Lancaster MA Student Publishes First Book: Human Townspersons


Lancaster Creative Writing Masters student Liam Bates (he/they) published his first book of poetry, Human Townsperson, obtaining funding from Arts Council England to help finish the collection.

Liam has had poetry published in a range of journals and has been commended and shortlisted in competitions including Magma, Bridport prize, Creative Future, and The Wolverhampton Literature Festival.

Alongside these successes, Liam states that his “biggest poetry achievements are the pamphlets and books [he’s] been able to have published”. These pamphlets are Monomaniac (2021) and Working Animals (2020), available at the award winning publishing company Broken Sleep Books.

His debut poetry book Human Townsperson, published in the August of 2022, is a commentary on life in the 21st century, inspired by the fantasy and video-game quests that peppered his childhood.

“I hesitate to try and pin down what the book is about. I guess each poem is trying to figure that out […] I can definitely say what inspired the book. It came out of thinking about quests, the kinds that pop up in myths and legends and fantasy fiction and the kinds of role-playing games I grew up with […]

Liam Bates

“Then there’s the quests of real life, the small heroisms, the party of companions, the monsters who keep coming back, but which we gradually get better at defeating.

“So Maybe it’s too bold to say that, like all poetry, it’s about the human condition: it’s about life here in the 21st century, late stage capitalism, whatever you want to call it. The loss, the confusion, the loneliness, the love, everything that involves.”

The Cardiff Review has praised Human Townsperson, stating ‘The melodic pace of the fantasy-based language and poetry splashes against reality.

‘By enveloping our experience of negative emotions in the language of mythology, they suddenly become more abstract, teasing that we may not grasp or understand our relationship with the world as we think’.

Briony on good reads hails Liam’s collection: ‘Life is like a Liam Bates poem; you never know what you’re going to get. It is precisely this unpredictable, often absurd approach to poetry that makes Bates a master of his craft’.

To celebrate the release of Human Townsperson, Liam hosted a launch and open-mic at The Gregson on the 21st of January. It was a success, gaining traction from both Lancaster University students and other published poets, such as Nóra Blascsók and Ian Seed.

“It was great to hear people on the open mic, including a big contingent from Lancaster Uni which I was really appreciative of” Liam says.

Image Credits Maria Hill

Throughout his career, Liam has gathered a range of inspirations. One such is Caroline Bird who, with the grant financed by Arts Council England, mentored Liam. “She’s an inspirational poet and inspirational teacher”, Liam commends.

When asked his poetic inspirations, he confessed “I could go on and on. I love to share recommendations and I love to add my own list, so I’m happy to talk poetry with anyone who has the time”. Some of these poets include Selima Hill, Jane Yeh, Chrissy Williams, and Raymond Antrobus.

Liam stresses the importance of reading to aspiring poets, “It’s like an unspoken agreement that whenever asked [advice], we have to recommend reading, but it really is the best advice.

“Go to the poetry section in the library, go to the Poetry Library in Manchester, read collections and read journals and find out what you love and read more of it. Get involved with what’s going on nearby, attend poetry readings, support poets, find poets who will support you.

“Poetry as a business can be a messy and chaotic, sometimes even ugly, place, so it’s important to funnel not just your money, but your energy and enthusiasm, into what you care about.

“At the centre of it all is people who care a lot about this stuff regardless of the often paltry or non-existent rewards available, so first and foremost focus on being among those people, being one of those people.”

Liam Bates

As poet and editor Aron Kent states, ‘Liam Bates is not just a poet to watch for the future, but already a poet to read for the now’. We can’t wait to read the work he publishes next.

With the creative writing community in Lancaster only growing, with university societies, classes, and groups, it is hard to believe that there aren’t more published poets yet to emerge.

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