In my first week of being the Charles Causley poet-in-residence I wrote about Causley’s study: about the quality of light in the room and the level of attention provoked by its atmosphere. This hasn’t changed throughout my stay. What has changed, however, is the study’s bookshelf. The University of Exeter holds Causley’s archive and this includes many of his books. Consequently, curating a shelf in Cyprus Well became my project.
Whilst resident here I’ve been fascinated to read about the Cornish landscape, local legends and the poetry of other writers from Cornwall (many of whom were friends with Causley) such as Jack Clemo. Titles that answered to such criteria were first on my list, along with an OS Map of Launceston and the nearby area. I hope this will provide future residents with a literary and geographical sense of their surroundings.
However, I also felt it important to gesture towards the current climate in poetry. Attending the T.S. Eliot readings the evening before my residency began, I made sure to include a few of these collections on my list. The shelf also speaks a little of my particular interests – of contemporary and retrospectively-named ecopoets. These include anthologies of writing such as The Thunder Mutters by Devon-based poet, Alice Oswald, but also selected works by poets such as John Clare.
At first I thought my curation of this shelf might appear too eclectic, but sensing the parallels between these titles has been interesting: after all, Clemo might be read as an ecopoet today, and Clare is an obvious influence in Causley’s own work. I hope future residents will enjoy finding such dialogues between the writers I’ve chosen.
Last, but by no means least, a number of publishers and friends have donated titles to the shelf. Excitedly receiving and unpacking boxes of books, I have been amazed at the generosity of Enitharmon Press alongside two anonymous donors. These gifts enrich the shelf and offer a range of influences for residents to come.