Today I trekked up through the fog and spooky tree lines of Victoria Park to see Stan Cowley and Darren Wright of the Radio & Space Plasma Physics Group at the University of Leicester. It's a familiar route by now because since they first sponsored my poetry project on the Northern Lights back in June 2007, we've enjoyed a no. of collaborations. In March 2008, Darren and I took part in a Northern Lights evening at the Science Museum in London. A sell-out event which was reprised in September last year. Now we're planning to bring that event to Leicester and where better than the dramatic Space Theatre in Leicester's own National Space Centre? The innovative film-maker, Brian McClave will be showing his spectacular 3-D films of both aurora and solar flares. And under that domed ceiling of the planetarium, we hope to recreate some of the magic of the Northern Lights, as we mix poetry, physics and film. Are you hooked yet?
At our planning meeting today, we were joined by Ather Mirza of the University's Press Office to think of ways of getting the word out there. We're dreaming up a blizzard of press releases, e-mails, tweets - you name it. And this weekend, I'll be busy on a design for the flyer. So here's the first flake ... It's fab, it's free and it's Tuesday 23rd February!
POLAR POETS GO ARCTIC
And continuing the arctic theme, I'll also be working on a webpage to launch another poetry adventure. In 2010, I'll be teaming up with poet, Susan Richardson, to form the Polar Poets. We're hoping to tour the country with multi-media performances, talks and workshops around the Arctic. She can offer Viking women, hardy Antarctic Explorers and penguins - I can throw in Saamis, scientists and reindeer. And together our material traverses the icy wastes of both poles.
Inevitably, our poems reflect on climate change in these regions. With the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change opening this week, this theme has never seemed more urgent. You might ask what use is it for 2 poets to versify about melting icecaps. I can only say that 2 years ago, I went to Tromso in the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights for myself. And I think too I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the little girl in my favourite childhood story, The Snow Queen, and journey across the ice and snow. What I found was rain and darkness. They were experiencing summer temperatures in December. The same week we were there, a White House press conference announced the Polar Bear was a 'threatened' species facing possible extinction by as early as 2050. By this August, for the first time in human history, so much summer ice had melted at the North Pole, that it was an island. It seems impossible not to write about this. And the least the Polar Poets can do is celebrate the extraordinary beauty of this wilderness that we so depend on - while it is still within our power to conserve it. It's not enough, for sure - but it's one thing storytellers and poets can do.
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.