Writing in extraordinary times – Jane Lovell

Jane Lovell’s Metastatic came out from Against the Grain Press in 2018, a time when we took live, in-person, in-touching-distance-launches for granted. Jane performed from Metastatic at The Poetry Café, along with Timothy Ades, in what was billed as, Traversing a Dark Uncertain Landscape. Something that certainly resonates with us all just now.



We’re catching up with Jane, in these current uncertain times, to find out about her writing process.

What I am Doing in Lockdown

Because I’m shielding, I’ve been hiding away since the end of last February. I suppose I’m lucky that most of my interests – writing, cooking, photography – take place at home. I thought I’d write more during lockdown but I haven’t. I started to learn Italian instead! I’ve also had much more contact with friends and family and, although it’s on a screen, I feel it’s brought me closer to people.

My writing in extraordinary times

Perhaps as a reaction to the increasingly unsettled world of lockdown, I have been editing poems more than writing. I have been storing up work for decades and now enjoy arranging them into possible pamphlets and collections. The writing I’ve been doing has been mainly to develop these collections, to add to them or replace work I’m not happy with.

Thinking back to the first lockdown how did it affect you and your writing?

During the first lockdown, I began writing a sequence on Inuit wayfinding and the history of Arctic exploration. Although this tilted very quickly into environmental themes and the horrors of hunting and whaling, researching for this project has been fascinating. Incredible stories have come to light: the giant meteor that gave rise to an early Iron Age in Greenland, the skeleton of an Inuit man displayed in the American Museum of Natural History as a curiosity from the far North, Caruso’s voice ringing out across the icy wastes from a gramophone left by an explorer. It’s so important, when you can’t get out much, to have stories and to experience new landscapes, even if they are imagined.

In relation to your Indigo Dreams publication – when did you send the manuscript to them and how long was it until it was published?


I had tentatively put together a collection based on the experiences of living in rural areas – in Wales, in France and now in Kent. Poems that explored the hidden side of the natural world, its wildlife, traditions and lost landscapes. I really wasn’t sure if any editor would be interested in this but then I saw IDP’s competition and, having had work in Ronnie’s anthology to raise money for The League Against Cruel Sports ‘For the Silent’, I thought I’d send it off. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Amazing news came through a couple of months later in March: my collection had won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize. ‘The God of Lost Ways‘ was published in November.

How was launching in lockdown?

I’m an absolute fan of Zoom launches! Anyone can attend regardless of where they live. Audiences are generally bigger, although strangely silent until you finish and everyone is unmuted! And the chat comments are lovely to look back on. It’s wonderful to have live feedback in that way.

Have you been sending work out since your publication and do you have work coming out in magazines?

Although it seemed very quiet in spring and summer, the last few months have been especially busy. I’ve had poems published in, amongst others, Agenda, Magma, Reliquiae, Dark Mountain and The High Window, and work is forthcoming in the anthology ‘Women on Nature’ edited by Katharine Norbury. In December, ‘The God of Lost Ways’ was Black Bough’s Book of the Month and I was their featured poet on their Silver Branch site. Last week I had the exciting news that one of the poems from my Inuit sequence, ‘Gallery of the Sea’, has been nominated for the a Pushcart Prize. I think this manuscript will probably be the next one I submit to a publisher.

Are you working on a book or pamphlet now?

At the moment I’m working on a collection based on the Hereford Mappa Mundi. It’s a wonderful resource and allows a huge diversity of poems – religious, geographical, historical and mythical. Great fun to research and write! I’ve decided to incorporate related art works so I have Giotto’s Final Judgement and Bruegel’s Tower of Babel alongside poems about Jerusalem and Mary Magdalene. The map itself was drawn on a single calf skin. The process of preparing the hide is described in the opening poem ‘Vitulus’, recently shortlisted for the Aesthetica Writing Prize.

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