Shanley McConnell is an MSt Creative Writing Student at the University of Oxford. She is currently completing her first complete poetry collection, Selah Arcadia. Her work often reflects on her experience of moving between the US and the UK as a young girl, delving into exploration on the beautiful tension of belonging to more than one country.
Read her latest publications here:
The Napkin Poetry Review (forthcoming 2020):
"I did not read the book of myths," a response to Adrienne Rich's poem Diving into the Wreck.
"Mao's vision opens at the sight of the two children" *This poem is from the unfinished manuscript SELAH ARCADIA. The lyrical narrative follows five musicians who, commissioned by an anonymous composer to perform his latest quintet, tour Europe and the Mediterranean in pursuit of a poetic shaped place of vision, wonder and harmony.
"a mother's goodbye" was published by the Sentinel Literary Quarterly, after being awarded second place in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) by welsh comedian, writer, screenwriter, film-director and historian, Terence Graham Parry Jones. In the judge's report originally published on the Sentinel Literary Quarterly website (uploaded here), Jones thoughtfully responded to all the submissions, specifically responding to twelve poets (three prize winners, three commended poets and three special mentions).
The Second Prize poem is a mother’s goodbye, a poem that achieves to a musical and evocative re-creation of a land, a landscape (the slieve bloom mountains), and – with impressive economy and eloquence – a way of life and a history. From the opening lines of the poem we are left in no doubt that the poet can imbue language with charm and charge:
the moonscape bows to the mist;
the slieve blooms into a mountain scope
stitched with the scent of lime and ghost blossoms
This is a lovely villanelle; skilful and sensitive in its handling of the tercets and the quatrain and the repeating lines and rhymes, and it is (in good part) this move to engage a demanding form in the service of a serious, richly geological and deeply human imagination that justifies the poems ranking in this competition. In five tercets and a concluding quatrain, operating within the tight constraints of the rhyme scheme, the poems nevertheless succeeds in opening into real historical and topographical space. We learn:
stories: the woman who pounded almomd oil into an antidote,
tucked garins in jars of flotsam and flax, and left behind
the village with the basalt neckline and belt of ramie rope
The whole imaginative engagement that is the poem is sustained and executed with balance and grace.
The judges report, written by Gillian Laker of 2013 Canterbury Festival Poet of the year: "An extremely accomplished and original poem that mixes musical notation with the quartered moon. Controlled and expertly-structured, this work is shape-shifting and sonorous. The down-stroke of the bow. There is grief at the base of each quarter, but a grief that has such a rich and strong connection to the living, natural world, that it allows no turning away, even from the harshest of images." The final phrase is concerned with the solace of memory, a compendium of precious and brilliant fragments.
"In Haedeki" was shortlisted for the Oxford Review of Book's Hilary 2020 Fiction Competition, judged by award-winning novelist Will Eaves. The short story reflects on relationships, responsibility, rejection, loneliness and loss, highlights the outscape of inevitable change, and considers the progression or power and erosion in times of profound eco-consciousness. Read the entire story online here: "In Haedeki."
Let The Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur) is the sun and all her strength; raw and revealing, it exposes the destructivity of ‘the affaire’ culture. Directed by the highly revered Claire Denis, the film received the SACD award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. A loose adaptation of Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, Let The Sunshine In is uncompromising, often uncomfortably so, in its portrayal of romance. It is ambitious, and yet, this feature film accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do; it sheds light on the disparity between intimacy and idealism.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a cinematic composition. Simple and charming, the film unfolds like an aria, soft and picturesque. In collaboration with scriptwriters Don Roos and Tom Bezucha, Mike Newell’s screen adaptation of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s epistolary novel is a truly gentle and gorgeous recreation of post-WWII Guernsey. With its 1940s costuming, classic score, cohesive cinematography and clean editing, this feature truly embodies the nostalgia of heritage cinema.
There is only one road, and there is no choice but to take it; to ride atop that stolen wagon straight down over the guilt and dirt and prejudice of an old town, and to stumble, hands and knees to the ground along Laird Hunt’s gravel road all the way to that 1930 Indianapolis lynching. The Evening Road, a historical fiction novel, is thought-provoking, addressing racial tension and cruelty in the same sentences as self-deprecation and personal prejudice.
A Barrel of Dried Leaves rakes together the “corroded” past and “sing[s] the anthem” of change and patriotism in a galvanizing, all-encompassing way. The collection veers away from the expected self-exploration and, without obscurantism, places the reader in a world-reaching, overarching search for human identity. From the start, Allan Cameron challenges national identity—the entirety of us.
With vivid illustrations, poignant metaphors, and poetic nuances, Heather O’ Neill’s The Lonely Hearts Hotel entices its readers with a narrative about outcast characters seeking to entertain New York City with “The Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza” on their search for stardom. The Lonely Hearts Hotel focuses on the interconnecting themes of fate and tragedy, hope and persistence. Early in the text, it is suggested that “we are really nothing more than our foibles and that, were we to eradicate our flaws, there would be nothing left of us at all.”
Daragh Breen’s poems are crowded with spirits and ghosts, their very ethereal nature characterizing his focus on the almost indefinable. Published in 2016, What The Wolf Heard, is unconventional in how it explores and illustrates time. Structured as four compartments, the collection’s chronology is nonlinear and consequently, implies a fluidity between present, past, and future. The introduction is set in 1969, continues “four decades earlier,” and announces its completion, “23 years later.” Throughout, Breen addresses the process of nothing transforming into something in order to replace the something that has now returned to nothing. What The Wolf Heard decodes is the continual, metamorphic cycle of nature, from birth to burial.
Roy Fisher’s latest collection, Slakki: New & Neglected Poems, epitomizes the poet’s struggle to stabilize his “everyday self — a quite presentable, penurious, and apparently unambitious young man” in his poetry. The process of putting together the collection addresses the creation of a poetic identity, the representation of Fisher the writer.
This crashes around the skull. It whispers and it wails. It is the sound we hear when the space around us is silent. Recently shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award, Zoë Skoulding’s The Museum of Disappearing Sounds explores the notion of sound as a codependent relationship between a reader’s external and internal ear. The Museum of Disappearing Sounds is an intimate collection and is offered as a gift to you, her reader. You are the initiator, the listener, the viewer, and also the silencer of sound: “You hold [its] rise and decay.” The collection itself is curated like a display, divided into “exhibits.” An image of waves form in the second exhibit, enabling you to envision external noise internally. Skillfully, Skoulding wires sound deep within the body just as a set of cables connects to a radio.