Swindon, Aldeburgh, Resources

Swindon Collage

Surreal objets, masks, The Tent Palace of the Delicious Air, Roy McFarlane performing, and the Poets’ Umbrellas.

Just back from the Big Poetry Weekend in Swindon: such a warm, cosy, collaborative and connective happening. It was my first one and I was struck by how the scale of it and the location made it incredibly rich: a smaller collective, engaging deeply with the work and each other, in the Tent Palace of the Delicious Air (a small marquee) in the garden of the Richard Jeffries Museum.

My highlights were: working on voices and masks with Fiona Benson (and her powerful, intense reading); Hilda Sheehan’s workshop on (a hungover) Sunday; the richness and quality of the open mic sessions; re-engaging and feeling energised about filmpoetry, and Nuar Alsadir‘s incredibly inspiring talk and reading – which really fired me up again about experimental, intuitive, interdisciplinary poetry.


I’m delighted to be running a session on Queering Ecopoetry at Poetry in Aldeburgh next month. This is an area I’ve been researching, reading and writing around since summer and it’s been extremely creatively rich. I’ll have poems, activities and critical quotes to share. It’ll be playful, interactive and – I hope – fabulously illuminating. British ecopoetry is, I think, overdue a good queering.

Here’s a video of some Nu-Rave eye-tentacled ‘zombie snails’ (famous from social media lately) to get you excited by the gloriously monstrous, colourful, permeable and interdepedent aspects of that lovely, pure ‘nature’ out there ­čÖé


Resources and Articles:

Over the last year, I’ve worked on a number of resources, some of which are out in the world and others currently in development. Here’s a run-down (I’ve been busy!):

  • A commission from the Poetry Society, here’s some inspiration for the National Poetry Competition, a resource based on two of my favourite past winners
  • Our Max Literacy ‘Talking Pictures’ resource will be available soon, through their website here – it’ll give a range of activities for primary age writers to engage with an art gallery and stage their own ‘living gallery
  • In collaboration with the Bristol Museums Service, I’ve also worked on a redesigned Arts Award booklet – which will enable young writers to achieve their Discover level award through writing about artwork in any gallery. More info on their Arts Award programme, here.
  • With a different museum collaborator, I was part of a team who developed the ArtBox, a resource for people living with dementia and their carers to engage with St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, a loaned painting on display in the City Museum & Art Gallery. This evolved from some Creative Cafe sessions I’d hosted there and the outputs of other creative sessions. The finished ArtBox is a thing of great beauty, with a poem around the lid I wrote from words from the sessions, as well as a magnetic poetry set inspired by the painting and our groups’ responses to it.
  • Over winter, I worked on an LGBT+ creative writing resource for First Story – this is in the pipeline and I’ll add a link next year in time for LGBT History Month in February
  • Finally, I’ve written an article on Resilience for freelance writers┬á(a subject, of course, close to my heart!) which will be in an upcoming National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) journal.

It’s great that so many of the projects I’ve worked on, from First Story to the Museum work, is translating into resources which I hope will support others’ creativity. More on the upcoming resources once they’re ready!

I’ll do another Queer Ecopoetry update after my session in Aldeburgh, this time next month.

 

Queering Ecopoetry: Being Seedy & Flowery Language

Image result for pansies

In praise of pansies and flowery language (sometimes).

I haven’t done a blog hurrah yet, but: I’m currently in a period of supported writing after my second-attempt successful application to the Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice┬áfunding stream.

The funding means I can spend real time, rather than snatched pockets of time, focusing on: critical reading about queering ecopoetry; time writing and crafting new poems; developing existing poems with mentoring; send work out regularly to publications and competitions.

I’ll also be attending some poetry festivals to run events and going on a writing residential to really get to grips with my own work and craft. Having just finished my MSc Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, this is a great moment to be able to develop work and develop more of a profile as a poet.

It’s been an interesting process getting started with this funded time, because I’ve been so used to the actual poetry writing part of ‘being a poet’ being additional to tutoring, facilitating and having a top-up job. It was only in week two or three that I felt able to settle down to have some playful, creative time without feeling like I should be doing something else…I guess it’s a time of emerging from seed into flower…

Over the last few weeks, I’ve begun exploring some critical writing I already had – and started searching around for more. I thought I’d post up every month or so, with what I’m reading and thinking, around queer ecology and ecopoetics. Hopefully some of these links and ideas will be useful to others thinking about ecology, ecopoetry, queer theory and the links between them.

I started with Alex Johnson’s great article on ‘How to Queer Ecology: One Goose at a Time’ (though was slightly disappointed that he never mentioned the vulgar Polari meaning for ‘goosing’ – look it up). It’s something of a manifesto, reframing ideas of ‘naturalness’, challenging the ‘ecological mandates’ so often cited by homophobes and bigots, and inviting the reader to consider ‘an infinite number of possible Natures’. The invitation towards a less ‘relentless and blinkered earnestness’ in nature writing was something I really connected with – and for me, a space for camp, humour and play (all of which are, of course, extremely serious).

Timothy Morton is a critic I’ve been meaning to delve into for a while – and in finally reading ‘Queer Ecology‘, I felt like I’d found a critical friend (who ‘gets it’). There was a lot to fire the imagination and writing here, but my favourite quote, debunking our notions of “Nature” or biology as pure or singular, was that:

“If anything, life is catastrophic, monstrous, nonholistic, and dislocated, not organic, coherent, or authoritative. Queering ecological criticism will involve engaging with these qualities.”

I also enjoyed his challenging of the idea of ‘authenticity’ in “Nature” in relation to literary theory and (in)authentic texts (relating, for me, to Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘Uncreative Writing’) and how he made connections with queer theory. The challenging of the apparently very defined line between life and non-life also appealed to my thinking about ecology and technology (as well as my sci-fi sensibilities).

The other piece I read was ‘Fucking Pansies: Queer Poetics, Plant Reproduction, Plant Poetics, Queer Reproduction’.┬áDrawing the connection between the homophobic slander of ‘pansies’ (from the French ‘pensee’, as they were thought to look like a person in thought), Caspar Heinemann goes on to explore the feminisation of flowers, linguistic decoration and the idea of ‘speaking through flowers’ and poetic language. There’s a brief mention here too about that line between living and non-living matter and organisms, which is something I’m going to explore in my reading and writing.

So far, I seem to have found quite a few male theorists – and would appreciate knowing about female, trans-, women of colour, dis/abled and d/Deaf writers considering queer ecology, queer poetics and queer ecopoetry…Do you know of any?

Poetry-wise, I’ve just started reading Isabel Galleymore’s ‘Significant Other’ – more on that once I’m further into it – and have got C A Conrad’s ‘Ecodeviance’ and D A Powell’s ‘Useless Landscape’ coming up. Craft-wise, I’ve also been reading around endings, which is something I’m working on improving in my poems.

In my own writing, so far (amongst other things) I’ve been exploring lichen, sequins and dialogues about ecocriticism with a bluebottle fly – and working up some poems for the Gingko Ecopoetry Prize.

I’ll endeavour to post up once a month about what I’m up to, if only to feel like I’m doing something useful, eh? Please do ask below if you’ve any questions about what I’m up to, or to chat about ecology, poetry and queering ecopoetry.