Literary Programme 2018

Coffee & Chat with Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

Coffee & Chat with Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

Bantry House Tearoom

Fri 20 July 2018



We enter here, along the fold, cut water
with the scream that pours from us,
cold and clear and bodied,
follow the will of the current down…

Plunge into mountain lakes and drift along meandering rivers in Swims, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett's lyrical celebration of wild swimming.

A book-length poem taking many forms, Swims begins and ends in the author’s home county of Devon, moving across the waterways of England and Wales: from urban pond to open sea. The poet swims among fishermen on Grasmere (Cumbria), reimagines the body as bottle cap in the English Channel, and clambers down the bank of the river Ouse (Sussex) with words scrawled on her swimsuit.

As political as they are personal, these meditations are conceived as environmental acts that probe the relationship between landscape, memory and the self. A sinuous, innovative debut, Swims reminds us of the power of swimming to transform the human spirit, registering what the water gives to us and what it takes away. It investigates water’s effect on body and mind, and the human impact on the natural world.

Elizabeth-Jane writes in an effortlessly style that combines elegant lyricism with an instinct for formal and linguistic experimentation. With wild swimming growing in popularity in Britain, Elizabeth-Jane is a poet that explores the spiritual and human relationship we have to water, its role in remembering and forgetting. The poet’s father floats over the poem, as each of Burnett’s swims become, not only a way to connect with nature, but a method of distilling memories and stealing back time.

‘Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s poems flow and sing through salt and sweet water, connecting time and place and spirit in an electric gesture of natural unity. Her oneness with the water is a oneness with words; and this collection is a wondrous, perfect thing.’
Philip Hoare

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett is a poet and academic with a focus on innovative poetics. She holds a BA in English from Oxford, an MA and PhD in Contemporary Poetics from Royal Holloway, University of London, and studied performance at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York and Naropa. Creative publications include oh-zones, Her Body: The City, Exotic Birds and M (a poemfilm on John Clare with artist Brian Shields). She curates ecopoetics exhibitions and is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Newman University in Birmingham. Swims was published in 2017 by Penned in the Margins, creators of publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks.