Living on the edge in Shingle Street (photo: Aly Stoneman, 2017)
I visited Suffolk and Orkney this summer (2017) while researching and writing for my PhD in contemporary British poetry and coastal change, accessing museum and heritage centre collections and walking some of the most threatened coast in the UK. I was especially struck by the effect of climate change and sea change on people in the past (e.g. the impacts of sea-level rise in the Neolithic and a deteriorating climate on Bronze Age farming in Orkney; the devastating inundation of medieval Dunwich) and the inevitable connection with how we relate to climate and coastal change in modern times, when we are less flexible in terms of settlement mobility. I am also increasingly interested in flood narratives in oral traditions and in how we evaluate what we save and what we leave, in relation both to heritage sites and personal property, when the sea comes calling…
Full blog posts:
Last summer I was resident poet at National Trust Mottisfont for SPUD’s touring installation The Observatory. Here is a short film about the project with all three artists (including me). The project finale will take place all day on Friday 28th April 11am-late at Buckler’s Hard in Beaulieu in Hampshire with talks, tours, presentations and readings. More info to follow. Here’s a link to the project website: http://www.lookinlookout.org/films
I started my PhD in October and I’ve just completed project approval, so it’s time to crack on with actually writing something! I finished my contract with Junction Arts in December after the Bolsover Lantern Parade (after 5 happy years) so that I can focus on my research. My PhD is practice-led, with the title: Contemporary Poetry, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding. More info here: https://vpp.midlands3cities.ac.uk/display/N0165498ntuacuk/Welcome
Here’s a bit of an overview:
The British geographic and political sense of identity as an island nation – where no place is more than 75 miles from the coast – is inevitably characterised by its relationship with the sea. The shape of the British Isles is ‘sheered into our memories from an early age, a mental cartographic construct of Englishness’ (Dodge, 2012), but limits and definitions of the British coastline are subject to change. My practice-led project comprises a collection of poetry exploring sea-level rise and coastal flooding in Britain and a critical consideration of contemporary Anglophone coastal change poems. I use “coastal change” as an umbrella term for phenomena associated with climate change in the Anthropocene, including sea-level rise, erosion and coastal flooding due to extreme weather events. My poems will explore issues that are largely neglected by the existing body of coastal change poetry, including social and ethical concerns of organizational response such as managed realignment and effects of sea-level rise on heritage sites. Each poem will connect with an artifact as a locative technique and material point of inspiration and reference, exploring the social and cultural impact of ‘loss of place’.
There is a paucity of critical work focusing solely on the poetry and poetics of contemporary British coastal change. For Johns-Putra (2016) ”significant developments have occurred’ in poetry, yet ‘eco-critical accounts of climate change have tended to focus on fiction to the detriment of drama and poetry’. Given the increasing body of contemporary British poetry engaging with the topic, a focused examination of the developing poetics of coastal change is overdue.
Supervisors and Institution(s):
Dr Rory Waterman (Nottingham Trent University)
Dr Sarah Jackson (Nottingham Trent University)
Dr Henry Chapman (University of Birmingham)
During my residency I’ve been exploring the layers of history and stories at Mottisfont, joining guided tours of the grounds, walking with River Keeper Neil Swift along the fishing beats of the River Test and looking at the importance of water to Mottisfont for more than 1000 years. I’ve also been having conversations with visitors to The Observatory, discussing connections between place and memory and collecting words and stories for a collaborative poem about the site.
On Saturday 13th August at 3pm I’ll be sharing some of my writing from my time at Mottisfont and Mark and Phil from SPUD will be giving a talk about The Observatory project. Do join us if you can, we’ll be up at The Observatory in the Beech Circle from 2pm if you’d just like to have a chat and find out a bit more about the project and what we’ve been doing.
During July and August 2016 I will be Poet-in-Residence at Mottisfont (a National Trust property near Romsey, Hampshire) as part of The Observatory. I’ll be researching and creating new work responding to the flow of water through and around the estate including the ‘Font’ spring, the Abbey Stream and the River Test. The Residency will include public talks and ‘Book Making and Poetry’ workshops. Visitors to the Observatory will be invited to contribute to the group poem.
The Observatory consists of two structures, an artist’s studio (The Study) and a public shelter (The Workshop). Using a unique rotating system, the resident artists are able to orientate The Observatory to take maximum advantage of daylight and vistas, or to create shelter from the prevailing weather.
Residency Dates at Mottisfont
Saturday 9th-Monday 18th July 2016
Monday 1st-Sunday 14th August 2016
I’ve been fortunate enough to be awarded a 3 year full-time research studentship as part of the Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. I’ll be starting in October 2016. Really excited about it and looking forward to working with my supervisors Dr Rory Waterman, Dr Sarah Jackson (both at Nottingham Trent) and Dr Henry Chapman (University of Birmingham). It will be a practice-led PhD and the topic is ‘Contemporary Poetry, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding’. http://www.midlands3cities.ac.uk/midlands-3-cities/index.aspx