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Polly Atkin: Basic Nest Architecture

Basic Nest Architecture is my first full-length collection of poems. It is structured around three interconnected ideas: place as nest, the mind as nest, and the body as nest. The poems explore ideas of home and belonging, in the world and in our own selves. The poems also address the implications of the term ‘architecture’, examining structure and intention in both the ‘natural’ world and the constructed.

The first section focuses on the world around us, the second on dreamstates and mindscapes, and the third on the world as experienced through the body. The third section of the collection explores the body as a kind of dwelling in itself: nest-like, architectural, and, at times, derelict or decrepit. In poems exploring experiences of ill-health and hospitalisation such as ‘Cannulation’, ‘The Test’, and ‘Imaging’, this section seeks to address the absurd and surreal in our dealings with the physical body. It also seeks to express non-normative embodiment in new, or revealing, ways. It tracks my long journey to diagnosis of two chronic genetic conditions (Haemochromatosis and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) and how diagnostic processes highlight the ways in which we communicate about, and with, the body.

At the geographical centre of the collection is Cumbria and the English Lake District: my home for the most part of the last decade. This is a landscape silted up with historical cultural references, but as the poems seek to show, it is also a breathing, working, constantly evolving contemporary sphere, connected to global circuits of production, commerce, mobility and creativity. I hope that the book balances a deep involvement with a place which is often presented as historical, or timeless, with a keen eye on contemporary life. The three sections of the book are a movement from a relatively standardised notion of writing about place (geographical locations; the world around us) to a wider discussion about where or how we might experience location (or dislocation). The body is, in this context, both a world in itself and our only home in it.

Polly Atkin grew up in Nottingham, and lived in London for several years before moving to Cumbria in 2006. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Bone Song, was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award in 2009. Her second poetry pamphlet, Shadow Dispatches, won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize in 2012, and was shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year. An extract from her 2017 first collection, Basic Nest Architecture, was awarded New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Prize for ‘reflecting a strong sense of place or the natural environment’.


Hebden Bridge Library, Cheetham Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8EP
Thursday 29 March, 7.30pm (Exploring Poetry Workshop at 6.30pm)

Community Hub Central, 124 York Road, Hartlepool, TS26 9DE
Thursday 5 April, 5.30pm (Exploring Poetry Workshop at 4pm)

Robinson-Gay Art Gallery, 3A Market Street, Hexham, NE46 3NS
Wednesday 2 May, 1pm (Part of Hexham Book Festival)

Keighley Library, North Street, Keighley, Bradford, BD21 3SX
Saturday 2 June, 3pm (Exploring Poetry Workshop at 2pm)

Advance booking is advisable and all events may be subject to change. See our individual event listings for further information.

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