A St Catharine’s student is celebrating the publication of their debut pamphlet of original poetry this week. ‘Stephen the Phlebotomist’ (2022, Nine Pens Press) is a collection of poems by Nadia Lines, a second-year English undergraduate, that includes reflections on the intensity and loneliness of life as a Fresher during the pandemic, but also the cherished friendships and connections made with others at St Catharine’s in the face of lockdowns and isolation periods.
Nadia began writing poetry when she was 14 years old, after discovering the work of Keats. As she explains, it was particularly poignant that restrictions during her first year coincided with the 200th anniversary of Keats’ death:
“Having drawn upon Keats‘ poems since I first started writing, it felt natural to return to his work during the darkest moments of the pandemic. Our parallel experiences 200 years apart – Keats being sequestered with tuberculosis in a house in Rome, my mandatory periods of self-isolation in the Hobson’s building whenever I or one of my housemates tested positive – helped to put in perspective and come to terms with feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
The title poem was written in February 2021 and takes inspiration from a rare opportunity for a day trip at the start of the year when nationwide restrictions otherwise required Nadia to stay at home like a large proportion of university students in the UK. As a participant in a COVID-19 research project at the University of Cambridge, Nadia was invited to give blood and had a legitimate excuse to leave her home for the day. Reflecting on the themes covered by the new pamphlet, she comments:
“I have never subscribed to the idea that you have to suffer for your art, and I still don’t. Many of the poems in ‘Stephen the Phlebotomist’ are written several months after the moments they describe, because I needed time to process what had happened and recognise what was most meaningful for me. This collection also goes some way to express my appreciation for members the St Catharine’s community who helped support me through the most difficult days, like The Rev’d Ally Barrett and Dr Peter Candy. By the end of my first year, I was ready to submit to four different publishers and was delighted to be accepted by Nine Pens, who have taken great care over the beautiful cover design and been a joy to collaborate with.”
Nadia’s earlier work has been published by the Keats-Shelley Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Epoque Press, perhappened, The Mays Anthology 29 and extensively by The Poetry Society's Young Poets Network. She won the 2019 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, the 2019 Orwell Youth Prize and the 2020 Tower Poetry Competition.
‘Stephen the Phlebotomist’ is released on 12 June, with an online launch event at 7pm that evening. Sign up for the online event.