06 March 2019
Posted by Sophie Jones, Susmita Bhattacharya
Last Saturday, we welcomed poet Susan Richardson to lead a workshop on Eco-Poetry. Susan talked about her journey as a writer and poet, and also how she began to focus on eco-poetry in particular. We learnt that there are so many other avenues that poetry can explore and be a part of. Susan’s various commissions and projects really highlighted all the possibilities of making poetry a part of everyday life. You can find out more about Susan's journey and her work at her website: https://www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk/.
So, what is eco-poetry? It is poetry that has a strong ecological focus and message. John Shoptow's article on the Poetry Foundation website discusses it and also gives examples of eco-poetry: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/70299/why-ecopoetry.
Susan was the Writer in Residence for the Marine Conservation Society (https://www.mcsuk.org/) and it was during this residency that she wrote her Ted Hughes Prize shortlisted collection – Words the Turtle Taught Me, which looks at 30 threatened marine species from UK waters. Susan performed poetry from this collection and from her previous collections as well.
The young writers were given the opportunity to explore the ecological themes that Susan talked about, and they shared their poems most enthusiastically with the group. Susan gave them very detailed and useful feedback, and it was great to hear about some technical aspects of poetry writing from her as well.
In particular, Susan mentioned that she is often led by sounds rather than visuals when writing poetry and this often shows in her work. Some tips she shared with us were:
Making optimum use of sound to convey the message of a poem or even prose.
Single syllable words make a stronger impact.
Plosive sounds such as words beginning with B, P, T and D are harsh and can convey a sense of urgency, unrest, a sense of marching on.
Softer sounds like S, Sh, F, M and N create a mellower mood.
K makes a guttural sound
Here’s a link for further reading on poetry and sound:
And if you’d like read more about poetic techniques, you can check this out:
Susan is the poetry editor for an eco-magazine called Zoomorphic, and she really encouraged everyone to have a look and submit when submissions open. http://zoomorphic.net
Here’s a couple of poems from the session that we’d like to share:
The croc swam the murky waters of the Thames
Gone were the days of being treated like Gods,
Where people bowed
Gone were the hot waters,
and glittering sun.
Replaced by the glum, grey buildings
and never-ending rain clouds.
Pristicampus was a beast out of time
And the cold, grey waters
And the cold, grey air,
And the cold grey buildings
Had its time running out.
- Sophie Lockwood
We’d like to thank Susan immensely for her time and enthusiasm. We were all very much inspired by her talk, her poetry and her writing exercises. And this session will be of great help as we prepare to write poems for the Hampshire Keats Poetry competition.