Updated: May 8
Did you know one of our co-founding Trustees was a published writer? We’re very proud of Professor Clair Chilvers and congratulate her on her forthcoming book of poetry! Here she tells us about what got her interested in poetry. She’s very kindly offered all proceeds from her book to Mental Health Research UK. We’d love to hear from any of our followers who also find that creativity helps their wellbeing.
How I became a poet
I became a poet quite by chance, really. I was listening to Radio 3 one day and there was a tribute to the poet U. A. Fanthorpe who had just died. I remembered her as Head of English at my secondary school so I thought that I would listen to the programme. I didn’t remember her as being a poet. Her poetry captivated me - especially her poem, Not My Best Side. Many of her poems are subversive and take an alternative view of the world. After she left teaching she worked for a while as a receptionist in the NHS, and her poems about her time there are both funny and insightful. She became a real ground-breaker for women poets in this country with awards including the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry. That was when I began to read poetry again. When I was in my teens I did write poetry, but tucked my poems away in a tin trunk and never thought any more about them, and I didn’t read much poetry during my adult life.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I thought I would have another go. As I was approaching retirement, I enrolled on a one-day poetry writing workshop at Cheltenham Literature Festival. It was held at the Hotel du Vin in a room that has a rather embarrassing mural of jockeys and naked women. The workshop was led by Daljit Nagra. At the time I hadn’t heard of him, but now I realise how lucky I was to meet him there. Daljit Nagra was the first poet to win the Forward Prize for his first collection and he is also a brilliant teacher as I found out at that first workshop. I was nervous about the whole thing and quite expected to leave with an empty sheet of paper. I wrote two poems that day, and after that, I never looked back! I did several courses, joined a workshop in Oxford, did a creative writing module at the University of Gloucestershire, and kept writing.
I began to get poems published in magazines, got a mention in a few competitions, and then put together my first collection. After a couple of rejections I was approached by Frosted Fire - a small publisher connected to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. My first collection is comin
g out in May. Out of the Darkness follows a life course, some of it imaginary, some based on memories, and interspersed with poems written during the COVID-19 pandemic. All the proceeds from the sale of Out of the Darkness will go to Mental Health Research UK.
More information can be found at:
Co-founding Trustee, Mental Health Research UK