I’ll be reading from ‘Sea Change’ and other poems from the Durham coast with Phoebe Power at the Charles Causley Festival online on Saturday 24th July 4.15-5.15pm.
I’ve always admired Causley’s work and was so excited that one of my first poetry readings on BBC radio, in 1998, was supposed to be an edition of ‘Fine Lines’ with him – sea poems from Cornwall and Northumberland. Sadly, Causley had to withdraw for health reasons. We had a couple of long, memorable telephone conversations about poetry, fishermen, school children and the sea. For this online event at the festival in his name, nearly 25 years later, Phoebe and I were asked to film our readings in advance. I took the opportunity to record mine at Easington and Horden on the Durham coast on the coldest June day for years. Tune in to hear me struggle against a North-easterly gale. I recorded most of the poems inside the Easington pit cage monument, to escape the blast. This event is free and we’ll appear live online to answer questions.
If you’d like to hear more about the Durham Coast and ‘Sea Change’, Phoebe Power, illustrator Rose Ferraby and I feature on the July 15th / 17th edition of ‘Open Country’ on BBC Radio 4, ‘Time and the Tides’, produced by the brilliant Sarah Blunt. It’s available HERE in perpetuity.
Singer-songwriter Sean Cooney chose our programme for ‘Pick of the Week’ on Radio 4 on Sunday 18th July. It’s available HERE until August 15th and our section starts at 27 mins 20 secs.
A couple of my poems from ‘Sea Change’ can be heard, alongside two by Phoebe, on the Guillemot Press You Tube channel, HERE. The films are by Rose Ferraby.
Guillemot Press have published a conversation about ‘Sea Change’ between Phoebe and me, HERE.
If you’d like to know more about my poetry, including my work on the Northumberland coast where I live, and my science poems, written for a musical collaboration with my much-missed friend, the composer, the late Peter Zinovieff, I talk about it for the Poesie App HERE.
Much of my work over the last three decades has focused on an area of the coast 50 miles north of the Durham area – north Northumberland, where I live. During the 1990s I was extremely fortunate to spend a great deal of time with some of the last of the traditional coble fishing community, whose culture and way of life stretched from Berwick on Tweed to the Humber. The fisher people I knew in the villages of north and central Northumberland spoke a very distinct language, rooted in Anglo Saxon. I talk about this in an edition of The Verb on BBC Radio 3, broadcast on July 9th. The programme is hosted by Ian McMillan and also features Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’, and linguist Dr Diane Nelson of Leeds University. It’s available HERE until 7th August.
The full version of the poem I read in this programme, ‘The Wund an’ the Wetter’, is published by Bloodaxe Books in ‘Two Countries’ . They also publish my other fishing poems in ‘The Lost Music’. Audio for ‘The Wund an’ the Wetter’ is available as part of the eBook edition of ‘Two Countries’. Copies of the original book and CD, with Northumbrian pipe music by Chris Ormston, are still available from IRON Press HERE.
My work on the culture and language of the Northumberland coble fishing community, and how this relates to a sustainable ecosystem, features in more detail in my recent talk for Leeds University Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems.
The coble fishermen from Berwick to the Humber fished in their youth as their grandfathers had – a way of life which had been sustainable over many centuries. The 21st century has much to learn from such traditional ways of life, and I’m keen that my poetry should help to encourage this idea. The Community Interest Company Food and Drink North East and GRUB Productions have produced this beautiful short film to promote the NE fishing tradition and sustainable fisheries, using my poem ‘Plenty Lang a Winter’ from ‘Two Countries’ (Bloodaxe Books 2014).