Higher Literary Seminar – Creative Writing at the University of Stockholm

5th September 2017, Stockholms Universitet

During a recent research trip to the University of Stockholm, Sweden, I was invited to deliver a talk and reading to the Masters in Creative Writing students in their Higher Literary Seminar. I discussed my PhD research, regarding the intersection of science and spirituality in poetry, or poetry as dialogue between these areas of thought and knowledge, but focused particularly on certain methods in poetry which are successful in doing so. Including a number of poems and poets from my research, as well as considering some of my own methods in my creative thesis, I hoped to provide an insight into how these students of the craft could do so in their own work. The room was full of wonderful, engaged, and thoughtful students, as well as a number of staff and faculty. They asked insightful and thought-provoking questions, and seemed to enjoy the afternoon as much as I did. Thank you once again to the University of Stockholm for the invitation and for hosting me so kindly during my research.

More to come on the research itself, in another post!

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Live Link Poetry Reading as part of the University of Canberra Poetry Festival

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If you are a poet or poetry fan in Australia near Bruce, head to the Poetry on the Move: Boundaries Crossings festival of poetry, in its third year. The festival is hosted by the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) based within the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research (CCCR), Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra.

This year’s Poets in Residence are the esteemed Vahni Capildeo and Glyn Maxwell.

I will be performing a poetry reading along with the wonderful Carrie Etter, on a Live Link broadcast at the festival closing out Wednesday, September 21st’s Poetry Symposium! 

More information can be found here, at their EventBrite page, and here, at their Facebook page. The full festival programme details are here.

Events are free but booking is limited.

Science & Poetry Writers Workshop: Finding the Locus of Meaning

science6I will be giving a workshop open to the public in Bristol in just a few weeks’ time, on Tuesday, 25th July 2017, from 1 pm- 5 pm. Booking will be available shortly via Bath Spa University–see details below.

Science & Poetry Writers Workshop: Finding the Locus of Meaning

Location: The Turing Room at Bristol Aquarium/At-Bristol, Anchor Rd, Bristol BS1 5TT.

Are you a poet who is inspired by or interested in science, but struggles with how to incorporate it into poetry? Do you follow scientific discoveries but don’t know how to begin writing a poem about them? Come to an afternoon workshop in Bristol with poet and PhD on the subject, Dr Miranda Barnes. You will be guided through several different approaches to incorporating scientific ideas, theories, and information into a poem, as well as methods of approaching formal experimentation based on a scientific idea.

The workshop will introduce successful examples of the “science poem” where awesome and fascinating concepts are brought into the context of human experience, where they can approach meaningfulness. Miranda will discuss her own research briefly in this context. Each poet-participant will have the opportunity to write their own poems and workshop their pieces with the group. There will be tea, coffee, and biscuits served at the break, and attendees will receive complimentary admission to At-Bristol on the day of the event!

Please bring a copy of an article about a recent science phenomenon you find interesting or meaningful to the workshop.

As there will be a writing portion of the workshop, it may suit you to bring a laptop or tablet to compose on.

Tickets:          FULL PRICE £5 | CONC £3 | BSU STUDENTS FREE

Places are limited to 25, so be sure to watch this space for booking!

Ticketing now available on Bath Spa Live here: Science & Poetry Workshop Event Tickets

About the Organiser:

Dr Miranda Barnes teaches Poetry and other genres at Bath Spa University, where she recently completed her PhD in Creative Writing, concerned with science, poetry, and spirituality. She is a poet originally from the US, now living in the UK. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Under the RadarThe Interpreter’s HouseLighthouse Journal, Confingo, NOON: a journal of the short poem, Blue Fifth Review, irisi magazine, and The Cresset. Miranda has presented on her research at the BRLSI in Bath, the NAWE Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, and has performed experimental work in collaboration with UK poet Jinny Fisher on The Southwest Poetry Tour put on by The Enemies Project in late 2016.

 

ALHAMBRA: FLAMENCO,POETRY, AND STORY FROM THE LAND OF LORCA

Alhambra - Lorca Poetry Flamenco (Small)

On Tuesday evening 11th July 2017, beginning at 7:30 p.m., I will be joining a host of wonderful poets and performers celebrating the work of Federico García Lorca at the Frome Festival (Frome, England, UK). The event is to be held at Trinity Hall and is sure to be an exciting evening. Each of us has written an interpretation, adaptation, or translation of a selected poem by Lorca, which will be read/performed alongside a flamenco band.

For more information about the event or to book a ticket, click here.

Fun Palaces: ‘We are Star Stuff: Embodying the Cosmos’

Brilliant Bodies!

Wills Memorial, Queens Rd, Bristol, Bristol, England, BS8 1RJ

Reception Room, located in the Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol, found at the top of Park Street.

1st October, 2016 – 10:00AM – 5:00PM (click to find out more)

It shapes our emotions. It connect us, and brings us into conflict. It determines the very limits of our lives, and deaths. The body is an essential part of who we all are, but how often do we stop to think about it? Our Fun Palace is run by local PhD students from the arts and sciences, excited to explore and share their cutting edge research on the body through playful activities, artworks and experiments. Come prepared to think, and, more importantly, to have fun!

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My session will look at imaginative ways of embodying the universe, from the science of how we contain ‘star stuff’ from the Big Bang to how our imaginative exploration of these ideas alters how we see ourselves as part of the Cosmos.

‘We are Star Stuff: Embodying the Cosmos’
1st October, 12.00 – 14.00

Carl Sagan famously said, “We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

But what does that mean, in terms of science? How on earth are we made of bits of space from so far away? What makes us the same stuff as a star? How do we know we are “star stuff”?

Perhaps even more significantly, what does is mean to us? How do we envision ourselves as part of the cosmos? What does it feel like to be made of stars? How do we feel a part of stars and planets and nebula? And how do we creatively embody these heavenly bodies?

Through some very fun and also informative activities, we’ll be talking about the basics of what “star stuff” is, in terms of science, and then we’ll take inspiration from what we’ve learned to “embody” different bits of the galaxy that we connect with, both through art and writing. We’ll even look at some poems and literary passages that play with the idea of embodying a star, a supernova, or the moon.

In small groups, using paints and paper, poster board and markers, and various other decorative elements (such as hair chalk and body glitter), we’ll create wearable items that help us embody the big, fiery, fun and beautiful bits of the universe. Members of the group will also work together to write a poem or short paragraph that describes what it is like to be a nebula, a star, as comet, or any other “body” they like. We’ll show & tell our star stuff!

The hope is that this will encourage the general public to engage more with astronomy and cosmic science as well as have great fun using creative outputs to reimagine themselves as embodying part of the larger cosmos.

Learn more about Fun Palaces here.

Find out more about the day’s activities here! 

The SouthWest Poetry Tour – The Enemies Project

I’ll be performing in collaboration with UK poet Jinny Fisher alongside an excellent selection of other amazing poets for the Bath date of the SouthWest Poetry Tour. 6th August 2016, 7 pm doors/7:30 pm start. Entrance free. It’s a Saturday night — come on out and make it a memorable evening!!

In our collaboration we’re exploring themes of identity and gender as well as science and cosmology. It’s great fun and we’re looking forward to performing. I’m also looking forward to being in the audience, as the lineup looks stunning.

And a big thank you to The Enemies Project for inviting me to perform!

Appearing 6th August:

Camilla Nelson & SJ Fowler
JR Carpenter & Annabel Banks
John Hall & Matti Spence
Matthew Robertson & Andres Anwandter
Carrie Etter & Claire Crowther
Fay Stevens & Alyson Hallett
Miranda Barnes & Jinny Fisher
Siegfried Baber & Isabel Galleymore
Tom Cook & Bart Breathnach
Lucy English & Paul Hawkins
Beverley Ferguson & Roz Mascall

Speaking of Research: My talk at BRLSI 24 May 2016

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If you are in the UK, and happen to be in or near Bath in May, please consider yourself invited to my speaking engagement at the BRLSI on 24 May 2016. The event begins at 7:30 p.m., and I will be discussing my PhD research that I have been working on for the last several years at Bath Spa University. I’m excited to share with all of you what I feel is an important intersection in the written word of poetry–that of science and the spiritual coming together to converse.

The Mishandling of Fragile Things Can Lead to Breaking Them: Thoughts on Teaching

I’ve recently been thinking a fair amount about the issues facing teaching colleagues in the United States (back home for me, essentially) surrounding possibilities of ‘Campus Carry’ laws meaning students could bring guns to the classroom. I have a lot of fairly intense feelings about that subject, none of which are very positive, but that’s not really where I wanted to take my thoughts on this particular occasion.

What really was lingering with me was the UH faculty slideshow suggesting that faculty be very “careful when discussing sensitive topics” or outright avoid them altogether. In Higher Education, especially in some areas even more than others, part of the nature of engaging the world we live in is direct address of sensitive topics. Higher learning is full engagement, and I don’t think that can be avoided without cost. Certainly it makes sense to think being cautious will help to avoid violence if guns could be present, but as with many things, the impulse to violence will be present regardless.

And I suppose on a much smaller scale is the desire to avoid causing offence. Sensitive subjects require openness, diplomacy, sensitivity and real discussion, which all can be quite difficult in the classroom. There must be sufficient openness to facilitate meaningful discussion, yet how far does one step in if something said needs clarifying, or might be offensive to others who are present?

I’m afraid I feel that I mishandled a situation of this sort recently, and I keep considering how I might have done better. In a class workshop on several pieces of writing by the students, there was discussion of one point in a student piece that addressed the dress codes for women entering a certain country in another part of the world, with which this student was familiar. Another student commented on how this passage needed to be clearer, in terms of the reasons why women should only dress in modest clothing that covered most of their bodies.

The student who said this seemed to say that providing statistics on sort of violence or attacks that women who don’t follow these rules would be helpful reasoning, as women aren’t attacked for wearing revealing clothes, “not here, not in Britain.”

My response was, “I wouldn’t necessarily say that.” What I had meant to object to was the notion that dress was the primary cause for violence in that part of the world, in contrast to that not being the case here. I felt that was not entirely fair or accurate to the culture being discussed, and though I never got to that point, had wanted to propose other possibly reasons for modest dress, such as culture or religious influences.

It certainly was not to imply victim-blaming or enforce the notion that women “ask for it,” as I am so far in opposition of that mentality that one could not even measure the distance in parsecs. The fault of any violence, sexual or otherwise, lies with the the attacker only.

But the comment, I realise, could be taken a number of ways. The student responded that statistics show very few attacks of sexual violence are linked to dress, and the violence will happen anyway. I agreed with this and tried to steer the discussion back towards the writing quality of the piece itself, as that’s what writing workshop should focus on. But I don’t believe that my original intention ever became clear in my rush to refocus workshop time. My worry was, too, that the original author of the piece was going to be hurt by the discussion’s possible implications on the culture discussed, without being able to defend the piece (as students being workshopped are usually to remain silent until the others have given feedback).

It is important, I believe, to have these discussions and have them openly and honestly, yet there’s a need to balance the class time for the purposes of the course. At the same time, I genuinely wish I’d had my bearings more during this situation, and was better able to clarify my response.

How have you found it difficult to navigate sensitive topics in your own classrooms? Are you currently in the US, considering the impact of possible campus carry? What positive methods have you found to encourage open discussion where possible? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Coming soon…personal writing advice & coaching.

Miranda Barnes has worked in writing tutorship and taught writing or related subjects for nine years, currently working in higher education teaching first and second year Creative Writing students in poetry and other genres. She has worked independently to provide writing advice and editorial services in the past, providing individualised support and guidance particular to the goals and voices of each individual. Watch this space for openings in the future for one-to-one personalised advice at a reasonable per-hour, per-term, or per-project rate.

Testimonials

 “At a young, impressionable age, Miranda was my muse, my mentor, and a major influence on what I put on paper. Many days, my words and thoughts drifted into her corner of the world as troubled tumbleweeds and bad static. I was easily distracted and unsettled by my surroundings. But with clarity and grace, she picked up my frequencies and ultimately transformed them into something better. She is a huge talent. Words roll off her silver tongue effortlessly, and anyone is wiser to have heeded her advice. There are many days when writing fills a void in me I didn’t know was possible, and I owe her a great debt of gratitude for it.” – Ben Aldis