Tales from the Wetlands Studio

Tales from the Wetlands Studio

The splendidly soggy: writing the wondrous of the wild and the wet.

Wetlands have a special place in writing. These are landscapes where sky becomes water and water sky, and the mist mixes and blurs such distinctions, gobbling the horizon; where cranes call hauntingly, unseen; where ancient bodies are lost or uncannily preserved. From Gerard Manley Hopkins’ exhortations (‘long live the weeds and the wilderness yet’) to Ella Frears’s ‘Becoming Moss’ by way of Seamus Heaney’s bog body poems, how do we read waterlog – moist mossy ground – bog and fen and broad? 

This course will draw on folktales and local lore about watery places to create our own soggy landscapes, focussing on specificity of language to capture these nebulous otherlands. We’ll think about uses for onomatopoeia, ways of writing about dawn and dusk, and how the mythic can seep in. You’ll finish the course with plenty of drafts of new poems from a variety of exercises, inspired by our close readings of poems by such writers as the Estonian poets Jaan Kaplinski and Maarja Pärtna. 

Week 1 will serve as an introduction to types of wetland in poetry. Is it bog or fen, broad or marsh, or mire? Is moss underfoot; are there stunted pines or rippling reedbeds? We’ll place ourselves in these landscapes through writing. 

Week 2 will consider the lore of the land, through folktale, folk tradition and folk writing. How is the past accessed through such places? 

Week 3 will move forward in time, considering the balance of the ecology of such wetlands, and how we write both preservation and loss. 

Studios are 4-week intensive courses. Reading material will be distributed before the course begins. There are no live chats so they are suitable for both UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected]. Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: @usgs

About Penny Boxall View Profile

Penny Boxall has held Royal Literary Fund Fellowships at Lucy Cavendish College (University of Cambridge) and the University of York. Her collections are Ship of the Line (Edwin Morgan Award winner, 2016), Who Goes There? and In Praise of Hands (with artist Naoko Matsubara, published by the Ashmolean Museum in 2020). She won the 2018 Mslexia/PBS International Women’s Poetry Competition, and has held various fellowships and residencies, including at Merton College (Oxford), Hawthornden Castle, Gladstone’s Library, Cove Park, and Château de Lavigny. She has held UNESCO Cities of Literature residencies in Tartu, Estonia (2022/2023) and Kraków, Poland (2023). 

She has taught on the MA in Poetry at Oxford Brookes University, adapted medieval texts with local groups for performance, co-written a play for Magdalen College School (Oxford), and guest lectured at the universities of York and York St John. 

She enjoys working collaboratively, and is currently working on Replaying the Tape – a word/music/tape performance about chance and evolution – with palaeontologist Frankie Dunn and percussionist Jane Boxall. She also writes fiction for children aged 9-12, and received funding from Arts Council England for the development of her debut middle-grade novel. From June 2023, she is Writer-in-Residence at Wytham Woods, University of Oxford. 

"The quality of the tutoring was excellent, and the students' feedback was of a high level."

- Summer 2023 Survey Response

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