Event: John Clare’s Fens

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9th September 2023

In October 1849, the poet John Clare wrote to his son Charles from Northampton asylum about all the things he was missing back in Northborough, and in Helpston, his first home. Along with his garden, the woods, and various friends and family members, there was a particular kind of landscape he longed for: ‘I shall be glad to get out o’ thought & out o’ sight in the Fens as usual’. The purpose of this study day is to revisit the enduring importance of fens in Clare’s work, taking in the broad scope of how they shaped his poetic imagination, his interest in the environment, his understanding of mental and physical wellbeing, and his sense of community. A mixture of literary discussion and field-work, the day will offer a selection of short talks and group poetry readings that explore Clare’s fens in writing, before embarking on a guided walk of one of the areas surrounding Helpston familiar to Clare, led by the artist Kathryn Parsons, and Sarah Lambert, a botanist and ecologist who often works with Langdyke Countryside Trust. 

This one-day event, organised by the Centre for John Clare Studies and Kathryn Parsons and held partly at the John Clare Cottage in Helpston, is open to anybody who is interested in thinking with Clare about the importance of these strange, liminal, and – in our present moment – much-altered landscapes.

There are a limited number of spaces available, so registration in advance is essential. Please email Sarah Houghton-Walker at sh250@cam.ac.uk to register your interest in attending in the first instance. A full programme and finer details of the day will be sent to those on this list in due course, along with information on how to secure your booking through our secure payment site. Please note that a place can’t be guaranteed until payment has been received.