Awaken the mysterious, divine power of rocks, rivers, birds, trees, ourselves
‘Where divinity has been identified with the sky, or with the eternal geometry of the stars, or with cosmic infinity, or with “heaven”, the forests become monstrous, for they hide the prospect of god.’
– Robert Pogue Harrison, Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992)
In Jo Shapcott’s poem ‘I Go Inside the Tree’, she asks us to imagine what it would be like to burrow through the bark of an ash, to taste the history of weather in the wood, moving like a woodworm until we find ‘the o my god at the heart.’ In the Christian tradition especially, the natural world has been seen as antagonistic to the divine; but now, with our urgent ecological crisis, we need more than ever to see the world around us as sanctified, as sacrosanct. As Shapcott’s poem suggests, that comes both from a sense of wonder, or awe, and from a close attention. There is no form more suited to a re-imagining of the world, to the act of re-tuning ourselves to nature, than the poem. So I would like to invite you into the woods, into the rivers and seas, into the park, the garden, and beyond that, inside the flower, the beetle, the bird, to find the ‘o my god at the heart’. On this course, we will investigate how to write poems that do justice to all the variety of the world, to what Hopkins called ‘All things counter, original, spare, strange’. Using a range of forms, our own research, and the work of poets such as Alice Oswald, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Leanne O’Sullivan, we will explore how poetry can respond to a changing world, how it can reframe our thinking, how it can help us to find the god hiding in the dark of the ever-decreasing forest.
5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. Live chats 7-9pm GMT on Wednesdays, first live chat starting 10 October.
More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.
About Seán Hewitt View Profile
Seán Hewitt won the Resurgence Prize in 2017, a Northern Writers’ Award in 2016, and was a member of the Aldeburgh Eight in 2015. His poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review, and The New Statesman, amongst others. He is a fiction reviewer for The Irish Times, and is a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin.
‘My course finished a few weeks ago and I’m already missing it [...] it has inspired me to write more and to write differently; and everything I’ve learnt was delivered with a lightness of touch.’