The Polar Museum, Cambridge (2012-2015)
In 2012 I became invited poet at the Polar Museum in Cambridge where I was funded by Arts Council England to research, write and edit some new poems in response to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen.
I made research a research trip to his homeland, Denmark, where I spent time in both Copenhagen and Odense.
I also travelled to Rovaniemi, just inside the Arctic Circle in Finland where I tried my hand at reindeer herding.
During my time at the museum, I was fortunate to get he opportunity to collaborate with textile designer, Lindsey Holmes who made costumes in response to some of my poems for the text and textile exhibition The Snow Queen Retold.
Jo Shapcott and myself whilst she was Poet in Residence at the Polar Museum during Thresholds in 2013.
The Thing Is… (2014)
Also at the Polar Museum, I contributed a poem, ‘White on White’, as part of a multidisciplinary exhibition that aimed to put objects selected from Cambridge University’s museums into conversation with one another.
Blue Smile (2015)
In 2015, 10 poets were invited to write new poems in support of a local charity, Blue Smile, that provides support to children with difficulties in their schools. Our poems were printed on the torsos of mannequins and displayed around Cambridge.
Sweeney’s Bothy, Eigg (2016)
In late 2015 I was awarded a week-long residency with The Bothy Project. I travelled to the remote island of Eigg (to the west of Scotland) in January 2016 to live alone in a bothy with little electricity, a compost loo and an outdoor shower!
(after ‘Gate to the Isles’ & ‘Candle, Eigg’, 1980 by Winifred Nicholson)
Each time I think of her (and I think of her
often) she is sitting in her mackintosh on a stool
before the open door of a tumbledown croft
hunkered beside the Atlantic. She is painting
a forget-me-not gate, swung half open
on a wee Hebridean garden: flowers, clouds, sea –
all movement – yet contained, somehow,
by her ushered in lilac mountains. She squints
at both the far things and near, a brush-end
in her teeth, whiskery splinters on her lips
as she mixes her own colours with tips
of weather-bit fingers; traces of soot, chalk
and pigment in her nails, the creases of her palms,
those trails I’d like to follow. She frowns, furrows,
sploshes away from her paint-wet landscape
not stopping at the island’s boggy pastures
or fertile hollows, but hiking toward the sgùrr,
leaning wild-haired into the whip of the wind,
plucking currents by the wayside, twisting
brittle thistle-heads from their stalks.
Above the pitchstone cliffs, she pulls a prism
from her pocket to consult it for what it knows,
what she knows already, what Goethe knew
too about the life between colours unseen,
unknown. She nods and smiles that kindling smile
from the other side of words which insists:
let the light find you; let the light lose you again,
there is colour in all dark. Later, warmed,
away from caves and the abandoned canvas,
she kneels like a supplicant before a candle
on a whitewashed upon whitewashed sill.
I can almost smell the just-lit match, hear it suck
at the wick and hiss, I can sense the draught,
the flicker. The paint sparks on her smock
recall your midnight Fair Isle jumper; the glossy
pebbles beside your books; the print of a candle
at a window above your desk – how its flame
stays in the mind’s eye a lifetime after guttering;
how each time I think of her, I think of you.
The Painter & The Poet (2017)
As luck would have it, literary critic and blogger extraordinaire, Victoria Best, put me in touch with the artist Miranda Boulton at the beginning of this year. We embarked upon a collaborative project where I gave her 10 of my poems and she created a new painting in response – at the same time I chose one of her paintings to have in my study and wrote 7 new poems in response.
Also inspired by the friendship between Winifred Nicholson and Kathleen Raine, Miranda will be travelling to Sweeney’s Bothy for her own residency in the spring, with the aim of responding to some of the poems I wrote whilst I was there.