Words, Water and Belonging

Sarah Jasmon (chair)

Sarah Jasmon lives on a boat on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire and writes novels, short stories and creative non-fiction. An associate lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University for several years, she is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Geography in which she explores the canals and waterways of Manchester in conjunction with a traverse of her own life on the water. ‘In Search of the Port of Manchester’, a creative non-fiction piece, was published in the Port anthology from Dunlin Press in November 2019.

Sarah Butler

Sarah Butler has three novels published by Picador in the UK and with fourteen international publishers: Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love (2013), Before The Fire (2015) and Jack and Bet (2020). In November 2018, she published a novella, Not Home, written in conversation with people living in unsupported temporary accommodation in Manchester.

Sarah’s work explores ideas of home, belonging, identity, family, and urban landscapes. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and has an MA in Creative Writing.

J.L.M. Morton

JLM Morton is based in Gloucestershire. Since completing her doctorate on whiteness, gender and writing (Sussex, 1999), Juliette has worked in education in the UK and globally. Her pamphlets Lake 32 and Sentient are published by Yew Tree Press and her work has featured in various publications, including The Rialto, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Magma, Wasafiri, Ink Sweat & Tears, Atrium, Obsessed with Pipework, Streetcake, Places of Poetry, The Sunday Telegraph and on BBC Upload. In 2021-22 she is funded by an Arts Council grant to work towards a poetry collection exploring cloth and colonialism. This year she is poet in residence at the Corinium Museum, Cirencester. For more info, see: http://www.jlmmorton.com or follow her online @jlmmorton.

Sarah Jane Butler

Sarah Jane Butler is two years into an Arts Council funded writing project, Slow Medway, exploring identity, memory and how we belong – or don’t – in a place. Her first novel, Starling, comes out with Fairlight Books in September 2022, with the theme of belonging at its heart. She’s taught at the University of Kent as an associate tutor, her stories have been published in Best British Short Stories 2011 and elsewhere, and she’s performed work in pubs, tents and a disused light vessel. She lives in East Sussex and moves very slowly about the landscape, poking hedges, wandering along ditches and talking to herself.

Jodie Matthews

Dr Jodie Matthews is Reader in English Literature at the University of Huddersfield and the Director of Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange for the School of Arts and Humanities. Her second monograph, The British Industrial Canal: Reading the Waterways from the Eighteenth Century to the Anthropocene is due out later this year. She is also the author of a number of chapters and articles about the literature and culture of the canals. Jodie was the Canal & River Trust’s first Honorary Research Fellow, working primarily with the Trust’s museums and archives.

Place and Prepositions 

Prepositions are “small words, [with] the potential to change everything around them” (Rendell, after Serres, p.151). They establish a relationship between subject and object, they show direction, spatial relationship, time, location. Sarah’s paper combines a theoretical consideration with her own creative experimentation writing a particular site (Levenshulme, a neighbourhood in south Manchester). She asks how the insertion of these prepositions, between the verb to write and the noun place, might enable us to reflect upon, understand, and challenge how we write [to/in/into/with/from/towards] place; and whether this practice might indeed create a “place of transcendence […] respect [… and] possible alliance”.

Wool and Water: Power and Place

JLM Morton’s poetry is firmly rooted in place, fascinated with the ways rural landscapes speak to global histories that are by turns repellent and (re)enchanting. Her reading / presentation will highlight the ways she’s explored power and place through the lens of wool and water in a landscape shaped by trade, colonisation, migration and violence.

Writing away from the self

The River Medway has always been part of Sarah’s life but she felt increasingly disconnected from it. So, though usually a solitary walker, when she set out to walk its length, she sat down with others to hear their river lives, exploring whether our multiple stories bring us closer, or divide us

A Fluid Place

Jodie’s paper explores what she calls the complex inauthenticity of the canal in New Nature Writing (NNW) by women. Often appearing as unnatural, like rivers but not really, an already-compromised space of reflection, the experience of canals in this sub-genre has much to tell us about what it is to exist as a woman in a post-industrial landscape, about the place of the canal in contemporary life, and our human relationship with water.

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