Creative Writing PhD

Major code: ELCW

About us


The School of English has an outstanding international reputation for postgraduate teaching and research. 

By pursuing your programme with us you'll benefit from strong research-led teaching  across a wide syllabus. This will equip you with critical thinking and communication skills that are highly applicable to modern life.

In the latest Research Assessment Exercise  two-thirds of our research activity was in the highest classes of  “world leading” or “internationally excellent”, with the remainder being classified as “internationally regarded”.

More significantly still, 100% of respondents to our 2010 Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey  agreed our courses 'met or exceeded expectations'.

To read more about the research that takes place in the department click here.

Staff research interests


My critical and creative work is drawn from and inspired by early twentieth-century British and American modernists, both canonical and non-canonical and I am particularly interested in the literary experiments of Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, Gertrude Stein and Hope Mirrlees. Contemporary poetry that maintains a primary interest in language, a textual and generic dynamism towards hybridity, and one that is concerned with questions of racial, national and gender identity aligns with my teaching and supervision strengths. I’d be very keen to supervise projects that push the boundaries of the lyric and narrative forms, that innovatively respond to literary traditions and that those that consider place, identity and the autobiographical self---another of my research interests. Proposed research with a view towards international poetries in translation, the concept of the literary archive and a mixing of established modes of reading are also very welcome.

In addition to my critical writing on Loy and Mirrlees, my own poetry has appeared in international journals and anthologies including: Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (edited by James Byrne and Clare Pollard), Cimarron Review, The Manhattan Review, Stand, World Literature Today, The Yellow Nib, the Harper Collins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians and Out of Bounds an anthology of Black and Asian British poets. My debut collection of poems, The Marble Orchard, appeared in 2012 from Shearsman.


My books include two collections of poetry Thumb’s Width (2001) and MUDe  (2008), a book of criticism, Poetry and Privacy (2012) and a book about Creative Writing, How to Write a Poem (2005). I was associated with the long-running poetry magazine, Thumbscrew, and I have reviewed poetry for such outlets as the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and The Guardian. While my poetry criticism draws to a certain degree on American pragmatism (Rorty, Poirier, Bloom), currently, I am researching a critical book on the relationship between food and contemporary poetry. I am mainly interested in poets from Ireland, Britain, and America, from the 1930s to the present, particularly those who were (or are) in dialogue with modernism (in one or other of its forms) and I am especially fascinated by the intersection between literature and types of virtual reality.


I have published four collections of poetry, The Memory Tray (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First collection 1995); Signs Round a Dead Body (1998), Quiver (2004), and Burying the Wren (2012 (shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize). I am also author of Consorting with Angels and editor of the accompanying anthology Modern Women Poet.s (2005).  I have been the judge of Britain’s most prestigious literary poetry prizes: the Costa Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize and the National Poetry Competition.My particular interests lie in gender, in particular twentieth and twenty-first century poetry by women, with new interests developing in the relationship between poetry, health and well-being, and poetry’s relationship with radio and film. 

To view other staff in the department's details and research interests click here.

Emma Hayward

There is a close postgraduate community within the department.  There is always someone around to talk to about your research and plenty of activities to get involved in including, reading groups, lectures by visiting speakers and conferences. 

What impelled you to continue to postgraduate study?  (E.g. love of a subject; intellectual stimulation; career prospects or employability).

The main reason I decided to return to university to study for a PhD was to pursue the research interests I began to develop whilst studying for a masters.  My masters programme was demanding and pushed me intellectually; it introduced me to alternative ways of thinking, and gave me the opportunity to identify my own specific subject interests.  This is something I wanted to continue to develop.             

What compelled you to choose to study for your postgraduate degree at Liverpool ahead of other Universities (particularly other Russell Group institutions)?

There are a number of reasons why I chose Liverpool over other universities.   Firstly, I studied for my BA and MA here, both of which were extremely positive and rewarding experiences.  The department was welcoming and staff gave readily of their time to offer advice and encourage my research interests.    Their expertise have proved invaluable in helping to define my current research project.  Secondly, there are various programmes and activities available to PGR students including, a graduate teaching programme, staff-student seminars and regular reading groups, all of which help to create an intellectually stimulating atmosphere.  Finally, within The School of the Arts their is plenty of scope and opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary research groups, something that I am particularly interested in. 

What are your career aims following your postgraduate study and how do you anticipate your PG degree will help you achieve them?

After completing my PhD I would like to pursue a career as an academic, teaching at a university and conducting my own research.  This would be almost impossible without a PhD.

What skills have you developed in addition to the knowledge you are learning on your programme?

During my first year as a PhD candidate I have developed new teaching skills as a result of a graduate teaching award.  I have also become more confident in communicating my research to people who are not familiar with my area of study.

How valuable do you consider these skills?  Do you feel they will help you or even give you a competitive edge in your desired career path?

I think developing a strong and varied teaching profile will certainly be beneficial for me when applying for jobs at universities, as it will hopefully reflect my ability to successfully teach across a number of literary periods and topics.

Do you consider the postgraduate experience beneficial in other ways?

Aside from acquiring a greater knowledge of my research topic and developing teaching skills, my experience of postgraduate study has developed my confidence in general, and I also find it much easier to work under pressure now.

What was your route to postgraduate study?

I continued straight from my BA into my masters programme but, after this, I took two years out before returning to start my PhD.  This was more for financial reasons than anything else. 

Have you any recommendations or advice concerning the application process you’d like to share with prospective postgraduate students thinking of applying?

If you are planning to apply for postgraduate research I would recommend finding a supervisor whose expertise match your own area of research.  A good working relationship with your supervisor is fundamental for a successful academic experience.  If possible (i.e. if you are applying to the same university where you completed your BA or MA), speak to a member of staff with whom you have already worked with, as they will already be aware of your interests and strengths, and should therefore be able to help you write a strong proposal.

Give an overview of your area of study and/or research.

My research focuses on constructions of urban space in contemporary literature (1950-present).  I am primarily concerned with the way the city is written under the conditions of late-capitalism and postmodernity, but I am also interested in liminal relationships between literary and non-literary forms such as, architecture and film.

How would you explain the significance and impact of your subject or research to others?

The interdisciplinary approaches I am taking to investigate my topic mean that my research will impact upon wider debates concerning architecture and film.

Do you feel that you are part of a flourishing research department that makes a difference in your own subject and beyond?  (If yes, could you please give a short explanation why).

Yes.  The staff in the English department have diverse research interests ranging across all periods and movements.  Regardless of where my research takes me there is always a member of staff who can offer their expertise and guidance.

What do you particularly like about your department?

The staff - they are encouraging and their own research is always exciting and inspiring.   

What do you especially like about your post-graduate experience at Liverpool in general?

There is a close postgraduate community within the department.  There is always someone around to talk to about your research and plenty of activities to get involved in including, reading groups, lectures by visiting speakers and conferences.

How do you rate the facilities available to you (libraries, laboratories, study areas et cetera) and the campus in general as a place to study and socialise?  Do the facilities and University environment facilitate or inspire your study/research?

We have two study areas in the department: a room for silent study and a larger space for communal work and activity.  This means I always have a place where I know I can get on with my work, as well as somewhere to socialise and unwind.  Research is often quite isolating so I appreciate the communal spaces that have been made available to us.    

How have you found the postgraduate experience differs to the undergraduate experience?  What, if anything, do you prefer about postgraduate study?

With postgraduate study there is a greater emphasis on working independently and developing your own research ideas.  It takes a lot of self-motivation but, if you love your subject, this is never really an issue.    

How would you describe the postgraduate experience to an undergraduate unaware of the differences?

The jump from undergraduate to postgraduate study is quite drastic.  You will be pushed and, at times, it is stressful, but take advantage of the resources available to you and enjoy learning to think independently about your subject.