The Launch of Welton Poets Debut Collection

salmacis: becoming not quite a woman

Born and raised in Welton, twice-shortlisted Poet of the Year and nationally award-winning journalist Elizabeth Train-Brown’s debut poetry collection had its official launch in October at Lancaster Waterstones.

“It went wonderfully” Elizabeth explains, “we saw an incredible turnout (we ran out of chairs and had to pack people in like sardines!), sold plenty of books, had a book signing, a reading, and a Q&A.”

Elizabeth currently studies English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Despite the move, her connection to Welton is undeniable. “I absolutely adore Welton, it has a very strong place in my heart. My parents still live there (as does my dog, Tigger) so I visit fairly often. It’s where I grew up so it’s the kind of place I can’t drive home through without remembering ‘this is the place we built a den as kids and dug for fossils in the limestone dump’ or ‘this is where I used to climb the wall with my dad on the way to the library on a Saturday’.”

Before writing, Elizabeth actually began life in the circus as a fire breather and diabolist. She has since trained as a juggler, plate spinner, and pole dancer. “I don’t perform often anymore but I worked as a part-time model for a while and would find as many excuses as I could to bring in fire breathing.” She recalls, “The best one we ever did was with a photographer called Peter Angus. We took a tank of paraffin, several fire torches, and a fire sword to the infamous abandoned church in Skidbrooke. The photos look incredible, and I got to breathe fire in one of the most haunted churches in England!”

Elizabeth’s debut full-length poetry collection, salmacis: becoming not quite a woman focuses on explorations of gender, inspired by the Greek myth that the nymph, Salmacis, one day sees the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, Hermaphroditus. Begging the gods to let them be together, Salmacis throws herself at Hermaphroditus and the two become a single being, giving birth to the term hermaphrodite which is used today to describe intersex people (those born with ambiguous or both male and female reproductive organs).

The collection, published by London-based Renard Press, explores dysphoria we can all feel about ourselves, our bodies and our lives. The aim was to make the sensation of gender dysphoria accessible for all, while writing in a style that shows a kind of urban magic, shone through all the hedonism and faith of Pagan stories.

When asked where the writing passion began, Elizabeth recollects her childhood. “Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad reading bedtime stories to me, and then making up his own. From there, I started writing my own stories about my cuddly toys going off on adventures! It’s always been my dream to be a novelist and write a young adult fantasy series, but it wasn’t until sixth form at William Farr School that I started writing poetry. It was revolutionary for me. Poetry is such an incredibly quick and bold way to get out your feelings while making sure you keep practicing creativity.” 

Outside of poetry, Elizabeth is in the final stages of the editing process for the first novel in a series of young adult urban fantasy books and plans to start pitching to literary agents in January. Bleed introduces Charlie, a trans teenager living in a small town north of Newcastle who has his world turned upside down when he is bitten by a vampire in the woods and thrown into some kind of supernatural war.

salmacis: becoming not quite a woman can be ordered from any Waterstones or ordered online from most retailers.