View that helped a poet find her voice

Julia Deakin became an award-winning poet when she finally escaped the city and moved to the Yorkshire countryside. Arts reporter Nick Ahad spoke to her.

When friends visit, they don't understand how Julia Deakin gets any work done.

From the window of her Huddersfield home the views are clearly inspiring, but her friends wonder that they aren't also distracting.

"After 16 years of living in the city, I really wanted to try somewhere else," says Deakin.

"Now we live on top of a moor with amazing views all round. It's like Wuthering Heights with central heating."

Her friends might think it's distracting – Deakin thinks it's the perfect place to write and so far she's been proved correct.

The last two years have seen Deakin take huge strides in her literary career.

In 2006, she won the Northern Exposure Poetry Competition organised by the Arts Council and last year the prestigious Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.

Not bad for someone who started writing poetry only when she was forced to when she took an MA in poetry. She enrolled on the course because of a love of reading poetry, not writing it.

"There are far more people writing poetry than reading it," says Deakin.

"People feel the need to be heard. There are so many channels of communication that it's often hard to make your own voice heard when you are being barraged.

"I think people write poetry because they want a change from being on the receiving end and want to express themselves."

Deakin is a part-time lecturer at the University of Bradford and for the past year has lectured in copywriting at the University of Huddersfield.

After moving to Yorkshire in the Seventies where she took a postgraduate qualification in teaching at the University of York, she stayed and lived in Chapel Allerton, Leeds for 16 years.

Working as a freelance writer, it was always her ambition to write prose. But the breakthrough came when she concentrated on another form of writing.

"I have been a writer of sorts all my working life, contributing articles for various publications," says Deakin.

"There was also the obligatory novel which was written and then left in a drawer. I have always enjoyed writing prose, but I really enjoyed reading

poetry and particularly contemporary poetry."

Deakin decided in 1999 to completely indulge her love of reading poetry and enrolled on an MA at the University of Huddersfield.

"It came as a bit of a shock when I began the course and realised that a lot of the other people on it were already writing poetry and had been for some time," she says.

"I really had decided to do the course so that I would make more time to read poetry and suddenly someone was breathing down my neck and I was disconcerted, reluctant, just didn't want to write."

The person cajoling her was Peter Sansom, the course tutor and successful writer. With his encouragement Deakin pursued her craft.

"It seemed that fairly quickly the poems were successful," she says.

"There was more in the finished product than I had envisaged there would be. I just knew quite early that I had a feel for it and I also understood quite quickly what I could and couldn't

do with the work."

Sansom was not only encouraging, he was also impressed. It was with

good reason.

In April this year, Deakin had a pamphlet of her poems published, The Half Mile High Club, part of the prize when she won The 2007 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and in the same week Graft Poetry printed her first collection Without A Dog, which has gone on to win impressive accolades and reviews.

"It was a little ominous having both collections published in the same week, but it seems that they are different enough from each other to have found an audience," says Deakin.

"As Without A Dog is a fuller collection, it contains many more of my darker poems.

"I range in my writing from quite dark work to poems which are much more humorous and with the longer collection I was able to explore that in a much fuller way."

As well as the move out of Chapel Allerton to Huddersfield, Deakin found she had a breakthrough in her writing after attending an Arvon Foundation Course which was taught by another Huddersfield poet, Simon Armitage.

Again, Deakin found herself picked out on the course.

"It was a selected course, so you had to be picked to go on it in the first place and I found myself in very illustrious company.

"Mark Haddon was also on the same course and at the time I was the only person who hadn't had something published," she says.

"Simon said he liked my work and that was really encouraging."

Now Deakin is looking forward to next year when she will appear at the Huddersfield Literature Festival in March – and has earned her place alongside other possible names on the bill, including poets like Armitage.

Without A Dog is published by Graft Poetry.