Wasafiri Wonders: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
Ever wondered what your favourite author’s first drafts look like? Or which book they love that nobody’s heard of? Wasafiri Wonders is a series that asks these questions for you.
Elizabeth-Jane Burnett is an author, an academic and a poet of the ‘more-than-human.’ Her latest book, Of Sea, dwells in wetlands, salt marshes, and other intertidal zones of language and the natural world. Burnett’s other publications include the poetry collection Swims (Penned in the Margins, 2017), a nature memoir, The Grassling (Penguin, 2019) and a monograph on contemporary innovative poetry communities. She is a nature diarist for Oh magazine and The Guardian, and is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow. Three poems from Of Sea are published in Wasafiri 106: the Water issue, and are available to read free online until the end of June.
1. Describe your first drafts in one sentence.
‘Little wild words thump in the mouth’ — from my poem ‘The Ouse,’ Swims.
2. Tell us about your writing rituals.
Writing happens whenever and wherever it can but preferably with silence and coffee.
3. What themes do you gravitate towards and why?
The harming and healing of the natural world, the more-than-human, place and belonging — we’re enriched by our relationships with other species and so many of these need mending.
4. What’s the book you haven’t written yet, but want to be known for?
5. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Give yourself permission.
6. What is your favourite book or pamphlet published in the past year and why?
Maggie O’Sullivan’s Courtship of Lapwings — I adore her (and lapwings).
7. What is a classic you recently read for the first time?
Not for the first time but I recently re-read Bernardine Evaristo’s stellar verse novel, Lara.
8. What is a book or pamphlet you love that no one else has heard of?
Well, I’m not sure Harryette Mullen’s Urban Tumbleweed is as known as her other work and I like its everyday attention to the natural world in urban landscapes — it’s a joy to teach.
9. If your newest work were a music album, what would it be and how would it sound?
There’s a Spotify playlist for my new poetry collection, Of Sea — it features lapping harp and kola from Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, shanties and odes to insects, which feels about right!
10. Which books or authors are relevant reads in our political climate — or one you’d recommend to current world leaders?
Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Three poems by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett are published Wasafiri 106: the Water issue, available here.