Frances Presley: Bristol Channel Sequence

‘Channels’ is a sequence about shore lines on opposite banks and how they correspond.  The focus is geological and marine, political and personal.   It begins with the Bristol channel – Wales and Somerset.   Politics and poetry are interwoven, especially post Brexit, when the channel can be both division and common waters.  Geology and coastal contours have influenced the language and layout of the poems, as have the movement of the sea and waves.  Eroding cliff strata due to global warming and life in rockpools are amongst our chosen locations

I have been working in collaboration with Tilla Brading and with poets in South Wales.  These are opportunities to explore both sides of what can be a political and linguistic, rather than a geographical divide, where the natural landscape works across divisions and we need to work with it.

Cardiff canal was filled in during the 1970s but its route can be traced down to the sea, as Steve Hitchins explains in The Lager Kilns.  He leads walks and performances along this and other canals in south Wales, called Canalchemy.  The former canal joined the sea at a lock now located beneath the A4232 overpass.  The Wetlands Reserve was created in 2002 when the Cardiff Bay Barrage was completed and saline mudflats turned into freshwater marshland and lake: ‘It’s an important site for migration and over-wintering birds, adjacent to the Five Star St David’s Hotel’.  We found Brexit graffiti on sea defence rocks above Penarth beach.  I took photos of Tilla Brading covering the word LEAVE with her body while Wanda O’Connor carefully scratched out the letters with a piece of alabaster from Penarth beach. leaving only V.

You can find recordings of Canalchemy events by Hitchins on Youtube and Soundcloud, including a reading on Penarth Head of my poem ‘Pull’ and poems by Wanda O’Connor, complete with the sound of crumbling rocks and the opening of the Cardiff Bay barrage:

Tilla Brading has created a slide sequence of text and image from the graffiti intervention, which was shown at the ASLE-UKI conference in September 2019.


Click here to read Bristol Channel Sequence


Frances Presley’s publications include Paravane, 2004; Myne, 2006; Lines of Sight, 2009; An Alphabet for Alina, 2012; Halse for Hazel, 2014 and Sallow, 2016.  Ada Unseen, Shearsman2019, concerns Ada Lovelace and her life on Exmoor.  Presley’s work is in the anthologies Infinite Difference (2010), Ground Aslant: radical landscape poetry (2011) and Out of Everywhere2 (2015). 


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