'Cambridge figures more as a memory scene rather than a setting'illustration: Emily Lawson-Todd for Varsity / Photography: Grace Cobb with permission for Varsity

Dogs & Stars - Lucy Ansell

B*ll*cks, and then I felt so stupid
shrouded under, the tiny-quilted stars. I remember they burst like moth holes, unthreading my shadows, circling away into the path.
Anyways, I’m on the pavement, and I should’ve stayed there, cool for a minute.
When the two Caius students screamed.
But I am not one for spectacles. I couldn’t sit there. The waiting time in Addenbrookes isn’t for me.
So, where orgasm bridge stretches over, and the streetlights matter, I gathered up my bicycle,
snapped it shut,
and that little black dog I turned away!
To all the (ginger male) cyclists in Cam: stick to the left,
I felt my body must’ve folded, must’ve sparkled,
like a napkin on a child’s plate.

Let’s start with the first word: ‘B*ll*cks’. I want to ask about the asterisks, which are marvellous. Why two? Do they make noise?

Usually, I don’t feel a need to censor my writing, but I felt that the asterisks fit with the themes of the poem well. This poem attempts to describe how I felt when I ended up in a bike accident at Michaelmas. Having another cyclist hit me so hard, all expression was knocked out of my body – I couldn’t even speak. So, for me the asterisks embody the violent force of the collision and my inability to express my pain at the time, or now. I also like how the asterisks are kind of like tiny stars themselves!

You put punctuation to work in unconventional ways throughout the poem. For example, ‘shrouded under, the tiny-quilted stars’ and the full stop at the end of ‘When the two Caius students screamed.’ Tell me about that.

For me, punctuation is about shaping how the words will be spoken, so I tend to use it quite unconventionally as a barrier between words within the line.

Is Cambridge a setting you return to often?

Cambridge is a lovely, distinct setting. But it is not one that features heavily in my writing. I think once I leave university, I’ll write about Cambridge often. Here, Cambridge figures more as a memory scene rather than a setting, which I try to revisit and walk around.

One of my favourite lines is, ‘and that little black dog I turned away! ’ It is at once fresh-voiced and a teensy bit Emily Dickinson to me – maybe it’s the syntax. And again, your punctuation, that perfect exclamation mark! Who or what influences your writing?

In my writing, I’m always looking to convey feelings that I can’t quite seem to pinpoint with language. I love to play with syntax, and draw out the dynamicity of words, which is why it probably sounds a lot like Dickinson. I would say that Christina Rossetti’s poetry has influenced me the most. I love how people often assume her poems to be simple, or just a pretty veneer, when in reality they are very intricate. I’ve also been reading a lot of Ilya Kaminsky in my studies. In this poem I’ve tried to pair Rossetti’s richness with the open endings which characterise Kaminsky’s poetics of silence.

I’ve got to ask: why ‘ginger’?

I address all ‘(ginger male) cyclists in Cam’ because I vividly remember that the other cyclist, who came down the bridge as I was cycling up, was ginger. He was really apologetic and nice; however, I still bear a little grudge now!

If you’d like to have your writing featured in Postscripts, please email your submission(s) with your name and college to socialmedia@varsity.co.uk – we are looking for poetry and micro fiction. Poetry should be max 20 lines, and micro fiction max 200 words. We look forward to reading your work!