Lancaster University: New illustrated poetry collection flows from lockdown

A just-published collection of poetry and illustrations by a Lancaster University professor and a former MA student is the fruit of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Entitled Samara the collection is created by Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing Graham Mort and visual artist Claire Jefferson.

The two worked together to produce a poetry pamphlet (published by 4Word) – 12 illustrated poems about human relationships with the ‘natural’ world.

The poems are drawn from Graham’s earlier collections with some recent work, whilst all Claire’s illustrations were created after she read the poems during the pandemic.

Claire (writing as Stella Wulf) was an MA student on Lancaster’s Creative Writing MA by distance learning from 2014 to 2016 and has published two collections of poetry and has an illustrated children’s book forthcoming with Runcible Spoon Press.

“As a landscape artist I had a natural affinity with Graham’s highly visual and exquisitely described poems which is ultimately what laid the groundwork for this collaboration,” she said.

“In 2018 I set up 4Word Press with fellow poet, Lesley Quayle, and we have since produced 19 pamphlet collections.

“Being a former student and a fan of Graham’s work, it was both a privilege and a pleasure, not only to create the illustrations for this remarkable collection of poems, but also to produce and publish Samara, our first illustrated poetry pamphlet.”

Claire lives in France so this was truly a long-distance project.

“I sent Claire the poems and she returned the illustrations, one by one, until the whole book was assembled,” explained Graham.

“We’d been attracted to each other’s work when Claire was a student on the Creative Writing MA at Lancaster.

“I didn’t realise she was a visual artist as well as a poet until she sent me a stunning landscape painting on a postcard after the course. The idea of working together gradually took shape.”

‘Samara’ is a winged seed, a girl’s name in Arabic and Hebrew, the name of a river and ancient cities but it is also translated as ‘summer water’ and carries the additional meaning of ‘companion in night talk’ with its intimation of prayer or poetry.

This collaboration between poet and artist celebrates the natural environment, engaging with landscapes and the creatures that inhabit them.

Claire’s illustrations capture the essence of her subjects and underpin the keen observations in Graham’s poetry which opens up new perspectives, discerning the often-uneasy communion between humans and the natural world.

Graham, who lives in North Yorkshire, has published ten collections of poetry and three collections of short fiction.

Claire is a retired interior designer whose designs have been featured in several magazine. She has also studied Illustration, and fashion and textiles.