A.i.R. | In conversation with the wonderful Sian Norris about the PIKPA refugee camp in Greece.


On first impressions…

“The quiet. It’s so heavy, and controlled: and beyond any kind of sadness you can imagine. It’s goes further than sadness. You can feel how much has happened there. The volunteer and aid workers are remarkably positive, and they bring a huge amount of life and light to the air. But the quietness….it almost hums. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before. There’s a vacancy behind the eyes of the people on the camp too that’s disturbing – with the men especially. Sadly, I feel there may be no way out for them now. With the children, you feel a certain level of fight and vivacity. But the men – they’re gone.”

Read more full article….

More on Sianhttp://www.walesartsreview.org/a-i-r-introducing-sian-norr…/


“The morning after my daughter was born, I got straight back into writing. She had been late, and struggling to find a way out. We both underwent a speedy and painful induction. When induced, the body suffers contraction after contraction, without rest. The natural rhythms are suspended, and a new chemical urgency swamps the body. I couldn’t manage the pain (or the fear) and screamed for an epidural. From this point, I couldn’t feel. She was struggling to reach me, and I couldn’t answer. I’d been numbed to her throughout the pregnancy – fighting her every step of the way. But still, somewhere inside, I’d sensed her insistence; her slow, relentless beauty. Now in these crucial throws, I had no way of communicating with her at all, and it was mortifying.

In the final pushes, I was heavily assisted. My partner tells me the floor of the hospital room was like a butcher’s blood bath. ‘She was the real sea, and all the blood to follow.’ I didn’t know how to push, so had to lie on my back attached to a monster of machines by tricks and wires. When the last toe, slipped soft and white from the vertical wound, she spleened into the world. Hungry for life, she suckled perfectly.

And despite being left alone that night on the hospital ward, torn and psychically dislocated, having to feed every 3 hours and sleep none, I still found energy for inspiration. The morning after the dreadful day, and the long, clicking hours of the night (it never ceases to amaze how many machines there are in hospitals; how many people breathe like crickets) I woke to a nest of crumpled silk. Her lily hands, her familiar face. I watched her sleep in the plastic bed, I ate biscuits. I took out my yellow notebook (in that new sense of quiet, that uneasy calm) and began to write.

I, or we, have been operating like this ever since. And she has always, selflessly, allowed me to spill my ink. Some might think this is selfish of me. I think it’s magic.

When first asked to review Writing Motherhood, A Creative Anthology, the free, unbridled ‘account’ of motherhood that I’ve given above is much what I’d hoped for. I wasn’t disappointed.”

Read the full article here 

Publication rights The Wales Arts Review, June 2017 

As some of you may (or may not) know, I’m currently lecturing at Loughborough Uni, working primarily with third year students. Part of the job is to get the students writing – not to a set formula, but to the natural development of their own voices.

This week we did ‘The Mythic Self’ – using metaphor and the Jung’s symbolism to initiate a third ground, where the inner poet’s shivered selves, can realign and co-exist – not happily ever after mind you. Just in the same inspired space. The best poetry often comes from writing ‘the wound’ (Lorca’s mana) and I’m happy to say, a lot of the young writers present that day were well on their way to tapping into their dark interiors.

bid eye.jpg

It got me thinking about rough writing exercises. I’ve done a lot of them in my time, but since most of my resources were thrown away (we won’t go there) I’ve been a bit stuck for inspiration. Luckily for me, Kerry Featherstone was on hand to give a bit of advice.

I love the sound of this exercise, and I want you to try it at home. Sex and Death – two opposing ideas, right? Absolutely, and like the Poetry Engine, full of  opposing forces that encourage friction, energy, and drama in language.

Sex and Death exercise challenge: how to do it:

Can be done in alone, in pairs, or in two groups.

  1. Write as many words, phrases, sentences as you can think of to describe sex. Be descriptive, real, pared back. Time yourself (4 minutes.)

2. Either your partner, or the other group (or your other self!) does the same for death. Timed (4 minutes.)

3. Take the sex page. Shape, and craft a rough poem about death using these words.

4. Take the death page. Shape, and a craft a poem poem about sex using these words.

What happens next?

I’ve done this at home, with brilliant results, and I’ll  be sharing at the end of next week. If you fancy taking up the Death/Sex challenge, and what to be part of the sharing, send your poems to me and I’ll tweet some extracts. Or tag me in the extracts you tweet: @HelenCalcutt.

Let’s see how crazy/beautiful we can be….and how many others we can get involved!


I’d like to take a moment to remember Sammy Joe.

Or Samantha Hunt, her pen name. Studying for an MA. A young mother. A friend to many and a fantastic writer. In recent hours she decided to end her own life. Devastating to many, though somehow unavoidable, her passing comes at a great cost, to her daughter first and foremost, family and closest friends. But also to the page. She understood and appreciated language in a way that many have forgotten, but find remarkable when they re-discover it.

“This has been coming for a long time.
Last Summer, I’d sat on the
porch of the holiday house,
and listened to the sea.
There was a fierce blue
Beyond all of that vapid dark
It felt as though
It could get/could fall
Right in to the skin.
Some opaque weight
That came close, close and closer still-
In that muggy night
the moon pulled itself up
Then hung from the window by threads.
The blue wrapped its
knuckles around my fingers.
My thoughts turned in to/
fierce blue waves.
Silent visitors/”

This has been coming for a long time… – so it would seem. Though some of us, myself disappointingly included, were blind to it.

Her final poem ‘Drawing with Light’, was first published by ‘I am not a silent poet’ ; a magazine for poetry and artwork protesting against abuse in any of its forms.

I wish we could have heard more.