York Centre for Writing Poetry Series Online- Contemporary Poetry Now!

 Our poetry series focuses on writers who are BAME, queer and/or working class, and aims to to show what is exciting and innovative about poetry today. Unfortunately, due to the current situation, our York St John Poetry Series event for the York Literature festival was unable to take place live.

However, we didn’t want anyone to miss out on the fantastic poetry and analysis of our event writers, Khairani Barokka, Fran Lock and Mary-Jean Chan.

For this reason, Khairani, Fran and Mary Jean have all recorded special readings from their work which you can find in the soundcloud link below. They’ve also each taken the opportunity to respond to some of the questions we would have posed them, Khairani and Fran at the end of their recordings, and Mary Jean in writing. We are so grateful for them to taking the time to share their writing with us.

We hope you’ll take the time to enjoy these fantastic recordings.

Information on the writers:

Khairani Barokka is the writer/performer/producer of, among others, a deaf-accessible, solo poetry/art show, Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee. She is author and illustrator of poetry-art book Indigenous Species, nominated for a Goldsmiths Public Engagement Award (Tilted Axis Press, 2016; Vietnamese translation out in 2018 with AJAR Press), co-editor with Ng Yi-Sheng of HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (Fixi, 2016), and co-editor, with Sandra Alland and Daniel Sluman, of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press, 2017), shortlisted for a Saboteur Award for Best Anthology and a Poetry School Book of the Year Okka is currently working on a book and visual works. Her most recent exhibition was Annah: Nomenclature at the ICA. Her first full-length poetry collection, Rope, was published by Nine Arches Press in October 2017.

Mary Jean Chan is the author of Flèche (a Poetry Book Society Recommendation), published by Faber & Faber (2019). Her work has featured as a Guardian Poem of the Week and a Guardian Poem of the Month. Flèche is the winner of the 2019 Costa Book Awards (poetry category) and has been chosen as a Book of the Year by The Guardian, The Irish Times and The White Review. Her debut pamphlet, A Hurry of English (ignitionpress), was a 2018 Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice.

In 2016, Chan won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition in the English as an Additional Language category. In 2017, she won the Poetry Society Anne Born Prize and the Institute of Psychoanalysis Poetry and Psychoanalysis Competition, and also came Second in the 2017 National Poetry Competition. The title poem from her debut collection won the 2018 Poetry Society Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. She has twice been shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is the recipient of a 2019 Eric Gregory Award.

Forward Arts Prizes 2017
Royal Festival Hall London UK

Fran Lock is a sometime itinerant dog whisperer and poet, now living and working in London. Her debut collection Flatrock (Little Episodes) was launched in May 2011. Her work has appeared in various places, including Ambit, Poetry London, The Rialto, The Stinging Fly, and in Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt). Her second collection The Mystic and the Pig Thief (Salt) came out in September 2014. She is the winner of the 2014 Ambit Poetry Competition. She won third prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2014. Her most recent book, Contains Mild Peril, Lock’s seventh book in eight years, came out with Outspoken Press in 2019.

Mary Jean Chan’s answers to some of our Poetry Series questions:

  1. “Your poems seem to use lyric experience as a way of opening up the fractured multiplicity of reality, where the I is not the stable creature some traditional white male poets might have us believe! Is fracturing the lyric form something you consciously wanted to do?” 


I do think the whiteness of the lyric I and its seeming universality has been rightly critiqued by many (see Threads, a brilliant pamphlet co-authored by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil for more insights). As a queer, Chinese woman writing in first person, I am also aware of the ways in which my work might be received by a particular audience. As such, I wanted to make sure that the book offers poems which reflexively explore the instability of the lyric I, for example, through my poem “This Grammatical Offer of Uniqueness is Untrue” (a line taken from Denise Riley’s The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony), where I state that the word “mother” in English is already an artifice of sorts for me, as I have never uttered this word aloud to my mother, who speaks multiple Chinese dialects but doesn’t speak English. My poem “(Auto)biography” is also an attempt to critique this term, which is often used to describe women’s writing. Sarah Howe has written about this in an interview with The Boston Review (http://bostonreview.net/poetry/sarah-howe-interviewed-lily-blacksell), and reading this conversation made me want to challenge the concept of “autobiography” by writing a dramatic monologue in my mother’s voice, so readers might be encouraged to reflect on their assumptions about who the “I” in the poem represents. 


  1. Did you begin with a sense of what the overarching formal structures or themes might be, or did you write into them and discover the language of the collections that way?


I had been writing these poems since 2015, during my MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. Many of the poems about my mother came in a rush; others about queerness and psychotherapy came later. What did not come until the very end was the structure and the title of the book. I had such a hard time trying to pin down a title that would capture the essence of the collection, but with a lightness of touch. Once I realised that the fencing motif could be harnessed to create a loose structure for the book, the title came rather naturally as well (since the flèche is a fencing term for an aggressive surprise attack). 

LGBT History Month York Screening!

Image result for tell it to the bees

The exciting LGBT History Month York program is out now, and you can find the link to the program here – yorklgbthistory.org.uk

On page 25 you’ll find the details of a special screening of the film ‘Tell it to the Bees,’ with a Q and A from acclaimed author Fiona Shaw. This event takes place on Wednesday the 4th of March, from 18.30-21.00, at the York City Screen Picturehouse. The link to purchase tickets is here: https://www.picturehouses.com/movie-details/018/HO00009705/tell-it-to-the-bees

This beautiful and affecting story is one not to miss! 




An exciting event for those who love spoken word, don’t miss out! Details below.

Say Owt Slam #24
February 1st 2019
The City Screen Basement

Poets have three minutes to impress the audience and win a cash prize. Highly Commended in the York Culture Awards, Say Owt Slam is an exciting and raw mixing pot of spoken word. Plus
guest poet Lisette Auton, an award-winning disabled writer and performer. LIsette is one of Penguin Random House UK’s WriteNow mentees for her children’s novel based on the North East coast. All of her work seeks to make the invisible visible.

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!

Expressions of interest invited for The Creative Writing Blog!

This is the link to the form you can use to express your interest in writing and/or editing for the exciting and dynamic YSJ Creative Writing Blog –

Please complete this form if you are interested in writing for The CWB (The Creative Writing Blog.)

These are the options available to you:

Be a Staff Writer: We occasionally identify topics to be covered or events to be reviewed. These are first offered to our Staff Writers (typically a staff writer will contribute 3-5 pieces to the blog per academic year).

Be a Sub-Editor: In addition to writing regularly for the blog, co-editors also format and upload work by other students, workshop ideas for features and series and recruit fellow students to the blog team. They are also a friendly, informal point of contact for new writers.

Be an Assistant Editor. PLEASE NOTE, THIS ROLE IS ONLY OPEN TO POSTGRADUATE APPLICANTS. As an Assistant Editor you will work closely with the blog editors to shape the character and content of the blog. You will be responsible for managing Sub-Editors and commissioning and editing new posts. This is an excellent role if you are looking to acquire experience in publishing or journalism.

The Northern Fiction Alliance comes to York St John, October 24th


The Northern Fiction Alliance is an exciting collective of publishers joining together to showcase publishing in the North of England. Manchester’s Comma Press and The York Centre for Writing here at York St John University are delighted to host the first #NorthernFictionAlliance Roadshow in Yorkshire, following the sell-out success of the inaugural Roadshow event in Manchester last year. This event will see the members of the Alliance – some of the most innovative and exciting indies in the UK – showcasing their work. Come along to hear from some of the most interesting writers and publishers currently working in the UK.

Publisher and authors reading on the night will include:

  • And Other Stories, with Northern Book Prize winner Amy Arnold
  • Bluemoose Books
  • Comma Press, with Gaia Holmes
  • Dead Ink Books, with SJ Bradley
  • Peepal Tree Press
  • Tilted Axis Press, with Hamid Ismailov
  • Valley Press, with Nora Chassler

This event will serve as an opportunity to establish new contacts and to celebrate the new work being produced in the North of England. Please book your free ticket here.

Our students also have the opportunity to attend free masterclasses with NFA writers.

2.30-3.45pm: Workshop: Novelists SJ Bradley and Northern Book Award winner Amy Arnold on research and writing. Book your free ticket here

4-5.30: Workshop: Poet and novelist Nora Chassler and poet Gaia Holmes discuss place and writing. Book your free ticket here

Don’t miss this great opportunity to make connections with publishers and to hear from some exciting new writers!

Writing Surgery for Third Years! (with cake…)

We will be running a special writing surgery for third years on 14th February from 2:30 in the upstairs bar of the Student Union building. Refreshments will be provided.

This writing surgery will be an opportunity to bring pieces of your writing to discuss with a tutor and with each other. You can bring work you are developing for modules, your dissertation/creative writing project, writing competitions, or anything else you are working on. Feel free to bring more than one piece of writing.

We will also be briefly discussing postgraduate study and career planning. YA writer and RLF Fellow Zoe Marriott will talk to you about her writing career and about how you can get additional support with your writing as you develop your dissertations. Please confirm attendance at the Eventbrite link so we can order the right amount of catering (coffee and cakes). The bar will be open from 4:30-6 upstairs specifically for us.

Book your place (and cake) here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/writing-surgery-next-steps-for-you-and-your-creative-writing-tickets-42453528647?utm_term=eventurl_text

Writing workshop at the hostel.

Submit Writing and Cover Art to Beyond the Walls anthology 2018!

York St John University Creative Writing students on the 2nd year Publishing, Production and Performance module are seeking submissions of writing and art for Beyond the Walls, an anthology showcasing work by YSJ students.

Last year’s edition of Beyond the Walls

The anthology will be published and distributed internationally by Valley Press. Additionally, we will select five of the published writers to read from their work at the Beyond the Walls launch event on the 21st of March at The Basement at City Screen as part of York Literature Festival. Selected readers will share the stage with Valley Press authors Nora Chassler and Nigel Forde.

This is an outstanding platform to showcase your work.

We are looking for fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction on any subject or theme. You may submit work previously written for your modules.

We are also seeking visual art, photography or design images for the cover. Last year’s gorgeous Van Gogh-inspired cover was designed by BA (Hons) Design student Ellen Shaw.

Submission Guidelines:

Please provide a cover letter along with your submission identifying your name, programme and year.

1. max 1200 word count for prose

2. max 3 poems per submission

3. max 3 images submitted as JPEGS or with a link to portfolio

4. You may submit in more than one genre/form

Email work as attachments to beyondthewalls2018@outlook.com

The submission window opens on Friday, January 26 and closes at 11:59 pm on Friday, February 16.



York Literature Festival Events

York St John University supports and hosts a number of events as a partner of York Literature Festival. The festival promotes the arts in York, with an emphasis on literature, spoken word and poetry. They also feature music, comedy, cinema and theatre in the programme. This year the festival will run from Thursday 15 March 2018 until Monday 26 March 2018 across a number of venues in York. The York St John programme of events taking place at York St John University and York Theatre Royal are as follows:

Thursday 15 March – Launch of York Literature Festival and York Centre for Writing (with Fiona Mozley and YSJ Creative Writing Staff) 

For full details and to book tickets please visit the Theatre Royal page.


Tuesday 20 March – Poetry Workshop with Geraldine Monk and Nisha Ramayya

For full details and to book free tickets please visit the Eventbrite page.


Tuesday 20 March – Geraldine Monk and Nisha Ramayya

For full details and to book free tickets please visit the Eventbrite page.


Wednesday 21 March – Research, Writing & Revision: The Art of Paperback Writing with Jack Sheffield

For full details and to book free tickets please visit the Eventbrite page.


Wednesday 21 March – Beyond the Walls Anthology Launch and Student Showcase

For full details and to book free tickets please visit the Eventbrite page.


Thursday 22 March – Launch of the Pollination Project Anthology

For full details and to book free tickets please visit the Eventbrite page.


Friday 23 March – 200 Years of Frankenstein 1818-2018: Mary Shelley’s monstrous legacy, with Angela Wright

For full details and to book free tickets please visit the Eventbrite page.


Saturday 24 March – Writers and Artists One Day Creative Writing Conference

For full details and to book tickets please visit the Writers and Artists Website.