Philip Gross: “Our Roots Are In The Air…”

Gross“Our Roots Are In The Air…” :
the teaching of Creative Writing in UK universities.
21.10. keynote in Conference
Prof. Philip Gross of the University of South Wales was one of the working writers involved in first wave of Creative Writing courses in British universities. Reflecting on three decades, from the discipline’s almost accidental birth and growth to the leaner, more challenging present, he explores the subtly shifting balances and tensions in this growing discipline, between a robust practicality, a commitment to knowledge and the serious play and indeterminacy vital to creative process. Using his own poetry, as the most self-reflexive and self-questioning of writing forms, he explores what it means to think like a writer in the academic context, or rather, to think like the writing itself. Questioning one of the discipline’s most established practices, he proposes a quietly radical model of the workshop, in relational terms – as a (dynamic and creative) ‘space between’:

… what holds together,
for its moment,
when the air
is a pliant and see-through cartilage
between the words,
between them and what’s
not said, what’s known somewhere else but here,
hardly known that it’s known…

Apart from offering a fertile space for new writers, exploring this space fosters interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, reveals valuable creative paradoxes and maybe, almost incidentally, offers the discipline a fresh way to defend its value in the changing world.

Philip Gross is professor of the University of South Wales and creative writing teacher. He’s also award winning fiction writer and poet, who writes for both adult and children.

Gross has won several major awards within the last few years such as the T S Eliot poetry prize 2009 for The Water Table, Wales Book of the Year 2010 for I Spy Pinhole Eye and the CLPE Poetry Award 2011 for children’s poetry Off Road To Everywhere.

Gross’ new collection, Deep Field, is an exploration of his refugee fathers’ loss of language to aphasia in the last years of his life. The book was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2012.