Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Shifting Territories: Modern and Contemporary Poetics of Place

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Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Institute of English Studies, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU


Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher conference organised by Oxford Brookes and Reading University in association with the Institute of English Studies, British Academy Literature Week and the Royal Society of Literature

Shifting Territories will consider the recent wave of new nature writing and poetry which goes beyond traditional representations of landscape to venture into borderlands, edgelands and urban environments: a development which has been addressed in texts like Granta 102: The New Nature Writing (Summer, 2008), Tim Dee’s ‘Nature Writing’ essay in Archipelago 5 (Winter, 2010–2011) and Poetry Review 102: The Poetry of Place (Spring, 2012). The conference aims to determine if this current poetic and critical interest in poetry of place is a direct response to environmental crises or whether it is merely a refashioning of what poetry has always taken as its subject. By creating a space for dialogue about modern and contemporary poets’ use of place, we seek to address the development of this subject in the 20th and 21st-centuries. The conference will examine the ways in which poets use language to negotiate the relentlessly shifting concepts of identity and place and how particular locations, or states of flux, have shaped their aesthetic.

Poets and keynote speakers

David Morley (EnchantmentThe Invisible Kings) – Poetry reading with images

Poet, critic and teacher David Morley presents stories of folklore and Romany heritage in an exciting new collection. The Gypsy and the Poet is a sequence of sonnets about friendship and madness, inspired by a real-life encounter between the poet John Clare and a gypsy named Wisdom Smith. The Gypsy and the Poet is startlingly alive to the complexities of friendship, love and language.

‘The strange atmospherics suffuse every page while the balance struck between mystery and disclosure can be breathtaking. Such moments led me to feel that Morley had not so much created a new universe as uncovered one. Morley brings Romany vocabulary fizzing and crackling into our consciousness…’ The Guardian

David Morley’s recently published Enchantment (Carcanet), a Sunday Telegraph Book of the Year chosen by Jonathan Bate. The Invisible Kings was a PBS Recommendation and TLS Book of the Year chosen by Les Murray. The Gypsy and the Poet is due from Carcanet in August this year followed by his New and Selected Poems in 2014. He writes for The Guardian and Poetry Review. He wrote the bestselling Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing and co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing and Bloodaxe’s The New Poetry. He teaches at Warwick University where he is Professor of Writing and was one of the judges of this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize and Foyle’s Young Poets Prize.

Eóin Flannery (Oxford Brookes University) – Listen to the Leaves: The Ecologies of Contemporary Irish Poetry


This paper will survey contemporary Irish poetry with the intention of identifying and analysing both the physical ecologies of, and the ecological politics and awareness that suffuse these poetic works. Taking into account the writing of Derek Mahon, the paper will consider the evolving ecologies of his poetry, and track the heightened attention to environmentalism and non-human ecologies that are evident in Mahon’s most recent outputs. In another vein, the paper will concentrate on the deformed ecologies of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland; the discussion will refer to the work of Alice Lyons and Rita Ann Higgins as they poeticize, in critical tones, the aftermaths of Ireland’s property frenzy during the economic ‘boom.’ And in a final section, the paper will dwell on the persistence of more ‘typical’ ecopoetry in the work of Moya Cannon and Dermot Healy. This brief discussion will note the attention given to natural cycles, ‘deep time’ phenomena, and the relationship between writing and non-human ecology.


Dr Eóin Flannery is Reader in Irish Literature in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes University, where he is also Director of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Poetry. His authored publications include: Colum McCann and the Aesthetics of Redemption (2011); Ireland and Postcolonial Studies: Theory, Discourse, Utopia (2009); Versions of Ireland: Empire, Modernity and Resistance in Irish Culture (2006). He has also edited: This Side of Brightness: Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann (2012); Ireland in Focus: Film, Photography and Popular Culture (2009); Enemies of Empire: New Perspectives on Imperialism, Literature and Historiography (2007); and Postcolonial Text Volume 3.3, Special Issue on Ireland (2007). His next book Ireland and Ecocriticism: Literature, History and Social Justice will be published by Routledge in 2014. He is also completing a study of the work of the novelist, dramatist, and short story writer, Eugene McCabe, and is editing a special ‘Irish’ issue of The Journal of Ecocriticism to appear in 2013.

Jo Shapcott (Of MutabilityTender TaxesMy Life Asleep) – Poetry reading

Poems from Jo Shapcott’s three award-winning collections, Electroplating the Baby (1988), Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998) are gathered in a selected poems, Her Book (2000). She has won a number of literary prizes including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Collection, the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the National Poetry Competition (twice). Tender Taxes, her versions of Rilke, was published in 2001. Her most recent collection, Of Mutability, was published in 2010 and won the Costa Book Award. In 2011 Jo Shapcott was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Training workshop

Steven Matthews (University of Reading) will run a training workshop on modern and contemporary poetry research


Steven Matthews is Professor of Modernism and Beckett Studies at the University of Reading. He has published seven books of criticism, the most recent of which is T.S. Eliot and Early Modern Literature (Oxford University Press, 2013). His collection of poetry, Skying, appeared from Waterloo Press in 2012.

Immediately following the final panel sessions of Day 1 of the conference, British Academy Literature Week, in association with the Institute of English Studies and the Royal Society of Literature, presents:

*Alice Oswald (A Sleepwalk on the SevernWoods etc.Dart) – Poetry reading

Poet Alice Oswald will give a selection of readings from her own work to precede Hugh Haughton’s Poetry of Rivers, 2013 Warton Lecture on English Poetry. Dart, Oswald’s second collection, won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2002. Her third collection, Woods etc., won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2006, and in 2009 she was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Sleepwalk On The Severn, a poem for several voices set at night on the Severn Estuary.

*Hugh Haughton (University of York) – Poetry of Rivers

In the 2013 Warton Lecture on English Poetry, Professor Hugh Haughton (University of York) looks at how poets from Spencer to Heaney, Hughes and Alice Oswald use rivers in their work. The lecture will be preceded by poet Alice Oswald giving a selection of readings from her own work. This is a British Academy Literature Week event, in partnership with the Institute of English Studies and Royal Society of Literature.

*Alice Oswald and Hugh Haughton appear in association with British Academy Literature Week, in partnership with the Institute of English Studies and Royal Society of Literature.

Organised by Anna HewittNissa Parmar and Niall Munro.

The conference is funded by Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre and The University of Reading’s Poetry and Poetics strand of the Modern Studies Centre