New book: Ecocriticism and the Island by Pippa Marland

Announcing the publication of:

Ecocriticism and the Island: Readings from the British-Irish Archipelago – Pippa Marland (Rowman and Littlefield, December 2022).

Ecocriticism and the Island explores a wide selection of island-themed creative non-fiction, offering new insights into the ways in which authors negotiate existing cultural tropes of the island while offering their own distinctive articulations of “islandness.” This book represents an important intervention into both island literary studies and ecocriticism.


Ecocriticism and the Island is a fascinating study of the diversity and importance of literature and life across the north Atlantic archipelago. Written with clarity and insight, it is a guide to the histories of communities around Ireland and Britain and an augur of our collective future through engagement with art, language, and climate science, all brought together in a compelling critical and creative narrative. It is an important addition to the archipelagic and blue humanities and marks a good step forward in island thinking.”

Nicholas Allen, director, Wilson Center for Humanities and Arts, University of Georgia

“Drawing upon an impressive breadth of theoretical reference as well as interviews with key writers, Pippa Marland offers sensitive and illuminating close readings of a diverse range of creative non-fictional texts. The result is a brilliantly original and engagingly lucid work of ‘archipelagraphy’ that demonstrates how ecocriticism might contribute to island studies and how island-themed texts might advance ecocritical practice. Ecocriticism and the Island is essential reading for all researchers and students interested in the intersections of literature, place, and contemporary environmental thought.”

David Cooper, founding co-director of the Centre for Place Writing, Manchester Metropolitan University

“Read this book if you are drawn to the ever-more-crowded bookstore shelves of creative nonfiction about place and about living in, traversing, or mapping distinctive geographies and their communities. Ecocriticism and the Island is a meticulously researched study of island-themed books by some of the most important writers on these shelves. It is a gift to researchers seeking new approaches to island literary studies, offering thorough and utterly persuasive close readings that confirm the ultimate inseparability of actual and imagined islands. It is also a gift to researchers seeking a route between the concepts and methods of island studies and of ecocriticism, two approaches that, as Marland amply demonstrates, need each other.”

Lisa Fletcher, Head of Humanities, University of Tasmania

Pippa Marland is a Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Bristol

New book! Georgic Literature and the Environment: Working Land, Reworking Genre

Dr Sue Edney (English, Bristol) and Dr Tess Somervell (Worcester College) have just published a new book on Georgic Literature and the Environment.

From the Routledge website:

This expansive edited collection explores in depth the georgic genre and its connections to the natural world. Together, its chapters demonstrate that georgic—a genre based primarily on two classical poems about farming, Virgil’s Georgics and Hesiod’s Works and Days—has been reworked by writers throughout modern and early modern English-language literary history as a way of thinking about humans’ relationships with the environment.

The book is divided into three sections: Defining Georgic, Managing Nature and Eco-Georgic for the Anthropocene. It centres the georgic genre in the ecocritical conversation, giving it equal prominence with pastoral, elegy and lyric as an example of ‘nature writing’ that can speak to urgent environmental questions throughout literary history and up to the present day. It provides an overview of the myriad ways georgic has been reworked in order to address human relationships with the environment, through focused case studies on individual texts and authors, including James Grainger, William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Seamus Heaney, Judith Wright and Rachel Blau DuPlessis.

This is a much-needed volume for literary critics, academics and students engaged in ecocritical studies, environmental humanities and literature, addressing a significantly overlooked environmental literary genre.

“The georgic is the genre of the Anthropocene. More than pastoral, georgic means a working countryside, humans embedded with nonhumans, sustaining without exploiting. These essays pose critical ecological questions arising from centuries of writing from Hesiod and Virgil to John Clare, Derek Jarman and Isabella Tree. Now more than ever we need the georgic to think with.”

Donna Landry, Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature, University of Kent, UK

Table of contents:

Foreword by David Fairer


PART I Defining Georgic 

1. What Is Georgic’s Relation to Pastoral?

2. How Is Walden Georgic?

3. Middlemarch and the Georgic Novel

PART II Managing Nature 

4. Agrilogistics and Pest Control in Early Modern Georgic

5. James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane and Naturalists’ Georgic

6. Rural Frances Burney

7. Wordsworth’s Tidal Georgic

8. Wordsworth’s ‘Michael’ and the Imperilled Georgic: Questions of Agricultural Permanence

9. Georgic Culture in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native: Participant Observation

PART III Eco-Georgic for the Anthropocene 

10. Georgic Hope in Robert Bloomfield and John Clare

11. Seamus Heaney’s Elegiac and Domestic Georgics

12. The Semi-Georgic Australian Sugarcane Novel

13. Judith Wright and Virgil’s Third Georgic

14. Derek Jarman’s Gay Georgic

15. Georgic Reversals in Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Days and Works Afterword


Environment, emotion and early modernity

The latest issue of the journal Environment and History is a co-edited special issue from John Morgan (Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol), and Prof. Sasha Handley (History, University of Manchester).

In Environment, Emotion and Early Modernity, the editors bring together a group of seven scholars writing at the intersection of the histories of environment and emotion in the early modern period. The collection covers forestry and geomancy in early modern Korea, foodways and emotional communities in seventeenth-century North America, and much inbetween.

Read the collection here. Morgan and Handley’s editorial is available for free on Ingenta Connect.

Table of contents:

Sasha Handley and John Morgan
Lusty Sack Possets, Nuptial Affections and the Material Communities of Early Modern Weddings
Sasha Handley
Foodways and Emotional Communities in Early Colonial Virginia
Rachel Winchcombe
Sylvan Anxieties and the Making of Landscapes in Early Modern Korea
John S. Lee
An Emotional Ecology of Pigeons in Early Modern England and America
John Emrys Morgan
Trees and Disease: The Ecology of the Roman Campagna in the Seventeenth Century
Lisa Beaven
Summer, Sun and SAD in Early Modern England
Tayler Meredith
‘The Sky in Place of The Nile’: Climate, Religious Unrest and Scapegoating in Post-Tridentine Apulia
Giovanni Tarantino

New book: Standing on Holy Ground in the Middle Ages by Lucy Donkin

Dr Lucy Donkin (History of Art, University of Bristol) has published a new book on holy ground in the middle ages.

Standing on Holy Ground in the Middle Ages illuminates how the floor surface shaped the ways in which people in medieval western Europe and beyond experienced sacred spaces.

The ground beneath our feet plays a crucial, yet often overlooked, role in our relationship with the environments we inhabit and the spaces with which we interact. By focusing on this surface as a point of encounter, Lucy Donkin positions it within a series of vertically stacked layers—the earth itself, permanent and temporary floor coverings, and the bodies of the living above ground and the dead beneath—providing new perspectives on how sacred space was defined and decorated, including the veneration of holy footprints, consecration ceremonies, and the demarcation of certain places for particular activities.

Using a wide array of visual and textual sources, Standing on Holy Ground in the Middle Ages also details ways in which interaction with this surface shaped people’s identities, whether as individuals, office holders, or members of religious communities. Gestures such as trampling and prostration, the repeated employment of specific locations, and burial beneath particular people or actions used the surface to express likeness and difference. From pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land to cathedrals, abbeys, and local parish churches across the Latin West, Donkin frames the ground as a shared surface, both a feature of diverse, distant places and subject to a variety of uses over time—while also offering a model for understanding spatial relationships in other periods, regions, and contexts.

Cornell University Press are offering a discount of 30% using the code CSVS2022 at

Modern British Nature Writing 1789–2020: Land Lines

The team behind the AHRC-funded Land Lines nature writing project, and its two successful public engagement follow-on projects (Tracks, Traces, Trails: Nature Writing Beyond the Page and Tipping Points: Cultural Responses to Land Sharing in the North) are delighted to announce the release of their book, Land Lines: Modern British Nature Writing, 1789–2020 on the 17th March 2022 with Cambridge University Press.

In this new volume, authors Dr Will Abberley, Dr Christina Alt, Prof David Higgins, Prof Graham Huggan and Dr Pippa Marland move through multiple genealogies and histories of British nature writing, from the Romantics to the contemporary period. Across the four core chapters, this book responds to the many criticisms, controversies, and tropes of British nature writing, and seeks to understand our contemporary fascination with this historically significant genre of literature. Drawing on texts from Gilbert White’s monumental A Natural History of Selborne to the writing of contemporary authors such as Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Modern British Nature Writing grapples with some of the most enchanting and complex aspects of British representations of nature in literature.

The cover image of the book, titled ‘Pondering Ring Ouzel – inspired by Gilbert White’s Letter 26, 1769 (2021), is by artist Melanie Rose, an artist member of the Land Lines: Tipping Points team and a recent PhD graduate from the University of Leeds.

Abstract from Cambridge University Press

Why do we speak so much of nature today when there is so little of it left? Prompted by this question, this study offers the first full-length exploration of modern British nature writing, from the late eighteenth century to the present. Focusing on non-fictional prose writing, the book supplies new readings of classic texts by Romantic, Victorian and Contemporary authors, situating these within the context of an enduringly popular genre. Nature writing is still widely considered fundamentally celebratory or escapist, yet it is also very much in tune with the conflicts of a natural world under threat. The book’s five authors connect these conflicts to the triple historical crisis of the environment; of representation; and of modern dissociated sensibility. This book offers an informed critical approach to modern British nature writing for specialist readers, as well as a valuable guide for general readers concerned by an increasingly diminished natural world.


‘A thought-provoking, sensitive, and rigorous survey of nature writing old and new, placing the genre in its historical, social, cultural, and above all contemporary contexts. Hugely relevant to anyone who cares about how we write about and respond to the natural world, in the Age of the Anthropocene.’

Stephen Moss, Bath Spa University

‘This is an exhilarating book that dispels clichés, using detailed enquiry to ask essential, tough questions about how environmental writing challenges barriers associated with gender, class, and species.’

Susan Oliver, University of Essex

‘The best nature writers discern relationships between observed and observer, human and “nature”. This terrific study shows writers delighting in and responding to each other through their common goals in a changing world. A thoroughly authoritative survey, Modern British Nature Writing, 1789–2020 questions and situates both particular writers and the genre itself.’

Ralph Pite, University of Bristol

Learn more about the Land Lines project here:

A vegetal world? Exploring ‘The Work That Plants Do’

James Palmer (School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol) introduces a new collection of essays, The Work That Plants Do: Life, Labour and the Future of Vegetal Economies (Transcript, 2021).

Are we living in a vegetal world? Plants are increasingly recognised as sensate, communicative, world-making beings. At the same time, more hope than ever is being pinned on them to address environmental, social and economic challenges – whether through rising interest in nature-based climate solutions, plant-based diets, biotechnological innovations, or beyond. What kinds of connections exist between these philosophical and instrumental views of plant agency? And what relations do they bear to the crisis of capitalism?

In a new collection co-edited by Marion Ernwein (The Open University) and two Bristol geographers – Franklin Ginn and James Palmer – environmental humanities scholars from the UK, US, France and Australia shine a critical light on evolving understandings of the nature and potentials of vegetal life under contemporary capitalism. Drawing on diverse case studies, The Work That Plants Do asks what kinds of work plants do in capitalist economies today. Contributors to the book investigate the fraught processes through which plants are turned into commodities, put to work, or enrolled in projects of social and environmental reproduction. Specific chapters delve into cases ranging from the craft horticultural practices undergirding annual ‘Wisteria Festivals’ in Japan through to laboratory-based succulent conservation in the US, and from the metabolic activities of grape vines in the capitalist viticulture through to the ‘shady work’ performed by urban trees in the increasingly overheated urban environments of north Australia.

If a core ambition of the book is to explore the theoretical and political implications of diverse recognitions of plant agency in contemporary capitalism, an equally central concern is to insist that plants’ alterity – their difference – makes a difference. To attend critically to the capacities of plants is, the book aims to show, not simply a case of extending the existing tools of critical political economy or multispecies studies to a new empirical domain. Rather, the book suggests that plants require new concepts and ways of thinking – about work and labour, about the driving purpose of economies themselves, and indeed about the relationships that should operate between productivity and vitality, growth and life.

Ultimately, the book argues that a closer attention to the heterogenous agencies of plants might serve not only to enrich understandings of capitalism itself, but potentially also to catalyse new forms of resistance to its logics.

The Work That Plants Do: Life, Labour and the Future of Vegetal Economies is published by transcript Verlag and can be purchased directly from the publisher or via their US distributor, Columbia University Press.


Shalimar: A Story of Place and Migration

Dr Davina Quinilivan (Department of Film and Television, University of Bristol) introduces her forthcoming book, Shalimar: A Story of Place and Migration, a blend of nature-writing, magical realism and memoir, which will be published by Little Toller in Spring 2022.

I am born of a colonial past and indigenous tribeswomen from Burma. I fashion new things from these old maps. Here and there. Different orientations. I do not name these new continents: the only gesture to the language of naming is the word ‘Shalimar’. 

My book is an account of a period during which my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, my departure from our family home with my husband, the varying rural places we lived in the Home Counties, transitory, as I wrote my PhD thesis, and the imagined memories and stories which helped shape my perception of the world. It is a song, a lyric-memory, a fever-dream. Like the work of the lungs, this story is about the breathing in of a new continent: a meditation on the ever shifting nature of ‘home’ which is hopeful and new. Like the symmetry of the lungs, this book is divided into two parts: the story of the ten years I lived through the loss of my father, and the thoughts I’ve had about cinema and literature, the ‘second breaths’ I have taken as a writer after this period in my life. As postscript, it ends with a reflection on Devon, our new home, the place where I intend to lay my father’s ashes after ten years, in the summer of 2020.

Implied by the subheading which refers to ‘Place and Migration’ is this books’ investment in forms of navigation, orientation and exploration. In other words, more intimate geographies. Imagine Madame Scudery’s 17th century French map of an imaginary land, a ‘Carte du tendre’ (a map of tender). My map is both real and abstract, expressed through my reflections on journeying into Deep England, moving out of our family home, and narratives, impressions and ‘field notes’ which form a way towards a new ‘orientation’ of identity.

In ‘The English Patient’, Michael Ondaatje tells a story strongly rooted in the interrogation of imperialism, ownership, naming, Colonial identity and the fault lines of those systems which prove to be corrosive for his protagonists, a collective who must find new expression through tragic losses and indelible scars. Sensuous and sensory, the body has its own intelligence and this transcends all of language. It is no wonder Katherine chooses to entertain her husband’s exploration team with an ancient tale from Herodotus, the story of Candaules and the ring which makes its wearer invisible. To make the body invisible is the greatest act of imperialism, an expression of power which erases what is written on the body, or remembered through the skin. There is no sand, nor desert drift, in my own book, instead, there are forests and fields. Everything is a racking of vision at close-range, because my hand is better than any cartographic illusion. For some, this might come to represent a form of psycho-geography which the art historian Giuliana Bruno writes of in her book ‘Atlas of Emotion’ in which knowledge is embedded in the senses and vision is implicated in sensory experience; her pyscho-geographical analyses reflect a kind of lived experience of space that is antithetical to the penetrating, scopophilic gaze of Bauderlaire’s flaneur.

Curiosity came to signify a particular desire to know, which, for a period, was encouraged constantly to move, expanding in different directions. Such cognitive desire implies a mobilization that is drift. It is not only implicated in the sensation of wonder . . . but located in the experience of wander

Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion

I am a daughter of generations of Colonials, complicated by the knowledge that the women in my family, my great-grandmothers, descend from ethnic minorities, indigenous tribes and diasporas from Burma and India, Portuguese Kerala and the Shan hills. Within this history is the fact that my grandfathers were powerful colonials, from France, Germany and England. So, naturally, I immediately likened my father to Almasy, as he lay dying and speaking in an accented voice, English and Exotic (they called him Yul Brenner in the hospital). Yet, it is rather me who has become this mercurial figure. I have, finally, reckoned with that here.

In my younger days, I sought kinship, of any kind, and wisdom through the writings of Hanif Kureishi, Bidisha, Arundhati Roy (I bought The God of Small Things with a school book token) and Zadie Smith (a few years older than me and also from West London), then, bell hooks, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edward Said. In my late twenties, my father died and through this loss came a deeper exploration, an archaeological unearthing, of ‘home’, of entangled life and maps, journeys and territories, notably as I wondered, gypsy-like, at odds with everything, as I navigated through Deep England.

I started writing this book in the winter of 2011. By this point, and prior to my final migration to Devon, with my young family, we had moved several times though Surrey and Berkshire, sporadically interrupted with visits to Suffolk, Norfolk and Kent, reading Roger Deakin and Celia Fiennes, Jini Lash’s Suffolk Song Cycle, Ronald Blythe’s Arkenfield, Derek Jarman and Sylvia Plath. In Surrey, I found myself in a forest for the first time in my life. In Hampshire, I encountered the rituals of rural life including wassailing and grand corridors of oak trees which sheltered me as I breast-fed our first child. In Devon, I met a shepherd and women whispering into the lichen on an old ash tree as we recovered from a disastrous move, a difficult time doubled back and tightened further by the global pandemic which spread in 2020. Through all these things, I learned about trees and moss, red soil and acorns trodden by ruby red herds of cows, things which in their own, small symphony of life, enabled a sense of futurity. This is how we make new maps.

An extract from the book features in the Arts Council funded literary journal The Willowherb Review, edited by Jessica J. Lee, a peer-reviewed publication which brings together writers from under represented communities.

Energy landscapes and the generative power of place

Spring 2020 will be remembered for the global Covid-19 pandemic. While in Britain people  were ordered to stay at home in a national lockdown, the nation also experienced its longest run of coal-free energy generation since the Industrial Revolution – 68 days of coal-free power. This wasn’t unconnected: as the economy shrunk almost overnight some of the major industrial energy uses stopped; steady low usage meant that the ‘back-up’ coal-fired generators of the national grid weren’t needed. Nor was this fossil-free: oil, alongside nuclear and gas, continued to fuel power plants. But, more than ever before, our energy was produced by renewable sources, and on 26 August 2020, the National Grid recorded the highest every contribution by wind to the national electricity mix: 59.9%. 

This shift out of fossil dependence is both a historic moment, and the product of historical processes. The technological and scientific work that underpins the development of efficient turbines has taken decades – and it is what I’ve written about in my article, ‘When’s a gale a gale? Understanding wind as an energetic force in mid-twentieth century Britain’, out now in Environmental History. I look at how interest in the wind as a potential energy source (by the British state, and state scientists), generated the need for knowledge about how wind worked. Turbine technology needs airspace to operate, but it also needs land – to ground the turbines in, to connect to the grid by – and people to install and operate the devices. And so when looking at energy landscapes, we really need to think beyond the technology and consider the people and places with which it interacts,  to understand how energy is produced and used.

Hauling wind measuring equipment up Costa Hill, Orkney. In E.H. Golding and A.H. Stodhart, ‘The selection and characteristics of wind-power sites’ (The Electrical Research Association, 1952). Met Office Archive.

This was certainly the case for understanding wind energy. In 1940s and 50s Britain, scientists surveyed the wind regime at a national scale for the first time. They relied on the help and cooperation of local people to do this. In the brief mentions of this assistance in the archival record, we gain insight into the importance of embodied, localised knowledge in scientific processes which can at first seem detached from the actual landscapes of study.

The surveys determined Orkney as the best place to situate a test turbine. Embodied knowledge, knowledge that is learnt from being in place and from place, is very tangible in accounts of a hurricane which hit Orkney in 1952, during the turbine tests. By looking at how the islanders made sense of a disastrous wind, and brought the turbine technology into their narratives of the storm, we learn that it is not only electricity generated by the development of renewable energy, but also new dimensions to place-based knowledge and identities.

Seeing beyond the technology to consider its interactions with environments and societies is something that the energy humanities considers as essential. I’ll be working on this subject from this perspective for some time to come, and would love to hear your thoughts on the article.

Costa Hill from the coast path. Photograph by Marianna Dudley, 2017.

–Marianna (@DudleyMarianna)

Dr Marianna Dudley is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at the University of Bristol. She was a founding co-director of the Centre for Environmental Humanities.

Rewilding, Wilding, and the New Georgic in Contemporary Nature Writing: a new paper by Pippa Marland

Dr Pippa Marland (Bristol, Dept of English) has published a new paper in Green Letters, on rewilding and the ‘new georgic’ in recent nature writing by George Monbiot, Isabella Tree, and James Rebanks. The abstract of the article is copied below.

This essay explores the representation of the concepts of rewilding, wilding and regenerative farming in contemporary nature writing, focusing on George Monbiot’s Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life (2013), Isabella Tree’s Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm (2018), and James Rebanks’ English Pastoral (2020). It contextualises farming in the broad social, economic and biopolitical arena of the 20th century, and in literary terms reflects on the rupture in the georgic tradition post-World War 2, in order to understand the current tension between conservation and agriculture. The essay also investigates the deployment of the literary tropes of the wild, the pastoral and the georgic in these texts, and concludes by proposing the emergence of a ‘new georgic’ in which the farmer does not simply wrestle with nature in order to produce food but is engaged in producing nature itself.

Pippa Marland, ‘Rewilding, Wilding, and the New Georgic in Contemporary Nature Writing’, Green Letters (2021)

Read the full paper here.

Gifts of Gravity and Light

A post by Dr Pippa Marland (University of Bristol Department of English, and Centre for Environmental Humanities)

This time last year, in my role as one of the Land Lines team at the University of Leeds, I helped to organise a crowd-sourced online Spring nature diary, in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Trust. Taking place on and in the week following the 2020 Spring Equinox, the event coincided with the UK entering its first period of lockdown. As people uploaded their written and visual snapshots it became apparent that not only were we seeing a picture of spring arriving across the country, but also witnessing the cumulative record of what nature meant to people at a time of personal, national and global crisis.

In April 2020 this dimension of the diary was reported in The Guardian in an article that highlighted the way in which the entries spoke of the solace and hope nature offered at this time. The piece also referred to the breadth of the public response to the event and, in fact, the diary had been envisioned as contributing to a democratisation of nature writing through welcoming a range of new perspectives to a genre that throughout its history has been something of a monoculture.

As a result of the Guardian coverage, Rupert Lancaster, Non-fiction Publisher at Hodder and Stoughton, got in touch with me to suggest a collaboration. He was keen to develop the idea of a seasonal almanac, and we immediately contacted Anita Roy, author of A Year in Kingcombe, which traces the course of year in a Dorset nature reserve, to see if she would be interesting in co-editing the book with me. From the start, we wanted to curate a series of essays by diverse, distinctive voices – brilliant authors who might not be immediately associated with the nature writing genre, but whose work nevertheless often revolves around the subject of nature. We also wanted to commission essays that represented a kind of dialogue – with the British landscape, with people’s individual and collective cultural histories, with ideas of ethnicity, disability, sexuality, gender and class, and with existing literary traditions of writing about the natural world.

Anita and I drew up a wish list, hoping to mix emerging authors with some well-established names. Nearly all of them said yes. From early on we had the support of the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, who allowed us to take a passage from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for our epilogue, and it was while discussing Simon’s contribution to the project that Rupert suggested as a title for the collection the phrase ‘gifts of gravity and light’ from Simon’s poem ‘You’re Beautiful’. We’d been mulling over numerous different possibilities, but this one resonated very powerfully with us. It symbolised the kind of balance we were looking for – between the weight and darkness of writing about nature in the midst of the Anthropocene and the inspiration and illumination that can still be involved in exploring the natural world and our place in it.

We were delighted when Bernardine Evaristo, a tireless champion of diversity in all genres of writing and winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, agreed to write the foreword for the book. Jackie Kay, the outgoing Scottish Makar, also gave us her gracious permission to reprint her New Year poem ‘Promises’ as the epigraph. As the collection progressed, Anita and I assessed our own role as editors and realised that we didn’t want to write a standard introduction to the volume. Instead we decided to contribute our own pieces of creative writing – equinoctial ‘hinges’ for the spring and autumn sections of the book.

Now, a year on, we are checking the proofs and today we’re revealing the beautiful cover, which features a kestrel, or windhover, made by the artist Zack Mclaughlin. It has the names of the contributors – Kaliane Bradley, Testament, Michael Malay, Tishani Doshi, Jay Griffiths, Luke Turner, Raine Geoghegan, Zakiya McKenzie, Alys Fowler, and Amanda Thomson – all fanned out on the bird’s lifted wing. 

Michael Malay is, like me, a member of the Centre for Environmental Humanities at Bristol, and is rapidly gaining recognition for his nature writing, being shortlisted for the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize in 2019.

The book’s content reflects not only the diversity of the authors’ voices but the endlessly changing natural world itself. There are meditations on mud – in a Birmingham park and in the trenches of the First World War – on greeting the arrival of cherry blossom in East London with a Cambodian New Year’s dance; on seeing nature pushing through the cracks of a Manchester pavement; on watching sea otters at play in the summer sun; on imagining eels gathering in the dark waters of the Bristol Channel; on leaving India to spend summers in Wales; on hearing Romany family stories of celebrating the hop harvest; on experiencing the icy stillness of winter in the Cairngorms or remembering the ‘sun drunk’ days of a Jamaican childhood in the chill of a British Christmas.

For me, working on this collection has been an absolute gift of light in a dark year, as has collaborating with Anita Roy and the team at Hodder and Stoughton. Gifts of Gravity and Light will be published on 9th July 2021 and is available for pre-order from Waterstones, and Amazon, among other outlets.