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 funding 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’. Drawing 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.

NaPoWriMo 4.3: You Can’t Look


“Let us get ourselves a pet…”

My, it’s getting late. Which might be why day three turned out quite so peculiarly (sorry not sorry). That’s my ‘excuse’ anyway.

I’d been meaning to write something about this news story for a while – and had the first couple of lines in my notebook. However,  I’d suggest reading this poem first, then looking at the news story – just to see what the effect is…

You Can’t Look*

In an instant, our faces became Bacon
smears skyward; the low hiss of moon-
sized fans on the horizon,
kaleidoscoping in. Our limbs
reformatting. Our skin
more river than bank.
These wind-up trainers
running for the train
our brains are on. Touch

will be the only sense
we need. We will grow
haptic trunks, feel the sky
smudging. Why wouldn’t I want
a burning tyre for a mind?

For my body to slide
out of resolution, the icon
slipping from my swimsuit?

Let us take a holiday
from our abdomens.
Let us get ourselves a pet
that is Cerberus with a third
off. Let us be only half
but the half which
beer. For our feet
will no longer touch
the ground, for neither

is ours, and neither
is here.

* NB: I asked the Jabberwacky chatbot: “What should I title this poem?”
It answered “You can’t look you don’t have eyes…”

And just then, when I told it, “Thank you, that’s perfect”, it replied:

“Nothing in this world is perfect.”

So far, so Neuromancer

Poetry School Microcommission: First Report

Shaun’s response to a government report on Innovation…

There’s a quick update on The Poetry School Microcommission project, ‘Chainmail’, that I’m doing just now – you can read it here. Some really interesting work being produced; most looking forward to seeing the projects’ outcomes – and ours!

Email-as-art-form isn’t without its challenges! We’re a diasporic (yes it’s a word) team, across Bristol (where I am), London (where Luke and Rach are), Manchester (where Neil is / is off gallivanting) and finally in Orkney (to where Shaun has just moved and been rather foxed by BT’s failure to connect broadband). I’m the common point with the other participants, who I hope will get to know each other well through this work, and my main focus as the ‘nodal point’ has been ensuring these strangers all feel safe to experiment, take risks and just have fun with emailing.

The Poetry School Microcommission: Chainmail

We got one of the Lo! and Behold Microcommissions from The Poetry School!

Mine was one of five projects fortunate enough to receive a ‘microcommission’ from The Poetry School’s Lo! and Behold scheme, announced at the end of January.

Our project is called Chainmail (for Nicky Morgan) and will comprise a series of creative email ‘chains’ between me, Shaun Gardiner, and three friends from across engineering, parasitology and cyber-security.

The title directly addresses Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who last year made some rather divisive remarks about the Arts and STEM subjects (Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths) in education, placing the two in (what I view as) a false binary, unhelpful for everyone.

So rather than ranting, we’re practising what we preach and communicating ‘across the lines’ to learn more about our different disciplines, to generate new poetry, drawings and ideas that straddle the false Arts/Science binary. And maybe we’ll send Nicky a copy at the end, to see what she makes of it…

It’s only just revving-up now, so once we’ve spent some quality time errantly emailing, the outcomes will start to be polished and put out there in springtime.

More to follow on where the work created will pop up, but my hope is that there will be some joyous muddling-up of the Arts and STEM, with cyber-security sketchings, parasitology poetry and engineering ekphrasis. Who knows…

NaPoWriMo 2.7: Love Song of the Goblin

The dream home of Tomorrow, in which you might find the Goblin…

It’s a two-poem day as my brain was too fried yesterday…The other (today’s) will appear later.

So, catching up with yesterday’s prompt to write a love poem to a thing, here’s my offering. It ended up quite long, so if you can stick it out – thank you, there is a ‘pay off’ and I appreciate any constructive suggestions for cuts or other edits! 🙂


Love Song of the Goblin


Such Integration:

where before, we poor

humans had to lumber through

the morning chore of tea

production, in a number

of discrete actions:

no more.


Such Automation:

for now, the boiling water

of morning is poured on to the teabag

of your dreams, even before

your fleshy eyelids

have flickered.


Sentinel of The Modern Day:

you begin your boiling ways

at precisely the allotted tick.

As we kick off our fluffy

heads and robes, gliding

into one (of two) myopically

chrome and out-damn-spot

clean family cars.


Such Illumination:

dissatisfied with the distant

Sun, you add your cheery

and alarming glow to the throes

of a dawn chorus of factory-produced

daylight. Springing up, along the branch

that Britain was, alert to promotion, bonus

cash. Growing on the map like a gorgeous,

bioluminescent rash.


Such Reanimation:

now, in pixelated times, we save up

the promise stored in your recklessly

un-energy-efficient bulbs. Half a century

– no, more – from your peak, we keep you here

(though there is scarcely space) for the idea

that there is use in you. For moments, you rejoin

the Gleaming Highway of Time. When we children

of another century, want the ambience for a birthday

do just right. We put our ear to you for a tick,

or a Frankenstein fizz of electricity. From time

to time, we invite you, nervously,

to join us at the party,

as a light.



Addendum: here is the actual sort that we have on our shelf, as a light (and never, ever a tea-making device)…


A 1959-60 Goblin Teasmade, like the one we have on the shelf (and for which I have a curious affection).


NaPoWriMo 23: A Triolet for Entropy

The Universe loves things to get more disordered. (So most of us fit right in – We Are Stardust!)

I’m running on a slightly altered NaPoWriMo timetable, or flexi-time, if you will: there’s a Welcome and a Blessing brewing for Sunday, from earlier prompts. But as I’ve slightly stumbled on these – and am going to return to them – I thought I’d try out a triolet from today’s NaPoWriMo prompt.

Looking around for some inspiration, I found this article about entropy and intelligence – which slightly blew my mind. In essence, this is about the idea that the Universe tends towards a more disordered state – and that by applying this idea to some models, they become analogous to what happens when ‘intelligent’ beings are involved. That we, as intelligent (supposedly) beings, are also inherently entropic. Apparently, even the evolution of walking may be relevant in this system. Roll on the bedlam!

I think that’s what it means, anyway. Although I suggest you read it yourself, as the reporter clearly knows what they’re talking about a lot more than this poet.

And to celebrate this un-knowledge of our inherent entropy, I wrote an orderly triolet…



An infographic of how a Botnet works…I’d like to see an infographic of my ANTI-BOTNET. Anyone?

Tasked with creating a ‘persona poem’ yesterday (with the suggestion of a superhero). So I started trolling the internet for some inspiration – and came across this story from today, which I found simultaneously interesting, amusing and alarming.

WordPress (which hosts this very site) has been ‘attacked’ by a ‘Giant Botnet’ of some thousands of linked computers since last week – and this may have been a pre-cursor to a much larger attack (a ‘Mega Botnet’?)…When thinking, then, about a superhero – I thought we (WordPress users, many of whom will be using it to share their NaPoWriMo efforts) could do with the ANTI-BOTNET.

Last month, I went to the Leeds Trinity Writers’ Festival Day and we did a workshop on the ‘Techno-Poem’. This seemed such a rich thread of techno-speak, -images and -ideas, I thought… HERE COMES THE ANTI-BOTNET (WHO ALWAYS SPEAKS IN CAPITALS).




or, http://www.IFEARNOTHING.infinity/forever/BAM


























NaPoWriMo 10: Un-love Poem for Call-Centre Conversations

The battery-farming of conversation, in the form of a call centre.

Day 10’s prompt was to write a poem of un-love; not a malediction, so much, but just a poem of ennui (that’s how I read it) about someone, or something.

It so happens that I spent quite a bit of time doing a transfer from one credit card to another today, as well as spending some time on the phone to a large mobile phone company. While the people I spoke to were perfectly polite and proficient, there is something really jarring about that stop-start scripted version of a conversation you have to have with them. Generally, I like people and enjoy meeting new humans; finding out how surprising and unusual people can be. But there’s no sponaneity when you have to speak to  (some, not all) call centres or worse, there’s very little humanity about those types of interaction.

You’re both becoming a part of a process, elements in a mechanised version of a conversation, with niceties wedged in here and there as WD-40 (that’s a type of lubricating oil for machines, non-British readers!) to make it seem less robotic…I should know, I’ve worked in call centres myself – although I don’t think it was ever going to be a long-term prospect (I tended to deviate from the script too much).

(By the way, I called it ‘Going Forward’ as one chap I spoke to said it about ten times – it’s a real politician’s phrase that, ‘Going Forward’ – as opposed to what? Going back in time? Or does it mean ‘Moving forward’, progressing, in some way? It means, I fear, very little.)

So here’s a poem about it:


Going Forward

or, Transference


** Our staff are currently both

at present engaged in

dealing with the customer

enquiries of other clients **


Can I just confirm your name, Mr Parkin,

Sir, Mr Parking, sir, yes, of yourself, sir?

And the 16-digit number, sir, the 3-digit figure

tattoed on your face and the date

your number is up? Going forward, Mr Parken, sir,

we just wanted to ask, before the transfer

some questions about your circumstances, if we may,

if I may, on behalf of ourselves, to yourself?


We’d like, Mr Perkin, to discuss

the finer points and repercuss-

ions of your over-

spending, Mr Parkan,


we’d like it if we

could just go over

a few things,

for yourself,

from ourselves,

to perform the script


repeatedly, with

zero per cent


to say nothing

for fifty years,

to  itemise the

Terms and