"The soil has started to shift": Wolfson launches new literary anthology

On Wolfson’s Foundation Day on Friday 30 June, we celebrated the launch of a new literary anthology: WolfWords.

collection editors

The collection features poetry, art and photographic contributions from across the Wolfson community, including students, staff, fellows, and alumni. It is centered around the theme of ‘Growth’, in honour of our 2023 Wolfson Explores theme, and attracted a diverse range of submissions, from reflections on the power of learning for communal endurance, to commentaries on the importance of kindness.

"Poetry and art are important for everyone, whether they know it or not”, explains contributor and Wolfson Senior Member, Anne Kirkman. "Wolfson has always encouraged art in many ways, and it's good to see that poetry is now taking its own place in College life. I feel surprised and honoured at having a poem included in an anthology. I think that the diversity of the contributors reflects the diversity of College members, which is what Wolfson is all about.”

We also spoke to poetry contributor Olivia Kiely, a first year English undergraduate, about her experiences of writing for the project:

What does the theme of growth mean to you?

Growth is one of those wonderful prompts; it could relate to age, personal development or those lucky people who manage to keep their house plants alive! For me, it spoke to the idea of self-reflection, of the moments in your life when you look back and realise how far you’ve come. 

How did you go about writing your poem?

My poem was written pretty quickly; in fact, I wrote it on the bus for which the poem is named. Most if not all of my poetry is written immediately after getting an idea, normally collected in the Notes app on my phone. 

Why are poetry and art important for Wolfson?

My first year at Wolfson has revealed that it is a college of vast and varying stories. The students and staff bring their unique personalities and experiences to the college and form a vital part of the college's identity. Poetry is one of many mediums in which these many stories can be shared.

What does poetry mean for you individually?

For me, poetry and art have been fundamental to my life - my grandma still has a laminated copy of a poem I wrote when I was 9 or 10 by her bedside, despite its severe lack of creative and technical flair. It has been a way for me to work through many different things in my life, with poetry's flexible format feeling very freeing. 

I’m thrilled to have my work included in this anthology - the prospect of sharing my poetry has always interested me, but I have always felt a little tentative, a little scared. This felt like a really wonderful opportunity to finally put some of my poetry out in the world. 

Collection editor and Wolfson SRO, Caroline Banerjee, shares her own thoughts on the project.

“Reading through the collection, I am struck by the way 'Growth' as a theme draws out a fascinating tension between the limited and the limitless. John Bastable explores the ability of nature to endure, 'to find kind Nature blind to all I despise', and Claire O’ Brien alludes to the power of nature to surprise us with life in moments of utter darkness: 'We couldn’t see you except when your fruits emerged from the surface of the soil'.

"Continuing her ode to nature’s gifts in the form of mushrooms, Claire O’Brien expresses, 'We offer it all up/ to you and you will show us the way', and I think one of the 'fruits' this collection itself offers is a reminder of the power within the act of surrender and listening."

"I hope this collection is the first of many," adds joint editor and Wolfson Fellow, Debbie Pullinger. 

Read the Wolfwords collection

You can read the collection and find out more about the authors and artists here.

You can keep an eye on upcoming events, including readings from guest poets, poetry workshop events, and calls for future anthologies here

Please email Outreach and Student Recruitment Officer, Caroline Banerjee, if you have ideas for future poetry events or comments on the anthology.