Sea Change

Wishing everyone who has found their way to this page all the very best for the New Year. Here are some poetry events to look forward to. Birds and the sea feature strongly…

Songs of Place and Time

Birdsong and the Dawn Chorus in Natural History and the Arts

Edited by Mike Collier, Bennett Hogg and John Strachan

This glorious book is a celebration of what it is to be alive and share our much more-than-human world with birds in their sheer exuberance of life at the dawn of the day. It includes photographs, essays, artwork and poems by 37 contemporary natural historians, writers, artists, poets, academics and musicians. I’m honoured that my work is represented here, by an essay and the script of my 2006 radio piece, ‘Late Blackbird’, which was based on unusually early memories of the acquisition of language. You can preview it here:

Hard copies will be available from Gaia Project Press, Manchester, in the spring.

The Sea’s the Boss

A talk by Katrina Porteous

Wednesday February 24th 4pm

Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems

University of Leeds

The language spoken by the Northumbrian ‘coble’ fishing community in the late 20th century contained clues to that community’s historical development and to its understanding of place and nature. In this talk, touching on the language of fishing practices and species caught, place names, navigation and visualisation of the seabed, taboo words and beliefs, I will argue that elements of this way of life remained little changed since medieval times, and that recent developments in fishing technology, reflected in its language, have profoundly altered the relation between people and place. With illustrations from my poems, I will show that an intrinsic understanding of ‘sustainability’ lay at the heart of the coble fishing way of life, and explore the human cost at which this was achieved.

Free online via Zoom. Please register in advance. Zoom link HERE

The Northumbrian Language Society

Still on the subject of language, the Northumbrian Language Society, of which I’m very honoured to be President, has a new website. It’s under development, but already contains lots of new information and links, including audio of speakers of the language from different parts of the county. Please click HERE.

The FisherPoets Gathering 2021

February 25th, 26th & 27th

A celebration of the commercial fishing industry in poetry, prose and song, the FisherPoets Gathering has attracted fisherpoets and their many fans to Astoria, Oregon USA for the last weekend of February since 1998. In 2014, I was lucky enough to travel to Astoria to take part in the Gathering, and to record a programme for BBC Radio 4, which you can still hear HERE.

This year, because of Covid, the Gathering will take place online. As a result, I’m thrilled to be able to join up with old friends once again to read a poem or two. The schedule is not yet decided, but look out for an event on one of these three nights. Please remember, UK time is 8 hours ahead of Oregon, so if the event begins at 8pm, that means 4am UK time – a proper hour for a fisherpoet!

Click HERE for more information.

Sea Change by Phoebe Power and Katrina Porteous, with Rose Ferraby

Guillemot Press Book Launch

Thursday April 22nd 7pm

‘Sea Change’ is the provisional title of this beautiful collection of work by Phoebe Power and Katrina Porteous, illustrated by Rose Ferraby, exploring the coast path of East Durham, a place in continual transition. Published by the wonderful Guillemot Press, the book also contains a new ‘conversation’ between Phoebe and Katrina, discussing what the project means to each of them.

In 2019, as part of the National Trust’s ‘People’s Landscape’ celebrations, New Writing North and Durham Book Festival invited writers to apply for a residency on Durham’s ‘radical coast’. This dramatic 11-mile coastal stretch from Seaham to Hartlepool, now designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including rare Magnesian Limestone grasslands, wildflower meadows and ancient wooded denes, was once the site of several of Durham’s last deep coal mines. Notorious for its ‘black beaches’ and perhaps the worst-polluted landscape in Europe, in the late 1990s it underwent an immense transformation, with the removal of 1.3 million tonnes of colliery spoil in a multi-agency clean-up, ‘Turning the Tide’. That transformation is still underway, particularly within the coastal communities, some of England’s most economically-deprived, the ‘Billy Elliot’ country of the 1984-5 miners’ strike and subsequent pit closures. The two poets’ work responds to the commission’s invitation ‘to look beyond’ that recent history, and imagine future prospects for the area, within the context of its natural history…

Free online via Zoom.

Please register HERE in advance.