Professor Abi Curtis
Professor of Creative Writing, Coordinator for the MA and MFA in Creative Writing, Research Lead for the School of Humanities
I was one of the first to gain a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex, and went on to teach there until 2010 when I joined York St John University. My latest poetry collection The Glass Delusion (Salt, 2012) was a winner of the 2013 Somerset Maugham Award.
My latest work is a climate change novel, Water & Glass (Cloud Lodge, 2017).
In 2004 I received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors for poets under 30, and my first collection, Unexpected Weather, was the winner of Salt Publishing’s inaugural Crashaw Prize and was shortlisted for the London Festival Fringe Poetry Award 2010.
My work often engages with other disciplines, such as visual art, science and history: a recent project was the result of collaboration with the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum. As well as writing poetry, I write fiction and have an interest in psychoanalysis. My writing explores such topics as mushrooms in Freud; the power of the squid in literature; and the relationship between poetry and ventriloquism. I have also written on the role of the unconscious in the teaching of creative writing.
Visit my author website.
I teach on the Creative Writing MFA and MA courses and supervise PhDs in Creative Writing. I am also the Research and Knowledge Transfer Lead for the School of Humanities.
Subject specialisms include: writing and the environment, the elegiac, poetry, short fiction, novel writing, critical and creative writing, speculative fiction, writing and motherhood, animal studies and post-humanism.
Publications and Papers
'Freud’s Uncanny and Speculative Elegy’ in the Oxford Literary Review, December 2020 vo.42, No.2
‘The Eye’ in Beneath the Skin: Great Writers on the Body, Wellcome Collection, October 2018.
'Pollinate' (short story) Bridport Prize Anthology, 2022
'Predictions' (short story) The Fish Anthology, 2022
Water & Glass (Novel) Cloud Lodge Books, 2017
Penning Parenthood (edited collection, editor) The Emma Press, 2023
The Glass Delusion, Salt Publishing, 2012
Unexpected Weather, Salt Publishing, 2009
Humbug, Tall Lighthouse, 2004
Poetry included in a range of journals and anthologies, including: Best British Poetry 2012, Long Poem Magazine, Magma, South East Review, Aesthetica, Poetry South, Resurgence, Succour and The Best American Poetry Blog.
'Istanbul Diary' in The Author: Journal for the Society of Authors, 2014
‘Mushrooming: Resistance and Creativity in Sigmund Freud and Emily Dickinson’ in Angelaki: The Journal of the Theoretical Humanities Routledge, Vol. 18.2: 2013
‘Re-thinking the Unconscious in Creative Writing Pedagogy’, in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, Autumn 2009.
‘Inventions of Telepathy’ review article in The Oxford Literary Review: ‘Telepathies’, December 2008.
‘An Impossible Apprenticeship’, on teaching poetry, Poetry News, Summer 2006.
Conference Papers and readings
Inaugural professorial Lecture, Creative Writing: Pollination and Transformation, York St John University, 24th of January 2019.
Reading from Water & Glass at Fictions of Every Kind, Leeds, 14th May 2018
London Launch of Water & Glass, in conversation with Naomi Booth. Waterstones, Kensington, 3rd May 2018.
The 3rd Northern Animals Symposium: Extinction in the Anthropocene, 24th April 2018, University of York. Invited Plenary Speaker.
Speaking at ‘Climate Change and the Novel’ event, University of Sussex, Centre for Creative and Critical Thought, 12th April 2018.
Launch of the York Literature Festival 2018 in association with the York Centre for Writing, reading from Water & Glass as part of the Creative Writing team. 15th March 2018.
'Bee Grammar: The Pollination Project' English: Shared Futures Conference, The English Association, Newcastle, July 2017.
'Bee Grammar: The Pollination Project' Speculative Futures Conference, York St John University, May 2017.
Writing the Future’: workshop and reading with Dr Luke Kennard as part of the York Literature Festival 2015.
'Squiddity: The Power of the Squid in Writing', 'Reading Animals', Sheffield, July 2014.
'WordPress Blogging as a Reflective Tool in Creative Writing', Higher York e-learning conference, York St John University, May 2014.
Reading from novel in progress, at 'Narrative and Alternative Futures', part of York Literature Festival, March 2014.
'Creative Writing at York St John University', conference paper, as part of an international panel, on curriculum design, AWP conference, Seattle, January 2014.
'Creative Writing/Creative Research' with Dr JT Welsch, NAWE, York, November 2012.
‘Squiddity: The Power of the Squid in Writing’, ‘First Fictions’, University of Sussex, January 2012
‘Poetry and Ventriloquism’, ‘Poetry and the Voice,’ University of Chichester, June 2010.
‘The Joke as Critical and Creative Act’, ‘Critic as Artist,’ University of Lancaster, June 2009.
‘Mr Coombes and the Drop-Hole’, a fictional dramatisation of the process of research, ‘The Story of Research’, University of Sussex, June 2007 and ‘Great Writing’, University of Bangor, July 2007.
‘Conversations with a Machine: Re-thinking the relationship between Poetry and Critical Discourse’, ‘In the Line of Contemporary Poetry’, Oxford, September 2006.
‘Indefinite Exteriors: Narrative Desire and the Kiss’, ‘Incorporation and Literature’, University of Edinburgh, July 2006.
‘Freud’s Compositional Space’, ‘Great Writing’, University of Portsmouth, June 2005.
I have read my work at the following venues and festivals including: York, Chiddingly, Stanza, The Troubadour, The Betsy Trotwood, The Komedia, Slaughtered Lamb, Poetry Café and Bookroom Boutique. I have also judged poetry competitions, including Kent SaveAs, Root and Branch, and The New Writer.
- Blind Spot: The Eye – reading at The Wellcome Trust, September 2018, for BBC Radio 3 ‘Body of Essays’ series.
- Radio 4 ‘Open Book’ with Mariella Frostrup on Dystopian Fiction, with Luke Kennard and Gregory Claeys, 31st of December, 2017, 4pm
- BBC Radio Jersey Interview on Water & Glass
- Talk Radio Europe Interview on Water & Glass.
I am interested in supervising research and/or creative projects in speculative fiction; the question of the animal in fiction or poetry; eco/climate-change writing, elegy and mourning. I am also interested in psychoanalysis & literature.
Please see the York St John website for further details on practice-based PhD study or on the MFA in Creative Writing.
I have collaborated on the following projects:
Penning Parenthood with Dr Paige Davis, senior lecturer in Psychology, a QR funded project exploring the benefits of creative writing for expressing the experience of early parenthood. The project involved writing workshops and an edited collection of prose and poetry forthcoming from The Emma Press (2023)
The multi-disciplinary research project 'The Pollination Project' bringing together artists, designers and writers to re-wild part of the York St John campus and create an online archive and published anthology. (QR and externally funded) https://yorkstjohnpollinationproject.com/
I wrote the words for the following musical projects composed by Dr David Lancaster and recorded with a professional choir:
'At the edge of the world' and exploration of the experience of an anchoress in a medieval church, All Saints North Street, in York and ‘The Pickering Frescoes: Music of a Thousand Breaths’ a collaboration with composer David Lancaster: song, instrumental music and dance inspired by medieval wall paintings at Pickering Church. Performed in the church by Ensemble 1450 surrounded by the frescoes, July 2018. Words by Abi Curtis, Music by David Lancaster. ( both QR funded)