The Fiction of Relationships or I love to MOOC…

Alphabet Dances is mostly about poetry but all creative writing is important to me. I love written words and Coursera have a new MOOC – The Fiction of Relationships – led by Arnold Weinstein – which is all about narrative fiction.

My work focuses on online learning. This includes open educational resources and courses. I like to MOOC. It’s a form of professional development and this MOOC ticks all the boxes. I get the the mechanics of MOOCing as well as the books and discussions. The chances of completing the assessments and gaining credit are low but it’s the participation which counts so I think I will at least begin. The Fiction of Relationships starts 3rd June for 12 weeks and registration is here where the course overview is also available.   The downside is not all the texts are online, which seems a little incongruous, although you can dip in and out of a MOOC to suit your own interests – so there’s nothing to stop you focusing on those books which are already on Project Gutenberg  Free educational opportunities are one of the finest consequences of the world wide web. Go sign up for a MOOC today– you won’t regret it!

SALT abandons single-author poetry collections

Salt Independent Publishers

In spite performance appearing to boost current interest in poetry, Salt independent publishers have given up single author collections.  Director Chris Hamilton-Emery explained in Guardian Poetry “We’ve seen our sales [of single-author collections] decline by over a quarter in the past year, and our sales have halved in the past five years…We have tried to commit to single-author collections by funding them ourselves, but as they have become increasingly unprofitable, we can’t sustain it.”

One positive may be Salt’s decision to focus on poetry anthologies. Increasing the number they produce might also increase opportunities for the new poet voices to be heard, but Salt’s withdrawal restricts the places available to move on to. Why don’t people read poetry collections? Is it because they don’t know they’re there or does poetry on the page holds less interest. Maybe performance is the way to bridge the gap after all.

Another poetry plagiarism scandal

From the Guardian online Poetry section 22nd May 2013, comes this sad story.

“Publishers and magazines have been working to take down poems and suspend sales of collections by David R Morgan after the American poet Charles O Hartman realised Morgan’s poem “Dead Wife Singing” was almost identical to his own, three-decades-old “A Little Song”.

As easy as ‘copy and paste’ makes it to  steal the words of another, the instant and international speed of digital denouncement should be have been a stronger deterrent.  David R Morgan’s career as a poet is probably over and the repercussions will seriously damage his professional life as a writer.  As one star falls so another rises. Helen Ivory, a poet and editor at Ink Sweat and Tears has written some moving words in the Guardian piece including these:

“Poetry is not just words on a page, it is an outward manifestation of, and search for, self and how we feel about the world and everything in it.”

On the basis of this statement alone I will be looking out for more of her work. Here is a link to her web page for starters

Thresholds revisited…

In November last year I posted about Thresholds.  This project placed ten poets in ten Cambridge museums to meet researchers and explore the collections before writing poems inspired by the experience. The project is now complete and a website at contains details including links to the poets reading aloud.

My last few posts have reflected on the performance of poetry. It’s a different experience to listen to the Threshold poets reading from a broad selection of their work, but without the poems to look at – without the words on the page – it feels incomplete. I lose interest quickly. for me, listening is too transient.

The Poetry Archive site offers unique access to the voice and style of dead poets. I can ‘hear’ T S Eliot, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. But I also have their words to supplement the poetry process.  One of the images on the current Poetry Archive banner has the text ‘Poetry always begins and ends with listening.’ As Jung might say, this could be an example of ‘meaningful synchronicity.’

Thresholds are about opening doors and stepping through. Perhaps I need to explore my resistance to performance in more detail.

The Temple of Isis on the Island of Philae

Temple of Isis on the Island of Philae in Egypt, 2013.


Writer’s blog

Patty Slappers by Nick TriplawThe afternoon session of the day school was led by Nick Triplow Nick, multi-book author including a number of heritage books based around the Humber fishing industry (eg The Women They Left Behind and Pattie Slappers) is also setter upper of Fathom Press at the Ropewalk, Barton on Humber

The Women They LEft Behind edited by Nick Triplow

Nick’s advice was get a blog, saying an online profile has become essential if you take your words seriously.  He’s right. In a digital society where user-generated content and file-sharing has made web authorship possible, self-promotion is now a component of professional identity. Scary but true. Anyone wanting information about you no longer asks a friend – they go to Google.

Fortunately, this digitisation of daily life and working practice runs both ways. The internet supports a vast range of resources for writers including competitions, funding opportunities and access to small independent publishers not to mention authentic hints and tips on writing, editing and submission. With this in mind, and taking another word of advice from Nick to make your writing website 80% about the work of others, I’ve added a Publisher page to Alphabet Dances.

Nick also talked about the overlap between creative and academic writing. This overlap space is a contentious area and one which intrigues me. My published academic work appears different to my creative writing – on the surface – but underneath the process is strikingly similar – even down to ‘laptop-on-knee’ with ‘feet-on-coffee’ table routine!  The words have the same intention – like the old BBC strapline – to inform, educate and entertain. While writing is fundamentally about words (and of course sharing  – page/stage etc) it’s also self-expression. Academic prose and poetry might be opposite ends of the word spectrum, but both are both essentially creative processes – another excellent reason for developing your own writer’s blog.

Nick Triplaw