Earlier this year Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson visited Falmouth to lead a poetry workshop for MA Professional Writing students. Fiona made her visit an extension of a collaborative project she is working on with Arts and Culture Exeter about insects.
As a result, a number of our MA and BA Professional Writing students were recorded and their work has been published alongside Fiona and other established poets in the second part of their ‘In the Company of Insects’ collection – Insect Love Songs.
Insect Love Songs features poems written and voiced by a selection of workshop participants including Falmouth students. Each focusing on, and responding to, a particular insect. Beautifully produced and sound-scaped by sound artist Eliza Lomas, these pieces explore the wonders of the insect world.
Launching the collection at the beginning of June, Fiona said: “From the mating displays of fireflies and cicadas in the USA, to the study of hoverflies and crickets on Penryn Campus in Cornwall, we have been able to immerse ourselves in the insect world in a way that simply would not have been possible otherwise.”
We spoke with some of the students to hear about their insect love stories:
Sara-Lee McCall told us about her experience and what inspired her poem, Maggots, “I enjoyed the workshop and most especially valued Fiona's feedback which transformed both poems that I wrote. I felt honoured to have a Forward prize winner read and engage with my work. On the first version of my poem Maggots, she commented 'God this is disgusting, and rather lovely – amniotic pool is very good; ugh – milky corps de dance, white necks of wet feathered swans, stink and squelch and move, strangely, as one – really great stuff.’
She also suggested some changes, which I made and was much happier with the result. I am a great fan of Scandi Noir and dark treatments - loved 'Fortitude' and 'What we do in the Shadows' - so in Maggots I loved combining disgusting images with beautiful ones. It's the sort of grotesque thing that's nice.”
After discovering her passion for poetry at the workshop with Fiona, Anamaria Arba created her insect love song, “I chose the stick insect because I’d had a recent encounter with it and the memory was still very fresh and vivid.
“I particularly enjoyed the recording session, as it was something I had never done before, and reading out my own poem in the Soundhouse (Falmouth’s sound recording facility) was a very thrilling experience. The soundtrack composed by Eliza Lomas has a very powerful and mysterious feeling to it, which I think accompanies the poem very well and conveys the atmosphere I had in mind while writing it.
“Being part of this project was a great opportunity and an exciting experience throughout. Everyone involved was extremely encouraging all the way through and having a piece of your work published for the first time is something incredible, especially in a wonderful collection like this and next to published and experienced poets. I think it is experiences like this that shape and inspire our writing for the future.”
And Morag Smith gave us some insight to her inspiration, “Some love stories have an easier narrative than others. My love affair with the fruit flies that lived with me had been going on for a number of weeks when I came to Fiona Benson's workshop. It was a complicated relationship, polyamorous, harbouring archetypal violence in its darker depths. I was homicidal at times, but love gave me patience. When I worked with Fiona, I realised my feeling for these little lovers was overwhelmingly one of sweetness. I am ever grateful for the opportunity to articulate the difficulties and ultimately the joys of this insecticidal relationship. I would however offer this word of warning, don't cohabit till you really know someone, they may have habits you find it hard to cooperate with.”