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:
https://rosetta-art-tribute.tumblr.com/post/144241709712/siobhan-logan-philaes-book-of-hours

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
http://thesamsmith.webs.com/originalpluschapbooks.htm

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
https://twitter.com/siobsi


About Me

My photo
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.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Listening for Ice

While the post-Christmas thaw sets in here with its slush and grey skies, I've been hibernating in a corner of Antarctica. Mornings huddled over my Shackleton poems, wrestling sea leopards, hauling boats across hummocks, listening to the sounds of ice pressure and Emperor Penguins. Sometimes I don't even make it out of my pyjamas. The opportunity to fully immerse myself in this alien landscape, in the detail of the story, is too precious to squander.

Progress north is good so far. A dozen poems more or less edited, three new ones bashed out to plug some gaps in the narrative. Because it's all about story, this sequence - a staggering tale of 28 men drifting backwards and forwards in the pack ice while another party of 10 braved the worst conditions of the continent to lay food depots for an Imperial Transcontinental expedition that literally never got off the ground. The kind of winter tale you can really lose yourself in.

This afternoon, I'm checking out the scavenging habits of skuas, the blow-holes of killer whales and terms for ships's parts and ice-bergs. Binnacle for instance; and growlers, bergie-bits and brash ice. These words lend a particular texture and even music to the poems. I'm also trying to channel voices that might convey the story from within that tight-bound group of men. My sources, books and films, carry lots of extracts from the diaries that men were required to fill for the expedition. Shackleton was a consummate storyteller as well as a master of the psychology of survival.


And now that the sequence of around two dozen poems is firming up, I'm starting to think that I'd like to try them out for performance. A reading at the very least - hopefully with some pictures and context. Shake out the pages, open up those voices and see how the tale hangs together. Something to aim for in the New Year - we'll see. For now, I'm hunkered down in my tent with the prospect of blubber and dog pemmican for tea. I may be some time ...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Moon Gold, Solstice Dark

At 6.32 am this morning, I was ankle deep in frost, dancing a jig in the middle of the park. Followed by running in wide crescent lines like a corn-circle faker. Not as part of some archaic druid ceremony to mark the solstice, I should say, but in a vain attempt to bring warmth to my extremities. I can tell you it was colder than the aurora-watching I remember in the Arctic. Frost-bitten fingers much more stinging whenever I removed my two pairs of gloves. But the sight was unmistakeably there in front of us, slipping through ninety freezing minutes - the lunar eclipse we'd been promised.


The poem came later - my mind was too numbed as we hopped around in the dark, swapping binoculars and thermos flasks. But it was after all lovely to behold. And here it is:




Eclipse




bone white moon
spinning icy
glitter-ball bright


stained edge
of brown umber:
thumb smudge


dark rose shadow
on lonely gold:
old master light


frail lamp
in tidal dark
ebbing ink


lunar sliver
last glimmer
gone





(c) Siobhan Logan Dec. 2010

Monday, 20 December 2010

Midwinter Skin



I'm falling in love with Leicestershire's landscapes in this winter skin. Another frostbitten morning today, this time out at Beacon Hill.
Not a whisper of wind and yet it felt as cold as Iceland. My camera kept dying - begging for a warm pocket. But we coaxed these pictures out of it in between ...
The ice and rock looks as stark as anything we saw in the Arctic and the fogbank eclipsed the country below. A very magical morning. How I want this midwinter to last!
To see the whole album, hop to my Facebook photos.



Sunday, 19 December 2010

Wintering out, Writing in

Winter seems to have arrived with incredible suddeness this year. So I'm feeling if I don't slow down and really taste it, the season will be gone again in the blink of an eye. And this icy Christmas week seems a frost-wrapped gift, a time that's quite-dream-like to me.


So this morning we rose early, fuelled up with porridge and scooted up to Bradgate Park, one of the loveliest places in Leicester, to catch the dawn.

And a slow burn it was, stretched out over two hours, washing colours from Arctic blue to rose to liquid gold on the water. Here's some glimpses:


It's been bone-achingly cold in air blown straight in from the Arctic. And that's kind of thrilling too for someone who's been undertaking various expeditions to Arctic landscapes in the last few years. An opportunity to layer up in all those thermals and fleeces.

Over by the water, a flotilla of small white birds in amongst the ducks - maybe Arctic refugees themselves.




Of course, it's nowhere near as freezing as Iceland was because the Arctic also has fierce winds that give their winters a real sting. When you see frozen waterfalls everywhere, then you know it's cold! But this will do very well for an old-fashioned English winter.


And I still get giddy faced with a frozen puddle or ice flowers on the grass. In the park, the river was largely frozen over, with great swirls of white on its glassy surface.


I wish I could also conjure up the crunching of frost too, the splintering of ice - or the strange mewling of the deer as they crossed the track in front of us. The shrieking of crows stark in the frozen air.





That sun with its long reach and misted light is already dipping as the solstice day approaches. So tantalisingly short.

I'm hoping to get some hibernating time this week to catch up on writing too. Especially a sequence I'm writing about Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica.

Certainly - I couldn't ask for more inspiring conditions for a Polar Poet! Time to pull on another cardigan and get out the notebooks.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Crossing the Poles

Another Arctic morning - very thematic for this Polar Poet who spends her time talking about the ice-bound aurora borealis. Last night nearly 30 people defied a 'Severe Weather Warning' to attend my talk 'Physics & Poetry of the Northern Lights' hosted by the Leicester Physics Centre as part of their Public Lecture series. I was impressed but maybe we're getting acclimatised to these spells of deep winter now.

A very responsive audience stayed on for a wide-ranging discussion about indigenous arctic legends, Siberian tribes, science/arts collaborations, global warming and something called 'archaeo-astronomy' - my favourite new word. The inter-disciplinary aspects of my talk seemed to appeal to this group of assorted lecturers/ students from different University of Leicester departments, local astronomers and several small children. I enjoyed the chance to chat to such enthusiastic and well-informed people.



We also discussed whether our recent 'cold snap' might be evidence of a slowing-down in the sun's activity, as suggested in recent research that linked low solar minimums to Europe's Little Ice Age in the seventeenth century. But my man in the Radio & Space Plasma Physics Group assures me that though the sun has been slow to 'awaken from its deep slumber', sun-spot activity has now quickened considerably. We may yet see the beautiful aurora this far south come the solar maximum of 2013. Watch this space ...


And the questions also led me to reflect on the science/arts collaboration that has me performing poems in a Physics & Astronomy lecture theatre. Darren Wright of the Radio & Space Plasma Physics Group spoke of how scientists like himself were interested in finding different ways of communicating with the wider community. His group have sponsored a number of artists like myself working on projects related to their auroral field of study. And from the events I've done at science festivals and venues like the Science Museum I can see there are some exciting approaches to engaging both adults and children in scientific discourse.


As a writer, the challenge of finding a language to communicate complex scientific ideas in poetry and performance has proved very stimulating. It's stretched my literary voice and my skills as a storyteller and I love presenting this material to very diverse audiences from primary schoolchildren to astronomers. And the narrative journey of the Northern Lights has led me from the Arctic Circle out into space - a place I want to write about more in the future. From physics to poetry, aurora to story - the cross-overs continue to fascinate me.