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If you are free and in Leicester on Friday morning, I’d love to see you. I’m looking forward to giving my second presentation at the fun, friendly and informative Leicester Travel Talks about La Gomera: ‘Hikers, Hippies and Horrible Histories –The Intriguing Island of La Gomera (Canary Islands)’ from 10.15-12 noon in the Satta Hashem Hall.
Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir St LE1 6QL. It’s £4.50 on the door. http://traveltalksleicester.co.uk
FB Livestream of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature poetry event on World Poetry Day (Thursday, 21st March 2019)
I’m taking part in a poetry event hosted by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Nottingham City of Literature to celebrate World Poetry Day on the 21st March.
World Poetry day, declared by UNESCO in 1999, is an occasion to honour poets and celebrate one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression. This year, UNESCO Cities of Literature Network has committed to promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal: Gender Equality, by creating a platform for women to express their ideas and experiences of gender issues. This year’s Nottingham City of Literature event will be supporting this goal by promoting and listening to the voices of 12 female poets, who will share poems reflecting on all stages and ages of being a woman.
The event will see the talented women poets performing at NTU’s Clifton Campus library, surrounded by the books that have nourished their writing. UNESCO aim to ‘build a better world with words’ and the decision to use the NTU library very much reflects their fundamental belief in libraries as places to foster literacy and education. Many of the poets are students or alumni of our MA in Creative Writing and PhD candidates who contribute to the rich literary research culture of the university. The performers include Becky Cullen, Panya Banjoko, Tuesday Shannon and Victoria Zoe, as well as NTU Writer in Residence Bridie Squires.
The event will be live streamed on the Nottingham City of Literature Facebook page, in a unique way of engaging new audiences with cultural events in the city. This will allow the poets of Nottingham to reach audiences who are unsure about attending live events, as well as poetry enthusiasts from further afield.
Join in via the Nottingham City of Literature Facebook page from 7pm on the 21st March,
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.
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/
When 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.
I 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.