Creative Dissertation Corner with Courtney Wakelin: Identity and Defining beauty

In this creative dissertation corner Courtney Wakelin tells us about her project about identity and defining beauty through creative writing

What is your dissertation about?

Identity and defining beauty

How did you choose the texts for the project?

I brainstormed everything I wanted to look at and found ways into which I could research and create ways to highlight the aspects I was interested in in new ways.

Has your dissertation changed much since submitting your proposal?

Yes, editing has made me refine what I wanted to say and sculpt the piece into a far more meaningful account.

What interests you about this topic?

The subjectivity of both beauty and identity. In reality there are so many layers to each and so many ways that a person can be presented and viewed from another that I just find really fascinating because when looking at others the voyeurs inner prejudice/views will sculpt a particular reading of the one observed which may be a very good study of them but could also be very far from the truth.

What have you enjoyed most and what have you struggled most with?

I enjoyed reading around the topics I am studying. I always look for intertextual reference to add into my piece to add layers however this is also my downfall because my piece is a novel and  the word count only allows for a small portion of all that I have researched to be put in. I struggle with not overloading however, edits allow me to refine and steal sections to add later, so it is not all for nought.

What has it been like working closely with an academic supervisor?

Brilliant. My supervisor really keeps me on focus and allows me to bounce ideas about my piece around. Similarly she supplies me with new ways to look at my own work because she is objective where as often I find myself too close and I must tell myself to step away from the text and adapt for the larger scale.

University Mental Health Day Poetry

For University Mental Health Day we have a poem from Lucy Pettigrew about her own mental illness experience and recovery.

I Wrote a Book About Sadness

I am no longer trailing fingers on empty rib cages like I used to be,

I’m no longer as afraid to take up space in a warm room.

I’m now the warm room.


I don’t have secrets living in my stomach anymore,

just good meals and laughter.


All I saw was thigh gaps,


carrots for lunch

and walking and walking,

so much walking, so

much hungry.


I am now the name my parents gave me and

so much more.

I’m the current in the sea,

nostalgia tasting like summertime strawberries.

I’m the beat of the bass

and the feeling of finishing a book you invested emotion in, we

close the pages on the sadness and

return it to the shelf.

I am.

[Creative Dissertation Corner] with Hannah Petch: Climate Change Poetry

In this [creative dissertation corner] Hannah Petch tells us about her project discussing whether poetry can create social change

What is your dissertation about?

I am writing a collection of original poetry around the theme of climate change and alongside that, I am discussing whether poetry/literature really has any power/impact in creating social change.

How did you choose the texts for the project?

Some of my texts are scientific/academic but a really important part of my research process has been reading other contemporary poets, I think it’s really important that I’m up to date with the current conversation poets are currently having.

Has your dissertation changed much since submitting your proposal?

My poems have certainly developed since submitting my proposal, the thing about writing about a topic like climate change is that things are constantly changing and my poems have to change alongside that.

What interests you about this topic?

I love writing poems as I feel they can convey certain themes/motifs that other forms can’t. I’m also hugely passionate about the environment and trying to do everything we can to protect it.

What have you enjoyed most and what have you struggled most with?

I’ve really enjoyed the scientific research – more than I thought I would – I’ve struggled a bit to find contemporary poems that discuss climate change but that has just confirmed my belief that this sort of poetry needs to be written.

What has it been like working closely with an academic supervisor?

It’s been really great working with Rebecca Tamás, she has a published poetry collection so I feel really secure under her supervision, she knows exactly what current publishers are looking for when it comes to poetry and we share the same interest in the environment and climate change so it’s been really good.

Winter Lights

Guest writer Alfie Edge gives us a Christmas poem for this festive season.

Turn on the winter lights,

To guide through afternoon shadows.

Crunching feet in pillow snow

passing steamed pub windows.


Underneath winter lights,

Innocence illuminated

the blurred buzz of mistletoe risk;

My heart, Lord’s a leaping.


Tell the warm winter lights:

to bury my heart in Christmas

and melt the cold earth around,

Until next year, my love.

Will Harris’ Poetry Series Review

Hannah Petch reviews The York Centre for Writing Poetry Series event, with Poet Will Harris!

Will Harris is a writer of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage, born and based in London.

On Monday 25th November I attended the second event of this semesters poetry series; a reading and Q&A with poet Will Harris.

Will Harris is a writer of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage, born and based in London. He has worked in schools, led workshops at the Southbank Centre and teaches for The Poetry School. Harris kicked off the evening with a few readings before partaking in a Q&A with Caleb Klaces.

Prior to that evening I hadnt read any of his poetry, however hearing him read aloud definitely made me want to buy a copy of his book. My favourite was a poem set in Wetherspoons, which Harris claimed he didnt read out that often, as it required a lot of energy. And it was definitely energetic! It was really interesting as a Creative Writing student to hear a poem like that, it seemed more like a piece of theatre than a poem; it definitely gave me a lot of inspiration in terms of my own poetry. His poem Another Life’ was also really interesting and sparked a lot of questions in the Q&A that followed. Harris wrote the poem after being shortlisted for a poetry prize against another poet, whose politics he did not agree with, and then subsequently lost out to that poet. It raised a lot of questions about prize culture and, as poets, who we write for. There was an interesting discussion about whether we ever write anything just for ourselves, or do we always write with the knowledge and intention of it being read by other people?

 Overall, it was a fantastic evening. Will Harris is an excellent poet, his first full poetry collection RENDANG’ is forthcoming in 2020, I would definitely recommend keeping an eye out for it.

Will Harris’ first full poetry collection ‘RENDANG’ comes out February 2020.

 There are also more events coming up in the poetry series next semester to coincide with the York Literature Festival with some fantastic poets, including Fran Lock and Mary-Jean Chan, already confirmed.

Find Will Harris on twitter or on his website for more information about his upcoming release and more of his exciting poetry!