’s ‘right’. This is also about understanding and viewing language as a system of signs – words create images that then create big pools of meaning that are bigger than what is on the surface. I suppose I get this from always having been interested in dreaming, the unconscious, the ideas of Carl Jung, and of reading poets like Sylvia Plath as I was starting to write as a very young poet. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t also fall into cliché and tired repetitions just like anyone else, and often need other people to point these out for me!

You state that you are influenced by filmmakers such as David Lynch. How do you think cinema relates to poetry?

I think the relationship between poetry and film is closer than between film and the novel, even though it is the novel that is most often adapted for cinema (i.e. more populist viewing). This relationship is a question of form as much as content and is more evident perhaps with Arthouse or Avant Garde cinema. Both good cinema and good poetry are working through the image as the primary means of conveying experience and meaning (we are being shown, not told) and both take risks with and demand much from the reader/viewer. Both require the reader/viewer to be an active participant in bringing the work – poem or film – to life on the page, the screen, and in the imagination. Both should have the power to affect the reader/viewer on a physical and emotional level in the moment of experiencing the film/poem.

I’ve heard that you were partly inspired Deryn Rees Jones’ book length poem Quiver. How did this influence your writing? Which other writers do you turn to for inspiration?

Deryn’s book pointed out the way – how I could stay with the density and beauty of lyric poetry and how I could trust the reader to go on a narrative journey that was not necessarily written in a straight line. Quiver plays with the murder mystery (which I am somewhat obsessed with!) but is also an ‘epic’ poem underpinned with myth, and deals with love and loss – you could describe And She Was in similar ways; I suppose you could say they are ‘sister texts’, even though our styles, voices and approaches are very different. The other poet whose work had a huge influence on me was Anne Carson and her 1996 ‘verse—novel’ The Autobiography of Red. I remember reading this when I was writing my first book, being overawed by its reach, risk and beauty, but thinking ‘one day I want to do something like this’!

My influences are very broad – but broadly speaking within the English lyric tradition. I’ve already mentioned Plath, but I’ve learnt to handle her with care, she can be a very powerful influence! Amongst the first poets I got to know and love really well at school were Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney, and it’s the power and density of their music that has stayed with me and is probably the strongest influence on my ‘style’ of writing – I can usually rely on them if I need a spark to get me working.

Are you working on anything new?

I’m just completing my next collection of poems A Perfect Mirror, which will be published by Pavilion next year. The title is taken from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal (she is referring to the lake on a particularly still and beautiful day). The book has evolved over roughly the same period of time as And She Was (hence having two books out quite close together), although there are new poems getting written all the time – and it is a book that has shed many skins along the way. It is a return to the formal lyric with forays into prose poems and exploded lyrics, and is thematically centred on place – mostly the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire where I have lived since 2002 – and in nature. The collection has a ‘dark heart’, with poems of hauntings both real, poetic and of the unconscious, ‘haunted’ by the presiding spirit of Sylvia Plath, whose burial place I can see from my back bedroom, but also by the instability inherent in the landscape (it is a place of cycles and renewals yes, but also of death and uncertainty, floods and disasters). The title poem is being written as part of a collaboration with the landscape painter Zoe Benbow in partnership with Lancaster University and The Wordsworth Trust, and the image of the mirror might refer the reader to Shakespeare’s idea of art as the mirror of nature, or to the more unsettling notion of nature as a mirror to the self.

 

About Sarah Corbett 

Born in 1970, Sarah grew up in North Wales and gained a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing from Manchester University in 2013. Her first collection of poetry ‘The Red Wardrobe‘ (Seren,1998) won the Eric Gregory Award and was shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize and the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She followed with ‘The Witch Bag‘ (Seren, 2002) and ‘Other Beasts‘ (Seren, 2008). She currently lives in the Calder Valley and is a Lecturer in Creative Writing for Lancaster University.

 

 From And She Was

Strawberries

Leaving you for an hour is a wound

from shoulder to hip. I stagger

like a soldier from the fray,

like a bull from the axe,

but we have to eat.

 

I buy fruit at the market,

home-grown russets,

pitted cox,

the asked-for berries,

and walking home

take a strawberry

from the punnet.

 

This eating is love’s union,

the twin lost when cells

folded and hardened

to a ridge, the fruit

a globe of flesh

that has left the body,

a painted heart

that yields when bitten.

 

Sarah Corbett

 

For more information on And She Was and other titles in our Pavilion Poetry series, please visit our website.
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Poetry

The Science, Nature and Creativity of Slant Light. In Conversation with Sarah Westcott

We caught up with Sarah Westcott to discuss the interplay between science and creative writing and the various aspects of life and culture that enrich her poetry collection Slant Light.

As someone who has studied both biology and creative writing, do you think that scientific methods (e.g. observation and analysis) bear any similarity to poetic composition?

Yes and no in the sense that both involved sustained and careful observation of both the immediately visible and then the less obvious before any conclusions are drawn or ideas expressed.

But no in the sense that when I am writing early drafts of a poem I am drawing on parts of my mind that do not attempt objectivity. Objectivity is of course fundamental to scientific observation and analysis.

Both disciplines are also infused with the kind of curiosity that is unconscious and in-the-moment and then have parallels in the time afterwards when the mind works over and through what it has been looking at.

There is also a sense for me when editing that I must engage my rational, discerning, critical mind to excise and explain and this is very much a mind I recognise from looking down a microscope or under a stone and examining what is there.

In some of your poems, such as Bats and The Mariposa Trees, nature seems to speak for itself. How did you go about developing a voice and consciousness for different aspects of the natural world?

Thank you – that is something I am still working on. I think for me it is a question of immersing myself in the landscape and also spending time in the garden standing quietly as the bats flicker above me. Those immersive times which are wordless give me a taste of the language that might suit that species. So for the bats I went for a lot of consonantal, clicking sounding words which reflects the staccato nature of their flight and the echolocation they emit (which I can sometimes still hear).

So it’s a question of listening to (and feeling, as a fellow animal) what is already there and then trying to capture something of that essence in our language.

You also work as a journalist. Does this feed into your poetry in any way?

I have been a news reporter for almost twenty years now. In terms of writing, a lot of the news we report is quite complicated and has to be condensed into a few hundred words. So clarity is very important and I think the word-by-word editing skills of weighing up whether a word, phrase or even comma should be there is useful in both areas.

Likewise with rhythm – there is a beat or rhythm in the intros (the first paragraph) of most tabloid news stories  – this may sound fanciful but you do hear it in the sentence as you write it. There is also a degree of word-play.

The other parallel is an awareness of an audience which is strong when I’m writing a news story. We were long ago told to consider: “would this article/angle be of interest to Doris in Doncaster?” And when writing poetry, being able to step back and think “does this actually make sense in its own right” helps my poems hopefully become more understandable.

I have found in my job that you become immersed in all human life as a reporter – not only speaking to people but also sitting through the court cases and inquests, the weddings, the funerals and any occasions when there are crowds of people mourning or celebrating. It’s a kind of privilege to be able to be in those crowds and talk to people and understand why they are there. As a journalist people sometimes tell you quite intimate thoughts as well.  You’re also party to terrible cases of abuse and also the fragility of life. I think that can only help feed my poetry with a respect and even love for us “naked apes”.

You have previously cited Alice Oswald as an influence. What do you value most in her work? Do you have any other literary influences?

I love her use of language to describe the non-human – she manages to make us see creatures, and places almost in a heightened reality without in any way sentimentalising them. For example, writing of a rotted swan as “hurrying away from the plane-crash-mess of her wings” communicates the arched structure of the swan’s frame and also the rigidity and stillness of death and also the way swans ‘run up’ and take off into flight.

My literary influences are everywhere. I am a magpie. I like poems that stretch language to its limits and are not afraid to go beyond.

I really enjoy hybrid work at the moment – recent highlights are Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers and also Solar Bones by Mick McCormack.

I am also fascinated by the sounds, music and meaning in registers of language we have at our disposal – particularly the specialist vocabulary you might find in science. At their best they give you a new way of seeing the world and also sound beautiful when defamiliarised.

Slant Light features several Anglo-Saxon charms and references to folklore. What is your process for transforming raw material such as this into poetry?

A lot of the charms came about when I was writer-in-residence at a nature reserve and I wanted to write about the properties of the plants growing there – many of them common weeds with medicinal properties.

That lead me into researching the charms which are these rich, song-like poems that seem to operate in the area between early Christianity and paganism. I find that hinterland really exciting. I moved between the old texts and my own new interpretations by translating word-by-word using an online dictionary and a bit of poetic license. A lot of the words are open to interpretation and a lot of them are direct translations. What is exciting is the rhythm of speech is already there in the originals which gave me a powerful sense of reaching into something real. They were, I think, performative and meant to be heard. In that sense, the form of the poems, like line breaks and pauses, fell naturally as breath.

 

About Sarah Westcott

Sarah Westcott’s debut pamphlet Inklings was the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice for Winter 2013. Her poems have been published in journals including Poetry ReviewMagma and Poetry Wales and in anthologies including Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt). Sarah grew up in north Devon, on the edge of Exmoor, and has a keen interest in the natural world. She holds a science degree and an MA in poetry from Royal Holloway, University of London. Sarah lives on the London/Kent borders with her family and, after a spell teaching English abroad, works as a news journalist.

For more information on Slant Light and other titles in our Pavilion Poetry series, please visit our website.

 

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Poetry

Mona Arshi wins 2015 Forward Prize for Best New Collection!

We are thrilled to congratulate LUP author Mona Arshi on winning the Forward Prize for best new collection for Small Hands, awarded in a ceremony on Monday 28th September 2015. The jury praised her work for its “imagination, sensuality and beguiling playfulness”, also commenting on her “beautiful precision and her willingness to experiment with form, including couplets, ghazals, sonnets and prose poetry.”

Mona Arshi was born to Punjabi Sikh parents in West London where she still lives. She initially trained as a lawyer and worked for Liberty, the UK human rights organisation, for several years. She began writing poetry in 2008 and received a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.

Mona’s collection was published in 2015 as part of Pavilion Poetry, a new contemporary poetry series from Liverpool University Press. More information on Small Hands, as well as the other titles in the series, can be found here: Pavilion Poetry.

You can also read more about Mona’s win and watch an interview with her here: Forward Prize 2015.

News

A new chapter in books editorial

Over the past dozen years Liverpool University Press has grown significantly. The 2004 catalogue featured just 7 titles with publication dates for that year: the Press now publishes more than 100 books a year and 28 journals.

LUP’s expansion has been built on a tight editorial focus across a few distinctive areas. Given the resulting strength in depth, LUP’s book commissioning team is now restructuring to have three dedicated, expert editors solely focused on their subjects and providing the best possible service to authors:

Alison Welsby, Editorial Director, oversees History, Classics and Art History.  Alison was formerly Commissioning Editor for History and Art History at Manchester University Press for 8 years, and has been the Editorial Director of LUP since 2011.

Jenny Howard is Senior Commissioning Editor for Literary Studies and Medieval Studies.  Jenny was formerly the Press’s Sales & Marketing Director.

Chloé Johnson is Commissioning Editor for Modern Languages and Postcolonial Studies.  Chloe began her career working on LUP’s journals, including the Bulletin of Hispanic StudiesContemporary French Civilization and Modern Languages Open.

 

Anthony Cond, who commissioned across the lists from 2005 onwards, and has been the Press’s Managing Director since 2008, will now focus solely on the Press’s management and strategic direction.