Poetry on NewWriting.net

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.

To The Estate of W.H. Auden: Please don’t sue me

There are two months between me and the start of my Master’s degree in poetry, and one year between me and the Great Post Master’s Degree Lull where I will either be brimming with shiny ideas and applying for PhD’s, or more likely, sitting in my parent’s house, browsing the internet for something to do which will combine earning money and avoiding telephones. I’m hoping for the former and preparing for the latter.

But before then there’s the Master’s. So I have to a) start writing more poetry and b) start trying to get it published, because only poets with pre-existing reputations sell or get invited to do anything, and currently my entire reputation is ‘goes to UEA’. I’m pretty damn proud of that, but on it’s own, it’s like trying to get a job by announcing that your mother/father is in the House of Lords. (Unfortunately not true. Oh, this would be a different blog if it were.)

I tried preparing some poems for submission earlier, but chickened out. I refuse to submit anything older than six months because I feel like I’m nicking someone else’s writing when I do (‘What were you thinking when you wrote this?’ ‘No idea’) and in all honestly, the best stuff I’ve written this academic year were the poems for my dissertation last Autumn, with the exception of a sequence I’m still working on. (Meaning: started and haven’t finished.)

However, as self-punishment for failing to submit to any journals, I have to publish something here. This is a draft from earlier, and like pretty much everything that I put on my blog, I’ll probably take down and repost with a revised version in six months’ time. One of my problems is that the stuff I tend to write – or at least, the better stuff – is intensely personal ,whhich makes it hard to submit to magazines.

I’ll give you some explanation on this, even though it is deeply frowned upon in Serious Poetry Reading Circles. This poem uses elements of Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts, not because I think I’m worthy so much as to kiss his carpet slippers (n.b, pamphlet title? ‘Auden’s Shoes’?) but because some lines from it popped into my head when I started writing and I wanted to see what would happen if I tried bouncing off them. The rough point of the original poem is that no-one notices Icarus falling; as I got towards the end, I realised it was a way of coming to terms with the subject matter of the poem, i.e., my fatness: declaring that it didn’t really matter and getting on with Everything Else. Thanks, Auden, although I think this poem might weird you out a little bit.

Anyway. Poem.

In Which I Address The Anonymous Speaker Who Feels The Need To Make An Anonymous Comment Concerning Themselves About Someone Else’s Weight

About being fat, they where never wrong,
the Old Masters: how its rolls and bumps
would touch awkwardly when you walk, or
rub gently in the soft confines of a good skirt;

how strangers would flick their eyes over you twice,
or not at all, and either look
would be a little disaster – how even just walking
up the stairs, as other people do,
would play the lungs like organs. Or how

in the mornings, the tired naked stumble
would end in arrest at the mirror: those thighs,
you think, that stomach. On the scales
the little obnoxious numbers declare

it’s two stone more, even tried after
new batteries have been dug out and the dusty back
cracked open and swapped. No good, still fat.

And so there’s this poem. Pissing on Auden,
whose elderly cousin once wished me well
at church. Uneven stanzas like curves.
So: I’ll drop this poem into the water,

with Icarus’s skinny legs: I’m fat, no disaster,
this ship has somewhere else to be and is definitely sailing on.

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…