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Finding joy in the written word

Daniel Sluman is a 35-year-old poet and disability rights activist. He co-edited the first major UK Disability poetry anthology Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, and he has published three poetry collections with Nine Arches Press. His most recent collection, single window was released in September 2021 and is shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.

After finishing his Diploma in Music Production at Northampton, Daniel started working for a temping agency in the civil service

“I was disillusioned with music,” he said, “and the course I had completed just wasn’t the right one for me. So I was about twenty years old and working a pretty mundane job and I was starting to think about whether this was all there was for me, or if there was something I really wanted to do instead. I had always been interested in writing, and I had the usual collection of awful juvenilia I had written in my teens, but I suddenly realised I could go back to university if I wanted and really give poetry a go. Because I wanted to move closer to my family in the Cotswolds, the University of Gloucestershire seemed like the best option, and I was delighted to get accepted on the course.”

Daniel started his BA in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2008 and completed it with first class honours in 2011. Later that same year, he decided to start his MA in Creative and Critical Writing, and completed it with a distinction a year later, in 2012.

“I made some wonderful friends through the Creative Writing program, and some great friends in the area around Francis Close and the halls where I lived during my BA. I did especially enjoy the course though, and the environment of learning about the craft of writing, bringing new poems into workshop, and that feeling of getting better day by day was incredibly exciting. I’ve been so happy to remain in contact with some of my lecturers over the resulting years, like Prof Nigel McLoughlin and Dr Angela France, and I cannot thank either of them enough; over the years they have both provided invaluable advice, support, and have always championed my work.”

Since graduating, Daniel believes that his experiences at university have set him up for everything that has come his way in his career so far.

“The workshopping and critical engagement got me used to looking at poetry through an editorial lens, the wider reading helped me find some of my now favourite writers, and I learnt the skills of being a writer in the real world too, things like how to send my work out professionally to journals.

“One of the modules in my MA was all about exploring the theory of creativity and the factors that lead to artistic production, and that topic has become one of my prime research interests since. I feel as well that in being around other writers at varying stages of their career, and being involved in that culture of constantly editing and thinking about writing has greatly helped me moving forward.”

Daniel has chronic back and stump pain which means he is heavily limited in his mobility, and most of the time is unable to leave the flat he shares with his wife in south east London. However he has continued to write and have three books of poetry published by Nine Arches Press, as well as an anthology of disability poetry that he co-edited in 2017.

“I’m lucky to be in the position where I am sometimes asked to read my poetry in person and online, and lead workshops, some of which I am able to accept,” he said. “Beyond that, the majority of my time is spent reading, and thinking about ways in which disability can be represented better through contemporary literature.”

And Daniel is a firm believer that if you love doing something, and there is course you can study in it at university, then you should do it.

“So many people find it so hard to pinpoint the one thing that brings them joy, so if you know what that is then put yourself in a position where you can live and breathe it. Study it around others who have the same love for the topic as you and learn from people who have achieved the things you want to achieve one day. That’s what University means to me at its purest.”