Posts Tagged ‘Dave Borthwick’

Opportunity: Paper makers – communicating science through art

September 4, 2014

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Paper making, the production of academic papers, is an increasingly important and interesting part of the work of artists, and in particular artists working with environmental and ecological issues.  This opportunity was recently highlighted by Dave Borthwick on belhalf of Lydia Bach and Kate Foster:

The Paper Makers project, funded by the British Ecological Society, aims to create a dialogue between early career artists and scientists focussing on human impacts on biodiversity, with the overall aim to generate collaborative work for a wider audience.

To do so five pairs of early career artists and scientist will get together to discuss the content of one scientific paper and create five piece of work based on these discussions. The progress and process of the creation of the artwork to a wider audience.

More information can be found at: http://the-paper-makers.blogspot.co.uk/ .

We are looking for artists and scientists to apply to join us by 15th of September.​

David Borthwick: Review of Into the Forest

January 18, 2014

Mandy Haggith, ed., Into the Forest: An Anthology of Tree Poems (Glasgow: Saraband, 2013), pp. 280.

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Into the Forest, cover image by Carry Ackroyd (by permission Saraband)

An early linkage between literature and ecology in the recent revival of nature writing, Kim Taplan’s book Tongues in Trees (1989) investigated the connection between humans and woodland, trying to tease out our obsession with but also phobia about these tremendous, living forms that surround and frequently dwarf us:

Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence.  And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky.  For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn some secret vital to our own lives.[1]

In Gossip from the Forest (2012), Sara Maitland used stories and essays precisely to ‘haunt about’ forests in search of connections, and secrets.

For the past few years poet, novelist and environmental campaigner Mandy Haggith has been gathering together poems which speak of the folklore, mythology, inspiration and ecology of forest habitats.  Her windfall has now been collected in an exciting (and beautifully-illustrated) new anthology Into the Forest.

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Kate Cranney, Oak leaf, from Into the Forest (by permission Saraband)

Emerging from the A-B-Tree / A-B-Craobh project, a series of creative events celebrating woodland, the anthology follows the Gaelic tree alphabet (every letter of the Gaelic alphabet, Haggith informs us, has an associated tree or shrub).  The anthology is a documentary of native woodland species, then, as well as a collection of poetry.  Each section, from Birch to Bramble, Pine to Heather, Willow to Yew, begins with an introduction to the tree’s principal features in terms of its ecological properties, its mythological associations, and historical uses: ‘birch makes good firewood, is light and easy to whittle or turn on a lathe, and its sap has many medicinal purposes.’  We are told that ‘you can see the present, past and future on an alder branch: last year’s empty cones, this year’s cones and next year’s catkins, and to the Greeks, alder was sacred to the god time of, Kronos.’

Within each section, we find a dizzying array of poets historical and contemporary, from giants of the poetry canon such as Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost to contemporary poets including John Glenday, Thomas A. Clark, and Haggith’s fellow Walking with Poets resident Jean Atkin.

There are very few weak poems here, and Haggith has carefully selected examples within each section which are capable of holding a dialogue with each other to further illuminate or question the tree species they feature.  Linda Saunders’ Birch tree in November is ‘the stripped tree, scraffiti of branches / against morning’s dull steel’, contrasting with G.F. Dutton’s young birches which ‘shriek green laughter up the hill / billow on billow.’  The trees go on transforming within, between, and across the collection.  The metamorphic, protean, liquid nature of trees is emphasised: rooted forms which are nevertheless rarely static: ‘The tree leans, he / is about to move, he / has achieved a rigid balance between / moving and not moving, earth and air’ (Robin Fulton MacPherson, ‘Variations on a Pine Tree).

The anthology is a careful and thoughtful one, which has grown out of interactions with woodland, with people, with poetry, and shows the way in which they are entwined, connected, in possession of a shared system of roots.


[1] Kim Taplan, Tongues in Trees: Studies in Literature and Ecology (Bideford, Devon: Green Books, 1989), p. 14.

David Borthwick teaches literature and the environment at the University of Glasgow’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies in Dumfries. His current research at the Solway Centre for Environment and Culture explores contemporary ecopoetry.

David Borthwick: Footings and Entanglements

November 22, 2013

Dave Borthwick highlights two new books of poetry.  Entanglements is an anthology for which Dave wrote the Introduction, and includes work by amongst others Alec Finlay, Gerry Loose, Em Strang and Jim Carruth.  You can find out more and order from Two Ravens Press.

Footings is a new collection of specially commissioned poems focused on walking and comes from Longbarrow Press in Sheffield.  Dave has kindly provided this review for ecoartscotland.

Longbarrow Press is a small publisher of a suite of experimental poets, producing a creative output whose eclecticism is its hallmark. Longbarrow believes that the poem should dictate the output, and has to date produced publications in the form of acetates, maps, and matchboxes. This commitment to formal and thematic experimentation is carried forward into its newly-published anthology The Footing, a collection of commissioned poems on the theme of walking and landscape.

This is not a walker’s collection in the sense of exploring pleasing prospects or aesthetic epiphanies, though, but rather a series of often weary journeys where history and memory make uneasy fellow travellers, where ‘Night settles over everything’, ‘the single row of shuttered shops. / 2.00am, deserted streets and cul-de-sacs’ (James Caruth, ‘Nocturne’). Less rooted in, but emanating from, Sheffield these are poems that move through edgelands and riparian zones, a hauntology of locations where the walker is perpetually disturbed, moved on, and so moving off. Andrew Hirst’s ‘Three Night Walks’ has the poet ‘scuttling along the curb’s ledge / alone, unsettled, residual.’

Rob Hindle follows ‘Flights and Traverses (5 itineraries)’ including ‘the supposed migration of Richard Marsden, an ancestor’ in 1782, the sequence ending on ‘a descent in the traces of the first of the Luftwaffe raids on Sheffield’. Chris Jones’ ‘Death and the Gallant’ reimagines the Reformation—with its destruction of artwork and symbolism—as seen through the eyes of a traveller contracted to daub and destroy iconography: ‘we’re pilgrims too’, he explains. Fay Musselwhite’s excellent poems are the voices of the Rivelin’s latter-day spirits ‘tunnelling / under a low stone bridge’ or trekking ‘though woods’ winter skeletons’ by the riverside.

The Footing’s seven poets each explore their territory with sensitivity, but without sentiment, their psychogeographical mappings manifesting the interconnections of territory, memory and experience in vivid, and wonderfully unsettling, terms.

Angelina Ayers, James Caruth, Mark Goodwin, Rob Hindle, Andrew Hirst, Christ Jones, Fay Musselwhite, The Footing (Sheffield: Longbarrow Press, 2013). pp. 95. £12.  See also http://thefooting.wordpress.com/, with links to SoundCloud recordings of poems.

David Borthwick teaches literature and the environment at the University of Glasgow’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies in Dumfries. His current research at the Solway Centre for Environment and Culture explores contemporary ecopoetry.


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