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REVIEW: Peninsula (Durham University Anthology)

Peninsula is Durham University's first ever creative writing anthology, written and edited by postgraduates from their English Department. The collection is diverse, varied, and ambitious, showcasing the talent that Durham houses. When Kleopatra Olympiou, one of the writers and editors of the collection, reached out to me and said that she was a student of Naomi Booth, I knew I needed to read this collection (thank you, Kleopatra!).

As a previous creative writing student myself (albeit from Newcastle University, so not too far from Durham), I loved seeing the different paths that these writers followed in terms of narrative and how each piece is unique in voice, tone, and themes. From poems to prose, each piece of writing comments on the human experience, from personal identity and relationships, to diaspora and philosophy, culminating into a collection that is varied and imaginative.

The collection begins with poetry. I'm not a huge poetry reader, and certainly not a poet myself, but these poems are full of beautiful imagery, language, and rhythm. I loved interpreting each one. I was drawn most towards the poems about relationships, such as Laura Day's 'Getaway Car', and Avleen Kaur's 'Karan':

"He himself becomes a home.

The home you travel with and talk to everyday,

the kind of home which doesn't inhabit you,

but the kind that you store in your heart,

like the words of the first poem you ever read."

Each poem in this collection takes you on a journey, whether physical or metaphorical, and allows for self-reflection and realisation. Isn't that what great poetry is about?

The collection then moves to prose. For me, this was the highlight of the collection, being a lover of short stories.

Starting with Janna Arnolt's 'Album of Written Photographs', this story is what the title suggests - she writes photographs, presents the reader with snapshots of what she sees at different times and dates. The snapshots take us from Scarbrough to Switzerland, Italy to Durham.

"The leaves are full of stories today and eager they are to tell them."

Rosie Crocker's 'Bute' also takes the reader on a journey, this time narrating a walk through the city. It provides escapism and reflection and is the kind of writing I hope to write myself one day.

A particular favourite of mine was Kleopatra Olympiou's 'Unbelonging', telling the story of a girl struggling to reconcile her Cyprus roots and her boyfriend who will never understand:

"She hasn't lived through conflict. But the aftermath of what she hasn't experienced still permeates her life. So much of this is still going on."

"Last year, she says, when they studied post colonialism, she sat in that seminar feeling displaced. 'I am white', She says, 'but Other'."

This story places the reader in the character's feeling of diaspora and lack of belonging, creating an understanding between the character and reader that seems to be lost between the two characters in the story.

Another favourite of mine was Upasana Pradhan's 'Dear Zoya'. The pure emotion in this piece, the feeling of picking yourself up after heartbreak, is relatable to many. The wit of the piece with its pop culture references also draws the reader in and connects you with the character even more.

"Writers know better. This type of love would be a waste of ink and paper. And speaking of songs, Taylor Swift has an unending list that might be relevant to you."

The collection then ends on a melancholy note with Wu, You (Helen)'s 'An Accident at the Underground Railway Station'. This reflective piece comments on human life and the modern world, and has an ending that pierces your heart.

I hope this review gets across how diverse and varied this collection is, there is truly something for everyone in this. I'm really glad that Durham University is showcasing its creative writing talent, and that this northern city houses such talented people.

You can buy Peninsula here.

Thanks for reading!

Kate x

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