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s g n i K d n a s e g a b Of Cab Journal of King’s English Literary Society

ISSUE 8


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for the rest of the world. By the time I finished my final year of university, I thought I probably wanted to be an academic, but I was also sure I needed some time away first. I was worn out, tired of being ambitious, and desperate to get out of the Midwest. So I did what countless Americans before me have done when finding themselves in a similar state of mind: I took off for California. It was the 1990s and San Francisco was, for me and many of those I graduated with, the logical place to be. I eventually got a job in publishing—computer science textbooks, not my first choice—and marvelled every day at the fact that I could see the ocean from my bus stop. Eventually it became clear, though, that the publishing industry was not for me. To get anywhere in the business meant enduring years of long, boring, and poorly paid entry-level work, and it just didn’t seem worth it. If I was going to be broke and subjected to long years of training, I reasoned, I at least wanted a PhD at the end of it. And so I moved all the way back across the country to Rutgers University, another state, institution, this one surrounded by suburban sprawl rather than cornfields. This time I didn’t have to choose based on finances, since most PhD programs in the States fund the students they accept. Rutgers had marvellous faculty in my field, and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Professor Marianne DeKoven, who was as personally supportive as she was intellectually rigorous. The job prospects were brutal though: less than 40% of English PhDs get full-time, permanent academic jobs—and that was after an average of nine years of postgraduate education in the American system—and, to make matters worse, my project was on the unpopular, seemingly dated topic of contemporary feminist fiction. Facing these odds, I entered the final year of my PhD thinking it

I started my academic career somewhere I really did not want to be: the University of Illinois. Surrounded by cornfields and known for its science and engineering programs and its football team, U of I was everything I wasn’t looking for in an undergraduate institution. I’d also been offered a place at a top-ranked university, but when the tuition had proved too expensive, I’d had to opt for U of I, the cheaper ‘state’ school. I wish I could say I arrived determined to make the best of it, but I was 18 and bitterly disappointed not to be at the elite institution of my dreams. I arrived sulky and resentful. But U of I turned out not to be the intellec-

tual backwater I assumed. In fact, I was lucky to have been there when I was. The English department had just hired a slew of hotshot young faculty, all of whom have gone on to become celebrated scholars in their respective fields, and by chance I wound up in their classes on postmodern fiction, feminist theory, and queer theory—classes that introduced me to the areas I eventually made my focus. It was true that U of I was big, impersonal, and no one in particular was watching out for you. But if you looked hard for what you wanted and were willing to put some energy into getting it, there were great things to be had there. In that way, it was pretty good training

Dr Jane Elliott will be directing the new MA at KCL in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory, which will begin in the academic year 2013-14. The masters in Contemporary Literature offers an exceptional opportunity for students to engage with post1945 literature in relation to a variety of contexts and methodologies, with an option to focus on the 21st century.

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might take me years to get a job—if I ever did—even though my supervisors were excited about my work. But, again, I was lucky: among the many rejections I received in that final year of my PhD was one crucial acceptance, for a post-doctoral fellowship in the Pembroke seminar at Brown University. Professor Rey Chow, the leader of the seminar that year, liked my project and, over the course of my year there, helped me figure out how to explain it in a way that made other people see what was compelling about it. And winning the Pembroke post-doc itself offered the kind of stamp of approval that hiring committees take seriously. Mid-way through my year at Brown, I put in applications for jobs beginning the next academic year. When I was invited for interviews, I was particularly excited by a position in post-1945 literature at the University of York. I knew it was a great English department, and I was willing to move anywhere for a job of that kind, including the North of England (not that I really understood what that meant at the time). Flying in for a job interview, fighting jet lag, and knowing little of the British university system made my trip to York an odd experience,

Dr Jane Elliott Senior Lecturer in Late 20th and 21st Century Literary and Cultural Studies at King’s College London

Dear Literature

lovers,

no

Welcome to the last issue of Of Cabbages and Kings for the year! For all looking for a break from the unrelenting reading and essays of term time, we present to you your last chance to indulge in the creative works of your fellow students. The month has been full of dramatic productions, so for those of you unlucky enough to miss them, we give you the chance to experience one of them through a student review. Look out especially for the English Literary Society - we will not only elect new committee members, but give them a warm welcome in an after party on May 1,

l ia or it ed

but it was an oddly enabling one too. When I stepped up to the podium to give my research presentation, I felt a million miles away from my ordinary life, and there was something freeing in that feeling. My nervousness dropped away and, from the moment I started speaking, I could tell that I had the audience with me. I left England the next day having been offered the job. I finished up my post-doc, moved to York over the summer, and spent six wonderful years in the English department there. In 2011, I accepted a position to lead development in contemporary literature and culture at King’s. Here, as at York, I’ve been delighted by the enthusiasm students bring to the study of contemporary literature. It’s been another stroke of luck for me, and one of continual rewards of my work, that the things I most want to read and think about are things that excite my students as well. ª

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6 pm at the Strand Campus (room tbc). We have all enjoyed and appreciated the chance to edit and collate some of Kings’ finest creative works, from students across years and departments. We would like to say a huge thank you to our loyal and enthusiastic readers! Good luck to those furiously scribbling for coursework deadlines now, and even more good luck to those who have yet to start. Happy end of semester two! Bethan, Louise, Geri and Dimple

ª


review The Importance of Being Earnest presented by

King’s Literary Society To open the King’s English Literary Society’s two offerings this academic year is none other than Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, in the ever-sticky Tutu’s. In a cast so small (nine characters alone), it becomes very obvious if someone is destroying a much-loved British classic. Luckily, it was clear from the entry of long-suffering butler Lane (played by Tom Marsh) that this was not going to be an issue. The Importance of Being Earnest is a play so packed with witty one-liners that it is hard to come away from it a) having registered them all and b) not thinking that Wilde is a bit full of it. However, this cast ably delivered some of the best lines in theatre, such as: ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.’ ‘To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’ ‘Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.’ Imagine this. For three Acts. In a less capable cast it can be exhausting, but done well, quite exhilarating. A special commendation has to be given to Alistair MacQuarrie who played Earnest Worthing brilliantly, and was magnetic to

watch. I have heard from those who were lucky enough to see The Heidi Chronicles that he maintained that same captivation there too! However, that is not to say the rest of the cast weren’t highly impressive also. The venue was appropriately intimate for a play like this, but I felt that some of those closer to the back couldn’t fully appreciate the facial expressions being thrown out by Lady Bracknell (Ocy Gilmore). The dialogue shared between Imogen Free, playing Cecily, and Tatiana Cheneviere, playing Gwendolen, was solid and highly entertaining. One comment I came away with is that all of the cast could have benefitted from better acoustics. As I’ve said before, every line in Wilde is good (and he knew it) so should have the chance to be appreciated. The staging was simple but highly effective and the costumes were just right for this traditional portrayal of the play. All in all, The King’s English Literary Society should be congratulated for a very strong performance in a very slick production. I look forward not only to seeing what the directors/producers (Thomas Holloway and Sophie Crawley) do next but also to seeing what the actors do next. To end on a final note from Wilde, as is only ever appropriate:

Production credits: Directors/Producers Thomas Holloway & Sophie Crawley Jack/Earnest Alister MacQuarrie Algernon Luke Boneham Gwendolen Tatiana Cheneviere Lady Bracknell Ocy Gilmore Merriman Will Holyhead Lane Tom Marsh Miss Prism Olivia Steatham Dr Chasuble Jordan Theis ª

Elena Gillies, 1st Year English Language & Literature

‘In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.’

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She sits on a faded olive arm chair next to a single window which reveals a derelict factory peppered with bird excrement and peeling paint. The rest of the landscape is littered with charcoal towers protruding at different angles, plumes of grey and indigo smoke unfurls into serpentine shapes. It is evening. I’d just finished another cleaning shift, yesterday, when I found him again on the sofa. He’s always there, if he’s not at the pub. In fact, the sofa dips in the middle, it’s so used to accommodating his backside. He’d been smoking again. I could smell the remnants of sickly sweet smoke, He looked at me, eyes glazed and disorientated. He said he’d buy us a little place by the sea, a small white cottage. Now that the kids had all moved out, we could downsize, something nice and snug for just the two of us.... He doesn’t know I can barely stand him as it is, the small snippets of time that he is present, when I’ve come back from work and put the tea on, and he’s just lying there. Eleanor fiddles with the brassy gold band on her finger, looking bemused. I have been a good mother. The tea’s always been ready for the children when

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Eleanor is in her fifties. A naked bulb dangles loosely, illuminating her face. The hard light reveals and emphasizes the lines on her visage and de-saturates her flesh. Only the faint glitter of her corn flower blue eyes and her cleaning apron remain colored, the light serves to produce a washed-out appearance on her ashen blonde hair.

creativ

A Dramatic Monologue

they came home. When they went to school and needed trainers, I took on extra shifts. It hasn’t been easy for me. He won’t work, “I’ve got a bad back”, he said. His bad back started not too long after we got married. I’ve got a fancy man. I clean his house every Tuesday, he’s a teacher at a local university. Very middle class. I was dusting down his coffee table, when I picked up one of the glossy magazines he keeps in a pile. ‘Terra-cotta interior design’, the kind of magazine people buy specifically for coffee tables, and at just that moment I heard the front door swing open. A pipe burst at the university, he had to leave early, healthy and safety and all that. The scene dissolves. Eleanor is now sitting on a leather sofa. There is a paper lamp to her left side, that produces a soft amber glow. There are large French windows with ivory net curtains that diffuse the light. She is wearing a cautious amount of makeup, a touch of coral lipstick and brown mascara and her hair, which is mostly confined to a bun, has a few loose strands around her face. She looks almost youthful. I can’t deny that I didn’t try to stop it. I ought to be ashamed, but if I’m honest, I’ve always wanted to be appreciated. A couple of days ago, we passed by a jewelry shop, and he bought me a brooch just because it caught my eye. It’s not about the gifts, though. It’s not about the yellow roses, or the chocolates. No. It’s the “thank yous”, “I adore yous” and the “what would you like for dinners”. ª Ellen Hickey, 1st Year English with Film


Routine Wishful thinking

So tired.

Always.

Drink coffee.

Go home.

Feel wired.

Lose shoes.

y

So late.

poetr

Check mirror. Feel plain. Catch bus. Catch train. Walk quick;

Perfect teeth On the news. Boil pasta. Brush hair. Burn finger,

bloody rain.

Loudly swear.

Late again;

Lie awake.

Hang head.

Gurgling drain.

Forgot reading.

Why bother?

Feel dread.

Why the pain?

Small smile.

Just get up.

Avert gaze.

Do it again.

Wish for

Morgan Lee Watkins, 2nd Year English Language & Literature

Your praise.

My England I sit on Beneath me

wooden slats

Lights beyond Deep night’s

gleam against

frozen floor.

grip of frost.

Tonight is winter’s heartland. I sit in a huddle of wool, sewn up tightly. Against the chill this my cold, my England. Nicky van der Watt, 2nd Year Classical Studies with English

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‘Yes, sir. Are you Bodger?’

A Dog Called Percy ‘When you get there look for a man called Bodger,’ Dad had said. When I asked how I’d know who Bodger was Dad just repeated himself and then winced, leaning back onto the sofa. He’s been lying in the front room since Christmas, gripping at himself and cursing the Japanese. Unlike most people, I can remember the first time I met my Dad. ‘John, this is your Daddy,’ Mam had said and this man, this grim skeleton, had shaken my hand. I didn’t know what a Daddy was and he scared me. When my sister was born he went out and got drunk, he sat and held her and sniffed her fresh baby head. She’s six now and he goes into her room when he comes home from the pub, he sits on her bed; he strokes her hair and sings her Irish ballads. When he sings she can see inside his mouth to the long stalagmites of spit that bend with his jaw. ‘I’m too ill John,’ he said, ‘you go to the track with Percy; look for Bodger, he’ll see to you. And don’t tell your Mam!’ So here I am. In my left hand is the end of a thick piece of string, the other end is tied around the neck of a greyhound called Percy. I’m sat on the window seat of the bus and Percy’s on the one that goes onto the isle; he looks like a person, sat upright, turning his little head this way and that. At the track they call him ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’ and they say he goes faster than a bullet. The bus pulls up at the dog track and Percy and I get off. ‘Come on Perce,’ I mumble as I try to walk assertively towards the track. I can see a man approaching me out of the corner of my eye. He’s wearing a big fur coat, probably beaver, and it’s covered in bits of mud as though he’d only just caught the beaver and slung it straight over himself. His shoes are pointy and he’s wearing a hat like Frank Sinatra’s. ‘You John Barry’s son?’ he asks, taking a toothpick out of his teeth. I shudder with cold.

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The man sniggers as if it to say ‘of course I am you fool’ but instead he puts a hand on my shoulder and leads me towards the track. Percy and I go along with Bodger and his beaver coat. Bodger goes up to a stall and gives me a ticket, ‘them’s Lady Chatterly’s identity papers, don’t go losing them alright?’ I nod. We go around a corner to where all the other dogs are being held in metal cages. I push Percy into one with a number 3 on it. Bodger then leads me to the stands. ‘You stay here,’ he tells me as he wanders back off into the crowd. I see him putting his hand on other people’s backs as they give him money. He takes out a pencil from behind his ear and jots things down on a notepad. This goes on until there’s a sudden gunshot and Bodger quickly comes back to stand with me. He says ‘your Daddy could be a rich man yet!’ The dogs shoot out of their cages like fireballs. Bodger shouts ‘c’mon number 3!’ I stand on my toes to follow the soaring dots that whiz around the track in a blur. ‘Blink and you’ll miss’em’ I’ve heard Dad say. It’s all over within two minutes. Suddenly Bodger’s gripping me by the shoulders. ‘Yes lad!’ he shouts before darting off again through the crowd and getting his pencil back out from behind his ear. I stand shivering from the cold until he comes back up to me with a white package, grinning. ‘Right, go take that home to your Daddy.’ I can feel thick, thick paper between my fingers. I wait until Percy and I are back on the bus to count through the bills. There are 25 guineas. When I get home Mam’s fuming but all I can see are the stalagmites of Dad’s smiling spit as he gleefully counts through Lady Chatterly’s winnings. ª Serafina Vick, 2nd Year French and Hispanic Studies

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ve writ ing

Grandmother

says the devil is in…’

The paint, slowly degrading over the years, had formed into a sacred shape. The image, when you sat at the kitchen table and looked up, was Jesus on the cross, mid-crucifixion. Down to the agony on his face, the blood on his forehead. To the boy it seemed that his grandmother had spent years just sitting at that kitchen table, staring up, thumbing through the rosary with those worn old fingers-tips. He would watch her, watching, and listen to the inevitable creaking of the house.

Then the taxi would pull away again and they would watch from the driveway, and his father never did turn back, never did look over his shoulder.

When he asked her she would say, ‘For my soul, God saw fit to make the mark of grace appear on this house. This old place.’ When he lingered on the way home through the rain he would think of the sadness of her sitting at the table. He would sit in one of those little tunnels in the park that kids like to clamber through. Inside, the rain would never reach him. At dinner she would tell him about the Devil: ‘He watches us always, but we needn’t worry, not if God is in our hearts, because He watches us too. Always.’

When decades had passed and they had filled a fresh grave in the cemetery and returned in dark suits, his father opened all the doors and windows of the house, as if they had never been opened before. Neighbours and friends crowded the living room and kitchen, consoling them in hushed voices. When all the others had gone, his father sat at the kitchen table and looked up at the space of wall above the doorframe. ‘You can barely see it anymore.’ The young man nodded. ‘I’m gonna have it painted over.’ ‘Alright.’ ‘I’ll have to, to sell it.’

‘Does he watch Dad? Does he…?’

‘You don’t want to live here?’

‘Your father is a strong man.’

His father gave out that old, silent laugh.

And he seemed strong, during those weeks when he returned to them, extricating his huge frame from the taxi and wrapping his son in those powerful arms. He would smile and joke. He would chide his mother for her superstitions and tell the boy: ‘Hell is full of scare-mongers. Don’t listen. But, oh, she means well, she does.’

As they left, the house creaked behind them, as if adjusting itself, as if trying to fill a hole that gaped empty. And they drove away, and they did not turn back. ª Nathaniel Zetter, 2nd Year English Language & Literature

And yet, at the cemetery all that strength just seemed to fade, like the way the firmness of that beret crumpled under the pressure of those powerful fingers. The way the water darkened that pale green uniform. The silhouette of his father would tuck him in at night, and he’d ask: ‘Is the devil in war? Grandma

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y r et po Olaketal

Unititled

Spanish sounds strung in symphonies that my ear is deaf to; In a simple translation of geography I am muted, constrained, and very much afraid.

Bitter, that the burnt out match in my soul Will not reignite, and as the unmoored vessels Sail by, I will only sit a patient observer.

The streets, the houses, the sky, all of it different, none of it the same. The customs, the time, the weather, none of it the same, all of it strange.

Assurances wash by unheard. A thousand Antifantastic discussions where every day Fills as a thick cream the wounds left by the profound, Creates life where there is ever a dull moment And the fade from night to day is rarely made focused.

Except you, who interpret like a priest my reassurances, Laying back under the ripples of myself, Allowing me to awkwardly discover unjudged expressions Of the things that despite looking forward, matter. Everything is false, The true self is in the dirt; And though the flame remains untampered still, There should be an acknowledged consistency (Like a thick cream) Reassuring us that things won’t fall apart If we ignore any grand scheme Accept the present for what it is, And for what we are. ª Joe Prestwich, 2nd Year German

But wait. A Sunday, a cathedral. I enter into a world where words fail men

And then, a quiet phrase of greeting - foreign, but comforting.

And suddenly, no longer strange, because a stranger's face and stranger words have made me a memory, a tangible something to anchor to this spot, to plant, to set, to tie to. Something that serves to save me from loneliness. And as each day passes, a new memory is set down to new ground, until this strange city becomes a web of nostalgia, and the cobbles and the shutters and the plazas welcome me back to my memories, and this city becomes a part of my heart, a home. ÂŞ

Emily Milne, 2nd Year French and Hispanic Studies

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Wulf It is as though he sacrifices himself to my people.

Would they still consume him, if he came within a pack? We are not alike.

The Wulf is on one island, I am on another,

One which is secure; surrounded by marshes and moors. There are cruel and savage men on the island,

Would they still consume him, if he comes within a pack? We are not alike.

I have suffered in longing for my far-wandering Wulf. When, in the stormy weather I sat mournful,

Then he, bold in battle, to my pleasure bound me in his arms. And yet at the same time, I loathed him. Oh my Wulf! It is my longing for you,

And your seldom-coming which has struck down my heart With sorrow, and made me ill – not my hunger.

Do you hear me, guardian of happiness and home?

Our wretched whelp bears into the woods with wolves Like our tale together. ÂŞ

Translated from Old English by Sean Coburn, 2nd Year English Language & Literature

poetr y

That men could easily tear apart, as though they were never one.

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There is a fly in that web ‘There is a fly in that web. Should I rescue the fly, or let the spider eat it?’ I feel that if I do, I am changing the way things are supposed to be. I will have probably forgotten about it by teatime. I know lots of things about badgers and owls and polar bears and camels, because I have books about them, and also because we learnt about them in Science. But not spiders, because I don’t like them. If I am quick, and use that knobbly twig over there, I can save the fly and run away. But I don’t know if this spider is the kind that bites you, and then they go under your skin and weeks later you might knock your hand playing football or putting your pyjamas on and millions of little spiders come crawling out. It happened to Tommy Betton’s brother so I know it’s true. If I save the fly, the spider might end up biting somebody else. Maybe it’s just better to leave things to happen on their own. So I lie back and watch the patches of sunlight trying to get through the leaves. Years and years ago, giraffes couldn’t reach the leaves on the trees, but over time, because they stretched so much, their necks grew longer and longer until they were tall enough. Some of them still couldn’t reach though, so they died. Miss Oval said it was called Survival of the Fittest. That’s the way things are supposed to be. But does this mean that when people get cancer, we shouldn’t give them any medicine, or any days off work? I don’t want Granny to die though. When we go and see her she lets me have the toffee one in her Milk Tray and then I cuddle her and she smells like talc and her jumper is scratchy. I put my face in it because I know Mum’s eyes will be watery and I don’t like it when she cries. It doesn’t feel right when grown ups cry. My neck goes all itchy and I feel embarrassed. She was doing it the other day when she was washing up; she didn’t make any noise but her shoulders were shaking quite a lot. She’s probably making tea now, and she’s going to be cross because I’ve taken ages to come home again. I think there’s a stone under my back. There is another fly in the web. ª Alice Green, 2nd Year French with English

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Society AGM

The English Literary Society will soon be holding its AGM. There will be an after party and new committee members will be chosen at the meeting. The positions of President, Treasurer, Secretary, Publicity Officer and Editor of the Journal are up for grabs so to run email kclenglishsociety@ hotmail.com. ª

Barbican Young Poets Showcase

21st March. Doors open at 7pm. At the Gallery Café, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL.

World Poetry Day is upon us and KCL English PEN are putting on a SLAM night at the Gallery Café to celebrate. Hosted by the ever-energetic Joelle Taylor (The Poetry Society), they’ll begin with sets from SLAM and spoken word greats (Megan Beech & Femi Martin), then open the floor and let the competition commence! Email mary.horgan@kcl.ac.uk to secure one of the twelve available SLAM slots. ª

27th March, 7pm. Frobiser Auditorium 1. Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS. The Barbican Young Poets is hosting a showcase of their year’s work under the tutelage of internationally renowned poet and performer  Jacob Sam-La Rose  and poet and co-tutor Jasmine Cooray. It should be a great event and is free to attend, but you will need to book tickets, to do so ring the box office on 0845 120 7511. ª

In the last issue one piece has been attributed to the wrong author. The poem ‘Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral’ is by Portia Roelofs, 1st year, PhD Politics. We apologise for this mistake.

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Journal of King’s English Literary Society

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1st May, 6pm. Strand Campus. Room and further details to be confirmed.

KCL English PEN SLAM

Editors Louise Wang Geri Ross Bethan Eynon Dimple Punjabi Art Direction Geri Ross Cover Artwork Sam Cleal Publicity Jake Mardell Contact & submissions: cabbages.submissions@gmail.com


Of Cabbages and Kings ISSUE 8