Desire and Madness Review| a Collected Anthology from Gloucestershire University

Gloucestershire University Desire and Madness – a collected anthology from Gloucestershire University’s creative writing students.

Desire and Madness is a simple enough premise – and as themes go, its pretty well represented throughout the works of a diverse range of students. Eighteen separate, and sometimes disparate, yet compelling voices that cover prose, poetry, and one rather interestingly vignette style novella. As the introduction states, in 2005, the final short story submissions for the term, on the fiction course was ‘Desire and Madness’, as chosen by those students and was later extended to the creative writing department as a whole, and the anthology was born. From a modern retelling of Hamlet, to flash fiction, to modern and traditional poetry, the anthology, though relatively slim, holds a lot of interesting and riveting writing.


The standard of prose was fairly high, with a couple of really gleaming gems. The book itself puts the prose first, sandwiching the poetry neatly between it and the novella, a format I really believe worked well for this anthology. I really enjoyed all of them – Airhead, which, at first blush was a deceptively simple tale about a girl with voices in her head goaded into suicide – but has more to it. My favorite of the prose, however was Existentialism on Massacre night – based on a painting”The Massacre of the Innocents” by Guido Reni. Slightly tongue in cheek – a lot funny, yet, knowing the material it was inspired from, harrowing, and if you believe in otherworldly presences, easily believable, it describes the scenes depicted in the painting from the perspective of Angels. Not particularly angelic angels, but angels nonetheless.


The poetry in this anthology is outstandingly good. I really enjoyed several of them specifically, Gwithian and Frustration. Both are beautiful, and contain the images I could relate to the best – Gwithian reads more like a couple of paragraphs of prose, but is poetic in its execution. Its beauty and elegance spins throughout the one half page paragraph, leaving me with a distinct impression of the moments it described – as the best poetry should always provide. Frustration covers exactly how I feel when struck by writers block. Frustration is more modern in its execution, interestingly creating a juxtaposition between the concept of the Muses, and the modern world and made me wish I was at Turtle Bay.

The majority of the volume (or at least submissions in the anthology) are made up by poetry, so though its ’sandwiched’ between prose and the novella, its possibly the biggest section.


“A strippers story” is a wonderful vignette about falling in with the wrong crowd and discovering just how gullible, and easily lead people really are. Its a shining example of the blindness of teens, and how those mistakes can sometimes follow you to wherever you run to.

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