City academic to publish lockdown poetry book
Dr Jonathan Gibbs’ poem, Spring Journal, was written on Twitter during the first Covid-19 lockdown
Dr Jonathan Gibbs, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in City, University of London’s Department of English, is to publish a new book of poetry reflecting on the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic – and subsequent lockdown – in the UK.
Released on 1st December, Spring Journal, was originally written on Twitter between March and August this year as the UK entered its first lockdown.
The poem takes as its model Louis MacNeice’s pre-war poem Autumn Journal, written between August and December 1938. In it, MacNeice gave an immediate personal response to the public events of those months and the mood on the streets.
Spring Journal does the same for Britain in 2020, mixing the personal and the political in a week-by-week record of this unprecedented time.
Dr Gibbs said: “It’s an unexpected delight to see this finally in print. It started out as a bit of fun on Twitter, which is a lesson in itself.
“I’ve taught MacNeice’s poem, Autumn Journal, to students as a model of how to respond to events in the news in a way that allows in personal reflection as well as commentary, and so it seemed like a good idea to write about the coronavirus lockdown in the style of his poem – journalistic, personal, acerbic.
“It’s also a good example to student writers of how an idle pastime can build into something more substantial if you stick with it – although I benefitted from outside encouragement at a crucial moment, when I was offered the chance to have the poem feature – week by week, as it was written – on an online literary salon.
"It also shows what is possible in publishing terms when an independent publisher puts their heart into something."
My author’s note at the front of the book is dated October 2020, and I held the finished copy of the book in my hand before the month was out.
Dr Gibbs joined City from St Mary’s University, Twickenham, over the summer. He is Programme Director for the revalidated suite of MA and MFA Creative Writing, which is now recruiting for Autumn 2021.
He said: “It’s a huge privilege to be able to take over this suite of postgraduate degrees.
“The previous two-year MA in Creative Writing had an excellent track record of publication among former students, across its three strands of fiction, crime fiction and creative non-fiction, driven by some superb teachers, and we hope to be able to continue that legacy.
“The two-year MFA is a particularly exciting prospect and makes the Creative Writing offer in the English Department at City distinctive.”
About Dr Jonathan Gibbs
Dr Gibbs is a writer, critic and academic. He has published two novels, Randall, or the Painted Grape (Galley Beggar Press, 2014) and The Large Door (Boiler House Press, 2019). Randall has been translated into French and Dutch and was long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and shortlisted for the Figaro Prix du Livre de Voyage Urbain. His short stories have been anthologised in the Best British Short Stories 2014 and 2015, and a story was shortlisted for the inaugural White Review Prize.
He worked as a journalist for over 10 years before taking an MA in Creative Writing (Prose Fiction), for which he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Bursary, and a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing, both at the University of East Anglia. His thesis took the form of a novel (Randall), and a critical essay, Beyond Ekphrasis: The Use and Function of Artworks in the Novels of Don DeLillo.
After teaching as an Associate Tutor at University of East Anglia, Dr Gibbs taught as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at St Mary's University, Twickenham, where he was Programme Director for BA Creative and Professional Writing and MA Creative Writing: First Novel.
He has been a judge on both the Manchester Fiction Prize and the Galley Beggar Short Story Prize.
He curates an online short fiction project, A Personal Anthology, in which writers and others pick and introduce their dozen favourite short stories.