RM Francis Week continues in Outsideleft, as RM 'Rob' discusses the main sources of inspiration for his work.
"In my previous works, Bella, The Wrenna and Subsidence a main driver of the poetry and narrative is the unique and off-kilter place-identity of the Black Country. Place-identity is a term coined by Environmental Psychologist, Harold Proshansky, who thought of it as the way one incorporates a sense of place into their subjecthood. As we inhabit and move around our locales, we attach or distance ourselves from the dance of signs and symbols that make up a place – family, friendships, memories, foods, history, buildings, languages and cultures. Overtime, we imbibe these into our sense of self. I’ve long been fascinated by the place-identity or spirit of place in my homelands, and concern myself with tracing that in a place that is so unusual, marginal and liminal. The Black Country is not quite north and not quite south. It’s a strange mix of green and grey. Much of its identity stems from its industrial heritage but this has now been ruined or renovated. We have our own flag, set of dialects, unique culture, but you can’t properly find us on a map. We’re a lost district, to borrow from the late Joel Lane.
In my novels and previous poetry collections I use the lay of the land – literally and symbolically – to explore how it impacts communities and to consider the often brutal and darker edges of the geography and our psyches. These are love songs, but also songs of lament and loss, and also reverberations from the spectres that underlay the genius loci.
In my latest work, The Chain Coral Chorus, I wanted to see how far down this spirit goes. Since it’s the fossil, coal and limestone rich grounds that enabled the industrial and engineering feats, and that these elements forged tightly wrought communities and cultures, it seems “natural” that significant answers could be unearthed in its petrologic and stratigraphic wonders. Into the earth and into earth making – Geo Poetics.
The title of the collection takes its name from the Halysite. A now extinct form of colonising coral that spread out from single cells in honeycomb and chain link patterns, and that colonised what was to become known as the Black Country. Chain makers provided important work and culture, we see the chain on our flag. It is an important marker of the region. It runs a lot deeper than the industrial revolution though – the chain was waiting across 428 million years as an inspiring force. In these poems, fieldnotes and mini essays, I track these geological influences and shifts and relate them back to the spirit of place in the Black Country.
Geopoetics is the expression of the earth. A crossing point between the sciences and the mystical. Between the terrestrial and the heavenly. Getting outside and down into the layers and movements of the earth puts us in what Kenneth White called a ‘topological presence’ and draws out new models of meaning making by, what Francis Ponge asserts, ‘sinking down into the night of logos’. Using geological language, method and observation, I hope to have unpicked and played with the deep time and slow time undercurrents and expose an animist communicative power in the region’s geology.
RM Francis Week: Introduction
RM Francis Week: Review - The Chain Coral Chorus
RM Francis Week: Where Creation Begins
RM Francis Week: Landmasses and Landmarks
RM Francis Week: RM Francis The Week Interview
RM Francis Week: Teethgraters - 5 Tunes RM Francis would go to the Ends of the Earth to Never Hear Again
RM Francis at Outsideleft⇒
7th June, 2023, Outsideleft Night Out with RM Francis tickets here