UCLan academic to lead a new environmental poetry project

11 May 2020
Dr Yvonne Reddick

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) researcher has won a national grant to lead a new environmental poetry project.

Dr Yvonne Reddick has received £92,700 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and will work with Magma poetry magazine to inspire others to write about pressing environmental concerns.

Yvonne, who will write, research and publish the poetry, said: “I’m honoured and thrilled to receive this career-changing grant. We need to tackle environmental issues on all fronts, from politics and science to activism and the arts.

“Human beings have changed the climate, exploited the oceans, and mined the bedrock beneath our feet. We are living through the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

“Geologists are proposing that we have entered the ‘Anthropocene’ – a new time-period shaped by human actions. But not everyone is equally affected by these environmental changes. How are poets responding to our age of environmental crisis? What can they bring to debates about the Anthropocene?”

For this two-year Leadership Fellowship, Yvonne will be developing new ways to write about a burning issue: climate change and the oil industry. She grew up in the oil-towns of Kuwait City and Aberdeen so she aims to take readers on a journey to desert oilfields and the North Sea’s storm-lashed platforms. Interviewing oil geologists will help her to write about petroleum, power and pollution.

Poets will work with geologists and environmental scientists at a special workshop. They will look at ancient fossils and handle oil-producing rocks to transport their readers into ‘deep time’.

At a workshop with Ice Age animal bones and a ‘geopoetry’ hike up an extinct volcano, members of the public can try their hands at writing Anthropocene poetry. Writers will have the chance to send their poems to an Anthropocene Issue of Magma poetry magazine in spring 2021.

A conference will bring academics together to talk about how culture is responding to the Anthropocene. For a new academic book, Yvonne will be digging into the archives to uncover how Seamus Heaney wrote his bog-poems, and analysing how Pascale Petit’s poems bring us face to face with an Indian tiger.

Yvonne, who has spent her career researching authors who were also environmental activists, added: “I am thankful to AHRC for supporting the environmental humanities, for offering opportunities to early career researchers, and for encouraging both creative and analytical research. I’m very grateful to my mentor Alan Rice, to John Law and Grants and Funding, to my project partners at Magma poetry magazine, and to UCLan for supporting my research career.”

This is the first Leadership Fellowship that UCLan has received from AHRC.

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