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Current Issue 

No. 77: NAWE Conference Collection 2018 (Part 1)

Editorial by Paul Munden


“Spring has come again. The Earth
is like a child that knows poems by heart...”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

The first day of Spring (here in the UK) is 21 March, which just so happens to be my birthday. More significantly, it is World Poetry Day, something I only discovered when living in Australia (where Spring is heralded rather differently, and not even on an equinox, but that’s another matter). So I thought it would be fun to celebrate with an online gathering of people and poems, and set up a facebook “event”. The above lines by Rilke (from one of the Sonnets to Orpheus, appropriately number 21) came to mind as covering all bases: poetry, Spring, and (more loosely, by way of childhood/memory) my birthday. I invited friends to contribute new poems of their own, or simply other remembered lines – and to spread the word. At the time of writing this I have no idea whether or not people will rise to the occasion, though I see that three people are already listed as “going”, with two more “interested”. By the time you read this, the “event” may well, in a calendar sense, be over, but the invitation will still stand – for anyone to chip in, riffing on Rilke’s lines in any you like. 

The idea of knowing poems by heart inevitably brings to mind the project initiated by The Poetry Archive and developed in partnership with The Full English, run by Tim Shortis and Julie Blake. Even while the competition is inactive, the Poetry by Heart website remains an invaluable resource for teaching and learning about poetry: http://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk. 

And just before moving on from 21 March, it’s also the day on which, traditionally, the dates are announced for Poetry on the Move, the international festival I was fortunate enough to be involved with in Canberra, as part of the International Poetry Studies Institute. The festival fosters another wonderful online poetry resource, with many of the events resulting in articles in Axon: Creative Explorations. Last year’s theme was “Inhabiting Language”, and the Axon issue of that same title will include contributions by NAWE members Oz Hardwick and Moira Egan. The festival also includes the announcement of the University of Canberra Vice- Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize – one of the world’s largest prizes for a single poem (see the advertisement on p78).

As with Axon and Poetry on the Move, this issue of Writing in Education also captures contributions to an event – the NAWE?Conference of 2018, in York. Eleven of the conference presentations are gathered here in written form, and more will hopefully be included in the Summer issue. As ever, there is a remarkable variety, representing the diversity of the conference itself. I find it particularly interesting how the articles vary so widely in their “voice”; there is no sense here of conforming to an expected academic style. Elen Caldecott makes a personal reflection on her expertise; Alice Penfold speaks to us as colleagues needing a useful idea for the classroom; Meryl Pugh shares her struggle to introduce students to experimental poetry; Francis Gilbert packs his experience of “mindfulness” into five short lessons. Martin Goodman’s tone is inevitably sombre as he takes us on his journey as a novelist to Auschwitz, while Petra McNulty makes a very different sort of “reality check”. Patrick Wright comes at writing by looking at visual works of art, and Barrie Sherwood and Kevin Price adopt particularly creative (and comic) approaches in presenting their “research”. We have cognitive theory presented by Tom Dwight (in the one article not drawn from the conference) and the healing power of writing through a team teaching project described by Helen Kenwright. Curiously, it is Amy Lilwall’s piece on dystopian fiction that surprises me most, as a voice within this particular publication. It’s a fascinating essay on dystopian fiction, offering writers plentiful food for thought, yet while Amy has published dystopian fiction herself, her article focuses almost exclusively on the work of others. This is much more the norm within the conference and publications of our sister organization in Australasia, AAWP, and of course at English Literature conferences the world over. In Derek Neale’s column as Chair of NAWE’s HE?Committee (p4) , he asks: “Are we English studies or are we their rival and part cause of their demise?” The next iteration of “English: Shared Futures”, which Seraphima Kennedy announces over the page, will provide the perfect forum for such a debate, but it’s already happening right here.

Paul Munden

English: Shared Futures, a collection of essays deriving from the 2017 conference, edited by Robert Eaglestone and Gail Marshall, is published by D.S. Brewer. 

 



The printed version of the magazine will be mailed to Professional Members and Institutions during November 2018. Any other members - including e-members - may purchase printed copies by following the link below.

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