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.

‘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.

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)


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

Nottingham For Nature campaign with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust


I’ve really enjoyed working with Nottingham Wildlife Trust on their creative campaign ‘Nottingham For Nature’ . The campaign hits the streets on 16 January 2018. I’ve been working with the Keeping It Wild youth group to develop their initial ideas, creating twelve new ‘word mash’ definitions and short poems for the poster and billboard campaign promoting wildlife in the city.

IMG_3657On Friday 12th January, I met with six members of the Nottingham Hindu Youth Group ‘Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh’ at The Nottingham Emmanuel School in West Bridgford. We discussed the project and the importance of nature in Hindu culture, developing ideas that will be included in the Nottingham For Nature manifesto. The manifesto will launch at the youth event taking place at Nottingham Council House on 25th January.


Christmas Zine

I’m delighted that my poem ‘Between’ has been included in Mud Press’s Christmas Zine Vol. 2, edited by Nottingham’s poet laureate Georgina Wilding and illustrated by Laura Nielson. The Zine is on sale from Mud Press website, Five Leaves Bookshop, Ideas on Paper & Rough Trade in Nottingham. Happy Christmas!

Aly Stoneman

Your bikes are locked together
against the lamp post outside the bar.

Inside, people twirl between conversations
like the paper Yule hearts in each window
dancing in updrafts of air.

I wait on the pavement, watching snowflakes vanish
on your flushed pink cheeks as you pull on hats
and gloves, wrap scarves, disentangle the bikes.

You are chatting as you glide away up the road
wingtip to wingtip – never quite touching –
like geese in formation, flying south for the winter.

Wild Words 18/11/2017

I’m taking part in Wild Words, an all day event run by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust at Attenborough Nature Reserve as part of the Being Human Festival. 
I’ll be leading a drop-in family friendly creative writing activity between 10am and 12pm. This will be followed at noon by a lively discussion about the power of nature writing to help us reconnect with nature chaired by Dr Lambert with Sorrel Lyall (conservationist and blogger), Adam Cormack (Communications Manager for The Wildlife Trusts), Aly Stoneman (writer) and Erin McDaid (NWT Head of Communications. The final session of the day will be a nature writing workshop for adults 16 and over from 1.30pm-3pm. All events are free.

‘EventBrite’ booking pages and info for the two bookable sessions:
Discussion Panel –
Adult Writing Workshop –

Venue: Attenborough Nature Centre, 52 Barton Lane, Beeston NG9 6DY

Further info:

Research visits to Suffolk and Orkney 2017


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:



Residency Film from The Observatory

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:

Contemporary Poetry, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding

img_5576I 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:

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)