Review of the TLW Creative Writing Showcase by Maria Sledmere

Hi all!

tlw-showcase-jpeg

We hope that you are enjoying this holiday break! Today, we are pleased to present you with another review of one of our events! This time, Maria Sledmere (whose poems you can find on the blog here and here) reviewed our Creative Writing Showcase with the Scottish Writers’ Centre for U.S. Studies Online.

Here’s a short excerpt:

The Transatlantic Literary Women Series is fast proving itself a popular network, with academics, creatives and locals alike getting involved in discovering the literary lives and works of transatlantic women. (…) A key strength of the series is its attention to both creative and critical responses to transatlantic interests.

You can read Maria’s review in its entirety here. Happy reading!

Marine.

International Women’s March Fortnight: 21st March, ‘Liberty’ by Kathryn Metcalfe

Today is World Poetry Day, and the day our International Women’s March Fortnight comes to its end. Accordingly, we would like to conclude our series with a second poem by Kathryn Metcalfe, ‘Liberty’, which draws on her family’s transatlantic history of migration.

By publishing a poem a day for this March fortnight, our goal was to give local women writers a platform for sharing their writing, and bringing them to your attention. We hope that you’ve enjoyed them.

Finally, we would live to thank the Scottish Writers’ Centre for their contribution to this series and for hosting the Creative Writing Showcase. Last but not least, thanks to Kathryn Meltcalfe, Mairi Murphy, Louise Turner, Sandra Whitnell, Alex Hackett, Angie Spoto, Carly Brown, Maria Sledmere, and Carolyn Jess-Cooke for their wonderful texts!

New York;

a mere stride away

across the water.

20th & 21st March Kathryn Metcalfe by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers' Centre
Kahtryn Meltcafe by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

‘Liberty’ by Kathryn Metcalfe

She stands

arm raised aloft,

a concerned mother

ushering the ships

into the bay.

Holding the sky to ransom.

 

New York;

a mere stride away

across the water.

 

That statue;

you will dream of

That statue.

in the fresh bedroom

of a brownstone

apartment,

huddling beneath

a patched home made

quilt, muffling

those stern footsteps,

tramping along streets.

Gimlet eyes piercing

wall and plaster.

 

As daylight dapples

through the windows

you appease her.

Draped in bedsheets,

a cardboard halo

jammed over copper hair

while your brother skims

paper boats across the

dark wooden floor.

 

Growing bolder, you stay

awake each night.

Cheek resting on the sill

listening to the motor

horns in the distance,

lulled by the chorus of

voices drifting

up from the side walk,

realising the sleepless city warded

off the curious stone goddess,

you sleep.

 

 

 

 

Years later you will raise

an arm, strong and slim

waving acknowledgment,

on a ship returning to

Scotland;

Not intended to be goodbye

 

Ships sailing back to America

will never take you.

Marooned, motherless, your

father invalided,

You learn to shorten your steps

along toy town streets.

Make do with a jam factory

job and everything shutting

at tea time.

 

Where the statues of Men

stand, content in their

Victorian Philanthropy,

contented in the rain.

 


Kathryn Metcalfe has been published in anthologies and magazines, she is one of the ‘Mill Girl Poets’ whose show ‘Mill Girls’ On Tour’ about the lives and history of the female workers in the Paisley Thread Mills told through poetry, spoken word and song has featured in the West End Festival and lately at the Edinburgh Fringe. She set up, runs and hosts a monthly Open Mic for poets and spoken word artists and musicians in a Paisley coffee shop.

 

International Women’s March Fortnight: 20th March, ‘Three Letters and an Ocean’ by Kathryn Metcalfe

We close our International Women’s March Fortnight with two poems by Kathryn Metcalfe. In today’s piece, ‘Three Letters and an Ocean’, Kathryn Meltcalfe shares a story from her family’s past with us… A truly transatlantic poem, ‘Three Letters and an Ocean’ portrays a woman’s journey between Scotland and America.

Three letters and an ocean

between who they once were,

who they would become.

20th & 21st March Kathryn Metcalfe by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers' Centre
Kathryn Meltcalfe, by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

 

‘Three Letters and an Ocean’ by Kathryn Metcalfe

 

On deck, standing by Papa’s shoulder

watching him ink answers

into crossword puzzles,

the tip of his tongue

clamped between teeth

and the corner of his lips,

making sense of how he could

change warm to cool in three

letters.

 

Somewhere between Greenock

and New York,

the word emigrant changed

them to immigrant.

Three letters and an ocean

between who they once were,

 

who they would become.

 


Kathryn Metcalfe has been published in anthologies and magazines, she is one of the ‘Mill Girl Poets’ whose show ‘Mill Girls’ On Tour’ about the lives and history of the female workers in the Paisley Thread Mills told through poetry, spoken word and song has featured in the West End Festival and lately at the Edinburgh Fringe. She set up, runs and hosts a monthly Open Mic for poets and spoken word artists and musicians in a Paisley coffee shop.

International Women’s March Fortnight: 19th March, ‘Therapy’ by Mairi Murphy

… I latched onto the word,

gentle, realising we wanted gentle truth

17th-18th-19th-march-mairi-murphy-by-kath-warren-courtesy-of-the-scottish-writers-centre
Mhairi Murphy by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

‘Therapy’ by Mairi Murphy

Originally published by Read Raw Press

 

The only time I ever saw my sister

rattled: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

that was one scary woman!” she said

as we left the office of the Hungarian

doctor, whose version of truth was

so brutal, it was bone marrow aching.

 

And we made faces every time she

passed, having a laugh, whispering

behind her back, a teacher that we didn’t

like, talking trivia and Lorraine Kelly over

our books, as we renovated our houses, saw

coats we wanted to buy, escaped for lunch.

 

Yet the nurse said, “This is a gentle form of

treatment,” and I latched onto the word,

gentle, realising we wanted gentle truth:

dripping slow, dripped into my sister, gently.

Curative truth, restorative truth, not the

“I’m so honest you won’t have to sue,” truth.

 

And as for telling the truth, that’s fourteen

years away, releasing the words my frightened

jaw won’t say, on some unsuspecting poetry class.

Emerging from the shadowlands, this toxic cloud,

will peacefully dissipate, lose its power to dominate,

allow my sister and I laughter in some future tense.

 


Mairi Murphy graduated last autumn from Glasgow University with a Masters in Creative Writing. Whilst there she was awarded the 2016 Alistair Buchan Prize for poetry for which two of her poems were also shortlisted. Recently her poems have been published in ‘Shetland Create’, ‘From Glasgow to Saturn’ and ‘Crooked Holster (an anthology of crime). She is the editor of ‘Glasgow Women Poets’ published by Four-em Press in 2016, of which she is the co-founder.

 

 

 

International Women’s March Fortnight: 18th March, ‘The Hunger’ by Mairi Murphy

With ‘The Hunger’, Mairi Murphy describes the traumatic experience of the Irish famine, as it is passed on from one generation to the next.

the wind turns the soil

potatoes crumble like air

disease exposed

17th-18th-19th-march-mairi-murphy-by-kath-warren-courtesy-of-the-scottish-writers-centre
Mhairi Murphy by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

 

‘The Hunger’ by Mairi Murphy

 

pinpoints of pain pummel the ribs

deep inside the cage

knawing reality

walking never fixes

feel my baby turning

 

the wind turns the soil

potatoes crumble like air

disease exposed

a generation ill-formed

carrying their seed

 

I pass on.

 


Mairi Murphy graduated last autumn from Glasgow University with a Masters in Creative Writing. Whilst there she was awarded the 2016 Alistair Buchan Prize for poetry for which two of her poems were also shortlisted. Recently her poems have been published in ‘Shetland Create’, ‘From Glasgow to Saturn’ and ‘Crooked Holster (an anthology of crime). She is the editor of ‘Glasgow Women Poets’ published by Four-em Press in 2016, of which she is the co-founder.

International Women’s March Fortnight: March 16th, The Gryphon at Bay by Louise Turner

Today, we add some prose to our series, with an excerpt from Louise Turner’s historical novel The Gryphon at Bay. Many thanks to Louise, and to her publisher for letting us put this passage on the blog.

Enjoy your reading!

16th-march-louise-turner-by-kath-warren-courtesy-of-the-scottish-writers-centre
Louise Turner by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

Excerpt from The Gryphon at Bay, a historical novel by Louise Turner

(to be published by Hadley Rille Books in March, 2017)

 

A spider lurked high in the arch over the window. It had been there four days now: craning his neck, Matthew Stewart could just catch sight of it, crouching patient by its crevice as if it, too, weathered a siege…

Matthew slumped back against the wall with a sigh. He was bored beyond belief. And frustrated, too. His hand itched to hold a sword again, he was sick and tired of being caged in this lofty prison.

“My poor old place,” Lady Lyle said, from where she was sitting by the empty fireplace, bent over her sewing. “You should’ve seen the mess they left it in. They knocked a big hole through the wall of my chamber. Why, the birds’ll be nesting there by springtime.” She shook her head. “And all my precious things. All gone.”

“I know,” Matthew’s mother, Margaret Montgomerie, Countess of Lennox, agreed without even looking up from her needlework. “It’s a dreadful shame.”

Matthew picked irritably at a loose thread on the cushioned seat beneath him. Sometimes he envied the womenfolk, who found comfort in their mundane tasks. Sitting still for hours on end just wasn’t in his nature: if he loitered too long, all his hopes and fears crowded up close like hellhounds and he had to move in order to escape them.

Rising to his feet, he muttered his excuses to the ladies, then headed out to stretch his legs.

Matthew strolled along the battlements, relishing the solitude. Far below, the waters of the Clyde stretched calm and enticing, dotted with a few tiny ships.

Over the last few months, his life had settled into a routine that had by now become second nature. He’d rise early from a troubled sleep and pace the wallwalk, halting on the seaward side to look in vain for English ships.

Then he’d move on, pausing again on the landward side. He’d count the ever-growing cluster of tents and pavilions that made up the King’s host, springing up like toadstools on an autumn morn near the town of Dumbarton.

And once this ritual was complete he’d retreat to the chapel. He’d pray to God for strength and succour. But God never sent arms or men to relieve the stranded garrison. He didn’t even grant Matthew peace of mind.

They were running short of fodder. And short of the luxuries that a man became accustomed to: fresh meat, salt, spices. But they were hardly starving. Every week or so under cover of darkness, a ship would slip into the boat naust at the base of the rock, bringing bread and wheat and barrels of ale.

 

When he’d finished his patrol, he returned to the hall. Though he’d stalked out in disgust, despairing of the women’s trivial talk, he knew deep inside that he needed the comfort of their presence. It reminded him that there was a world beyond these walls, a world that someday they might all return to.

In his absence, the ladies had been joined by others. Robert, Lord Lyle had settled there, along with Matthew’s younger brother Alex. Lord Robert had taken the boy under his wing, making sure he worked hard at his fighting skills, doing his best to raise the youth’s spirits. Right now they were confronting each other across the table, frowning over a chessboard: grizzled knight and untried youth, channelling their concentration into games of strategy and deception.

“A shrewd move, perhaps,” Lord Robert said. “But only time will tell if it proves to be a sound one.”

Matthew glanced round, mildly interested. He sat back down in his regular space by the window, allowing himself a sympathetic smile as he heard the clack of ivory hitting wood.

“Ah!” Alex dropped his head in his hands. “My queen is lost…”

“Don’t whine, Alex.” Margaret Montgomerie countered swiftly. “You’re far too old for that.”

The door opened, a servant ventured inside. “My lady, you have a visitor.”

The countess looked up, perplexed. “Here?” She exchanged a bewildered glance with Matthew. “We’re not expecting anyone.”

“It’s Elizabeth Sempill.”

“Goodness!” For a moment, the countess’s composure wavered. “Show her in!”

When his gude-sister Elizabeth entered the hall, Matthew hardly recognised her: she’d replaced her usual velvet with a plain grey gown of wool and a white starched hood. She was an imposing woman: tall, rather haughty in demeanour. She must have been thirty-three years of age by Matthew’s reckoning, but she didn’t look it. She seemed ageless, with clear bright skin and glorious grey- blue eyes.

She curtsied before the countess. “Countess Margaret.” “We’ll have no such formalities, Elizabeth,” Setting down her

needlework, the countess rose to her feet. She grasped the younger woman’s arms and kissed her on both cheeks. “It’s a delight to see you!”

“And a surprise,” Matthew added. “I thought the Archangel Michael more likely to grace our place.”

“Mattie!” his mother snapped.

“I understand why I’m not welcome,” Elizabeth countered swiftly. “But I can scarcely be blamed for your circumstances.”

“Don’t listen to Mattie,” the countess said. “He’s weary of this. We all are. How did you pass the gates?”

“They think I’m a midwife,” Elizabeth replied. “I’ve brought gifts.” She drew a leather bag out from beneath her cloak. “Salt. Two pounds of it. And a flask of aqua vita.”

“Oh, how very thoughtful. Thank you!” The countess grasped the bag, smiling. “We’d love you to stay, but…”

Elizabeth waved her hand in haughty dismissal. “I’ve lodgings in the town.”

Matthew laughed inwardly, satisfied by her response. Elizabeth’s name and lineage might have been a source of contention, but there was no denying that she was a bold woman, and resourceful, too.

As a youth he’d often lain awake in his bed for hours, lovestruck and miserable, wondering why a woman of her quality had been granted to his bastard brother William, and not himself. But at long last he was cured. These days when he looked upon her, he was reminded of her brother, John Sempill of Ellestoun. The straw-headed, angel-faced wretch whose defiance had caused all this trouble in the first place.

Matthew yawned and stretched out his legs. “Your timing was impeccable,” he said. “We were talking about your kinsman: he’s Sir John Sempill now. And Sheriff of Renfrew, besides…”

“Oh?” Her reply was non-committal.

 

“He’s thrown poor Lady Lyle out of her place,” Matthew added. “And seized all her belongings.”

“I’d heard,” she said. She paused, face troubled. “Have you any news of my husband?”

“He rode north with Father. He was well enough last time I saw him.” “Ah.” She seemed wistful.

“Until they return, we’re beleaguered,” Lord Robert said.

“You must keep good heart,” Elizabeth said, firmly. “The path that brought you here’s of little consequence. What matters now is that you’re on the side of righteousness.”

“What news from Renfrew?”

“All’s quiet. They haven’t troubled the lesser households.”

“Not yet, at any rate,” Matthew said. “They may change their minds. One of these days, your brother might come calling,”

“Then I’ll beat him with a skillet, and chase him from my place,” she retorted. “He’s profited enough from this.”

“That’s no way to talk about your brother.”

“Forgive me, please, if I can’t spare a kind word for him. I was supposed to receive the final portion of my dower on my father’s death. There’s still no sign of it.”

“Perhaps you should try grovelling. He’d like that, I’m sure.” “I’ll be dead before that day dawns.”

“Ah, such sweet words,” said Matthew. “You’re more Stewart than Sempill, there’s no denying it.”

“I thought Sir John was very gracious,” Lady Lyle spoke out. “He took your books,” Matthew reminded her.

“Not all of them. And he didn’t take my jewels.”

“Daft woman,” muttered Lord Robert. Lifting his head, he regarded young Alex serenely. “Checkmate,” he said.

 


Louise Turner is a professional archaeologist, born and educated in Scotland (where she’s lived all her life), and she writes historical fiction set in late 15th century Scotland.  She originally started out writing science fiction:  she won the ‘Glasgow Herald New Writing in SF’ short story competition in 1988 with a story entitled Busman’s Holiday which has since been republished 4 times.

Louisa’s debut novel Fire & Sword was published by US small press Hadley Rille Books in 2013, and she continues to work closely with Hadley Rille, who are due to publish her second novel (a follow-up) in March this year. Her publisher is very keen both to promote women writers and also to publish work in which women play a major role, and although working within a transatlantic partnership has its challenges, she’s certainly benefitted from Hadley Rille’s support and is very proud and delighted to be a part of their literary stable.

International Women’s March Fortnight: 15th March, ‘The Ascent’ by Sandra Whitnell

Today, we would like to use our series to promote the poetry of Sandra Whitnell, whose sonnet, ‘The Ascent’, poetically engages with a prominent figure in African-American history, Frederick Douglass, and his encounter with British suffragettes in Edinburgh.

We bring our cause into the open air

And climb as one – together we are strong.

frederick-douglass-courtesy-of-wikipedia
Frederick Douglass, c. 1879, by Georges Kendall Warren (source: Wikipedia Commons)

‘The Ascent’ by Sandra Whitnell

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) from Maryland escaped from slavery in 1838. He went on to become a famous politician, campaigning for the abolition of slavery. In 1846 he visited Scotland and gave inspirational lectures about emancipation. In Edinburgh he and prominent suffragettes climbed Arthur’s seat and covered the summit in graffiti.

One small step on this uncharted ground,

To scale the heights of craggy Arthurs seat.

Arm in arm in purpose we are bound.

Our goal is clear; we will not brook defeat.

 

The path is steep and rocky: do we care?

Sisters and slaves are used to suffer long.

We bring our cause into the open air

And climb as one – together we are strong.

 

Our destiny lies beyond the threatening cloud,

We will ascend, however hard the way.

And at the peak proclaim the truth out loud

Sisters and slaves must be freed today!

 

For soon the dormant hill will burn again –

Then will the heat of justice fall like rain.

 

 


Sandra Whitnell lives in beautiful Peebles with her husband, having moved from North Yorkshire a few years ago. She writes plays, poems and short stories based on archive newspapers, poorhouse records, and voices other original sources. Sandra learned about Frederick Douglass and the suffragettes at a talk by a feminist local history group called DRB based in Edinburgh. By coincidence, she was researching the lives of Victorian women in the 1840s and trying to find out about an escaped slave in local census records.