the mays xviii the mays ÂŁ10 Varsity Publications
This is the eighteenth year in which new writing and artwork from students at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford has been brought together in a Mays anthology. The assorted contents of the book in your hands have been picked out as having particular merit by our three guest editors: Amit Chaudhuri (prose), Tom Raworth (poetry) and our first ever visual arts guest editor, Benjamin Sommerhalder. As usual the gigantic pool of submissions had first to be pared down to manageable long-lists by a scrupulous trio of student editorial committees, without whose generous and thoughtful deliberation this anthology would not be possible. The Mays was initially published as twin volumes, one May for poetry and another for prose. In recent editions the different genres have been published together in discrete sections of the same book, and this move towards a more integrated anthology culminates here with the interleaving of poetry, prose, drawing and photography. Other innovations by the Mays this year have included the launch of a reading series, a number of creative writing workshops and a short film competition, giving students new spaces in which to experiment and collaborate. We hope the work in The Mays XVIII will offer an enjoyable glimpse into the range and depth of creative talent that exists among the students at Cambridge and Oxford in 2010. Lizzie Alice Robinson & Elliot Ross, Editors
the mays xviii
Guest edited by Amit Chaudhuri Tom Raworth Benjamin Sommerhalder
Varsity Publications Ltd Old Examination Hall Free School Lane Cambridge CB2 3RF First published 2010 by Varsity Publications Ltd Copyright © 2010 Varsity Publications Ltd The right of all persons so listed to be identified as the authors of their work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 ISBN 978-0-902240-40-7 Typeset in FF Clifford by Dylan Spencer-Davidson Printed and bound by Y Lolfa Cyf. in Talybont, Wales Cover image by Miguel Santa Clara Original concept by Peter Ho Davies, Adrian Woolfson, Ron Dimant All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the Publisher. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A CIP catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library. Further copies of this book and other titles in the series can be bought through most booksellers or direct from Varsity Publications at the address above or at: www.varsity.co.uk/themays
Contents E ditorial T eam – I X I ntroductions
Amit Chaudhuri (Prose) – xi Tom Raworth (Poetry) – xiV Benjamin Sommerhalder (Visual Art) – xv
J ulia R ampen cathy bue k er J essica S e q ueira L aura Kilbride A rianne S hahvisi J essica S e q ueira P eter M orelli A nnabel B an k s A L ice M alin C harlotte G eater E dward H erring Katherine Waters T om G illiver S ascha morrell P riti k a P radhan J o D avis R ichard O smond
1 11 20 21 26 27 31 60 67 93 97 121 126 127 141 149 152
Death of a Laptop Coconutty Habitude CRIBS Part 1 The Bridges of Konigsberg Three Worlds Cure of Folly Found Four Oh Diana and Acteon The Year of Broken Noses The Melancholy of Anatomy POEMi Louis X Colonials The Happy and the Accursed “My beloved sends an sms...” anatomist
PET ER MOR ELLI ELE A NOR k EN DR ICk M A RCELLE OLI V I ER BEN JA M I N MOR R IS J ESSIC A SEqU EI R A M A RCELLE OLI V I ER T OBY L LOY D Y U DDI GER SHON
155 161 164 165 175 188 189 198
Mousepit Incendiaries fault line day-end on the rubidge farm The Singing River Landscape with Shadows oracle Dave’s Eleven call to arms
CON T R I BU TOR S –
List of visual artwork
JENNIFER GU T TER IDGE
M A RC J UST I N CINANNI
Avenue de France
LOU ISE BENSON
I heard the shiver of that immortal sea
LOU ISE BENSON
k AT H ER I N E SPENCE
I heard the shiver of that immortal sea
A DA M HINES-GR EEN
Kobe, After the Rain
M IGU EL SA N TA CL A R A
A N DR EW SPY ROU
JENNIFER GU T TER IDGE
LI ZZI E A LICE ROBI NSON
BR ION Y JON ES
CHEN TING ZOU
Peacock Mass Exodus
DY L A N S P E N C E R - D AV I D S O N
A DA M HINES-GR EEN
P R AV E E N PA R A N A G A M A G E
Editorial Team E ditors
Lizzie Alice Robinson & Elliot Ross D esigner
Dylan Spencer-Davidson O xford A ssociate E ditor
Jack Orlik M anaging E ditor
Michael Derringer P oetry C ommittee
Mary Dragun, Izzy Finkel, Natasha Footman, Eleanor Kendrick, Laura Kilbride, Peter Leggatt, Paul Merchant, Alexandra Reza, Ed Saunders, Colette Sensier, Chloe Stopa-Hunt P rose C ommittee
Pritika Pradhan, Octavia Bright, Natasha Bruce, Mark Maughan, Maartje Geussens, Jessica Sequeira, Frances Winfield, Robyn Drury, Carrie Plitt, Cathy Bueker, Alexandra Treacy ix
V isual A rt C ommittee
Paul Merchant, Georgia de Grey, Katherine Spence, Dylan Spencer-Davidson, Andrew Spyrou E vents T eam
Mary Dragun, Maartje Geussens, Emma Hogan, Eleanor Kendrick, Mark Maughan, Leila Morad, Colette Sensier P roofreaders
Anna Maguire, Patrick Kingsley, Alexandra Reza W ith S pecial than k s to
Elein Fleiss, Will Hudson at It’s Nice That, Kates Jones & everyone at The Shop, Jessica Lambert, Anna Maguire, Decca Muldowney W e are indebted to our college sponsors :
Cambridge: Clare Hall, Churchill College, Emmanuel College, Fitzwilliam College, Gonville & Caius College, Jesus College, King’s College, Magdalene College, Newnham College, Pembroke College, Queens’ College, St John’s College, Trinity College, Trinity Hall Oxford: Christ Church, Jesus College, New College, Oriel College, St Hugh’s College, St John’s College, Trinity College x
A mit C haudhuri
Introduction for Prose
I remember that being eighteen or nineteen involved, for me, an intense series of relationships with the works of older writers – so intense that it took on the form of a sort of make-believe, in which I sometimes replicated their tone and styles and even mannerisms. T S Eliot’s acute observation that the best poetry can communicate before it is fully understood (Eliot, and poetry, still loomed large in the late seventies and early eighties) I took to heart: in fact, I see, retrospectively, that all literature for me was, at the time, enveloped in a haze of ‘communication’ rather than having much to do with obstreperous ‘understanding’. Naturally, then, it was also a time of ambition – not so much of writerly ambition, but of formal ones, of grand designs that might echo the experiments of our modernist forbears. None of this was, of course, qualified by any postcolonial irony. Perhaps I grew up more slowly than others, was just precocious for a longer period, or perhaps ‘growing up’ as a writer unfolded at a slower, more tortured pace until the world changed at the end of the eighties. At any rate, it was only in 1985, when I was twenty three, that I xi
A m i t C h au dh u r i
first wrote something – a poem – (after having written an immense amount of difficult and heartfelt stuff before) about a real place – a lane in suburban Bombay – with all the excitement that turning from literature to mere ordinariness entails. I myself hardly realised what I’d done, or noticed my own excitement; it was Karl Miller, professor at the college at which I was an undergraduate, and founder-editor of the London Review of Books, who pointed it out to me as different among the poems I had handed to him: ‘I like this’. When I look at the stories I’ve chosen in this anthology, I see, at least in pieces like ‘Melancholy of Anatomy’, ‘Cure of Folly’, and a few others, what superficially seems like the same ambition and absorption in narrative styles and voices that I possessed, fitfully, as an apprentice writer. On closer examination, however, the similarity ends. All these stories possess an empathy for character and a vivid sense of their respective fictional worlds that are the marks of mature writing; most importantly, they contain, however extraordinary their subject-matter or voices, a hard-won feeling for the quotidian. The precious presence of the ordinary in the stories in the anthology is what I feel most grateful for; it’s what I once had to work hardest – without quite knowing why I was working so hard – to finally savour the delight of, and, in order to approach it, I had to unlearn my ambitions. The ordinary, like the story itself, is an unlooked-for gift; it’s the possibility that opens up when other possibilities die, which is why it can never be quite divorced from xii
I n t roduc t ion
melancholy – in the lovely ‘Death of a Laptop’, the termination of a computer’s life sends two boys facing the spiralling pointlessness of an afternoon in which there’s nothing to do: ‘The summer light makes the air sweet, like melon.’ The most unlike things will converge in the fruition of a story: in ‘The Happy and the Accursed’, it’s a Wikipedia entry on a painting, the idea of perspective, and narrative voice that come together – ‘She liked to think she was sitting where the artist sat’ – to produce this startling dictum: ‘She would write again, this time with greater elegance and precision.’ It’s a resolve we continue to take, from the mixture of happiness and the aftertaste of failure that always surrounds the completion of writing; it’s heartening to find it articulated here in the thoughts of an anonymous woman, a fictional character, with such patience, irony, and perfect self-awareness.
Amit Chaudhuri is an internationally acclaimed novelist, essayist and musician. His most recent novel was the award-winning The Immortals. Among the prizes he has won are the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Society of Authors’ Betty Trask Award and Encore Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Indian Government’s Sahitya Akademi award. He is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was one of the judges of the Man Booker International Prize 2009. xiii
T om R aworth
Introduction for Poetry
That anyone in this age of the dominant eye can still find mileage in arrangements of words to play on a private invisible screen with a soundtrack of an imagined voice is remarkable and encouraging. I have tried, in this selection from the poems sent to me already winnowed by the student editors, to show the wide range of observations, perceptions and rhythms; of wit and cynicism; of intention and chance; of flippancy and earnestness that made my task far more pleasant than Iâ€™d expected. The usual reward of writing is to be its first (and sometimes only) reader. Thanks to the Mays anthology, these poems are now out in the world of all others. I wish them and their authors well. Tom Raworth is a poet who has published over forty books; he edited outburst magazine (among others) and co-founded the Goliard Press. In 1977 he was resident poet at Kingâ€™s College, Cambridge. He won the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize for his first book of poetry, The Relation Ship; recent awards include the Philip Whalen Memorial Award and the Antonio Delfini Prize for Lifetime Achievement. xiv
B enjamin S ommerhalder
Introduction for Visual Art
My editorial choices are always very personal and subjective, and there are a number of pieces here that I would have been proud to publish myself. The artists I gravitate towards for Nieves publications are often illustrators with an untrained, hand-drawn style. I don’t like it when trained artists ‘pretend’ to be naïve, but I think the product of untrained artists can be especially interesting and unusual, so for me the illustrations really stand out in this collection – especially Praveen Paranagamage’s cityscape ‘London’ and George Shapter’s ‘Branch’ and ‘Branch 2’. When artists have no formal training you can often see that they have developed independently and work more instinctively, without a fixed idea of the ‘right’ – or even the ‘trendy’ – way of doing things. I thought the photographic submissions were generally of a very high standard, and this is reflected in the selection I have chosen; although unlike the illustrations, the photos often reminded me of styles and trends that I have seen before. Adam HinesGreen’s ‘Kobe, After the Rain’ particularly stood out for me (I loved the way the drops on his face looked xv
like sawdust). I feel very honoured to be the first ever visual arts guest editor for the Mays, and I certainly think this new practice should be continued in future editions. The artwork I have seen deserves to be treated with equal merit as Oxford and Cambridge writing. This work shows real promise, and I would not be surprised to see a few of the artists here receiving critical attention in a few years’ time.
Benjamin Sommerhalder is the publisher and editor-inchief of Nieves publishing house, probably the world’s first zine publishing company. He is considered one of the main instigators of the recent artist zine movement, and has published a variety of contemporary artists such as Ed Templeton, Geoff McFetridge, Takashi Homma, Rita Ackermann, Larry Clark, Spike Jonze, Chris Johanson and Ari Marcopoulos. The highly collectible Nieves books and zines are exhibited all over the world – most recently in Tokyo, New York, Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles. xvi
Contributors just finished her English degree at Lucy Cavendish College. She won the 2009 Ryan/Kinsella poetry prize and the 2010 “Other” prize, and her poetry and stories have been published in the smaller magazines and anthologies. In the autumn she will begin her MA creative writing (novels) at Royal Holloway. Contact her at email@example.com.
At the moment Louise Benson is excited by Kenneth Anger’s movies set to music, Wolfgang Tillmans’ photographs, Sidney’s sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, 60s northern soul, TV sitcoms and 90s high-waisted Gaultier shorts. Film stills, old record covers, days spent in the library and late-night conversations form the reference points to her pictures. Louise’s time in Cambridge is spent studying for her degree in English, learning to project from film reels, and eating ice cream at the theatre. She publishes her photographs and ideas on http://louisebenson.blogspot.com. smells wonderful like puppies and reads English at bally jolly King’s.
Jo Davis has one Greek foot and one Egyptian foot. She is doing a PhD in Musicology. As well as poetry, Jo write folk songs about tumble driers under the googlewhack “theotherjodavis”. Charlotte Geater is reading English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. She’s a submissions editor for Pomegranate, enjoys ordering food that sounds nice but is probably too spicy for her, and lives in Ipswich when she’s kicked back into the real world. Yuddi Gershon lives in Ferry Path and studies Greek
political prose for his PhD. He enjoys cycling around Cambridge, The Fall, and the many guises of Brian Eno. He thanks Edd Mustill for inspiring the published piece. Tom Gilliver divides his time between Pret a Manger and reading English at Christ’s College, Cambridge. He is a regular contributor to Poetry Review and was nominated in 2008 for the Faber New Poets Award. He wants to make films, but probably won’t. Jennifer Gutteridge is
a first year architecture student. Tendencies include taking photos of the sky, drinking revolting amounts of coffee and excessively watching films. Favourites include Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Vozvrashchenie (The Return) by Zvyagintsev.
Edward Herring is currently studying English at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. ‘The Melancholy of Anatomy’ is based on time spent in hospital. The major influences on the style are cited within, with the exceptions of Samuel Beckett and Chaucer. He is currently writing the mock-biography of a close friend. Adam Hines-Green
studies medicine but prefers
photobooks. is a third year Social Anthropologist at Homerton College. She is passionate about travel and culture and hopes to pursue a career in photography and writing in the future. She’s very lucky to live on Dartmoor where there is a lot of great wildlife to snap!
is studying creative writing at Oxford. He also makes music and takes photographs. He hopes to do these things forever.
Marc Justin Cinanni
Eleanor Kendrick likes sounds. She is a first year studying English at Jesus College, Cambridge, and was a winner of the Foyle Young Poets competition of 2007.
is a poet currently living in Cambridge, where she studies on the Criticism and Culture M.Phil. Her poems have appeared in the Cambridge
Literary Review and C-leaves. She is responsible for The Dial Poetry Readings and is co-organiser for the Cambridge Reading Series. is an English student at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. His interests include reading.
is a third year English student. She has been a Foyle Young Poet of the Year and her poetry has been published in Acumen and Equinox magazines. She also came second in the Christopher Tower Poetry Competition 2006, and has read her poetry at events in Cambridge and London. Her plan for next year is to apply for a postgraduate medicine course.
Made in Australia in the 1980s, Sascha Morrell is a writer of short fiction, less short fiction, and prose shrapnel. Her work is concerned with the ambiguities of escape, transformation, and memory. Sascha is a PhD student in American literature at the University of Cambridge. is currently completing his PhD in English at King’s College, Cambridge.
A native of Mississippi, Benjamin Morris recently completed a PhD in Archaeology at Clare Hall. His work appears or is forthcoming in Anon, Horizon Review, Moloch, and previous Mays anthologies. 204
was raised in South Africa, worked on gender and feminist theory for her MPhil at Oxford, and recently finished her doctoral research in African archaeology and rock art at Keble College. Her poetry and short prose have featured in various British and South African publications, and this year marks her fourth consecutive appearance in the Mays. Amongst many others, she admires the writings of Anna Akhmatova, Arthur Nortje, Marilyn Strathern, and Margaret Drabble.
Richard Osmond has just completed a degree in English at Queens’ College, Cambridge. He has had poems published in The Dial, Pomegranate, and Don’t Panic magazines, and was awarded the Henry Frederick Farr Poetry Prize in 2009. He plays the banjo and enjoys juggling, mushroom identification and historical brewing. Praveen Paranagamage
is a second-year architect
from King’s. is the worldly identity of a cluster of selves thriving on cultural detritus, studying English at Lucy Cavendish, Cambridge, working in multiple committees and trying to vindicate her Gates scholarship. She has a passion for the Victorian Ages, mythologies, the history of art and of memorably illbehaved women. She is currently experimenting on ways to capture the infinite possibilities of thought
on plain paperskins. is a History undergraduate at Newnham College. She grew up in Edinburgh, and her interest in writing was encouraged by the annual Book Festival and the occasional glimpses of one of the city’s resident authors. She is a Foyle Young Poet and her poems have been published in New Writing Scotland and the online magazine Pomegranate.
is currently completing her MPhil in Greek tragedy at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She likes Jesper Ulvelius, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ari Marcopoulos and Miranda July. Lizzie Alice Robinson
Miguel Santa Clara studies architecture at King’s College, Cambridge. He feels blind walking through a city without a camera. He ignores stagnant icons, finding interest in the constant transformation of the city by the anonymous individual.
is a third-year at Harvard, where she edits features for The Harvard Advocate and writes editorial and arts pieces for the Harvard Crimson. She is interested in many people and things, including Julio Cortázar, Michelangelo Antonioni, political philosophy, surrealism, 19th century novels of all kinds, and the unexplored possibilities of creative non-fiction; this summer she will be working on some imaginative essays set in Mumbai’s Catholic community. Jessica Sequeira
Jessica studied at Cambridge for the 2010 Lent and Easter terms and fell in love with the country — she hopes to return after she graduates. Arianne Shahvisi is a graduate student at the Queen’s
College, Oxford, where she studies the philosophy of physics, and is about to begin a PhD on the role of the anthropic principle in explaining fine-tuning in the universe. She is hoping to complete her first novel, Marley’s Fiction, by the end of the year. George Shapter works in Chinese Ink on paper and linen. His work is currently focused mostly on landscapes. Through these he attempts to visualise the process of simplification, compartmentalisation and digitalisation of our experiences, something we all engage in, a compulsive process of naming and explaining away the unknown and unknowable. George is currently studying History of Art at Trinity College, Cambridge. Katherine Spence. Cherry
pie and coffee.
Dylan Spencer-Davidson is exhausted from design-
ing the Mays. He likes William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Wolfgang Tillmans and Linus Bill. In October 2010 he is off to the RCA to do an MA. is a Social Anthropologist at Churchill College. He is fascinated by the networks
created by human inter-relation as well as man’s relationship with the material world. Artistically Andrew explores our obsession with mundanity and searches for snatches of functional beauty within our postmodern life-scape. The drawing featured here is inspired by the pirate-radio aerials illegally installed on London’s rooftops. Quite literally emitting waves of verticals from a “wave of verticals”, these aerials connect the underworld with the aethereal. read English at Jesus. She once advised me to “Mind all quotes.” But maybe I’m paraphrasing her.
is a student at Wadham College,