time to leave earth? reflections on the launch of ‘terra 2’

By Zoe Buckton

If you’ve met Liesl King you’ll know she has a very soothing voice, so when she tells a room full of people that we need to evacuate the earth, the result is surprisingly calm acceptance. Terra 2 aims to conserve earth’s culture, curating science fiction inspired works of writing, artwork, music and film to create something akin to the Voyager Golden Record we sent into space back in 1977, but with a little more artistic flare and a little less Chuck Berry.

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leave earth behind at the official launch of terra two

It is a great time to be a fan of Science Fiction. We’re weeks away from the release of a new Blade Runner movie, Channel 4 are about to debut ‘Electric Dreams’ (a new anthology show adapting the short stories of Philip K. Dick), a brand new iteration of Star Trek is about to drop on Netflix and, of course, next week will see the official launch of York St John University’s very own SF project: ‘Terra Two: An Arc(hive) for Off-World Survival.’ 

The project officially launches on Friday 29 September in Quad South Hall from 6:00 – 7:30 pm.

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student opportunity: join a live reading of the play volpone

Adam Smith is looking for performers to help him stage an informal dramatic reading of Ben Jonson’s 1606 play, Volpone, which is to be studied by first year students this semester.


“This bawdy, provocative and frankly vicious play follows the Machiavellian Volpone and his parasitic side-kick Mosca as they con and connive their way through renaissance Venice. Filled with razor sharp wit and cutting insults, Jonson’s play is and exciting, darkly comic and haunting tale, which I hope you might consider helping me bring to life in Week 5.

Continue reading “student opportunity: join a live reading of the play volpone”

Lunch Poems: York LGBT History Month

by Amy McCarthy and Rachel Louise Atkin

To celebrate LGBT History Month, a group of poetry enthusiasts gathered together in the Eagle and Child to discuss Frank O’Hara’s ‘Lunch Poems’ alongside other legendary LGBT writers – appropriately over lunch. We leave the streets of York to go to the bustling streets of Manhattan. As O’Hara composed his poetry during his lunch hours, the group bounced off each other’s analyses.

Frank O’Hara’s ‘Song’, a poem about people watching ‘where the tough Rocky’s eaves hit the sea’, seemed particularly relevant to us as we were able gaze out and watch the people bustling about in the city below us. This is a poem about movement, evident in its use of enjambment as though the words move too fast for the lines to catch up. The objects around O’Hara take on human forms – books have ‘trousers and sleeves’ and trains ‘run and shout’. New York becomes a people city, and specifically a fast one, where even inanimate objects absorb the speed and activity of those around it. It seemed appropriate to be reading such a poem, and hearing the clinking of glasses and footsteps from the rest of the pub.

‘Ave Maria’ has many layers to it as a poem about sexuality. The overarching theme is censorship of sex. O’Hara argues the youth of America should be allowed to go to the cinema and experience storylines besides their own narrative and therefore understand their sexuality. Yet, the mothers of America would also have the time to engage with their sexuality. The poem says ‘they may even be grateful to you / for their first sexual experience / which only cost you a quarter’; sexual encounters are an exchange and the cinema becomes a place of pleasure. With gay bars being regularly raided and patrons harassed by police, (which led to the Stonewall Riots of 1969), the cinema was a queer space to occupy and to safely meet other people.

Throughout the poem, tension between pleasure and the drama of encounter is explored

Cheryl Clarke’s ‘living as a lesbian on 49’s final eve’ explores sexuality later in life – in comparison to the other poets discussed this lunch time. Clarke explores the nature of desire and whether sex is patriarchal and an experience of power. Throughout the poem, tension between pleasure and the drama of encounter is explored as the narrator writes: ‘Tear off my clothes in the middle of the road’. It is a transitional poem as the narrator first says she shouldn’t be happy to be chosen by a woman just because she is an older woman, but then the poem shifts to acceptance of love.

The group moved on to discuss ‘Many Loves’ by Allen Ginsberg and its explicit content. ‘Many Loves’ contrasts the hyper-masculine figure of Neal Cassady with the delicate body of Allen Ginsberg. Written early in Ginsberg’s career, it is subversive even now as early sexual awakenings are unearthed. Ginsberg allows his masculinity to fade from the picture. Walt Whitman’s epigraph chosen for the poem: ‘Resolved to sing no songs henceforth but those of manly attachment’, is from the Calamus poems from Leaves of Grass – which explores homosexual love. As Whitman was revolutionary in the nineteenth-century, Ginsberg takes on the batten in the twentieth-century to normalise non-heterosexual sex.

When we reached the poem ‘I want a president’ by Zoe Leonard, we thought it had been written yesterday. It was, in fact, published in 1992, but the phrase ‘I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils’ seemed more relevant now than ever. In a space where we could discuss queer poetry with confidence, we examined the way Leonard used words such as ‘dyke’ and ‘fag’ as a method of empowerment rather than demonization. Although some argued that there was an attempt to normalize these words, Leonard relies on the obscenities to create a contrast. She wants ‘to know why this isn’t possible’, and the language in this poem is an attempt to place these two spheres together.

After the food and poetry was over, the group dispersed onto the busy streets of York, perhaps with just a little more to say on the queer history of 20th century poetry.

For more information on the York LGBT History Month events, follow this link: http://yorklgbthistory.org.uk/


Opportunities in Creative Writing and English Literature at YSJ

The English Literature and Creative Writing departments offer more than you may realise. There are secret perks hidden in the nooks and crannies of the offices – including a bookshelf full of freebies!  There are places you can get your work published you might not of thought of, so in this blog post I aim to enlighten and surprise – have a read to find out what’s available to you!

Point Zero – A blog that this may appear on. Run by Tutor Adam Stock, the English Lit blog is a space for students to blog about their interests. You’ll find most of my posts revolve around sex with robots. Nothing is off-limits! http://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/englishlit/

Contact: a.stock@yorksj.ac.uk

Extra Lectures – Interested in a lecture but you’re not in the module? Email a tutor! Most tutors are more than happy to let you sit in on a lecture!

LGBT history month – LGBT History Month offers tonnes of events, 50 during February this year – to be exact, and a lot of them revolve around reading. From reading groups to pub poetry readings, don’t be afraid to tag along and talk gay writing! https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/events-calendar/events/lgbt-history-month-/

The Literary Festival – York holds an amazing Literary Festival. Including the likes of Sue Perkins and Mark Gatiss, the upcoming Literary festival has a whole host of events enabling networking, learning and open mic readings. https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/events-calendar/events/festivals/event-title-28032-en.html?timestamp=1490783160&ref=ecal&

Beyond The Walls – If you came to an open days, you may well have been handed a copy of the Beyond The Walls anthology. Run by students for students, the anthology is taking submissions until the 25th of February. Entry is free! https://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheWalls2017/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Student Showcase – An opportunity for students to give readings of their work to a wider, public audience! Currently taking submissions until the 28th of February, entry is free. https://www.facebook.com/YSJshowcase17/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Writing Workshops – Although not specifically for English Lit and Creative Writing students, keep an eye out around Holgate for leaflets on extra-curricular seminars on essential academic writing skills! An upcoming timetable of which can be found here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/media/content-assets/student-services/documents/Workshops-16-17-sem-2-programme-v2.pdf

Black History Month – Black History Month is developed mainly by the English Literature team. Frequently involving projects developed by students, and visiting authors, the month is inspiring and enriching – don’t miss it this October!

Writer in Residence – Royal Literary Fellow Mark Illis has been writing novels, short stories, TV and Radio dramas for around 30 years. He’s done it all, and can help you with developing your writing. If you head to a meeting, you’ll get 45 minutes of literary goodness. Check it out here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/student-services/learning-support/study-development/writer-in-residence/

Programme Representatives – Your elected Programme Reps are there to help – I’m one of them! Currently working with the SU to provide a book selling system in university, we are willing to voice any opinions you have about your course – let us know what you’d like to see, and stand for rep if you’d  love to help with feedback collection and course development.

The University Website – The university website hosts a tonne of resources. Indexed here are the key writing materials: https://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheWalls2017/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

And more! – Check your emails frequently and flag up opportunities as they roll in. Thanks to the email system here at YSJ, I’m currently involved in a scriptwriting project for a suicide prevention short and will soon be heading on a trip to London to learn about literature and bees! There really is no limit to what you can achieve when you embrace the huge volume of opportunities to hand. If you want something, don’t be afraid to enquire with careers services or your tutors!

Lit events for York LGBT History month

York LGBT History Month 2017 runs from 31 January to 28 February, and is packed full of great events. With support from the School of Humanities, Philosophy and Theology, and the YorkYSJ Staff  LGBT Network, we’re running two events:

6 February, Eagle and Child Pub, 12.30pm

Dr Adam Stock (lecturer in English Literature) and Dr Kimberly Campanello (lecturer in Creative Writing) are hosting “Lunch Poems”.

Taking its name from gay New York poet Frank O’Hara’s celebrated collection ‘Lunch Poems’ (1964), Kimberly and Adam will host a lunch time discussion and reading group of poetry on LGBT themes, over lunch. Poems will be circulated in advance to ticket holders, but you do not need any previous experience or knowledge of poetry to take part in the discussion. Tickets are free, but do NOT include food.

Please register here to receive the poetry pack and menu in advance of the event.

13 February, Fountains Lecture Theatre, 6pm.

Kimberly and Adam host a film screening:

Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger

Trailer – “Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger” from sam feder on Vimeo.


Meet Auntie Kate.

Trailblazing performance artist-theorist-activist Kate Bornstein takes us on a mind-bending quest through her world dismantling gender and seeking answers to the age-old question: What makes life worth living?

An award-winning documentary by director Sam Feder

 Click here to register for free tickets

Free refreshments for all ticket holders!


Review: Margaret Atwood at York Theatre Royal, 11 October

By Fiona Stewart

MA in Contemporary Literature student

I was delighted to see Margaret Atwood in conversation with Dr Liesl King at the York Theatre Royal. When asked about preparation for her novel Hag-Seed (2016), Atwood spoke about her research on Shakespeare and The Tempest, and how she enjoyed watching DVDs of the performance, in particular, Julie Taymore’s film with Helen Mirren as Prospera. Hag-Seed is an inventive re-telling of The Tempest which revisits the theme of revenge. The Prospero figure is the character Felix Phillips who is usurped by his cunning assistant, Tony. Whilst contemplating his revenge, Felix decides to teach drama in a local prison where he directs the inmates through Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Richard III and Macbeth. Felix later decides to stage The Tempest which will draw Tony to meet his match.

King and Atwood

Atwood spoke about the high value she places on the teaching of literature and drama in prisons, and from her research she was inspired by inmates’ enthusiasm for acting. One inmate, on release from prison, had been so enthralled by the experience of acting that he trained to teach Shakespeare in prisons. When asked about the many genres in which she writes, Atwood said that while she was at college in Canada, nobody said that you could not write in a particular way, and as a result, she has enjoyed a long career of writing novels, plays, poetry and critical essays.


A member of the audience asked why Canada has so many great women authors and Atwood responded by highlighting acclaimed author Gwethalyn Graham, who wrote Earth and High Heaven (1944), while also acknowledging renowned Canadian male authors. She additionally discussed the importance of indigenous figures as role models for women across Canadian culture.


Finally, Atwood spoke about our planet and acknowledged British nature writers, in particular, Richard Mabey. She emphasised that 40-60% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans which are now heavily polluted by industrial practices across the globe. A reduction in oxygen will impair all forms of life on earth. I thank Atwood for her contribution to the environmental debate and her relentless hard work in alerting people to our endangered earth.

I-shmael a good deal, shipmates!

YSJ students can catch a bargain for the two weeks, with tickets for the Theatre Mill production of Moby Dick currently playing at Guildhall for just £10. All you need to do is sail along to the venue with your student card in hand, and quote the words SHIP’S RUNNER on the door.

You’ll have a whale of a time: just try not to blubber during the sad bits 🙂

A Question of Conscience: York Big City Read 2016 Lecture

By Nicoletta Peddis



Dr Alexandra Medcalfe, “Archives and Memory: Conscientious Objection in York during World War One”. York Explore Library, 18 October 2016

This year’s York Big City Read is Pat Barker’s best seller Regeneration. 2016 is an important year in terms of the centenary of the First World War and Regeneration has been chosen as a book that explores the impact of war on ordinary people’s lives.

On Tuesday 18 October, Dr. Alexandra Medcalfe from the Borthwick Institute gave a fascinating lecture at York Explore Library. Dr Alexandra Medcalfe specializes in history of York during the 19th century with a focus on history of mental health. On Tuesday, her lecture used a variety of yellowed archival sources to guide the audience through a discussion of conscientious objection during WWI.

The documents examined showed how in York, a military city with a strong religious identity and a politically active community, a wide debate on conscientious objection was raised as soon as war was declared against Germany. Many of the documents examined related to the figure of Arnold Rowntree, who as a Quaker and Liberal MP for the city championed the cause of the city’s conscientious objectors, young men who refused to take up arms. Dr Medcalfe also introduced newspapers articles and letters to newspapers to demonstrate how the issue of conscientious objection aroused strong and contrasting feelings across the city. One newspaper article from the Yorkshire Herald refers to a Quaker meeting as a hotbed of ‘shirkers and slackers’.

Conscientious objectorsPicture: a CO rally during WWI



The criticism on newspaper also targeted Mr Rowntree accusing him of not representing his constituency and of being anti-patriotic. As with many other objectors, Arnold Rowntree simply believed that fighting was wrong. He suggested ideas that could provide opportunities for unarmed service because although they did not want to fight, many were willing to do something to show their support. So the Government set up the Non-Combatant Corps to accommodate those whose consciences forbade them from bearing arms, and Arnold was instrumental in forming the Friends Ambulance Unit, a volunteer group to ferry casualties from the front line.


FA Unit Western FrontPicture: a Friends Ambulance Unit in action on the Western Front.

The lecture was interesting, and especially lively in discussing contemporary feelings about conscientious objection. For the young men who objected during World War One the experience was difficult and traumatic and, while today conscientious objection is often viewed with more understanding and sympathy, public opinion remains divided. Recruitment techniques and nationalist narratives like those adopted in 1914 are still at use today.

York Big City Read events will take place during all October and November and a full list of upcoming events can be found here: https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/introducing-the-big-city-read-programme/. For anyone who is interested in finding out more about conscientious objection in York, on 5 December Clements Hall History Group will host a workshop exploring the impact of WWI conscription at Priory Street Centre in York. More information is available on their website: www.clementshallhistorygroup.wordpress.com.

White Whale Spotted in York: Theatre Mill Production of Moby Dick

This Autumn Theatre Mill return to York, following their summer 2015 courtroom staging of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. This time the company are tackling a true Leviathan of a text: Herman Melville’s masterful mid nineteenth-century epic Moby Dick. The maritime novel is being brought to life in a new production from the 19 Oct – 3 Nov 2016 at the historic York Guildhall.


Theatre Mill promise a voyage to the South Seas that begins “in a local fishing inn, an in-the-round interactive theatre set where a group of old fisherman meet. Featuring spectacular live music and songs of the sea this promises to be a bold, exhilarating sea-faring adventure like no other.”


Ahoy mates! There she blows!


Say Owt! Slam #11

By Jessica Osborne



At its first event two years ago York’s very own Say Owt Slam had to turn away over forty people after unexpectedly selling out. Last Saturday people were still scrambling for tickets at the last minute only to be disappointed.


Run by local poets Henry Raby and Stu Freestone who described the slam as “an embracing of the [poetry] scene” the slams held at the Basement seem to always be filled with enthusiastic poetry fans. The slam’s hosts go out of their way to advertise other poetry events around York such as open mics or readings and also set up workshops with their guest poets for those hoping to get inspired, all in an effort to embrace the scene.

say owt slam

Each slam brings old hands and new comers alike to the stage, allowing all writers the perfect platform for building confidence in their writing and even just making their writing known. The most recent slam was no exception to the rule; the room was jam packed with bodies cheering and clicking along to the rhythmic beats of the local poets, booing the harsher judges, and ultimately celebrating spoken word.


In recent years we’ve seen poetry sales falling, with sales of the novel rising. With some publishers (such as Salt) dropping single authored collections, why do poetry slams and readings seem to flourish? Has poetry really been usurped by the novel? Or has it simply moved from page to stage, bringing with it a new generation of poetry fans?


Tickets for Saw Owt Slam #12 (12th Nov) can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1302007043182788/ (Facebook Event for Say Owt Slam #12) Be sure to book early before they sell out!

Say Owt! Poetry Slam

By Jessica Osborne


This weekend sees the return to York of the popular Say Owt Slam #11, featuring Scott Tyrell and hosted by local poet Henry Raby.


Shure mikrofon 55S


Poets will have three minutes to win the votes of judges in the audience. With two rounds of performed poetry it’s sure to be an electric and exciting evening for new comers and returning fans alike.

The slam will take place at The Basement at City Screen on Coney Street.

Be sure to pre-book tickets for only £7 from the link below!

http://www.thebasementyork.co.uk/say-owt-slam-11 (Tickets link)


https://www.facebook.com/events/600806336757534/ (Facebook event link)

Women’s history in York map launch: Saturday 5 March


Map Launching Event - advert materials


Saturday 5 March 2016


York St John | Arts Foyer, Quad South


Come along to York St John University to hear about the creation of a new York map that charts the history of the city in terms of women’s achievements. Famous figures such as Margaret Clitherow, Mary Ward, Grace White, Elizabeth Inchbald and the Brontë sisters all claim some connection with York. Learn more about these brilliant women, and hear about the development of the project before setting off on your own self-guided tour of York.

To book your free ticket:

This event is organised by Dr Elodie Duché, Dr Anne-Marie Evans, and Dr Kaley Kramer