Clare Shaw

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In Summer 2021 Clare Shaw was appointed the Carbon Landscape’s poet in residence by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Manchester Literature Festival. She created a series of poems that explore the vast and diverse landscapes, habitats and people of the Carbon Landscape.

Here’s what she had to say about her residency:

‘I was born and raised in East Lancashire, and it has a loud presence in my work. I’m very much a poet of place, and that place is The North. I assumed this was one of the reasons I was offered this residency. But whilst Lancashire is a small county, I rapidly learnt that the Carbon Landscape was not home territory. It is a geographically, culturally, linguistically and historically distinct area. 

Throughout the summer of 2021, I came to understand how residencies enable us as artists to fully engage with the landscapes we work within – be they geographical or human, artistic or political. And in planning and delivering the five engagement events outlined in this report, I learnt that engagement is a two-way process – less about bringing new existing and new audiences to poetry, more about learning from those experiences. In working with the Leigh Dark Writers, the Paperback Writers and the Art Tea group at the Turnpike, and repeated visits to the area - sometimes alone, sometimes with my daughter and partner - in watching the sunset over the mosses, in being eaten  by midges and half-drowned in thunderstorms and drinking coffees in Leigh cafes, in chatting with miners and rangers and artists and bird watchers and volunteers, in listening to local historians on housing estates on early Sunday morning, in hours and hours of online research  -  I developed a deep and lasting relationships with the landscape. I think that the work I produced during the residency reflects that. It’s much deeper, more nuanced, more inclusive. It’s informed by a genuine passion and knowledge base. It’s better. 

Residencies have an impact on creative practice. The small, closed world of the poet is opened. I learnt about the importance of listening and learning. I learned about the importance of creative thinking – that my part is important but very small. I thought a lot about the relationship between process and output, about the importance of letting go – of preconceived ideas, of ego. The three collaborative pieces in the final sequence are the result.  These are lessons I’ll take into future practice. 

I believe that my residency also had an impact on those who took part – the workshop participants in Leigh and Manchester, the musicians who set my words to music, the visual artist at the Turnpike, staff at LWT and the Carbon Trust. I saw people learn that they could write poetry and enjoy poetry. I saw how poetry can leave people feeling happier, calmer, stronger - more engaged with each other and the world around them, less alone. I saw staff learn how poetry can support their work, by inviting people (the public, colleagues, those in positions of power and influence) to engage and reflect in powerful emotional ways – how poetry can be a force for personal, professional and social change.

The residency has enriched my writing and my practice. It has given me a deeper faith in poetry, it introduced me to people I will stay in touch with, and it has opened up new opportunities. And it has reminded me that I am made in Lancashire, and I love it.’ 

We've attached the amazing poems Clare created as a document or you can listen to them by clicking the link to the video. There is an additional video that the Manchester Literature Festival created for their event in 2021 which also showcases Clare’s work along with another poet Helen where they discuss our post industrial landscapes. Click here to watch the video.

Clare Shaw Poetry by Carbon Landscape is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0