Arts

Book review: 2018 UEA Postgraduate Anthologies

Poetry

This years’ anthologies have recently been released and they are as brilliant as we have come to expect due to those from years before. Egg Box Publishing has once again successfully rebranded the books, using different colours and patterns to distinguish between the different volumes. The poetry volume is slender, but full of wisdom as well as interesting and unique writers. All have something important to say, whether on technology, politics or love. The contributors are students on the MA Creative Writing course, some of whom have been published elsewhere. The poems vary in length and style, even within each writer’s section – some are even printed sidewise! These poets are versatile and accomplished in a range of poetic forms that they use to their full advantage, highlighting the important issues discussed within. But it is the introduction by Tiffany Atkinson that draws most attention to the importance of collections like this. She opens by commenting that it has been some time since she had ‘heard anyone talk about poetry’s supposed marginality or ‘irrelevance’’. Poetry is becoming a more widely accepted medium in which to discuss cultural topics, and this collection truly shows this to be true.

Abi Steer

Scriptwriting

As a new academic year rolls on, so does a new Postgraduate Anthology in Scriptwriting. The 13 stories feature, in the introductory words of Steve Waters, ‘vexed borders and strange journeys, both in form and in content.’ Through thick and thin, funny and serious, they catapult us into a realm of familiarity, such as in the story of Theo and Tatiana in Theo and Tat versus The World, where the protagonists deal with deadlines and corporate media; or like in Dead Things, a story of unfamiliarity in which a (wannabe happy) marriage takes a ghastly turn. In this year’s anthology, I found originality and a world where the stories almost come alive when being read; it was as if the plays were being performed right in front of me as I was reading them. I found myself giggling at funny punchlines, and left pleasantly surprised when more serious themes such as immigration, arranged marriage and the effect of technology on humanity were being dealt with. I highly recommend the anthology to anyone with an interest in scriptwriting; it is not only an amazing example of great writing, but it is also a very enjoyable read.

Francesca Giuliani

Prose

‘There are pieces of fiction in many hues, some elegantly turned and patient, some racingly propulsive, others raw,’ write Naomi Wood and Philip Langeskov about the latest Postgraduate Prose Fiction Anthology. Indeed, the ‘imaginary possibilities’ are unlimited in this year’s collection, with stories spanning from Harriet Avery’s “Double Helix”, which is about a scientist who was overlooked for monumental findings on the DNA’s structure, to Silvia Kwon’s exploration of the love affair between Sien and the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. Frank Costello’s novel extract tells the story of teenage drug dealer whose friend has been stabbed, while Bugger Bognor captures the tale of a young woman with a promising career who gets caught between two different worlds. At once chilling and refreshing, Sarah Hopkinson’s “On My Insides” captures the unlikely bond between Leonora, a woman with the fear of being touched, and Tiger, who is mute. The 2018 anthology captures the very essence of the UEA Creative Writing programme; wildly imaginative stories from vastly different voices.

Iasmina Voinea

Non-fiction

Writing about lived experience is nothing new, but recently there seems to have been a flourish of genre-defying yet highly readable works of creative non-fiction, covering everything from literary journalism to the curious amalgamation that is life writing. Meanwhile, writers such as Karl Ove Knausgård and Rachel Cusk have treated readers to literature in which the line between fiction and biography is blurred (sometimes dubiously so). To many, creative writing is synonymous with fiction, but one is just as dependent on creativity when writing journalistic articles or piecing together biographical research. Writing about real life does not necessarily make the writing come to life on the page; this takes the sort of skills showcased in the 2018 UEA Postgraduate Anthology for Creative Non-Fiction. The sixteen writers are of various ages and nationalities, covering between them a diverse range of topics. In “Have You Eaten”, Yin F Lim uses the culinary traditions of her native Malaya as a way of accessing the past lives of her ancestors. Kate Romain explores potential lives in “White Out”, in which she conducts an imaginary conversation with a stranger in a café. We get personal stories about mountaineering, synaesthesia, and the soundtrack to the film Titanic. Blake Morrison recently wrote in the New Statesmen that, “there’s an exceptionally rich vein of life writing just now”. By the look of this anthology, the vein will keep pulsating.

Johanne Elster Hanson


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20/11/2018

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Johanne Hanson Iasmina Voinea Francesca Giuliani Abi Steer