Creative Work: ‘Suffering Saints’ by Thomas McDade

Creative WorksThis week we have another riveting short story by Thomas McDade, who brought us ‘Skydiving‘ last week. In ‘Suffering Saints’, the prose is quick and punchy, with McDade never lingering on any one event, whether it be a priest smoking pot or an attempted bleach-induced homicide by a lover. The flow of the piece is fluid and perfectly-paced, the narrative voice is unique and humorous, and the characters do well to keep the reader’s attention throughout.

Suffering Saints

Lofty the Saint Maven had “gentle” stamped all over him as obvious as the scar on his face. He thought I knew about St. Lydia before we met but it wasn’t until I heard him reeling off Saints for the dwarf dishwasher that I looked up my name. A reference librarian gave me some of the information.  A St. Cloud Chapel priest I’d stumbled upon smoking pot at nine p.m. sitting on a park bench served up more details.  I was walking a manic Jack Russell Terrier when I whiffed weed.  Father Todd was wax bean of a man with a clump of unmanageable blond hair.  A sexton who saw his shadow on a wall said it looked like a royal palm but teens whispered “royal pain.”  Continue reading


Creative Work: ‘In a Big World’ by Christian Fennell

Creative WorksToday we have another short story by Christian Fennell. His narrative tone is consistent with this first piece, ‘Under the Midnight Sun‘, but both stories are unique. The prose in ‘In a Big World’ is calm and surreal, the characters sad and deep, and the storyline mysterious and captivating.

In a Big World

A simple silhouette to a barren land and a dead crow’s nest hangs falling before the coming night, and you can see me. I know you can.

I close the door of an old pickup and watch it drive away, the sound of the tires on the gravel wanting the last of my resolve. But I won’t let it go. No. And I am coming.

The wind picks up and takes the nest and it drifts crazy-like above the road—so far now from that little bay of Bala, hands laid upon the water.

The nest breaks apart and flutters away, and I walk away, slow and unsure, beautifully broken and drifting—perfect really, for this movement: wandering and wondering, in a big world.

The wind pushing me on still, and now down a narrow path between tall trees born of the coming night’s broken light—most of wanting is always there, in the trees without leaves, in the wind: You can’t have everything. You can’t fix everything.

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Creative Work: ‘Under the Midnight Sun’ by Christian Fennell

This week we have a short story by Christian Fennell, “Under the Midnight Sun.” Its strength stems from its ambiguity and its ability to raise questions while painting a strange, evocative picture of a barren land Creative Worksdisrupted by this unspecified man.

Under the Midnight Sun

Oh fuck no.

He lifts his head from a thick and darkening pool of his own blood, hellish pain rushing forward.

He spits dirt and gravel from his mouth and he brushes away bits of it stuck to the side of his face.

He sits up and rests his arms on his knees and leans forward and closes his eyes and exhales.

He opens his eyes—RVs are driving by. A long line of em. Continue reading

Creative Work: ‘My Husband, the Statistician’, and ‘Better Than Fiction’ by Erica Brenes

This week we are featuring two poems by Erica Brenes. “My Husband, The Statistician” isCreative Works a beautiful, loving description of two poets, each in their own way — a husband and wife both equals and opposites. “Better Than Fiction” is an equally heartfelt tribute to a shared life better than one created in the head of a writer.

My Husband, the Statistician

You wake before me, and you dig beneath the covers.
Lying at the foot of our bed, you then uncover
Just the smallest bit of me.

With care, with tenderness,
with a palpable quietness,
and me still asleep,
you then drag the blunt edge of your thumb
across the vein that so often juts from the top of my right foot.

Pronounced and raised,
It speaks out beneath my tattoo,
and you speak back. Continue reading

Creative Work: ‘Withdrawal’ by Francesca Lo Basso

Creative WorksThis week we are bringing you another piece fresh from the Kingston MFA programme. Francesca Lo Basso takes us to the front lines in this poem whose rhythm echoes that of soldiers’ footsteps. ‘Harrowing’ would be the best way to describe this piece, which uses the sonnet form to hammer out a poignant point. 


The question is: how do you stop a war?
Your body frozen, your mouth metallic—
through what new breach will you attack this chore?
As bullets rain from gun barrels phallic
and blistering bombs burden, burst, and blaze,
do you lay down your rifle, mock defeat?
Turn tanks in their tracks, greyed blur in the haze—
reliance, defiance, chivalrous retreat?
Do you beg? Do you wheedle? Do you con?
Does your voice resound? Does it rattle, roar?
The question still remains as we move on
to the refrain: how do you stop a war?
Empty words for soldiers now departed
because the hallowed truth is you don’t start it.

This poem finds its strength where most pieces might fail, in asking questions. The rhythmic questioning of outdated practices only emphasises the underlying theme – the pointlessness of war. 

Join us again next week for another jaw-dropping piece!

Creative Work: ‘This Modern Love’ by Joseph Pierson

Creative WorksIn the 1980s, the Talking Heads told us “you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and you may ask yourself ‘Well… how did I get here?’” While those days of unbridled material excess may be over, our modern times pose new problems for the confused and lovelorn.

This week, Kingston University MA student Joseph Pierson brings us a snapshot of life and love in the era of social media. ‘This Modern Love’ offers the cheeky voice of Anna on a typical afternoon as she contemplates her surroundings—and her love life.


This Modern Love

Anna sits in the corner by a potted spider-plant and orders a coffee. She’s brought her own food, a box of sushi from Tesco. She injects white rice with soy sauce from a tiny plastic fish.

Fuck me, she thinks, you’re so sophisticated.

She chuckles to herself. It’s November, bright and cold, a pink smudge across the sky. Giro day. She opens her notebook, a touch self-conscious, enjoying it anyway. Her coffee comes. The regulars, some of them, nod and say hi and Anna smiles back and every time (every time) she smiles back she thinks brightly of herself, you know, you have a really charming smile, Anna.

She sits here with a black Americano writing something, doodling, a scene or a sketch for a scene – It’s difficult to drive while blind drunk and fucked on crack – and a girl comes in, a girl she’s seen before. The girl is tall, she always has a cold, she’s wearing a loose-knit yellow cardigan over a series of tops and skinny black jeans. The barista at the counter bashes the coffee-scoop against the machine and says, “Skinny latte?”

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Creative Work: ‘Twist and Shout’ by Alex Brinded

Creative WorksThis week we have a fun, energetic piece from Kingston MFA student Alex Brinded.

‘Twist and Shout’ straddles the line between forms, using the structure and form of fiction but the rhythm and feel of poetry to capture a memorable moment at a family wedding. Is it prose poetry? Is it flash fiction? We’re not sure—but whatever it is, the energy of the dance shines through.

Twist and Shout

They start wheeling like a hell-train steam-bent on absolutely nailing it.

Him in a little blue waistcoat, sleeves rolled up, her in a white dress, a typical little number. The drum-beat hollows out my chest. The crowd whoops as people recognise the refrain—it’s bassier, louder and rawer than the original. This isn’t a typical little number.

Arms and legs flail and spin. The singer imitates John Lennon’s end-of-the-night, rasping, nearly-lost-his-voice voice.

No slow, shoulder-holding, soppy sloppy, love-sick makes-me-sick schmaltz. Forced grins drop and the crowd cheers them on. We won’t indulge in their indulgence like emotionally voyeuristic bottom feeders. We can just watch the show.

He picks her up and they spin, around and again. Sweat beads on his forehead reflect what little light there is. Her white dress billows out from her legs as she holds herself up on his shoulders. Then, she drops to the floor and their forearms brace – they roll united around the swelling and contracting oval space. Women in heels and cocktail dresses and men in suits push forward and back. Hands hold an array of glasses—champagne, wine and beer—whilst bodies bop on the perimeter.

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Creative Work: ‘Tick-Tock’ by Courtney Smith

Creative WorksIn this weeks poetry piece by Kingston Student Courtney Smith, she powerfully and realistically explores her memory of one that has been loved and tragically lost – contrasting emotions pour over one another, present is entwined with the past and beautifully vivid memories are brought forth as we consider the question; how can we come to terms with loss?


Laughter erupts from my core, dormant –

a bubbling flume in an otherwise still pond.

Lungs worn, shaken with delight –

He had a way about him.

A part of me wishes he could still introduce a smile to my face –

“Nice to meet you, hungry. I’m Dad.”

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Creative Work: ‘Weaving Threads’ by Mariella Camilleri

How do we process loss? This week’s non-fiction piece by Kingston MFA Creative Writing student Mariella Camilleri mixes poetry and prose to explore the Creative Worksfeelings that surround the death of a loved one. Snippets of memory, the way present grief mingles with old hurts, and how to make sense of the place someone has occupied in our lives when they are suddenly gone – it’s the most common of human experiences, and Mariella’s piece is a vivid tribute.


Weaving Threads


It was like a second home. Arms wrapped around us, Maria would proceed to the kitchen to feed us ice creams, biscuits, and other fatty food she stashed in her kitchen.

I don’t remember a time when we didn’t visit. Somehow, her unmarried state made us feel we could drop by invited, lounge in her sugar filled world.

Calm and laid back, she was never perturbed by the noise as we sifted through old clutter; comics, newspapers, old albums and shoes in the top story washroom.

“Look” I’d say parading into the kitchen, on a pair of wee wedges, wondering how Maria’s chubby feet once fit into the shoes. She’d giggle, warn me against breaking a bone.

Most winter days, over a kitchen table covered in newspapers, copybooks, pencil shavings and mugs of tea, she helped us with homework and put her teaching expertise to use. Intrigued by her left handedness, I watched her write letters on coloured flashcards. This image would come to me, when I heard of her death.

I saw her put pen on paper. I heard her vibrant voice. How had we not realised that the end was near? I told myself, that death is nature’s way of making space for another generation. Tears streamed down my face.

She took one last gasp

As a new born took his first,

Unaware of the steps ahead.

A performance without rehearsals;

One chance, one dance.

Continue reading