Meet the World: Coastlines and waterways

Norwich is a City of Literature

Event Date: 
20 April 2021
Author / Presenters: 
With Lynn Buckle (Dublin, Ireland), Vahni Capildeo (Edinburgh, Scotland), Valur Gunnarsson (Reykjavik, Iceland) and Patrick Barkham (Norwich, England).

Join us to hear more about how three of our UNESCO writers have spent their virtual residency exploring waterways and coastlands, creating connections between Norwich and their own UNESCO cities of literature.

Lynn Buckle is interested in the shared landscapes of Norwich and Dublin, both built on watery fens – bog or portach as Gaeilge. Tributaries can be followed in and out of both cities and Lynn is interested in the buried canals, rivers, and the stories which they can tell. She has produced a video of written work based on these shared elements, in the form of polyphonic voices, using literary collage as a technique, combining verse and prose, fiction and non-fiction.

Vahni Capildeo’s daily journal entries for ‘Lighthouse and Anchorage’ take various forms: reflections, notes, fragments of poetry. Their method was simple: walking a small part of the north Edinburgh coastline, thinking towards Norwich and sometimes thinking through Julian of Norwich and Robert Louis Stevenson, and other local authors. This sending of the mind outwards and back, while the body moves, weaves the two cities into a relationship over time. Julian the anchorite in her cell, and Stevenson the traveller, helped Vahni tune their lockdown feelings about dwelling, distance, and return.

‘Stark coastal scenes. Incessant North Atlantic winds. Fish, give or take chips. An illustrious literary history, going back to the Middle Ages. And Vikings. On the face of it, Norfolk and Iceland are the same place, separated by a patch of water. Although preliminary research suggests that Norfolk is rather more flat.’ Valur Gunnarsson has been walking along Reykjavik’s coastline, exploring the impact of history and landscape on writers such as W.G. Sebald and Halldór Laxness, who wandered these respective coasts and mused about their heritage.

Lynn, Vahni and Valur will be in conversation with Patrick Barkham, whose writing reflects his own fascination with water, coastlines and life on islands.

This event will take place on YouTube. Please book your place in advance to receive a streaming link directly to your inbox.

With thanks to the ACE Ambition for Excellence Fund for supporting the UNESCO virtual residencies, and to our partners in DublinEdinburgh and Reykjavik UNESCO cities of  literature.

About the writers

Irish author and artist Lynn Buckle’s second literary novel, What Willow Says, is published by époque press in May 2021. Her debut, The Groundsmen, was published in 2018, also by époque press. Nominated for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, it was listed as Easons Best of Irish Literature and featured in a year-long book tour of Ireland and the UK. Recent work examines gender, power, and place through the lens of fictional nature and climate writing, from her own disability perspective. Her short stories and protest poetry can be found in Infinite Possibilities, Brigid, Luisne an Chleite, époque ezine, and HCE Review Vol I, Issue II.

Vahni Capildeo’s background in medieval studies, lexicography, translation theory and culture for development underpins their non-fiction and poetry. Capildeo is interested in collaborative and immersive experiments; Skin Can Hold (Carcanet, 2019) and Odyssey Calling (Sad Press, 2020) offer participatory texts for readers to re-work. Capildeo’s work has been recognised with awards including the Forward Prize (Best Collection) and the Cholmondeley Award. Their ongoing research on silence, and their concern with the ecopoetics of place, are reflected in their eighth book, Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet, 2021) and their seventh pamphlet, The Dusty Angel (Oystercatcher, 2021).

Valur Gunnarsson grew up on the Viking trail in Reykjavik, Oslo and Yorkshire. He is best known as a writer of creative historical fiction; his first novel was a Viking fantasy and his third an alternative history where the Germans invade Iceland in World War II. Meanwhile, his second novel was a piece of autofiction set in the aftermath of the economic collapse of 2008. His fourth book, expected in March 2021, is in the same vein, but this time set in the former Soviet Union. He also co-founded Grapevine magazine and has made three albums and a poetry book.

Patrick Barkham is an award-winning author and the Guardian’s Natural History Writer. His books include The Butterfly Isles, Badgerlands, Coastlines, Islander and Wild Child. He has edited an anthology of British nature writing, The Wild Isles, and is currently writing a biography of Roger Deakin. He lives in Norfolk with his family.

Meet the World

Our Meet the World series aims to celebrate our ongoing connections with international writers and translators by sharing their writing and ideas with new readers.