All I wish is, that it may be a lesson to the world, “to let people tell their stories their own way.”
— TS Vol IX Chap 25
Paul Munden was born in Poole, Dorset, in 1958. He won scholarships to the Winchester Cathedral Choir School, and to Canford. He then graduated from York University and has lived in North Yorkshire ever since.
He worked as a creative writing tutor in adult education and for various universities, before becoming Director of NAWE, the National Association of Writers in Education.
He received an Eric Gregory Award in 1987 and his poems have appeared in many anthologies, including the Faber Book of Movie Verse, Faber's Poetry Introduction 7, and Quintet (Staple First Editions 1993). For the British Council, he has been the Writer-in-Residence at several Anglo-Swiss conferences on themes including 'Ethics and Predictive Medicine' and 'The traffic in cultural artefacts from Iraq and Afghanistan', and 'The Role of Cultural Relations in Addressing Conflict'. He is the editor ofFeeling the Pressure: Poetry and Science of Climate Change (British Council 2008).
Paul Munden is the Director of NAWE, the National Association of Writers in Education, which is these days based at Shandy Hall in Coxwold. Laurence Sterne, author of Tristram Shandy, once lived there. Asterisk, the Centre for the Study and Development of Narrative, is also based there.
Asterisk* (Smith/Doorstop, £12.95) is a series of 24 poems ‘about’ Shandy Hall, accompanied by colour photographs by Marion Frith. Borges meets Bulgakov in the Yorkshire Wolds. The library shelves are full of ‘whimsical ramblings and imaginings; / the fragments of a fiction, opinions, a life.’ In the garden ‘the grass already / inches back in a time-lapse film / that’s not so much a trick // as a metaphor for the energy / by which life continues to surprise... [you] open a book to find / nothing but the pure trimmed green / of each annihilating page.’
—Andy Croft, Morning Star
[Asterisk* is] 'delightful and beautifully produced... Immaculately printed on high quality paper, it does equal justice both to the text, the twenty-four excellent photographs, one alongside each poem, and the four additional photo collages contained in the Notes.' — Ink, Sweat and Tears
Review of Paul Munden’s Analogue/Digital in The Canberra Times
* (TITLE POEM)
Maybe it was Burgundy, spilt
over the keyboard, when working late,
a fizzling short circuit that sparked
an asterisk with every carriage return
and made each line both a novelty
and frustration – the twin spiral
of its own footnote, the DNA
of double digression – a staircase
where there’s really nothing to do
but pause on the landing, stalled
in a chapter of this or any other book,
and indulge your fantasy:
maybe that exclusive Galapagos cruise
aboard the Bahia de Darwin...
Paul on his work
"There was no creative writing 'taught' as such, when I was at university in York, but there was plenty going on. I inherited the running of the Poetry Society from a certain Maura Dooley, and together with Oliver Comins organised readings and produced a magazine. It was a great training ground for everything I've been involved with since. I was absurdly presumptuous in sending Ted Hughes some of my poems, but he was kind enough to reply, and his words of encouragement meant a lot. I love those collections of his that involve drawings and photographs. That type of collaboration appealed to me from the start."
ASTERISK* is a sequence of poems inspired by Shandy Hall, the extraordinary house in Coxwold that was once home to the writer Laurence Sterne. The book is a personal interpretation of things Shandean, combined with photographs of Shandy Hall and its garden by Marion Frith.
The work is a companion piece to HENDERSKELFE, Paul Munden’s earlier set of poems featuring the Castle Howard Estate, with photographs by Peter Heaton.
These poems go further in exploring personal histories in tandem with those of the house and the remarkable book that Sterne wrote there in the 1760s: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The result is a combination of verbal and visual adventuring that takes the reader to some highly unexpected places while remaining grounded in the location that inspired it.
Shandy Hall is NAWE's registered office. Paul Munden contributed to the Black Page exhibition there in 2009, and is also part of the ‘Emblem of my work’ exhibition, September 2011.
"What next? Well, I'm working when I can on a critical/biographical book on the violinist Nigel Kennedy. He's a genius, in my opinion. I go to as many of his concerts as I can. I do play violin - and piano - myself, simply as a hobby and a way to relax. And like Kennedy I'm also a football fanatic, though I'm not actually playing much any more, not since the knees began causing trouble. I now do more swimming - every day in fact, before getting to my desk!"