Looking at Lichens

Looking at Lichens

Join us for an inspiring day of reading, writing, and discussion, alongside some practical exploration of lichens!

‘The beauty of lichens, with their scalloped leaves, the small attractive fields, the crinkled edge! I could study a single piece for hours.’ – H.D. Thoreau, 1852 

‘Who listens like lichen listens?’ asks Jen Hadfield in her poem ‘Lichen’. In this inspiring and practical day workshop we will immerse ourselves in the strange and beautiful world of this tenacious, dynamic organism and explore its poetic possibilities. Lichens are a symbiotic combination of separate organisms and can live almost anywhere on earth, raising questions of individualism, hybridity, and resilience. 

In this course, naturalist Joe Beale will give an introduction to lichens, looking at their extraordinary biological structures and exploring their role within urban ecosystems. We will then head outdoors to Russia Dock woodland /Stave Hill ecological park to identify some of London’s lichens in their habitats and write poems inspired by these encounters. 

The day will also include plenty of dedicated writing and discussion time both in the field and in the classroom where we will create work inspired by Jane Hirshfield, John McCullough, Elizabeth Bishop, Forrest Gander, and more. 

Come prepared to get up close and personal with lichen and to make fresh work that explores the fascinating relationship between humanity and lichen and deepens our perceptions of the living world.

Saturday, 20 March, 10:30am – 4:30pm.

This course will take place in our offices at 1 Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, Canada Water, SE16 2XU. The venue is a 2-minute walk from Canada Water Station. Take the ‘Lower Road’ exit from the station onto Surrey Quays Road, then walk straight ahead, crossing over Deal Porters Way, and the Dock Offices come up on the left. The door for the school is at the far end of the building. More information about how all our face-to-face courses work can be found on the Face-to-Face courses page.

Image Credit: Alexey Melechin 

About Sarah Westcott and Joe Beale View Profile

Sarah Westcott’s first collection, Slant Light, was described by Jacob Polley as “fierce with intelligence, compassion and the sheer exuberance of attending to what Hopkins called ‘the dearest freshness deep down things’”. Her second collection, Bloom, also with Pavilion Poetry, is forthcoming in April 2021. Her debut pamphlet Inklings (Flipped Eye) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. Sarah’s poems have appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, POEM, Magma and Butcher’s Dog, on beermats, billboards and buses, and in anthologies including Best British Poetry, The Forward Book of Poetry and Bloodaxe’s Staying Human.

Sarah was a poet-in-residence at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve in London and Manchester Cathedral poet of the year. She was a news journalist for twenty years and now works as a freelance writer, editor and tutor. 

Joe Beale is an experienced London-based naturalist and tutor, who has been fascinated by London’s wildlife since he was a child. He organises lichen surveys in London and has worked on the lichen collection at the Natural History Museum. Joe is a Fellow of the British Naturalists’ Association and an Associate CIEEM member with extensive experience of recording wildlife and plants in London’s parks. Joe is actively engaged in conservation work to enhance habitat for wildlife, running conservation work days. He leads lichen courses for the Field Studies Council and is passionate about the wonderful micro world of lichens. Twitter: @joe_beale

'Poetry school has opened the garden of poetry for me where I can plant line after line, be patient for them to grow, wait for the fruits to arrive then share them and simply enjoy. This garden also allowed me explore and enjoy the oak trees planted by the masters. So thank you The Poetry School for making this possible.'

– Spring 2020 survey response

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