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Profile of Joan McGavin – a very local Poet!

Joan McGavin has lived in Highfield/ Portswood (the street she lives in gets described as being in either) since her children were small.  They’re now well into their thirties!  She was born and brought up in Edinburgh, where she went to university, after which she spent a postgraduate year in California. After a year or so back in Edinburgh she married and then came to Southampton, where her husband had got a job.  She taught part-time, while bringing up their family, at various local sixth form colleges, and later at the University of Winchester.  Her interest in poetry kept going through all of this time, and, after publishing poems for many years in various small magazines, she eventually had a group of poems printed by Peterloo Poets, as one of their featured poets in Peterloo Poets 3 (1994).  A first full volume, published by Oversteps Books, and titled Flannelgraphs, appeared in 2011.  A second collection from Oversteps, titled Passing Arcadia Close followed in 2017.  In the meantime, she had been a Hawthornden fellow in 2012, and Hampshire Poet in 2014.

After thirteen years teaching Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, she decided to leave there in order to start a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Southampton. She is now almost two-thirds of the way through that. The Ph.D will hopefully lead to a third collection: it consists of poems on memorialisation and identity in the 19th century, [starting from poems about a collection of death masks put together by an early to mid nineteenth-century prison surgeon at Winchester Prison,] along with a critical account of writing and researching the poems. [If this sounds rather ghoulish, then it is, in a way, but having a collection of life- and death-masks (often mass-produced ones) was not an unusual hobby for nineteenth-century medical men who were interested in phrenology, and Joan is interested in how that pseudoscience might link with contemporary poetry-writing.  Both, for instance, try to represent a version of reality…]  One of the thesis poems was recently displayed at Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Museum, alongside the death mask of the young man whom the poem’s about.