By Anne Lauppe-Dunbar
Inspiration can arrive in many forms. It can trundle through dreams, drift in with the purple sunrise that crawled over Port Talbot at 7 am this morning, or be found in the autumn leaves that gather on pavements catching cyclists out so they lurch and swear. It can be the dark call of Wind street, in the shrieking lurch of a drunken night out, or the lonely paddleboarder who inches across Swansea bay like a smudge on a perfect painting.
The late summer air is changing, October heralding a tang of mud and seaweed. The earth feels wet and portent. Nights draw in as I dig out rotting plants, careful not to disturb the glistening spider webs that adorn my garden like tiny pearls in the morning light. I plan what might go in their stead and consider it as an architect might. Last year I made a firm oath to invertebrates snuggled under pots or curled inside a single rose leaf, that I would not harm them.
Not so long ago, we fortified our homes to carry us through the pandemic. We locked our doors, hunkered down in front of the tv to dire warnings and lists; while brave folk travelled to work – risking life to care for others. Planes stopped flying; ships stopped sailing. The sea and sky belonged to the fish and birds. During the gentler portion of lock up, I cycled to Caswell early, tied my bike to a post, and watched the sun come up as I swam. On my way home, lines of a poem I’d written returned like a ghost, reminding me of that first meeting…
The world jettisons to sea and sky.
A black dog that hurtles to catch.
I turn, wheeling from silver water to stone crag –
finding in this moment – pure joy.
The green gorse fronting its yellow flower
the babble and fizz of water on sand on stone.
In Moments of Being, the author Virginia Woolf writes ‘If life has a base that it stands upon, if life is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed at the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach, and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind.’ Memory, like inspiration, can propel a writer to place pen to paper in such a way that it sings to its reader.
In August 2022, I decided to re-launch The Swansea Review. The idea came from the growing number of MA applicants who referred to it. They wrote about being inspired by its variety of voice and writing style, of how it allowed them to see what we did at Swansea University in the creative writing department, and, more notably, what our students did.
Pen in hand I applied for funding and was amazed when I succeeded in not only funding for the magazine but in the cheerful (naive?) agreement from Nicko Vaughan our screenwriter, to magic up a website, and two students – Susanne Roesner and Liz Suggs who received placement funding to support the process.
What a summer it has been, and who would have known how hard it was for me to understand what creating a website included? I got as far as widgets and code and left it at that. The opportunity to work with the multi-award-winning writer Owen Sheers to discuss and support a line-up of four speakers who will come to Swansea University to talk about their writing craft, arrived like a gift.
The first talk with Raymond Antrobus – winner of the Ted Hughes Award, the Sunday Times Young Writers Award and the Rathbones Folio prize, passed by in a rush of tickets and excitement. Raymond delighted us with his insight, empathy and genuine love of the craft of poetry. I can still feel the heat of my pen as I scribbled notes such as ‘Land your angels. Play the music of where you were born,’ and felt the drumbeat of his spoken words.
Inspiration thrives on variation, and the challenge that asks you to see the world differently, to steer away from assumption and welcome change. And that inspiration is here, beckoning you to reach out to take it. In My Craft interviews.
The new Swansea Review will be launched on the 27th October at 11.00 am. The event is hosted by the Cultural Institute, headed by writer Elaine Canning who manages the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, festivals and events, The Richard Burton Centre… to name a few – https://www.swansea.ac.uk/cultural-institute/
So, what could we add to an already busy line-up?
Susanne’s Dylan Thomas Prize backstage report and publishing journeys of past creative writing students are a delight. Liz’s exploration of place and the ‘Dylan Thomas Experience‘ is an impactful and visual treat. We created a themed flash fiction writing competition with prizes (yes, prizes). The theme is climate emergency, and I hope it will inspire you, dear reader, to write and submit that writing. We’ll look forward to receiving it.