Wavescapes in the Anthropocene (Croatia) 3-6th December 2018

Wavescapes 1

I attended my first international conference in December, thanks to funding from Midlands3Cities, to present my creative and critical academic paper, ‘Coastal Change Poetics: Erosion and Loss on Britain’s East Coast’ as part of the event’s Creative Engagement programme. Wavescapes in the Anthropocene was organised by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Split, Croatia and featured academic, literary and artistic responses to the environmental ‘sea-change’ we are facing in the Anthropocene. Fortunately there were no parallel sessions, so I didn’t have to make any difficult decisions about which talks to attend, as they were all brilliant and inspiring! Plenary presenters included Adeline Johns-Putra (University of Surrey), whose research focuses on climate change fiction, and environmental writer Rebecca Giggs (Macquarie University) whose book Fathoms: The World in the Whale is due out in 2019. Some of the presentations really spoke to my own poetic engagement with sea-level rise, including Maud Canisius’  ‘Waterscape Walk: I could have been at the Beach right now’, where she filmed a 700km walk along the ‘line’ ‘that separates the Netherlands between high (safe) and low (under threat of drowning)’, and Simon Bradley and Ursula Troche’s ‘Reflections on repetition and contingency on the edge of the nuclear power industry’ which used poetry, text, imagery and found sound. Discussions arising from the presentations explored creative processes, the symbolic function of water, environmental and ecological issues, the emergence of sea-level rise as a central theme in climate change narratives, and much more.

The first two days of the conference were hosted in Split, before we travelled to Komiža village on the island of Vis by ferry, where events included a talk and guided walk by Prof. Joško Božanić (University of Split). The walk ended at Joško’s own house, where we were treated to risotto, homemade Orahovac –  a delicious green walnut liqueur – and a poetry performance! We also attended the St Nicholas Day celebrations and boat burning, an ancient tradition where an old wooden boat is burned and the ashes are scattered on a new boat to bless it. It was lovely to return to Split twenty years after I first visited. Times are very different, but the Dalmatian Coast is as beautiful as I remember.

Attending ‘Wavescapes’ provided the opportunity to build on my professional development as a researcher and share my research into poetic responses to coastal change with academics, PGR’s and creative practitioners with similar research interests. It also helped me to build confidence in presenting at international events (it was a really friendly conference, creating a great sense of community) and has allowed me to network with researchers within my area of study who I would be unlikely to meet otherwise, since many are based in other countries. I’d like to thank Midlands3Cities for supporting my visit, Prof. Božanić for his immense hospitality, and the event’s organisers Dr. Eni Buljubašić and Asst. Prof. Simon Ryle from the University of Split for hosting such an amazing event and also for organising an opportunity for attendees to publish their papers in Cross-Cultural Studies Review (as a special thematic unit in early 2020 in the journal’s second volume). Cross-Cultural Studies Review is a new double blind peer review and open access journal which will be published jointly by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea and Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Split.




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Farewell to Leftlion Magazine

The farewell is mine, as I have stepped down from my role as poetry editor at LeftLion Magazine after eight years. It was time (I am in the third year of my PhD) and I’m sure that the new poetry editor, Chris McLoughlin, will do a fantastic job of promoting the brilliant poetry scene in Nottingham. I’d like to thank editor Bridie Squires and all the Leftlion team for their support and friendship.

Here are a few of the interviews I did with national and local authors in 2018, published in Leftlion Magazine and LeftLion online (WriteLion):

Nancy Campbell (Canal Poet Laureate), May 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/may/canal-laureate-nancy-campbell/

Ioney Smallhorne (When We Speak: An Anthology of Black Writing), July 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/july/when-we-speak-poetry-anthology/

Miggy Angel, September 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/september/miggy-angel-extreme-violets/

Lytisha Tunbridge, October 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/october/poetry-lytisha-tunbridge-interview-nottingham/

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Travel Talks Leicester: Exploring Orkney’s Literary and Coastal Heritage, 30 Nov 2018

img_4828When my friend (the intrepid Cornish travel writer!) Tim Hannigan suggested I give a presentation at Leicester Travel Talks, I was a little bit nervous! Were they looking for tales of rugged adventure or glamour in far flung places? In fact, the monthly event covers a diverse range of travel-related topics and ‘is open to anyone with an interest in the world we live in who wants to learn more about it by sharing the experiences of another traveller – the speaker’. Following my second research visit to Orkney (and after attending Tim’s talk on Cornwall, given earlier in the year), I pitched a talk on ‘Exploring Orkney’s Cultural and Literary Heritage’ to organiser Tricia Lessells, linking literary works, traditional stories and geographic places framed within my personal travelogue. On 30th November, I made my way to Leicester clutching my Powerpoint presentation on a USB memory stick. With a turnout of around 35 people from all walks of life, the atmosphere was welcoming, friendly and relaxed and the morning flew by. People seemed really interested in the subject and we enjoyed a lively Q&A/discussion afterwards.

Orkney has a rich cultural and literary heritage and I hope my talk encourages people not only to visit and/or discover more about the islands, but also to check out some of the writers we discussed for themselves, including Amy Liptrot (The Outrun) and Duncan Mclean who publishes (through Abersee Press) fiercely contemporary anthologies of poems and prose by Orcadian writers ‘utilizing the traditional Orcadian tongue to engage with modern Orcadian concerns.’ Orkney’s literary tradition includes works by George Mackay Brown, Edwin Muir, Eric Linklater, Christina M. Costie, Walter Traill Dennison, and more. Top of my list (as well as Liptrot and Abersee Press) is wonderful storyteller and writer Tom Muir, who you can hear telling the story of ‘Assipattle and the The Mester Stoorworm’ here, and the fascinating 13th Century (Norse) Orkneyinga Saga. My talk was delivered from the point of view of an outsider to Orkney, but I felt it was a real privilege to visit such an interesting place and wanted to share the experience as widely as possible.

Tricia has kindly invited me back to give a talk on 12 April 2019: Hikers, Hippies and Horrible Histories – The Intriguing Island of La Gomera (Canary Islands) and From Tito to Tourism: Komiža – 
The Croatian town where people really burn their boats! on 20th Sept 2019. The Travel Talks programme takes place on Friday mornings from mid-September to May at the Satta Hashem Hall, Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir Street, LE1 6HL. 10:15am – 12 noon (Price per session £4:50). You can check out the  online diary and website here.

Travel Talks Orkney Poster 18

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ASLE-UKI Conference Orkney 2018: ‘A Place On the Edge’

img_4851I attended the 2018 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (UK & Ireland)/ASLE-UKI Postgraduate Conference ‘A Place on the Edge’, between 5-7thSeptember 2018 to give a paper, ‘Give and Take: Coastal Change and Archaeology in Contemporary British Poetry’. The event was part of the Orkney International Science Festival 2018.  My paper was presented on the beach below Skara Brae, during an organised group walk to Skaill. I also met with Dr Scott Timpany from University of Islands and Highlands to visit the archaeological dig he is leading at the Bay of Ireland.

Attending the Postgraduate conference enabled me to meet and network with other PhD students and ECRs with research interests in environmental literature. A number of presentations focused on poetry, archipelagic theory, blue ecology, and/or the Anthropocene, and there was considerable discussion around shoreline environments and cross-disciplinary working – for example, Alec Finlay and Laura Watt’s work linking renewable energy and poetry – which was highly relevant to my own research. The conference provided a platform to share my research with a new and wider audience outside of the Midlands and a chance to build on my professional development as a researcher. My paper, ‘Give and Take: Coastal Change and Archaeology in Contemporary British Poetry’, included a reading and contextualisation of some of my PhD poems and took place on the beach during a field trip from Yesnaby to Skaill on Thursday 6th September. As such, the work was presented in a location that corresponded with the archaeological imagery in my poems. People seemed genuinely interested in my research project. This was the first paper I have given at a conference and I gained valuable feedback afterwards, which will help me to develop the project. The conference shared events with the Orkney Science Festival programme, exchanging dialogues across disciplinary lines. I joined archaeologists Dr Scott Timpany and Dr Michelle Farrell on a site visit to the Bay of Ireland, where rising tides and coastal processes have revealed 5,000-year-old tree roots. Present-day Orkney is virtually treeless, so the finds indicate the level of change over 7,000 years. Their work on Orkney’s submerged landscapes corresponds with my critical writing on archaeological imagery in poetry and my developing collection of poems for the PhD, offering an opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration.  I also took the opportunity to visit the exhibition of finds from Skara Brae on display in Stromness Museum, which will inform the poem sequence that I am writing, meet with publisher Duncan McLean who is leading a literary project promoting Orcadian writing, and travel to St Margaret’s Hope to see the Churchill barriers, which are a series of causeways constructed during WW2 to protect the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow. Orkney is a wonderful place to visit and worth the ‘bumpy’ flight from Glasgow airport. I hope that I can return there in the future.

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‘The Poacher’ published in Under The Radar

‘The Poacher’ was published in Under The Radar Summer Issue 21 (2018) by Nine Arches Press.  The poem was written during my residency with Place, Space and Urban Design (SPUD) at NT Mottisfont in Hampshire and inspired by Neil Swift’s anecdotes about his work as Mottisfont’s River Keeper. His role includes maintaining and managing four ‘beats’ of prime chalk stream fly fishing on the River Test.

Aly Stoneman

Even if you haven’t seen the River Keeper,
I can assure you he’s seen you, half-vaulting
half-falling over the estate fence, has tracked
the rip and drag of your bike through long grass,
the detonations of your foot-falls rippling down-
stream; has scented your last-orders breath
and noted tell-tale patches of trampled fringe.
It will seem to you that casting bait conjures
the River Keeper from ranunculus and sedge,
looming over your shoulder; and as you plunge
and slip along the bank, head down gasping
for breath, you will wonder if he watched you
shirtless with your mate’s girlfriend last Saturday
along the river’s edge – and what happened next.

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Poem for Green’s Windmill Trust: EMHA 2017

Green's Mill (Photo by AS)

The following poem was commissioned to celebrate Green’s Mill and Science Centre winning ‘Heart of the Community’ for the East Midlands Heritage Awards 2017 and is published on their website:

Aly Stoneman

In Green’s Mill garden
a terrier chases a ball
among fallen apples;
notes of balm and sage
sing out from turned soil
and plans are laid
for spring planting.

We are willing
affirm the windmill’s sails;
inside the brick tower
machinery rumbles,
soft flour permeating air,
dusting every surface
as it did two centuries ago
before derelict years
as Nottingham grew,
houses and factories
advancing over farmland.

Yet Green’s Mill remains
a place for milling and baking,
a space to draw breath,
sow seeds, spark ideas –
the core of Sneinton.

We are willing 
white sails turn again;
a kettle whistles ready
inside the garden shed
and wheat whispers
through a rising breeze
plant to grain to bread.

Thoughts on the commission…
How amazing to see a working 19thcentury windmill in the centre of Nottingham! I walked past it every day when I lived in Sneinton, never imagining that ten years later I would be invited to create a short poem celebrating Green’s Mill and Science Centre winning ‘Heart of the Community’ for the East Midlands Heritage Awards.

One Friday in early October, I visited the mill incognito to do some research and was given a tour by volunteer gardeners – including Mavis and her terrier. They explained how the Mill garden has been transformed from a derelict allotment to a community space with a pizza oven, shed and wooden Victorian-style greenhouse.

My poem grew from a line in Green’s Windmill Trust’s application, which spoke of demonstrating ‘the complete cycle of growing grains and milling through to baking’. I think it’s really important to understand where our food comes from, and at the mill people can learn about the whole process – plant to grain to bread – and perhaps buy a bag of organic flour, stoneground in the mill using traditional techniques.

The idea of the cyclical nature of the site linked the mill and garden activities for me: the turning of the seasons and the windmill’s sails. It also connected with the renovation of the Mill as a fantastic community resource, following its decline after 1860 and long period of disuse and dereliction. I was struck by this story of renewal and regeneration.

LeftLion’s review of the EMHA 2017 Awards event on 9th November 2017

Green's Mill Garden (photo: AS)


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Enchanted Water


This weekend, I’m taking part in Enchanted Water, along with new canal poet laureate Nancy Campbell and local poet Leanne Moden. On Nottingham Light Night (Friday 23 Feb) and over the weekend, visitors will be able to join us on a narrowboat to hear stories and poems inspired by canals and rivers, and enjoy a short ride along a stretch of the Nottingham canal.  The session will also be a chance to think about the heritage of the canal, its present use and what the future holds.

Nancy and Leanne are reading on Friday evening and on Saturday Nancy is also reading at 11am & 12noon. I’m doing Saturday 11.30am & 12.30pm and Sunday 11am/11.45am/12.30pm. The sessions will last about 30mins, starting from Nottingham Canal Basin by the Magistrates Court off Carrington Street. Friday should be really exciting, as Enchanted Water aims to transform the look and feel of the canal, using art installations, light and water. Tickets for all events must be booked in advance.

Enchanted Water is a collaboration between Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Trent University, Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre and Canal & River Trust.

Enchanted Water

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