Channel poems from phenomena just beyond our understanding
The A-Z of Forteana ranges from Ancient Astronaut Speculation right through to Will O’ The Wisps, via bigfoot, cryptozoology, Electronic Voice Phenomena, parapsychology, OOPARTS (Out of Place Artefacts) and ufology.
For me, this started with a childhood interest in Essex Ghosts and Hauntings magazine – exploring the reported witch-hunter apparitions in my home village of Dedham. Or Black Shuck, the huge black glowing dog, who supposedly left his demonic claw-marks in the church at St Osyth (and which poet Martin Newell explored in his book of the same name). And, being a child of the 90s, a strict weekly diet of The X-Files…
These days, I hold space for such phenomena, alongside a more critical and sceptical understanding of the world. Charles Fort (1874 – 1932) himself was a renowned sceptic and investigator of that which challenged the boundaries of conventional science. What’s at the edges of our understanding, or beyond it, certainly holds appeal for poetry. Indeed – isn’t that what poetry is, or should be?
We can trace the gothic side of literary Forteana back to Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. Ghostly presences and unexplained phenomena still crop up in contemporary work, but it’s time we fully developed the genre of Fortean Poetry for the twenty-first century.
Let’s engage with the world of anomalous phenomena directly, but also explore what a “Fortean approach” might offer our writing practices. How to remain open, but sceptical, to that beyond our understanding? How to experience ‘everyday’ phenomena as once again strange or mysterious? Can we be critical and questioning of power structures around us, while avoiding sliding into the darker recesses of the online ‘Conspirasphere’?
Let’s see what forms might emerge from a Fortean approach and perhaps we can push the boundaries of conventional poetries?
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Image credit: Mr Evil Cheese Scientist
About Caleb Parkin View Profile
Caleb Parkin, Bristol City Poet 2020 – 22, has published widely in journals including The Rialto, Poetry Review, Magma, Poetry Wales, Butcher’s Dog and The Guardian, and has won or been shortlisted in major competitions. He tutors for The Poetry Society, Poetry School, Cheltenham Festivals, and First Story, and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP).
His pamphlet, Wasted Rainbow, was published by tall-lighthouse in February 2021 and his debut collection, This Fruiting Body, by Nine Arches in October, which was developed with Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice support.
Poetry School is an inclusive, helpful and inspiring, and has given me structure and goals during a difficult time. The courses help me to broaden my perspective, and give me a wider grasp of poetry.