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It’s night on White Moss. It is a deep dark, new to me. And these new days of 2017 are darker still.

I’m here working as the Clarissa Luard Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust, feeling my way into archives at the Jerwood Centre, looking at Wordsworth’s pencil notes for The Prelude which might have been written while he was out walking.

I’m also pencilling my own poems, writing on site in caves, quarries and twilights across the Lake District and I’m documenting all this – plus the young writers’ poems from my road trip of workshops throughout Cumbria – online at lines-left.co.uk.

Lines Left (in the dark) takes its name from the peculiarly unspecific gesture towards a specific site in the title of Wordsworth’s poem ‘Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree which Stands Near the Lake of Esthwaite, On a Desolate Part of the Shore, Yet Commanding a Beautiful Prospect’.

The residency is also an extension of my doctoral research into site-specific writing practices via geology, sculpture and vision from Wordsworth to the present day and I’m looking forward to drawing all of this work together at the end of this year when I will be writing up my thesis.

At the start of my residency, I busied myself making small Claude glasses. These small curved dark mirrors were used by 18th-century poets and they have been BIG with my school groups where everyone 6 to 16 knows how to smash any selfie.

My residency runs from the 13th January to the 10th February. I am halfway in, halfway out, looking in at the dark mirror, looking out at the protests and marches and petitions that grow worldwide in its bright reflection.

poetrypleaseYesterday’s Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4 opened with Bertolt Brecht’s poem ‘In the dark times / Will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing. / About the dark times’ and rang out with a chorus of singing from ee cummings, Raymond Carver, Sister Mary Agnes, Emily Dickinson, Kathleen Jamie and quite a few more.

The whole half hour was a good glowy balm, if you’re in need of it. The programme also includes a recording of me reading my own favourite small song for dark days, the Anglo-Saxon metrical charm ‘Against a Wen’, starting at 12 minutes in.

Turn on the lights and listen here.

It’s been a year since my year with the Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme came to an end and here’s another year, hi there! hup! you go onto the pile. It feels like a good moment to look back on a meeting I had at the end of last year when I was asked by a publisher where they might find more of my work and I pointed to a bulge in the carpet and received a look so withering that I sat down on the bulge in the carpet as if to insist it was comfortable and so practical. I decided to stop hoarding and send some work out.

So now let me point to the windows and the places you can now find more of my work.

In August, my slide / poem, ‘JETS OF FIRE’, was included in the first issue of para·text, an unbound, hand-embossed publication produced by Laura Elliott and Angus Sinclair. It’s a beautiful thing. Poems are delivered in an envelope closed with string while all paratextual matter – poets’ names, bios, notes – stays online in an index. My lantern slide, a long exposure of fires burning in northern Iraq’s oil fields, taken at dawn in 1932, is positioned over the page from its poem, written to the same dimensions of the slide. It’s indexed as oo1.1 and you can see it laid out here by Sal Randolph reading in Brooklyn.

para·text has just closed its submissions window for a second issue so look out for that when it lands.

After this, a little rush of poems appeared in the autumn, starting with ‘Brake Lights‘ in The Clearinga gorgeous online journal published by Little Toller Books. A numb box of prose about cloves and teeth, ‘Avulsion’, turned up in Ambit 222 and a longer sequence ‘Caddisfly’ crept into The Rialto 84. A prose poem full of noise and phosphenes, ‘Total Destructive Interference’ appeared in Poetry Wales 51.2 and just this week ‘Charm Against Wednesdays’, ‘Deep Field’ and ‘From What I Remember‘ were included in The Junket Issue XVI. And February, unbelievably, saw my poem ‘Deepwater‘ find a home in Poetry magazine.

I was also invited to contribute to the Poetry Foundation’s Reading List and, while I am burrowed two years deep into my PhD in site-specific poetry, View-Masters and caves (jks! but actually no really some of this is true), everything I am reading is a kind of cave, another cave and then criticism. So I also send thanks in my Reading List to Jen Hadfield for providing opportunities to read about daylight and puffballs.

Squinting ahead, then, I’m currently writing a poem for 1814 for the For Every Year project and, excitingly, I’ve just started reviewing for frieze, with my first couple of pieces in the upcoming April issue. My poem ‘Loxodrome’ will also be in Eyewear’s anthology The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 alongside poems from those beautiful people Ian Dudley and Debris Stevenson, scoring a hat-trick of the Jerwood / Arvon 2014/15 poets (ah! what’s that? a little weather rains on my cheek) and ending things as they began.

 

Behind the back of the poet, the Bristol Channel performs an old magic trick.

At north fifty one thirty one thirty three by west two forty six fifty one, Denny Island marks the boundary between England and Wales.  Below the high tide mark – anything wet, anything submerged – Denny Island is in England. Above – where the Great Black-Backed Gull comes to nest – it is in Wales.

On an unusually warm September morning, an even more unusual spectacle of a fata morgana (a mirage formed by the close layering of hot and cold air) transforms the predicament of Denny Island through various stages of ‘sea hill’ to space ship to levitating egg. By mid-morning, Denny Island is a floating ball of unbounded land, entirely Wales, entirely delivered from the sea.

I had to piece together this composite image from the backgrounds of my photographs of the morning, having not noticed the island lifting itself clear of the water until it had already confidently arrived at ‘lemon’.  I had been preoccupied with the chatter on the boat’s radios, the priest, the bickering and the brews, the t-bar hook disgorger lowering over the painfully familiar face of a thornback ray hauled up from behind the dark murk of the Bristol Channel.

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the Perspectives from the Sea Research Cluster at the University of Bristol to write a poem at sea.  I set out from Portishead with a waterproof notebook and wrote anchored between Steep Holm, Flat Holm and Denny Island, letting the poem trail the 13-metre tidal lines of the channel (the second highest in the world, no less).

north fifty one thirty one thirty three by west two forty six fifty one is a sea prayer and prose poem written aboard a small fishing vessel in the middle of the Bristol Channel and first performed at Being at Sea on the 18th November 2015, as part of the Inside Arts Festival of the Arts and Humanities and Being Human.

The poem takes its form from ‘A Thankesgiuing for Mariner being safely landed’ in Thomas Dekker’s Foure Birds of Noahs Arke (London, 1609) which carries a refrain of impossible reversals, of bodies and boats being delivered safely from the sea – but also the threat of the promise to ‘sound foorth his Name even amongst Turks and Saracens: and send abroad the miracle of our deliverance to the furthest corners of the earth’.

The poem has been produced as a limited edition of 30 numbered and signed concertinaed pamphlets.  There are a handful left after the first reading and If you’d like to have a copy posted to you or the seaprayer performed for you, let me know.  Each poem comes with a foiled fata morgana on the cover, although I can’t promise it will lift lands or erase borders for you.  For that another prayer needs to be answered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far, zero drowned dogs.

Instead, November is the start of lots of new projects for me.  Not least because November brings with it my birthday and my own private calendar flips back over to the first page.  And this year November is flush with new and exciting dates.

word-cloudPOET-IN-RESIDENCE AT THE BRISTOL POETRY INSTITUTE
Room G11, 3-5 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1TB. 12th November – 12th December 2014.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my residency at the Bristol Poetry Institute at the University of Bristol.*  I am excited to be starting a five-week workshop series with the students, where we will be reading and talking about the materials of poetry, the specifics of site and the role of memory and method in writing practices.  Alongside the workshops, I am also hosting one-to-one consultation hours to work closely on the students’ own writing and I’m really looking forward to what Bristol can bring to me.  Let’s go!

*I’m afraid I must also add that this workshop series is restricted to students of Bristol University.

(11stonehandTHE POND, TOO—THAT IS ANOTHER POEM, FOR ME): A READING WORKSHOP
for Art Writing Writing Art
Room G5, 3-5 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1TB. Monday 17 November 2014, 12.30pm – 2pm.

After my performances in Bristol University’s Goldney Grotto for the Bristol Biennial this September and to complement my workshops at the Bristol Poetry Institute later this term, I am so pleased to have been invited to host an open seminar for Art Writing Writing Art, a discussion and research group at the University of Bristol.  Both students and the public are very welcome and I think it would be excellent to get everyone in a room together.  I’m going to be asking us to think about how we use the term ‘site-specific’ within contemporary poetry, but more intriguingly, the event is being billed as ‘part reading group, part participatory writing event and part practice-makes-perfect’.  Phwoar.  Let’s do it.  Bring a pen.

* The title of this seminar is taken from Ian Hamilton Finlay’s letter to Ernst Jandl (1965)

clovehitchThe Clove Hitch and Camarade at Interrobang Festival
The Betsey Trotwood, Clerkenwell, London
Saturday 22nd November

I am reading twice! twice! nice! at Interrobang this Saturday 22nd at The Betsy Trotwood Pub. First with the excellent Eley Williams‘s round up of prose poets THE CLOVE HITCH at 5pm and then at 8pm to talk woodwork and driftwood and workdrift with Zelda Chappel for Camarade.

ecopoetryEco and Nature Shuffle at the Poetry Cafe
22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
Saturday 29th November
7pm-10pm

This is pretty exciting.  I’m joining the awesome Harry Man, Tom Chivers, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Inua Ellams & Gale Burns to read at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden.  Starts at 7pm.

Three Pollards, oil on panel, 2004, Julian Perry

Three Pollards, oil on panel, 2004, Julian Perry

ARBORETUM: Creative Writing
at the Royal West of England Academy
RWA, Queen’s Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1PX. Tuesdays, 13th January – 3rd March, 6.30pm-8.30pm

This one doesn’t start until January, but booking starts today!  I am absolutely thrilled to have been asked by the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol to create a creative writing course to tie in with their spring exhibition, Arboretum.  Taking place in the main gallery itself, the course will be rooted in the show’s collection of paintings and sculptures of trees.  Each of the seven workshops will take writers through from first bud to final whittling, through all the cutting and swailing of making a good piece of writing. I am so excited (and not just by the opportunity for arboreal puns).

And! Finding new ways to get lost in the woods with me are three incredible guest tutors: poet Rachael Boast, short fiction writer Tania Hershman and art writer Rowan Lear who will each be hosting one seminar each.  With three such prize-spangled specialists holding seminars in between my workshops, writers can branch out, taking new directions in their writing.  There’s always use in finding the wrong end of the stick.  OKAY, OKAY.  No more tree jokes.

For now.  More information, including schedule and booking is available via RWA.

cleggcarr

As a method of meeting someone, writing a poem towards them seems like as good a start as any.  We pointed at where we were (Stapleton Road in Bristol, I pointed, and Coton Orchard in Cambridge, John Clegg pointed) and set about working out where we had any common ground.  Somewhere in Oxfordshire?  Surely.  Is it an interest in site?  Is it something to do with assonance?  Oh is it Swindon?  Is it big hair?  No, we didn’t know about that yet, having not yet met face-to-face.

So John measured the screen with a ruler, which showed where we might meet in the middle.  I liked the idea of tracing out an as-the-crow-flies line over the landscape over the internet – but I wanted to know the exact spot, door-to-door, because I am a lazy stickler and I didn’t want to range around Google maps without knowing which hedge or glitchy speeding car was the marker that would let me know where balanced and proper collaboration should start.  The answer came from the extraordinary Geographic Midpoint Calculator, which can, if you wish, put you in your place according to your own personal centre of gravity.  We asked for the exact dividing line between Clegg and Carr was and it showed us this:

doubleloop

Where were we?  Crossing over in the corner of an Oxfordshire infinity loop.  A hellish bypass.  An egg timer.  A double cone.  A double-headed axe.  And what’s that?  To the left?  A little pinched lake silting over and echoing the same shape.  I was nervous to scroll out the scale in case there was a third hour glass just to the right, just a bit bigger, and then another and another and John and I became too terrified to start writing.

So we got cracking and turned the egg timer over.

We moved through John’s storm-damaged orchard, the B4207’s rainblatted branches and towards the shifting territories of Fox Park in Bristol.  We wrote through the roots of our poems, sharing what we had in common, pinching things in towards the middle and moving outwards into those cones to sound out the differences.  Which were also sort of the similarities.  Echoes rang out: storms, trees, territories, damage, claims on language, claims on loss, turning up after the show is all over to pick through the leaves and soil(ed remains).

And took this to London for SJ Fowler‘s incredible Camaradefest ii at Rich Mix, where 100 poets in 50 pairs read whatever their interests and intersects had taken them towards.  There was this exercise in intimacy from Ross Sutherland and Thomas Bunstead and this incised extimacy with Eley Willams and Prudence Chamberlain and more things than I can try to cleverly word from more poets than I can fit in my car and drive around the Carr-Clegg coniunctio.  There was everything I could want: flip-charts, trip ups, rip-roaring laughter and pillows in swimsuits and sexy poems and power steeples and that was only the first hour.  It was wonderful and a bit messy and a lot good.

As John and I started the day, rolling up onto a cold stage, it was difficult to feel all that energy that would later roll from pairing to pairing.  But it was an honour to kick off such a day with this quiet tripped-up triptych:

I met John for the first time a few minutes before this was recorded and we had quickly arranged ourselves according to the compass: me on the west, John on the east.  It was a strange idea to be hurrying into London (another intersection, another neutral ground, another (0,0) on the axis I guess) to read this ‘from’ Bristol.  In truth, I had just arrived from, if not John’s orchard then from John’s city.  Two weeks ago I crossed back over with myself and went back to Cambridge to start a PhD in poetry and sculpture at Newnham College. There I am, overwriting, overdoing it:

grass

I am still committed to my projects in Bristol (my residency at the Bristol Poetry Institute, my teaching at RWA in the new year, a seminar for AWWA, amongst them) and I am excited to see how research and practice might also intersect and be another kind of axis.  The egg timer turns over again and as I am driving endlessly back between Bristol and Cambridge (surely driving through this midpoint we have visited online?) I feel like I’m stuck on that infinity loop, meeting myself in the middle.  And it was great to have so much (and such great!) company at the midpoint this time.

Thanks to John and Steven and to all the poets on Saturday, and if you missed out, all the videos are here.

11stonehand

The incredible Stephanie Elizabeth Third dug down with me in the Bristol Biennial week to document the performances of MINE in Goldney Grotto.  For all those of you who missed out on tickets, here are the playing cards, the Bristol Diamonds, the poison ring, the poem learnt by (Ox)heart, the time trapped in pebbles, the squat, clammy stalagmite I poured from a bottle.

12returnstone

10goram 10place 15pour

I am so grateful to see the other side of my face during the reading, because if anything, MINE taught me that people’s listening-to-poetry faces are identical to their cross faces.  There were gorgeous moments when the furrowed brows gave way to laughter and a few sudden tears, but mostly, the audience seemed to be squinting at the cave walls, endlessly searching for the Oxheart clam or perhaps waiting for a rare rhyme.  Thanks to Steph for gathering all these different faces, all six faces of the crystal.

1lantern 9read 13point 16skylight

I am also so pleased and so intrigued by the realisation that Steph took these photographs on film.  The unforgiving gloom of the grotto is translated into a speckly haze in the pictures and knowing that, at a chemical level at least, what is left of the performance was caught in a bit of light and silver-halide crystals is just right.

17mite

And what is left of the poem exists in this glittering pamphlet, published by Spike Island and beautifully produced by City Edition Studio.  There are only around 60 copies left at this point so email me at hccwriting@gmail.com if you would like to know more, if you would like to buy one – or if you would like to be a reviewer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MINE was commissioned by Bristol Biennial and researched and developed at Spike Island, during a residency in 2013, supported by Arts Council England.  The site-specific performance at the University of Bristol was written with the support of mentor Clare Pollard through the Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/5.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is the eve of National Poetry Day, when taken aback words must eat themselves up and poets put on their best hats just to doff them at each other.  As the door to the grotto has now been locked and I am blinking at the surface, it is time to move onto the next project with my Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme team.

Pushing off from National Poetry Day with the incredible Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson and Ian Dudley, we are spending the month writing a collapsible tanka correspondence.  Today, Deborah makes the first twist of the Rubik’s Cube, writing the opening lines of a tanka sequence that Ian will continue tomorrow and I will join on Friday:

tanka1The completed sequence will consist of both this linear conversation over thirty days AND each of our voices which can be heard in isolation as three parallel ten-line poems.  For instance, my poem will appear amongst the noise from @hollycorfield.  Deborah and Ian’s poems can be found at @debrisstevenson and @dudlian, respectively.  To manage the construction of this and to have the conversation in public, we will be talking to each other on Twitter, using #OCTANKA where the whole collaborative work will grow just to make sure everyone knows this is a digital engagement, you know.

Once the month closes and the poem stiffens up, I will post parts of it up here and we will see what sort of kraken we have awoken from the Octanka.  Until then, Happy Poetry Day!  And see you here.