In February 2018, I ran a workshop alongside Jo Goldsmid – we travelled to Brighton on a cold winter afternoon to experience the starling murmuration with a mindful approach, and then retired to the back room of a pub to write about it. The idea was to use creative writing to explore, build, and strengthen our connection with the land and with nature. The writing that came out of the workshop was really powerful, and we had great feedback from participants.
Inspired by this experiment, I spent the first half of 2018 researching ideas for a land-connected creative writing pedagogy, as part of my MA in Creative Writing and Education. This work allows me to bring my sense of connection with nature into my teaching – using it as a tool to come up with new ways to engage with our environment, whether in urban or rural areas. Nurturing these connections is essential to creating more respectful and sustainable ways of living on our planet, and creative writing is a powerful way to do this – and it’s also essential to a more just society. This is from the conclusion to my essay:
“I believe that the key to changing the way we relate to the land is to transform our sense of belonging, and that a liberating creative writing pedagogy is one powerful way to do this. By valuing students’ funds of knowledge and building communities of practice which involve the land and nature, writing about place can validate and develop students’ sense of belonging and connection, which in turn encourages protection and nurturance of the land. This has radical consequences for people who are marginalised, and is part of the project of celebrating difference and building community and belonging around the places we live. This approach provides rich material for writing and can help students to write vivid, imaginative, and evocative poetry which brings place alive for the reader. Perhaps that writing will spark something in a future reader which begins the cycle again, inspiring them to connect with and protect the places that are important to them.”
I developed a workshop for schools, which leads students to explore non-human nature and then imagine their way into its point of view – building connection to place, and also linking into the science curriculum. This has gone down really well with students and teachers alike!
This summer, I am working with Phytology, at Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, to explore our relationships with soil. I’m really excited about this – Olly Edmonds will be leading a session on DIY soil testing and discussion of the make up of soil, and I’ll be following this with a writing workshop exploring soil further through imagination and words. The first session is on 4th August – details here.
In my own poetry practice, at the moment, I’m trying to create imaginative space to think about how I relate to non-human nature – to imagine other ways of connecting to it by making it strange through writing. I’m having a lot of weird conversations with birds and trees, coming up with poem-spells and elegies, and having some magical adventures in London’s amazing and complicated spaces. You can see some of this here and here!