The First Meeting

Today marked the beginning of the ‘Poets and Landscape Workers Project’.  For more information on the project as a whole, please see our Introduction page.  The group spent the morning discussing their participation in the project, and part of this entailed each of the assembled team talking about their work, their interests, and their reasons for agreeing to take part.  There will be three pairings – a landscape worker (for want of a better term) with a poet.  Two of the pairs were able to attend today.  They were:

  • Debbie Parke of the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust, who will be paired with Em Strang.  Em is an ecopoet who is about to submit her PhD, a collection of poems entitled Habitude.
  • Jim Rae, of the Lockerbie Wildlife Trust, will be paired with Lucy Burnett, lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, whose collection Leaf Graffiti has just been published by Carcanet.

The third pairing shall be announced shortly.


(l-r: Em Strang, Debbie Parke, Lucy Burnett, Jim Rae).

Dr David Borthwick outlined the project in greater detail.  The group discussed the importance of interdisciplinarity, the collaboration with specialists in disciplines beyond one’s own.  As well as this, they talked about the potentials of interdisciplinary engagement  in communicating with a wider public.  Em Strang quoted from Ted Toadvine’s article ‘Six Myths of Interdisciplinarity’, in which he states:

If we don’t learn at least enough about each other’s disciplines to become aware
of the blind-spots and assumptions of our own, then we simply talk past each
other. In my view, it’s precisely this re-education that is prerequisite for
productive collaboration.

Other examples of successful collaborations were also talked through, including Amy Cutler’s Land Diagrams Project,  In a paper assessing the outcomes of early Land Diagrams, Cutler emphasizes that interdisciplinarity need not lead to a homogenized, or compromised, output.  Rather, the methodology for the work relied upon ‘inviting… speakers to respond in their own languages… without the potential standardization that comes from grafting them together.’

Participants also discussed potential ways of structuring their collaborations through field trips and dialogue.  Example blogs were used as case studies.  Should participants have separate (although literally linked) blogs, between which a tacit conversation emerges?  Or should a shared blog be used, leading to a collaboration which evolves on a single page?

Participants were particularly sensitive to others’ processes – conserving and writing – as creative acts; as planning, structured unfolding: conservation and writing as inscription or enactment of thought.

We look forward to the development of these ideas as the pairings continue collaboration in future weeks.


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