What would we have done in the last year without Zoom? I’m indebted to the platform for making possible the following live and recorded events.

Upcoming Live Events

York Festival of Ideas

Science, Imagination and Poetry

Monday 14th June 2021, 1pm to 2.15pm BST

Online Panel Discussion

Free admission, booking required

How can science, poetry and imagination combine to enrich each community’s ideas?

Expert speakers include poet-priest Malcolm Guite; violinist and composer Anna Phoebe; poet Katrina Porteous; and internationally-recognised expert in interdisciplinary studies, Sam Illingworth of Edinburgh Napier University.

The event is chaired by Tom McLeish, a physicist, interdisciplinary leader and writer from the University of York.

To book Science, Imagination & Poetry, please click HERE.

Wordsworth Grasmere: An Evening with Katrina Porteous

Online poetry event

Wed, 23rd June 2021

19:30 – 21:00 BST


Featuring the World Premiere of ‘Under the Ice’

‘Under the Ice’, poetry by Katrina Porteous and electronic music by Peter Zinovieff, is the World Premiere of an immersive half hour performance, which takes the listener on a journey to the unseen world beneath Antarctica’s ice: gigantic mountains, valleys, lakes and volcanoes, more difficult to visit than outer space. Intended for the non-scientist, the piece explores the ‘remote sensing’ techniques used to investigate this secret landscape and to measure the movement of glaciers — in particular Thwaite’s Glacier, crucial to the understanding of climate change.

Scientists studying Thwaite’s observe Earth’s smallest and largest phenomena: microscopic clues in the bedrock provide evidence of the glacier’s advance and retreat over vast timescales; air bubbles in ice cores reveal the composition of the atmosphere over a million years; radar and satellite data supply information about the dynamics of the glacier and the ice sheet which feeds it. More information about the piece will follow in my June blog post.

Peter Zinovieff’s music is derived from real sound sampled from Antarctic glaciers, by Northumbria University scientist Dr Kate Winter, and audio artists Chris Watson and Philip Samartzis.

‘Under the Ice’ is created as part of NUSTEM’s Exploring Extreme Environments project at Northumbria University, supported by STFC.

The premiere will be followed by an Open Mic session in the second half of this Wordsworth Grasmere online event.

To book, please click HERE.

West Antarctica (Photo credit NASA)

Recent Events Now Available on You Tube

Fireside Chat for the Poesie App

On April 23rd I recorded a live question and answer session with Ben Bregman for his excellent Poesie App, which had featured some of my work from Edge a few weeks earlier. The discussion was unscripted and wide-ranging, and has now been edited to a 30-minute version. It begins with an overview of my work, including the possibly perplexing question of why I write about both inshore fishing traditions and contemporary science. That’s followed by a question about the current state of fishing in Northumberland, then a tough one about how I engage with my responsibility to the values of sustainability and local ecology. There’s a reading of “Various Uncertainties: II” from Edge about midway at 17:48, then a further question about how I reconcile the vast difference in magnitude between my work on fishing traditions and my work on astrophysics. Towards the end there are questions about what it was like to work at the intersection of arts and sciences while writing the three planetarium pieces in Edge, and one about how I ended up at my current home in Northumberland. The interview ends with a poem from Edge, “Aurora”.

Poesie is an app-based, online poetry book club, which features different poets every week. It’s currently available on Apple devices only. Subscribers read and discuss a selection of each poet’s work. It has thousands of members from around the world, and is a labour of love for its creator. I can recommend it. Download from the App Store HERE.

Fishing History – ‘The Sea’s the Boss’

CELCE, the Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems, University of Leeds.

On February 24th I gave an illustrated talk for CELCE about the life and language of the Northumbrian ‘coble’ fishing community in the late 20th century, and its understanding of place and nature. In the talk, touching on the language of fishing practices and species caught, place names, navigation and visualisation of the seabed, taboo words and beliefs, I argue that elements of the coble fishing 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 try to 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. This talk is 60 minutes long, and now available on YouTube. It’s introduced by Prof Jon Lovett of the University of Leeds.

FisherPoets Gathering 2021

There are not many good things to say about the way Covid-19 has affected the arts in the last year. But one tiny ray of light for me has been the chance to hear again some of my great friends from another time zone at the annual FisherPoets Gathering, based in Astoria, Oregon. All the poets’ and songwriters’ short performances are now available online in three fantastic sessions, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My own contribution can be heard near the end of the Saturday session hosted by Holly Hughes, at around 2.46.50 – 2.54.00 – but please do listen all the way through from the beginning (not to mention the other two nights). With contributions from Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento, Meghan Gervais, Max Broderick, Toby Sullivan, Doug Rhodes and Mary Garvey, to name just a few, it’s all there – that ancient story-telling tradition from people who have lived the experiences they write about, touching some of the deepest human themes. And it’s so much fun. Thanks to my friends Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman for putting it all together.

New Publications

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

‘…Perhaps if human beings could be quiet and really listen to avian beings, we might realise that the Earth is not ours alone – we share it with all other communities of life…

‘At a majestic 354 pages, this handsome hardback features the writings and art of 29 contributors working across many interconnected fields – from ornithology to poetry, ecology to field recording, cultural history to photography, musicology to environmental policy, and much more.’ I’m extremely honoured to be among the contributors to this magnificent book, with a short essay and the text of my 2006 audio-poem, Late Blackbird.

Songs of Place and Time is the beautiful result of many years’ research and interdisciplinary collaboration. It is published by Gaia Project and Art Editions North, in partnership with Bath Spa University, and distributed by Cornerhouse Publications.

Price £25

The Oldie 400th edition, May 2021

Bird of the Month, The Fulmar – John McEwen

Look what turned up in this month’s edition of The Oldie! Here’s an old poem I’ve only ever published in a small anthology, that has never yet made it into one of my own collections, with a strange publication record. It popped up a few years ago on an Irish national exam-board paper. Now here it is again, alongside an essay by John McEwen about this beautiful bird, and a lovely print by my friend Carry Akroyd. Thank you, Carry and John, for bringing this poem to a wider audience on the pages of this excellent magazine.

Grey Hen Press

Speaking of ‘oldies’ — as one myself — Grey Hen Press is a small, independent press which publishes poetry by older women. My poems have been included in many of Grey Hen’s excellent anthologies, most recently these two, edited by Joy Howard.

Reflected Light Poems in response to the creative arts. £10

Not Past But Through Poems about rivers. £5

More details and orders HERE.

Sea Change

Thank you for reading this far. Last but absolutely not least, please don’t forget my latest collaboration — this lovely book, Sea Change, created with Phoebe Power, illustrator Rose Ferraby and the fabulous Guillemot Press, about the regeneration of the Durham Coast.

More details and orders HERE.

Artwork for ‘Sea Change’ by Rose Ferraby