Moving the (rugby) posts

Apologies for the long absence – it’s been a year of change so far, adapting to life post university. But I’m starting to get back on my game with writing, and discovering new interests. Having focused on poetry over the last few years, I’m enjoying diversifying my reading at the moment, especially in non-fiction. I’m writing for myself, and although I don’t have the *encouragement* of grades and deadlines, it’s great to be able to pick up and put down projects, and try out new ideas.

Having lived in Northampton for around a year now, I’ve been trying to make it feel like home. Driving lessons are a surprisingly good way to get a feel for a place. I now know that Duston is pronounced Dusson, that the area around the rugby ground is Jimmy’s End (for St James, the patron saint of the local parish church), and that the only place I can afford to eat in town on a lower-end salary is Greggs. I’ve been exploring beautiful old churches (St Sepulchre’s), been converted to Gilbert and Sullivan by the talented Northampton Gilbert and Sullivan Group, and met and talked to so many wonderful, and kind people. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months waiting for buses in the town centre, and I noticed that if someone falls over, people here will have picked them up and bought them a cup of tea in the space of time it takes most people to say ‘Oh dear!’. Sometimes Northampton feels a little unloved, but not by the people who live here.

And so I was delighted to discover the The NeneQuirer, a local magazine which is driven by the same love and excitement for everything Northampton has to offer. It’s informative, intelligent and slightly sarcastic (but with a deep reverence for the things that matter, such as in their article on the great Tim Piggott-Smith’s death whilst performing in the town).

The NeneQuirer have also been kind enough to publish my article on the Saint’s Academy side, the Northampton Wanderers, and their cup game against Gloucester United, which you can find here. Being a Northampton Saints supporter has made me feel at home here more than I ever imagined was possible, and wherever I go next, I’ll take my love for the Saints and Northampton with me.

In other news, I’m really enjoying editing at the moment, and am looking or more opportunities to edit or proofread. If you’re looking for some freelance editing work, including poetry editing, academic proofreading, and blog/online content editing, I would love to hear from you. My contact details can be found here, or you can contact me on twitter @joanna_hollins . I’ll hopefully have some links up to editing work in the future, so watch this space!

Poetry on

and my first post, officially, as Joanna Hollins MA. I’m so proud to be a graduate of the Literature, Drama and Creative Writing department at UEA, twice over, and will miss Norwich and the university tremendously.

LDC run a website for UEA student and graduate writing, #NewWriting, and this week they have been featuring pieces by this year’s graduates. If you visit the site, do browse – it’s full of vibrant and exciting goodness. I’m grateful that they have published three of my poems, written around the beginning of this year.

[…] and I’m dreaming of the shrivelled thing
in Room A, of crayon Pharaoh heads,
my brain hooked out of my nose and sealed

in a jar and the lid shutting on my arms
and the musty breath of the Pharaoh
in the sarcophagus with me – and after […]

        […] Guards shooting at bombs
and landlords stuffing letters
aggressively through their doors […]

[…] my ballet teacher
tilts back my chin […]


Thank you so much for reading, and thank you everyone who has been so supportive of my writing over the last year, especially my workshop group, my ever patient housemates, ‘the hoover’ (you know who you are), and my family, who suffered many one-sided conversations on 21st century religious poetry, my feelings about Wordsworth, and exactly how I think libraries should be laid out. You made this possible.

MA Creative Writing: term two

It seems I have done half of a degree since I last posted here -apologies to the various friends who have asked me if I was ever going to update my blog again! I’ve been hesitant to post poetry because most of my writing this year – *good writing that is – has been for assessments, and I wasn’t sure if TurnItIn (?) would allow work that had already been on the internet. (Not a feeble excuse. Nope.)

I hope to have a few more things to post here over the next few months, especially as I’m making a half-hearted attempt at NaPoWriMo (I’m counting editing as valid for 1 day’s work). Over the next few weeks, I will be reading poetry at two events in Norwich, which any local readers are cordially invited to attend. Tomorrow you will be able to find me at Café Writers, supporting the winners of their 2014 Pamphlet Competition, Jay Bernard and Jonathan Morley. I’m very excited (and not a little nervous) about this, and hearing excerpts from Jay and Jonathan’s work! This opportunity has come to me as a result of the Ink, Sweat and Tears Scholarship, and I am very grateful for the support and friendship of Kate Birch, who endows the IS&T scholarship. The second event I will be reading at is the launch night of the UEA Poetics festival, which is traditionally planned, run and performed at by the MA cohort. The reading is called Between Us, and will be at 7pm on the 22nd of April at the Moosey Art Gallery in Norwich. I’m very proud to be reading alongside so many talented poets. Turn up early, grab seats, and in five years you can claim to have heard them before they became famous. 

As this is, hypothetically, my online portfolio, I’ll close this with a poem I wrote for last term’s workshop.


Pool Dreams

At first, I was a timid chick
in the water. I swam determined

up-lane, rested: hatchlings
tire quick, they have soft down.

But soft was no good
with watching eyes. So I changed

became an eel, all shape
and sinew, and for a while

anger cut swathes in the water,
and I was fast and sleek.

But there was too much thought
in being an eel, so I began

to dream of being a woman,
and woman I looped bare arms

along the lane markers, and their tension
cut. And I could not do it.

So last I became a sea turtle.
Let my hands drop in the water and fuse

into trapezoid flippers,
my head dip in the stroke,

and the carapace close
round my head and back.

Full changed, though I kept
it quiet, barely above surface, and

so powerful. It tore into my gut
to heave myself out, and revolve back

into my own skin, which had started
to forget itself.

Update – MA Poetry & ‘Undergrowth’

Hello! My apologies for not updating this blog more often. Until May I was busy finishing my degree, and I’m now enjoying  the break – possibly the last long summer holiday I’ll have for a while…

In a previous blog I believe I hinted that I was planning to stay on at university for a Masters degree. I made my final decision about where I was going a couple of weeks ago, and after receiving my degree results yesterday, I can confirm that I will be staying on at UEA to study on the MA Creative Writing, poetry strand. I am delighted, excited and a wee bit nervous (but mostly the first two). In a fortnight’s time I’ll be graduating alongside my friends in Congregation Hall. The entire experience of studying creative writing at UEA has been incredible – the creative atmosphere, the academic challenges, and the tight-knit community of writers and readers here make it something very special, and it’s a joy to be staying. Hopefully I’ll trick them into letting me stay forever, but for now, one year more is enough to be thinking about!

Self-criticism has somewhat got the better of me this year. With growing awareness of ‘good writing’ comes a growing awareness of the inadequacy of one’s own work, hence I’ve not submitted anything to zines or elsewhere for quite a long time. However, I am in this year’s UEA undergraduate anthology, Undergrowth, with one poem and a small role in selecting the poetry (not my own, I hasten to add. We had two reading groups!).The overall result is gorgeous – the editors did a great job and the writing inside is varied, funny, thought-provoking and intriguing. Do take a look!

Next time, I’ll attempt to post some actual poetry…