Naturecultures Across Time and Space: John Clare’s Artistic Legacy in Ecopoetry Written by Children
Expanding the existing accounts of John Clare’s poetry and its impact on contemporary culture, Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak proposes to look at Clare’s output in light of ecopoetry created by pupils attending John Clare Primary school in Helpston, Clare’s birthplace. Every year, all the children write poems on a topic selected by the John Clare Society and participate in a competition it sponsors. Currently, circa 600 poems are stored in folders available at the school’s reception, but they are not publicized in any way. Justyna’s preliminary research reveals that the children’s poems, like Clare’s poetry, describe a sense of the relationality and interconnectedness of all existence across different scales. They also express the young authors’ involvement with the human and non-human communities that are close to them. Arguing for the recognition of children as cultural producers and creators of ideas and texts, Justyna explores how the vitality and agency of Clare’s poetry emerge through its interactions with the children’s poems, resulting in mutual generativity and an embodied relational ecology. She develops a semiotic-material approach based on new materialism to show how multiple collective and individual encounters between Clare’s works, the children’s poems and contemporary children, adults and their lifeworlds result in new entanglements of matter and meaning and shed light on our participation in ecological networks and relationalities connecting the human and the non-human.
Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak is Associate Professor of Literature and Director of the Center for Young People’s Literature and Culture at the Institute of English Studies, University of Wroclaw, Poland. She is the author of Yes to Solidarity, No to Oppression: Radical Fantasy Fiction and Its Young Readers (2016). She is a Kosciuszko, Fulbright and Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow. Since 2017 she has served as a member of the executive board of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature. She is now a visiting researcher at Anglia Ruskin University, working on Ecopoetic Entanglements: Children’s Poetry Mobilizing John Clare’s Artistic Legacy, a project funded by the Bekker Programme of the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA).