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Lucy Newlyn

 "" Lucy Newlyn is a scholar-critic, a poet, a literary biographer, an editor, and an anthologist. She read English at Lady Margaret Hall, then went on to hold lectureships at various colleges in Oxford before coming to St Edmund Hall as a lecturer in 1984. She was elected to a Tutorial Fellowship in 1986.

"Writing has always been an important dimension of my life as a teacher, and I have found immense fulfilment working within the Oxford tutorial system. My own development as a writer has intertwined with that of my students.

For most of my career I have been a writer of scholarly articles and books; it has only been in the last decade or so that I have turned to poetry. Becoming a poet has transformed the way I approach my research, but also the way in which I teach."

From an early age I aspired to be both a teacher and a writer, so it was easy to choose a profession. Very soon after graduating, I started as an Oxford tutor. I spent many enjoyable hours at various different colleges, which helped to offset the solitude of research. 

Experimenting with different kinds of writing

My D.Phil thesis turned with relative ease into my first OUP book, Coleridge, Wordsworth and the Language of Allusion (1986). Here  I tracked the evolving friendship of two great poets over the course of a decade, following the twists and turns of their collaboration through close reading of echoes, allusions, and interconnections.

When I wrote my second book, Paradise Lost and the Romantic Reader,  I entered into debates with influential critics. The book is quite highly specialised. I tried to make it useful for students and teachers through close readings of texts and a clear thematic structure.

In my third OUP book, Reading, Writing and Romanticism (2000), I integrated a historical approach to readers and reading practices into a psychological theory of reading, so my terminology was more advanced, and my method more sophisticated.

The implications of becoming a poet

I published Ginnel in 2005, after five years of apprenticeship in the craft of poetry. Initially I had been prompted to write poems because of a close family bereavement; but had learned with practice to deal with other topics and to be more disciplined with form. The learning process was helped by a collaborative teaching experiment which involved workshops at Teddy Hall, which culminated in the two volumes of Synergies; Creative Writing in Academic Practice. These are partly anthologies of student writing, partly reflections on teaching practice.


The importance of collaboration

Some of my most enjoyable activities as a writer have involved collaboration with fellow poets and academics. I've also greatly enjoyed bringing writers together, in college and further afield, to form new communities.  

Compiling and editing Chatter of Choughs during 2001, I discovered the pleasure of encouraging new creative work, editing submissions, and working alongside the illustrator, to produce a popular anthology. Several distinguished Oxford-based poets chipped in with original contributions -- so the book had a lively mix of established and apprentice talent.  

In making a second edition of the anthology, I tapped into a different community, connecting with a number of Cornish writers and held a competition in Cornish schools for the best chough poem. The finished book was one of the most labour- intensive pieces of work in my entire career -- and one of the least noticed!  But I'm proud of it.

Together with Guy Cuthbertson, I enjoyed another collaborative venture in 2005, this time bringing togather a community of poets to articulate their creative debt to Edward Thomas. The conference we held in Teddy Hall was attended by numerous distinguished poets from Oxford and further afield. In co-editing the resulting book, Branch Lines, my critical judgements became sharper.

I have found all of my community based activities immensely satisfying. These heve led to my role as Literary Editor of the Oxford Magazine, which involves reading a wide variety of submissions. More recently, I have also found fulfilment in creating and running the Hall Writers' Forum: this brings togather a scattered community, and enables informal discussion. 

Writing accessibly -- and making a scholarly edition

Becoming a published poet has had a lasting effect on my approach to writing (and teaching) in its various forms. In my introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge,  I pitched my academic writing for an audience of second year undergraduates, avoiding specialised terminology. Writing for Essays in Criticism has also been formative, leading to a greater awareness of the essay as a form. As an editor of the writings of Edward Thomas since 2003, I have had to learn a whole new set of research skills, as well as to discipline my critical voice.   

Since I became a published poet, my  teaching priorities have changed, I now encourage my students to come to writing workshops, and to think of themselves primarily as writers. I don’t much like the term ‘Creative Writing’, which suggests that some writing is more creative than others. Writing an essay is, essentially, a creative act, and my tutorials place a strong emphasis on the craft of writing.

Reaching a non-specialist audience

After many years editing the prose of Edward Thomas --- a project that continues -- writing my literary biography of William and Dorothy Wordsworth felt like a homecoming. This book is aimed at a wide audience, including non-specialist readers. It brings together my personal voice, my pedagogical skills, my creativity, and my critical expertise. It is also a self-help book, of sorts -- exploring the therapeutic effects of walking, talking, remembering, grieving. 

OUP persuaded me to write a blog for my new book, and I enjoyed the challenge of producing something very short. I still have much to learn before I succeed in writing what is called in the trade a 'Trade book', but hopefully I'm on the right path.

Click here to read Lucy's OUP blog-post, 'Heaney, the Wordsworths, and wonders of the every day'.

A new collection of poems

My new collection, Earth's Almanac, was published in 2015. It brings together the poems I have written about my sister's death in 1999, along with poems about the natural world, and Cornwall. The book can be read consecutively, as a piece of autobiographical writing. It also explores many of the themes that I looked at more academically when I was working on my book about the Wordsworths.  

Click here to browse the Hall Writers' Forum