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.