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/ 


Alyson Hallet

Featured Poet: Alyson Hallett

Clark’s Shoe Factory, Street
What I wanted was the factory
before it turned into a shopping village.
Wanted the Henry Moore sculpture
back on the grass by the factory tower,
wanted the hum of sewing machines
and that dusty smell of leather. Wanted
to cycle past the stinking tannery,
to walk in wear-test shoes, to eat the cakes
at Clark’s christmas party. Not nostalgia,
but a wanting for things that made us.
The workers’ dirty hands, the day
after day, the doughnuts in the canteen.
My father going up and down Street
High Street for more than forty years.
The fact that things were being made,
the attraction of that. The grit and the skill
and the boredom. I wanted to see it all again.
To know the cut of cow hide, the stitch,
the moulded sole of a shoe. Not the museum
but the living practice. The meaning
of that brick high up in the factory wall
with the words more light carved into it.
Alyson’s latest book of poems, Suddenly Everything, has just been published by Poetry Salzburg. Previous publications include The Stone Library (Peterloo Poets), Towards Intimacy (Queriendo Press) a book of short stories, collaborative artist’s books and drama for Radio 4 and Sky Television. As well as writing poems for the page, Alyson also enjoys working with poetry in three-dimensional spaces. She has a poem carved into Milsom Street pavement in Bath and she has been running The Migration Habits of Stones, an international poetry as public art project, for the past twelve years.
Alyson was the country’s first poet-in-residence in a Geography Department at Exeter University, a post funded by the Leverhulme Trust. She is currently a Fellow with the Royal Literary Fund in Plymouth and has just returned from a Fellowship at Hawthornden Castle. As well as adjusting to life beyond the castle walls, Alyson is offering poetry surgeries in Truro through the Poetry Society and working with artists and dancers on an exhibition relating to the Merry Maidens stone circle in Cornwall.