Author Archives: davidborthwick2014

About davidborthwick2014

I am a researcher in literature and the environment at the University of Glasgow's School of Interdisciplinary Studies. I am interested in contemporary ecopoetry, in particular relationships to landscape, memory, and place. All views on this blog my own.

The Project Blogs

Links to some of the Project Blogs have gone up this morning.  All of the collaborators have undertaken at least one trip together now.  Jim Rae has documented the hatchling Tawny owls at Eskrigg, replete with excellent photographs.  Gerry Loose has even begun make a ‘move’ (as he calls it) towards poetry down at Mersehead, recording the ‘lapwing’s waver / and plangent rising lilt.’

There is much more to come, I’m sure, and in particular a link to the third blog, by Debbie Parke and Em Strang, which will soon introduce us to ‘kick sampling’ on the River Nith and ‘A Very Bad Crayfish’…

criffelfromrutherford, 4 June 2013

View from the University of Glasgow’s Dumfries Campus this morning, across the Nith estuary towards Criffel.

On a May Morning at Mersehead

On Monday morning, we travelled the short distance from the Solway Centre to the RSPB reserve at Mersehead, on the Solway Coast near the village of Caulkerbush.  Amid gales of larksong (and with a stoat worrying the bird table), we met with the third collaborative pairing of the Poets and Landscape Workers project.  The final collaborators are:

  • Eric Neilson, Farm Manager at Mersehead, who has over 40 years’ experience working on the site, and
  • Gerry Loose: poet, horticulturalist, and designer of gardens, whose work is as likely to appear on the landscape as on the page.

After introductions, Eric and Gerry got down to talking about the Mersehead Reserve and Visitor Centre, which is home over the winter to thousands of migratory geese.  Changing farming practices, and the decline of lapwings across the UK, were discussed.

As Eric and Gerry headed off to explore the reserve more thoroughly, we stopped by the visitor centre, where there were tiny lapwings toddling jerkily in full view of the conservatory window.

eric and gerry, 20 May 2013

(l-r Eric Neilson and Gerry Loose)

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.

The First Post

The Poets and Landscape Workers Project launches officially tomorrow.

Those participating will gather on the Dumfries Campus, to talk about their work and interests, and to begin planning their collaborations over the coming months.  We look forward to welcoming them, and will blog again at the end of tomorrow’s session with fuller details of those involved, and the finalized pairings.

For more information on the Project, see our About section for details.


The University of Glasgow in Dumfries