Transreading Historical Sources: Hack the Stories Apart!

Transreading Historical Sources: Hack the Stories Apart!

Explore historical sources to write your own history-poems and give voice to past stories that may go unheard.

We need to pass on the stories, but also impart the skills to hack the stories apart and make new ones.’ – Hilary Mantel

History depends on imagination, exclusion, and arrangement. This course explores what poets can bring to canonical history, putting poets in conversation with historical sources, and offering techniques to “untell” stories and explore those less-heard. Writing our own history-poems we will consider which voices are muffled in history and ask how poets might give voice to these? Dare we speak for the dead? What are the risks and pleasures of making things up (and making mistakes) about real events? How might we write historical silence? What are the emotions of the past? How does poetry condense the encyclopaedic or expand the fragmentary?

We’ll learn from contemporary UK and US poets – including Jay Bernard, Ocean Vuong, Ilya Kaminsky, Mary Jean Chan, Hannah Lowe, C. A. Conrad, Anne Carson, and Tracy K Smith, amongst others. We will gain insights from historical fiction writers Hilary Mantel and Joanne Harris, and consider artists like Lubaina Hamid and Grayson Perry.

We will also employ Transreading skills and techniques to our sources, like newspapers, letters, photographs, artefacts, maps, and audiovisuals to further explore the topic and consider new perspectives. The course won’t simply involve sitting at a desk and writing – you’ll be encouraged to draw, taste, use scissors, perform rituals, and visit (physically or virtually) archives and museums to look for history in your streets and landscapes and get in touch with the past.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

Image Credit: João Silas


About Anna Kisby View Profile

Anna Kisby is a Devon-based poet and former archivist of The Women’s Library, London. She studied Literature & Film at the universities of East Anglia, Sussex, Massachusetts and Paris-Sorbonne, and archive management at University College London. Her poetry is widely published in magazines and anthologies, including Magma, Mslexia, and, most recently, The Emma Press Anthology of Contemporary Gothic Verse. Her pamphlet All the Naked Daughters (Against the Grain Press, 2017) was described as “populated by bold and brave women: showgirls, mothers, suffragettes, artists’ models, girls who never grow up”; “a stunning cabinet of curiosities”. She won the Binsted Arts Prize 2019, the BBC Proms Poetry competition 2016, and was a commended Faber New Poet 2015-16. In 2017 she was part of the collaborative poetry performance Somme Suite – a First World War commemoration. She spent 2019 as a researcher in Creative Writing (short-form) on the Bristol University project Creative Histories of Witchcraft 1790-1940, and is subsequently developing a poetry collection on historical magical practitioners, and co-writing a textbook on creative history.

‘The course that I took online through The Poetry School took my writing to a significantly higher level of quality and depth. The instructor set the stage for an excellent course with thoughtful and challenging assignments. Her feedback was invaluable, as was that of other students in the course.’

– Summer 2019 survey response

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