Geopoetics News 12 October 2020

Published by Norrie on

I hope you’re well and keeping safe. Geopoetry 2020 on 1 October was a great success with 45 participants, including several members, and 400 registered for the virtual event. See below to watch it.

Virtual Geopoetics Day
Saturday 7 November 2020 from 1 pm to 5 pm

Register now for our virtual Geopoetics Day on Saturday 7 November. It will include music from Ada Francis, our Annual General Meeting at 1.15 pm (agenda and papers will be sent to those who register) and the Tony McManus Geopoetics Lecture by Richard Roberts at 3 pm. At our AGM we will be discussing plans for our next conference and a series of online geopoetics talks and discussions in 2021. There are currently only 100 places which will be allocated on a ‘first come’ basis. Register here!

Ada Francis is a singer, songwriter and harpist whose band Lyras has just released
its first single, ‘Don’t Keep Me Awake’.

Geopoetics in a time of catastrophic crisis

We are living in what for the West, Europe, Anglo-America – and Scotland – is a time of apparently unprecedented crisis. This is not a singularity, but a complex interpenetration of crises, environmental, economic and societal, now greatly intensified by the global Covic-19 pandemic. On a mythic level this situation merits characterisation as a time of judgement and decision (κρισις), and even apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις). What in such a context does Geopoetics have to offer as a basis for reflection and guidance for the conduct of a small country beset by multiple challenges? Scotland has nurtured both the birth of political economy in the thought of the illustrious Adam Smith, and its counterpoise in a respect for the contingent particularity of the natural world in human ecology and geopoetics that extends (inter alia) from Duns Scotus through Patrick Geddes to Hugh MacDiarmid and Kenneth White.

We shall outline geopoetic traditions, touch upon antecedents of the present crisis, and then crystallise the acceleration of recent transformations and the emergent categories of the virtual and the real. This lecture is framed by allusions to Hugh MacDiarmid’s great poem, On a Raised Beach. This austere epic confronts humanity with the intransigence of the rocks, yet it implies a union between the microcosm of the grasped pebble and the macrocosm of the Earth. How such a conjunction might be achieved without the destruction of the renewed object of love, Nature itself, will draw us into the anthropology of shamanism and its latent possibilities.

Richard H. Roberts (Prof.) is an Honorary Fellow, New College, University of Edinburgh.


All three parts of Stravaig#8 can be read on these links. The Ecological and Climate Emergency is extremely urgent and green actions to create a new normal rather than returning to the old one are essential. The poems, essays and art that reflect this are a great read.



The theme of Stravaig#9 will be discussed at our AGM on 7 November. Please send us your suggestions for our next theme in advance e.g. on our Facebook page here or Twitter here. The call for submissions will go out in November 2020 with a deadline of 31 January 2021.

Extinction Rebellion Rewilding 

James Murray-White took part in our Wiston Weekend Conference last year and has an essay you can read in Stravaig#8 Part One on the need for rewilding. He has set up an active Facebook Group to campaign which has attracted over 12,200 members. More details are here if you would like to join the group and also here to apply for oak saplings to plant all over Britain:

So much for Boris Johnson’s conversion to wind power!

New member Dorothy Whitaker has drawn a series of political cartoons of Trump, Johnson and others that are well worth viewing at Dorothy Politics.

COVID-19 Funding for Artists

Following lobbying by creative trade unions, the Scottish Government has allocated £5 million to a creative freelancers’ hardship fund which will open later this month, £3.5 million to the Creative Scotland Open Fund: Sustaining Creative Development and £1.5 million “for the Culture Collective programme to support organisations employing freelance artists to work in communities across Scotland”. Not enough writers have been applying to the Open Fund which you can find out more about here.

Member Spotlight

Our second Member to be featured is Patrick Corbett (Geopoetrick) who organised the virtual Geopoetry 2020 event on 1 October.

Patrick Corbett spent more than 40 years working in the oil and gas industry and academia.  First, after graduating in Geology as a mudlogger working on the North Sea rigs, then later working for an oil company in Aberdeen, Netherlands and Indonesia.  He left the industry to do a PhD at Heriot-Watt and stayed there for 31 years, retiring in 2020 as a Professor of Petroleum Geoengineering, Senate and Court member (Governing bodies of the University).  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Just prior to retiring he took up writing poetry, following in the footsteps of his father.  His subject matter drew on his retirement pastime of walking the coast of the UK, its birds, its scenery inspired by a University career in petroleum science and engineering.  He discovered that he was walking in the footsteps of Kenneth White and the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and was pleased that his first published poem, “Industria Cumbria” in The New European in February 2020, could be dedicated to Kenneth White, the founder of the International Institute of Geopoetics.  Seeing that geologists and poets shared many aspects – use of imagination, reading and writing of words and images, interpreting the blank spaces, communication of feelings – he set up Geopoetry 2020, a well-received, online meeting in which poets broadly interested in geoscience – and geoscientists interested in poetry – could share their work.  He is a Board Member of the Scottish Poetry Library and is interested in broadening the role of poetry in science education.

Examples of Patrick’s work can be found at

Geopoetry 2020 on 1 October National Poetry Day was a huge success with 45 geologists, poets and others from all over the world taking part all day and 400 people registered to attend. The whole event was recorded and can be viewed here:! My illustrated talk on geopoetics and geopoetry runs from 4 hours 54 minutes in until 5 hours 9 minutes and has 19 slides about geopoetics.

The Wigtown Book Festival took place virtually from 24 September to 4 October and included Alastair McIntosh, Dara McAnulty, Michael Longley and others. Many of the events can be viewed on catch up here.

On Thursday 22 October from 1.30 – 3.30 pm Mandy Haggith and Leonie Charlton will discuss drawing inspiration from journeys in wild lands and from nature as part of the Word on/off the Street FREE online festival. Full info & sign-up here. This should be right up our geopoetics street!

The popular exhibition of the work of the great Glasgow photographer Oscar Marzaroli continues until 20 December at Street Level Photoworks, 103 Trongate, Glasgow. Open 12-5 pm from Thursday – Sunday. Find out more here.


The Vanishing World of The Islandman: Narrative and Nostalgia by Mairéad Nic Craith focuses on Tomás Ó Criomhthain, a writer on a small Irish-speaking island community off the west coast of Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. Mairéad probes the appeal of an “ordinary” island fisherman’s century-old life story to readers in several European languages. Tomás’s memoir was written in Irish Gaelic and portrayed an authentic ,“slow”, precarious lifestyle of an island community that has since been evacuated and is often compared with St Kilda. Through the overlapping frames of literary analysis, archival work, interviews and ethnographic examination, nostalgia emerges and re-emerges as a central theme, expressed in different ways by the young Irish state, by Irish-American descendants of Blasket Islanders in the US today, by anthropologists, and beyond. The book is available in paperback or as a kindle version here.

Set in Lanarkshire and Argyll after an apocalyptic pandemic, this is a story about home, family, and community, and re-establishing our relationship with the environment. Other themes are language, gender and social class. You can read an extract from it, and read more about it and about Carol on her website

Alastair McIntosh has a new book out from Birlinn which takes a balanced look at the science of the climate crisis and the need to restore a sense of community if we are to overcome it.  He discusses it here with Stuart Kelly at the Wigtown Book Festival.

American member John Lane’s new novel takes place on Thanksgiving Day in a deep river bottom in a mythical Piedmont county, Morgan, South Carolina, a creation carried over from his first novel, the award-winning FATE MORELAND’S WIDOW. The story is told in four perspectives on the possible death and certain disappearance of Old Doc, an 85-year-old land owner/deer hunter, and it turns into a search for the truth in the deep woods.

Dara McAnulty has won the prestigious Wainwright Prize for nature writing for his first book Diary of a Young Naturalist which he wrote at the age of fifteen! It’s also been longlisted for the non-fiction Baillie Gifford prize. His passion for nature, his activism and the quality of his writing bode well for planet Earth. He discusses it here at the Wigtown Book Festival and you can find out more about him here and here.

Zoospeak is an acclaimed collaboration between Scottish poet Gordon Meade and the Canadian photographer and animal activist, Jo-Anne McArthur. It has had some great reviews and copies are available here.


My review of John Rodden’s excellent Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy is on the Orwell Society website here and my virtual Creative Conversation with Sarah Armstrong, Angus Peter Campbell and Colin Herd about writing the past in the present is here: Signed copies of Barnhill are available from me and unsigned copies from Luath Press.

The International Institute of Geopoetics

The website of the International Instiute of Geopoetics contains 8 Founding Texts of Geopoetics by Kenneth White which are well worth reading. They include The Great Field of Geopoetics, On the Highway of History, Geopoetics – A Scientific approach, The Atlantic Shore – A letter on the origin of geopoetics and Geopoetics – A Philosophical Approach. There is also more about Kenneth White on his own website.

A warm welcome to all new and renewing members who have recently joined the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics. By joining and renewing you are supporting the development of geopoetics and enabling us to respond to the growing interest in geopoetics worldwide.

New members will receive free copies of Grounding a World: Essays on the Work of Kenneth White rrp £9.95.

Annual membership costs £10 waged / £5 unwaged and is renewable one year after you first join.

Read more about membership here.

Download a membership form here.

If you have news of events, activities, books, blogs, websites and exhibitions etc which you think might be of interest to geopoetics-minded people, please let us know.