Poet-in-residence – is this for you?

I’m currently Poet-in-Residence for the National Trust at Scotney Castle. I decided to do this after my last collection as a way of exploring something new and also to shift the direction of my writing. I’ve spent a lot of time there, either on my own or with friends – it’s a good way of getting extra ideas, especially from friends who ask a lot of (difficult) questions. I’ve chatted to volunteers, employees and pounced on visitors. My work focuses on the ruins, the moat in particular. I recently read about Jacques Benveniste and his theory about water (which later became known as the “memory of water”).

It’s known as the “memory of water”.
When you add a substance to water and then dilute
the water to the point where there are no more
molecules of the added substance left in the
water, you can still measure effects of the water
as if the originally diluted substance were still present.

Jacques Benveniste

As part of the residency I am collaborating with poet and artist, Karen Dennison who is working on photographs based on my poems. We’ll be exhibiting both in the ruins this summer. Oh yes and then there’s the pamphlet which I am currently working on and today I’m thinking about readings by the moat on hot summer evenings (yes, they will come), a glass of wine, the gentle breeze in the trees … A residency can be what you make it.


Alyson Hallett has just taken up the post at The Charles Causley Trust and Zaffar Kunial has been announced as The Wordsworth Trust’s new resident poet. Caroline Carver has been poet-in-residence with the Marine Institute, Plymouth University, since early 2013, and the University will shortly be publishing her fifth collection, Fish Eaters. Jo Bell has had commissions and residencies with the Canal and River Trust and the National Trust. Heidi Williamson did a residency at the London Science Museum’s Dana Centre for a couple of years and is currently poet-in-residence for John Jarrold Printing Museum. I asked her how she got these opportunities and she told me that she simply wrote and asked! That’s one way. Alternatively keep an eye out for opportunities like these (there are lots more around):

Wordsworth Trust
Gladstone’s Library
Jane Austen’s House Museum
The Charles Causley Trust
Ilkley Literature Festival
New Diorama Theatre
Black Country Living Museum


 poetryschool @poetryschool

Interesting thoughts from @AbegailMorley about poetry residencies, including the advice ’just write and ask’: http://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/poet-in-residence-is-this-for-you/ 


16 thoughts on “Poet-in-residence – is this for you?”

  1. I identified with this post Abegail, as I’m having a wonderful time just now being poet in residence for Acton Scott Historic Working Farm in Shropshire. I spend time with visitors, and encourage them to listen to poetry and write some poems which are displayed as an installation. But it’s been truly fascinating and productive for my own practice, just spending time there, and talking to the knowledgeable people who work there. My residency is also based on ‘just asking’, and then applying for an Arts Council grant with the support of Writing West Midlands. More here, if interested: http://actonscottfarmpoet.wordpress.com/
    Warmest wishes for your residency and exhibition this summer!

    1. Hi Jean
      Thanks for this. For everyone’s info… did the first person you ask say yes, or did you have to try someone else? Clare Best did a residency on a farm in Lincolnshire (I think I am remembering this right) – yours looks brilliant. Thanks so much for the comments and the link. The honey looks delicious too. Maybe you could send a poem my way… from the farm to the shed.

  2. I had a Gladstone’s Library residency and it was great. There is a call out for applications every year and the successful applicants are announced in September.

  3. Enjoyed the post, Abi, and hearing more about your residency. I love how you are concentrating on the moat & the memory of water. I’m picturing you “pouncing” on visitors. Very pleased that you & Karen are collaborating. So your joint exhibit will be in the ruins. I haven’t been there, but what happens if it rains? ! Do the ruins have a leak-proof roof? 🙂 It all sounds wonderful. And I like how you’re getting the word out about opportunities. Strikes me as a super way for poets & poetry to connect with more people in interesting & symbiotic ways. You’ve given me lots of food for thought. Thanks.

    1. You need to just ask some place where you fancy being poet-in-res… The Poetry School just tweeted it so it must be true … “Interesting post from @AbegailMorley about poetry residencies, including the advice ’just write and ask’; poetryschool (@poetryschool) May 29, 2014

  4. Yes, that’s exactly it: extraordinary places which don’t know yet that they want a poet in residence 🙂 Well worth just asking. I was lucky, the person I spoke to did just go for it – but I had to be brave in the end and just ring them up, because there was no answer to my polite email… but it all worked out.

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