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Student New Angle Prize longlist entry by Hannah Castle - The Eel Catcher


blogmainimagetemplate river

A crow croaks. Magpies chatter to each other from the trees. A peewit peeps somewhere in the distance. The willows reach down and shatter the glass-like water. A kingfisher darts from one side of the bank to the other as the sun slowly rises above the reeds.

I row along silently, the mist twisting and turning around me.

As I approach the riverbank, I peel back the curtain of willow and enter another world.

The fens are always silent but underneath the shade of the trees, I feel I am completely alone in the world.

Winter is only just coming to a close, and as we say here “when the willow buds, the eels come out the mud”. Soon the eels will be fat as butter.

I can hear them begin to whisper to each other.

I submerge a woven willow trap in the dark depths of the water, I place each trap as carefully as I can, as if it were made of porcelain. Once each one is set down as carefully as possible, I leave.


By the time I return to my home it’s just dark. I light a candle and make my evening meal. Afterwards, I sit down by the fire, whittle a bit and weave a few more traps. It’s a calm and still night outside.

Just as I’m finishing my tasks and making my way to bed, there’s a knock at the door. I hesitate. I live miles from anywhere so I wonder who it could be at such a late hour. As I open the door and extraordinary gust of wind makes its way into my home, extinguishing my candle and plunging me into darkness. With my heart pounding, I scrabble to relight it. Once it’s relit, I tentatively make my way to look outside but realising already that no one is there, I close the door and go to bed.

That night I cannot sleep, the whispering of the eels gets louder and louder as I toss and turn, sweating and shivering all at once.


As the sun rises, I quickly dress and make for my boat. I row out to the same spot as yesterday.

I row, with some haste but not frantically. I can hear their whispers, again getting louder and louder with every flick of the oars.

Their voices are so loud that I cannot row any longer.

Quiet descends around me like a funeral veil. 

I look round, not knowing what to expect.

Softly they begin ‘join us…. Join us...’. Low and rasping.

I reach my hand into the jet; I feel them twist and snake round my wrist. They pull and I tip over into the watery depths.

They wrap themselves around me, weaving and darting like one of my own willow traps.

I close my eyes, delving into a darkness of my own.

The water is still.

With a flick of my slimy body, I dart away into the distance.

- Hannah Castle

Image by Adrian Campfield from Pixabay 


Student New Angle Prize

The Student New Angle Prize is a competition partnered with the New Angle Prize for Literature, a national book award for published authors. SNAP is an annual event and offers all students of the University of Suffolk the chance to enter by submitting 500 words of original writing as prose or poetry. Like the New Angle Prize, all entries must either be set in or clearly influenced by our East Anglian region. 

The SNAP competition gives offers a chance to hear new voices in the region and encourages students to add to the literary representations of the region which continue to make East Anglia such an important place for art and literature and poetry. Every year a different judge is invited to join the panel. For this year the judge is honorary graduate, novelist and actress Esther Freud.  

Twelve writers from courses across the University have been longlisted for the SNAP Writing Awards 2021. The shortlist will be announced on 10th March. The winner and runner up will be announced 19th March.

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