It was wonderful to finally arrive at Homerton back at the beginning of October. Due to Covid restrictions, the recruitment process for the Poet-in-Residence role had been totally online. Since I was appointed, I’d had many Zoom coffees with new colleagues but nothing could compare to arriving at the leafy campus on Hills Road.
The remit of the Jacqueline Bardsley Poet-in-Residence is simple: to put poetry at the heart of college life. The residency is named after Mrs Jacqueline Bardsley, a college alumna who passionately believed in the power of poetry to foster self-expression and build strong communities. In service of this aim, during my residencies I’ve organised my time around three strands: writing and performing new poetry; teaching and interdisciplinary research.
I began the residency by using poetry to engage with the college’s archives. My PhD research sought to engage with the way that archives curate meaning, translating it into poetic form. I’m particularly interested in how archives work as an amalgam of material facts juxtaposed with absences and silences. Extending this idea at Homerton, I’ve been working with physical materials to produce ‘collage poems’ as well as novel poetry.
One of the definite highlights of the residency is teaching. I kicked off our poetry-writing workshop series in October with sessions focused on exercises and games students can use when they are feeling uninspired. Over the course of Michaelmas, we’ll work on shaping these initial ideas into fully-fledged poems and the stunning results will be published on the college website and in an anthology next year.
On the interdisciplinary research front, I’ve been thinking about what poetry-writing methods can bring to other subjects. The College has a strong track record in Education and I’ve been collaborating with Homerton Changemakers to ask how poetry might help us produce graduates with the dynamic skillset needed to address the ecological, geo-political psychological questions of our time.
It’s been a strange start to my time at Cambridge (teaching via Zoom and ‘live-streaming’ my writing via social media are certainly new to me!) but a positive one, nonetheless. This is not least because of all the support given to me by the Cambridge community. I look forward to how the residency will continue into the new year.