Imagine: you’re in the warm, coffee-scented Epic Studios in Norwich. You are ensconced in the plush sofa seating. You are ready to hear some of Norwich’s finest creative minds gather together in an irrepressible explosion of Creative Writing. And after these performances, the bar for Creative Writing will be set ever higher.
The last ‘UEA Live’ for academic year 2013-14 featured a mixture of exceptional poetry and perfect prose from the pens of UEA’s undergraduates, recent graduates and post-graduates. They each read to support the headlining reader, Henry Sutton, nine times novelist, award winner, and co-director of UEA’s MA in Creative Writing.
Reading from his brilliant novel, ‘My Criminal World’, Sutton vividly takes the reader through the struggles of writing fiction. He began by illuminating us all as to what the function of a writer is: an entertainer, a means of distraction, and absolutely not an artist for your own pleasure, as far as an agent is concerned. Sutton then moved effortlessly through the stages of writer’s block, in a half comical, half relatable way that had many in the audience smiling and nodding in agreement.
Sutton’s writing begs the question, ‘what is there for writers to write about?’ and this was answered enthusiastically by his supporting readers. Rufus Lunn’s poetry deals swiftly and confidently with the British Condition: British weather, British politics, British stereotypes and, most importantly, British prejudices. His tone, a mixture of comedy, irony, and mock horror, had the listeners chuckling along with him. But his was not the only poetry to look at the comical side of life.
Through the course of the evening we were also presented with Jay Willis, and his whimsical depiction of a romance between a hedgehog and a brick. His second poem, ‘Ode to a dead goldfish,’ was also a laugh-out-loud poem; an entertaining exploration of the life of a goldfish won at a fair.
Other writing took the shape of more personal experiences. Joanna Hollins read convincingly of family relationships- not an easy task when constrained by the unforgiving meter and rhyme scheme of a poem, but she did so with flair. This was accompanied by Jenifer Abercrombie’s series of short poems, featuring ‘Get Stuffed,’ a poem about a relationship that never quite came to fruition. Her style is to take the little things (like crop-tops), and to intelligently give them a deeper, better meaning for your consideration (the crop-top becomes the symbol of youth).
The same sentiments are seen in Mitchell Johnson’s short story. He linguistically paints the picture of a fictional couple who are about to start a family, and have to watch the aftermath of a car crash. His imagery is beautiful and sentimental, and engages you with the deeper questions of the fragile human condition.
Issy Mitchell followed, with a story of a youthful identity crisis and a mid-life crisis, and her realism is topically anxious of society, and powerfully descriptive. Rijula Das also pursues the theme of an identity crisis, in her prose piece that looks at the feeling of belonging. For those of us who are lucky enough to have never felt displacement, it is a thought-provoking progression through time; for those of us that do know, it is thoughtful, sensitive, eloquent, and stunning.
The final act of the evening, by Ng Yi Sheng, put the performance into performance poetry- it included props, costume, and added even more variation to the evening. His almost lyrical poetry, featuring the ‘Loud Poem’, is an impressive performance of everything poetry has to offer: onomatopoeia, imagery, rhythm, and an extensive vocabulary. There really is nothing like watching ‘UEA Live’. You just have to be there.
‘UEA Live’ gives us a chance to see some incredible talent from UEA’s renowned Creative Writing courses, in a city already named the UK’s first Unesco city of Literature. We’ll be sad to see some of the writers graduate this year, but we’re confident in the knowledge that they’ll still be writing and sharing some great things in the big wide world. For those staying on to continue writing at UEA, we look forward to seeing them next year, when ‘UEA Live’ begins again.