Reflections by Cris(tina) Bresser, 2016

 

Cris or Cristina?

It is so curious that everybody calls me Cristina here. I told them that they could call me Cris, as it is easier to pronounce, but I don’t know why they insist on the complete name. Maybe is to show me consideration, as they can pronounce it, or maybe they like the sound of it in English. I am not sure what the real reason is, but I do like to hear my name when they speak it.

Being called Cristina here seems somehow that I am a different version of myself in this town.  And this, I must say, is not a contradiction to me. Since I arrived in Edinburgh, I feel that my best self is in control. I am always in an excellent mood (this is not a big change but my humor was instable at home lately), I feel relaxed and happy most of the time (although sleepy, and it sucks – the blinds, the crows and the pigeons lately are conspiring against my night rest).

I haven’t being critical or judgmental about people – my sarcasm is hibernating in this cold city with warm people. Right now, my new friend, the crow, is by my window crying for his cookies – bad tempered old chap, now I must feed him “We are always responsible for the ones we captivate…” Bullshit. The crow can feed himself as he always did before we met. Do not feed the crows or the pigeons. And if you are insane enough to feed a seagull, you might end up without a finger. They are such aggressive hungry creatures. I used to like seagulls, before coming here. Now I know them better.

The Sparks of Little Sparta

During the Creative Writing course, we visited a magical garden called Little Sparta. It is a place full of light, flowers and poetry. I loved it and felt grateful for having been there. The previous night I could hardly sleep and I was feeling miserable. I spent the morning in automatic mode. When we arrived at Little Sparta I was alive again, and the place’s good vibes stayed with me for the rest of the day. Nature and sunny days are inexorable sources of renovation to me. I left that enchanted garden feeling groovy again.

Almost everything is laughable

During my time with SUISS, I lived wonderful and intense weeks of continuous learning and made friendships that will last forever. Besides, when I was there in Edinburgh, I received two amazing news: my short story “Capitolium” was awarded the First Prize in Fortaleza’s Federal University context, and I was contacted by Editora Benfazeja’s publisher with an offer to publish my novel Quase tudo é risível (Almost everything is laughable). We started the arrangements while I was still there and the book was published and launched in November 2016.

Being published, as cliché as it may sound, is a dream coming true. I had two book signings and I felt like swinging on a shining cloud during the events. I must confess that even better than the autograph nights is the feedback I’ve been receiving from the readers. I can’t help being proud of myself when they tell me that my book is addicting, that it kept them awake all night long, that the plot is breath-taking, that they burst into laughter at a certain part of the story, or that they burst into tears in another chapter and that the end is striking. Writing a novel is fun, editing it sucks, and seeing it printed is a lifetime experience.

For more information, click here: Quase tudo é risível.

Psychogeography by Cristina Bresser, 2016

Old College

Old College

In the first week of the Creative Writing course, my dearest tutor Defne proposed a psychogeography exercise. We were supposed to get lost in any part of the city and write about the experience afterwards. I confess I was not excited about it. When I was a child, I feared getting lost from my parents at the beach or even inside a supermarket. Having stayed in Edinburgh for just a few days helped me to accomplish the task accidentally. Being born on the right side of the road, I insisted on turning right when in Great Britain even though it was supposed to be the left. Balls. To the wrong direction I went. Not a big issue, I was also a tourist and I was enjoying the promenade when, by chance, I stepped into the past campus of the University of Edinburgh, the Old College. It was by hazard too, I would assume. I experienced dejà-vu.

It was the second time it happened to me in Scotland. The first one was five years ago when I got into the Arm’s Room of the Edinburgh Castle. That time I wept. Today, I had a cozy sensation of belonging to that place. The sun was warming up the grass in the center of the complex. I might have been there before. I felt at home at that old enchanting building. I promised myself I would come back. I needed to go deeper into that emotion. Before I left, a crow standing nearby stared at me and seemed to salute me.

There I was on the following day. Likewise, it was by chance. I was going to Princess Street and somehow I chose that avenue to proceed. Magnetism, probably. I could not help smiling at the familiar feelings as I reached the site. The sun was shining again- two consecutive days is a good auspice in this country. There was no hurry; I was relaxed. Once more, I smelled cinnamon in the air. If I ever have to describe this city, I would say it is where seagulls and crows live together, a place with a light constant cinnamon essence is in the air. I sat on the campus’ grass, took a deep breath and enjoyed being there. I had searched for this “living at present time” notion for so long. There I just met it. By chance, by karma – by luck, positively. It felt right. Getting lost in Edinburgh might have turned to finding myself at last.

Daniel Perry, Canada, Class of 2002

2015.HS.DAN.PERRY.019_CONTRASTI came to SUISS in 2002 by way of a town of around 2,000 people in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, that had a Scottish name: Glencoe. There, the Fox movie theatre sat empty after closing down when I was little, and beside it was a gas station where my father worked (since closed, too). The summer I was eight years old, Dad planted me behind the cash register, to avoid being shorted on his pay for the casual thefts of cigarettes or motor oil that would occur were the kiosk unattended while he filled cars.

Across the increasingly dismal Main Street, my mother ran a knitting, sewing and crafting shop, and together with Glencoe’s miniscule business association, she helped arrange the town festival every July: Tartan Days.

Yes, like Scottish tartan. As fellow SUISSers have likely heard—perhaps after picking out their clans’ kilts in a shop on the Royal Mile, even—it may be something of an invented tradition. So, true to its forebears, my little town invented some Tartan Days traditions of its own: the Saturday night dance, for one (not a ceilidh so much as a country music-blaring drunk-up), plus the local businesses’ sidewalk sales. In recent years a tractor pull was added.

My memories, however, are of the pancake breakfast on the closed-off side street and the two competitions there.

In the thistle contest, parents and children would spend weeks sneaking fertilizer to the largest bull or Scotch variety of the weed they could find then put on thick gloves and drag it to town, where it was judged on height, fullness, etc. before a prize of maybe fifty bucks was awarded. (Never to me.)

And then there was the marquee event, the shoe-kick, in which entrants would slide their toes into a factory second from the nearby footwear manufacturing plant, rear back, and compete to propel it as far away from Main Street as possible. I never did find out what this had to do with Scottish heritage.

Tartan Days was about all I knew of international interchange before beginning high school in a larger but still small town where, for some reason, exchange students did arrive, and before meeting international students at the University of Western Ontario—students who had chosen to be thousands of miles from home for four whole years in London… Other London. In Canada.

Where the green flyer on the English department bulletin board jumped out at me.

I was nineteen years old, then, and nearing the end of my first undergraduate year. I was still commuting to class from my family home, still working my teenager job at the Canadian Kmart competitor, and still being hassled by my grandfather to take a summer position with the provincial hydro-electric company for which he’d worked his whole life.

The trip to SUISS would be my first flight; my first trip outside of North America, and other than two or three single-day visits by car to Michigan, my first departure from Canada, even. I said goodbye to my family in the Tim Hortons parking lot where the three-hour bus ride to the airport in Toronto began, and in Edinburgh, I hung a Canadian flag in a Baird House window.

Right away, I met a good 20 students from all over the United States (including fellow eventual author Michael Pogach) and climbed Arthur’s Seat in the first night’s dusk with some of them. In the next days, I met a similar-sized group all from one university in Bari, Italy—a city around the same size as Other London, it turns out, albeit with better weather. Students had also come from Norway, Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain and more I’m sure I’m forgetting, plus as far away as New Zealand, Japan and India.

And all had come to study literature.

Before and after attending SUISS that summer, I worked the hydro-electric gig with Grandad, and he’ll likely still tell you it was a better career than what I eventually chose (“Writer with Inevitable Day Job”). But I returned to Canada convinced that a literary life was an actual life—not just dreams of 1920s dinners at La Coupole or bon mots at the Algonquin Hotel, but something a kid like me could have.

There have been bumps in the road, sure—my eventual departure from graduate studies, for one, and a string of depressing retail and call centre jobs taken out of sheer financial despair—but when I found myself on a Toronto Island beach one sunny September day in 2009 with some things resembling stable income, home and employment finally in-hand, that nineteen-year-old paid me a long overdue visit.

What of that literary life? he asked.

I enrolled in a college night class and began writing short stories, the first of them as true as what you read above. Some are long dead and buried, (yes, there’s one about Tartan Days), and some have been published with all the facts edited out. Some others have been published just as they were.

In any event, I’ve been writing ever since—not since then, really, but since I showed up at SUISS.

Daniel Perry’s first collection of short stories, Hamburger, will be published in Canada by Thistledown Press in May, 2016, and is now available to order. His second, Nobody Looks That Young Here, is forthcoming from Guernica Editions in 2018. He is currently at work on a novella, when not at his day job.

 

Creative Writing Workshops now Confirmed!

We are very pleased to announce that the workshops for our 2016 Creative Writing course are now confirmed! We have  talented, award winning writers who will guide students through a wide range of writing activities and discuss their writing process. Our schedule for these workshops is as follows:

15th July: Zoe Strachan on Fiction Writing

22nd July: Stef Smith on Playwriting

26th July: Colin Herd on Poetry and Art

28th July: Loud Poets and Performance Poetry

1st August: Ken MacLeod on Science Fiction

We’ll have more specific details about these workshops soon, but we are honoured that these talented writers will be part of SUISS 2016!

Our full reading list and more information can be found on our Creative Writing Course program page.

To book your place to attend our course and meet these exciting authors, download our application form! We also offer scholarships to students, visit our scholarship page for more information.

 

SUISS is hiring new tutors for 2016

SUISS is seeking to appoint experienced and dynamic tutors for all three of our courses in 2016: Text & Context, Creative Writing, and Theatre & Performance.

Text & Context tutors must be postgraduate students or postdoctoral tutors/researchers from one of our 7 affiliated universities.

Creative Writing and Theatre & Performance tutors do not necessarily have to come from our affiliated universities, but should be UK-based.

To inquire and/or apply, please see the details of the job postings here:

Text & Context: British and Irish Literature from 1900 to the present

*Please note, for Text & Context, our tutors only teach a single two-week module, from either Modernism, Scottish Literature, or Contemporary Literature. We do not hire tutors to the full six-week course.

Creative Writing

Contemporary British and Irish Theatre and Performance

 

The Summer School Students’ Song

*This is a guest post by one of our 2015 Creative Writing students, Maire Kashyap, from Australia:

If I were to write a fringe show, that’s what I would call it. Edwin Morgan’s “Sssnnnwhuffffll?”s and “doplodovok”s would be replaced by our own snippets of nonsense; “Forrest, you’re just like Marcus!”, “tiny, tiny Friday”, “crisps? Chips! Chips? Crisps! Chips. Crisps?”, “Man legs. I’m fifty-six.” Like another Morgan poem, “The First Men on Mercury”, it would end with the moment we switched cultural languages, as Jackson egged Emily on to “skol” her drink, while I sat next to him chanting “chug, chug, chug,” having swapped our Australian and American drinking vernacular over the four weeks we had spent together.

In this alien city of Edinburgh, we exchanged more than our words though. We exchanged stories; opinions (sometimes a little too enthusiastically); recommendations of films, galleries, authors, places; bewildered looks as we were ceremoniously presented plates of haggis, neeps and tatties at our “Burns Supper in July.” Importantly, we exchanged Facebooks and phone numbers, so we could be sure our parting farewells weren’t forever.

Surrounded by inspiring, creative people, and provided with platforms to write, discuss and learn from each other, I’ve taken up a few opportunities unique to these exceptional circumstances. I’ve played Romeo in a contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare, ground-breaking enough to rival Calum’s performance poetry. I’ve written flash fiction on a Wednesday, and with the help of my tutor Defne, edited it ready to perform to my peers at open mic night on Friday. I’ve driven to Skye and back in half the time it’s supposed to take to drive there because apparently “German” is a synonym for “drives too fast.” Or maybe that’s just Stina. I’ve been dangerously close to setting off a smoke alarm in the medicine building while carrying a cake with twenty-one candles for Maurisa’s in class birthday celebration. I’ve listened to more ideas in workshops, performances and masterclasses than I could possibly have imagined. And probably a similar amount sitting in pubs and dorm rooms from late nights to early mornings.

Whether it be expressed through raps exalting Professor Terry Eagleton, cringe-worthy “fashion shows”, personal essays, earnest renditions of Canadian folk music, or time lapse photography of the sunrise from Arthur’s Seat (kindly shared with those of us too lazy to make the hike at 3:30 am), I know that everyone else appreciated their time here just as much as I did.

“Have you taken something?”, my concerned boyfriend asked, when I got home and called him on Friday night after the farewell party, talking at a rate almost as fast as Stina’s driving. “No!” I replied, “I just have so much to tell you.” It had only been two days since we last talked, but so much had happened in that time, so much that meant something to me, so much that I wanted to communicate. And to inspire (almost) coherent strings of words like that is the best thing a writing course could do.

-Maire Kashyap

A Farewell Poem from Rosa (Modernism 2015)

At the Farewell party for this year’s modernism course, our student Rosa Schwenger from Germany shared a brilliant poem she wrote about her experience at SUISS. The poem was a hit – Rosa was thanked with an enthusiastic standing ovation, and there were a few teary eyes in the crowd. She has graciously agreed to share the poem here with you as well. Anyone who has studied on our modernism course will probably relate to her words as much as her classmates did. Thank you, Rosa!

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Rosa Hits Enter At A Lot Of Random Places

Disclaimer: All mistakes are done on purpose, obviously.
All misplaced, superfluous or lost commas are my intention.
All weirdly worded ideas are exactly what they are supposed to be.
Everything is on purpose when the purpose is to be

thrown into the cold grey weather waters
not knowing what to make of anything.
Waves of clouds clashing, whirls of winds dashing
at the periphery of our expectations,
their meaning being entangled like a knot of rain, wind and trees
while gloomy buildings watch all of our cautious steps through the seas.
And if not now then at the end we
will have fought through this jungle of modern isms and survived,
if we all follow the same threads or not.
A physical journey posed Arthur’s Seat
and from up there
the two-weeked future mysteries of an unknown world unfolded in front of us
and
the excitement is palpable
(who is he even?),
you can feel the suspense in the air
(never heard of this guy, to be honest),
we saw moments of greatness not only flicker but maybe burn
(or got it trust upon us)
just shortly before lots of anger aimed at structures and codes,
though not at the play at hand,
and then
the lighting of the rainbow coloured ceilings, walls,
diverse and overflowing as

all the colours of the voices of Dublin
we tried to understand.
And yes, you can watch your language
when what’s said is so vivid that it doesn’t matter
which sense makes sense
at a time

is space, space is time
when chaotic confusion reached its peak
with elusive allusive Eliot.
HURRY UP PLEASE TIME FLIES SO FUCKING FAST
when you‘re having fun-
damental thoughts and stuff.
We have no idea what we’re doing
but surely some revelation is at hand
(not to use the word with E).
Instead of inhabiting a waste land
we danced in a stuffed hall
shapeless formless
but unparalyzed and with
rhythm and direction
in not one but many voices which led us around the intangible center of trauma.
Our plunging was more of a stumbling
search for the clearest sound, the sharpest memory.
We will buy this heap of broken flowers ourselves
paying with coins that are more confusing than any stream of semi-conscious ideas could ever be.
When opening this door to prose experiments
In the literary middle – literally the middle – of our journey

we yearn for poetry even though we may not confess it, so
make me king as we march towards a
new wor(l)d order
in India. But this could be anywhere, really
where unknown people meet people they know even less
and politics and fear do the talking.
Prepared like this we visited the parliament
but exhaustion often surpasses political ambitions as we
slouch towards the edge of the end of modernism.
In soft entropy and gyre-ish shapes
we examined the terrible beauty of
words, but also trees and grassy patches
greyscale mazes and empty melting landscapes
in colours which shine with an absence of brightness

so that you dont know if to say
good morning, midnighters,
or good day, children oft he light.
I AM NOT your window to a reality normal people can’t see,
I AM NOT the truth behind.
I am the total distortion of time space meaning
of ‘when have I eaten showered talked to somebody last?’
of being unpleasantly surprised to still be alive but
what to do what to do
what ever is there to do.
I tried to measure out the evenings mornings afternoons
but what means measuring
what means –
It is not that I do not want to be happy
but I cannot remember what wanting means, or happy for that matter;
emotions are not even up for debate when they become the most foreign words of all.
I would gladly set these words on fire
and all my other ones
and those I haven’t written yet
if this could keep the imminent permanent constantly calling
waves of sticky black tar at bay
which suffocate me, and no matter how hard I try to breath I will drown

anyway.
Writing this today I cannot now what tomorrow might bring
but neither did Orwell nor Huxley and did they let this stop them?
This is just to say:
we will fare one another well
(whatever that means, words are so weird, have you ever looked at them?)
and then will be catapulted into a future of undefined dimensions
and –isms yet to be explored.

© Rosa Schwenger, 2015
This work remains the property of the author.

Creative Commons License
Rosa Hits Enter At A Lot Of Random Places by Rosa Schwenger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Publishing and Membership Opportunity – University Of Edinburgh Journal

JournalThe University of Edinburgh Graduates’ Association is an organisation sponsored by the University of Edinburgh, which acts as a means of communication between the University and its alumni, and between alumni themselves, wherever they may be in the world. It does this by publishing the University of Edinburgh Journal twice a year. The Journal acts as a platform for alumni to publish serious articles and creative work for the University community to enjoy. The Association also offers a programme of attractive events including lunches with guest speakers, our Annual Reception and Buffet with a guest speaker or special entertainment, our biennial St Andrews Night Dinner, and many more.

Founded in the wake of the First World War, the University of Edinburgh Graduates’ Association has recently published a special Commemorative Issue of its 90-year old University of Edinburgh Journal and, as a special supplement published by the Association and the University, the Roll of Honour 1939-1945 which remembers and honours the members of the University who died by enemy action during the Second World War.

The Graduates’ Association invites you most warmly to subscribe to the Journal and, by so doing, to become a member of the Association. New subscribers applying before 30 September will receive copies of these publications as part of their subscriptions.

The Journal itself is produced in June and December each year, in printed and in digital formats, and is sent to all members of the Association as part of their subscription. Its 46 completed volumes have become an indispensable archive on the University, its life and history; they may be consulted in the University Library, and will soon be accessible online in a searchable digital format as part of membership subscription; the digitisation process is well under way. By becoming a subscriber and a member of the Association, you will be helping us to continue this work.

Subscriptions range from £28.00 for annual membership and a printed copy of the Journal, to £10.00 annually for fully electronic membership. If you are interested in becoming a member of the University of Edinburgh Graduates’ Association and in receiving the University of Edinburgh Journal, please contact the Assistant Editor of the Journal, Mr John Sutherland at gradassoc@ed.ac.uk.

Rizwan Akhtar, Pakistan, Class of 2014

10706607_10203723166732521_2039756186_nRizwan Akhtar teaches at the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. His poems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry NZ, Wasafiri, Postcolonial Text (Canada), decanto, Poesia (US), Exiled Ink, Pakistaniat : A Journal of Pakistani Studies (US), Solidarity International, Orbis, The Other Poetry, Planet; The Welsh International, Wolf, South Asian Review, Gutter: New Scottish writings, Open Road Review, ScottishPen, tinfoildresses (US), and in Bloodaxe anthology Out of Bounds (2011).

Here is his poem inspired by his time in Edinburgh…

Edinburgh Calls

On granite structures
wooden walls creak as words escape
outside rain sneaks silence
like language it has pauses
cinching vows in smattering sounds
hooded plodding I mount city’s hills
imagining holes in windows
covering my splaying gait
like a sentence needing extra support
after living mistily on pages of history
and a full stop to stare and look around
for a map everywhere alleys creep
on kidney stones a cobbled-pinch
runs through legs
there is some charm in getting tired
nursing crackling bones on benches
alone with a wet pigeon
shouldering luggage the unpaid postman
of dark evenings emerging
from the hazy basin of Froth’s estuary
over Queensferry Bridge
quivering on cables
stroking winds anti-clockwise
a metallic North Sea
spooks primitive music
buses plow through wet spaces
you miss one and wait for the next
out of geographic love.


A. L. Kennedy returns to SUISS!

A L Kennedy visits SUISS

What a night!

Readings from A. L. Kennedy have been highlights of our previous Summer Schools, and so we were particularly excited to be hearing from this esteemed and prolific writer on this mild mid-August eve. Expectations were deservedly high, and Kennedy surpassed these with grace and good humour, reading from All the Rage, her recently published collection of short stories, before answering questions from students.

As anyone who has heard Kennedy speak will know, it takes very little prompting for this effortlessly articulate speaker to commence regalement. And so we were entertained, educated, and absolutely enthralled as Kennedy spoke on the maudlin public images of creative people, the desperate need to improve prison libraries, and the often mystifying decisions made by those designing her book covers!

Kennedy stayed long into the evening to talk to students and sign books, and was even happy to pose for a few photographs! Linden and I were all too happy to take advantage of this…

A. L. Kennedy is just one of the marvellous authors who come to speak to our students at SUISS. This year we also hosted (in order of appearance!) Rodge Glass, James Robertson, Liz Lochhead, Michael Pedersen,  Zoë Strachan, Robert Crawford, Anne Donovan, and David Greig.