Mossfellsheioi by University of Exeter student Samuel Inglis, from Six Days in Iceland.

Unique art-science experiment conducted in Cornwall and Iceland

A new book – Six Days in Iceland – is the result of collaboration between a poet and Geography staff and students at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus.

Written by poet Alyson Hallett and University of Exeter geographer Professor Chris Caseldine and featuring students’ photographs, it was inspired by a field trip to Iceland.

It is the culmination of a year-long project, bringing art and science together.

Alyson Hallett was poet in residence within in Geography at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campuses from September 2010 to May 2011. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, she was the first poet in residence in any UK geography department. The residency enabled Alyson to work with physical geographers and find out how scientists work, while staff and students gained new insight to their subject by Alyson’s presence in the department. As part of her time there, she took part in a field trip to Iceland, which inspired a new collection of poems.

Six Days in Iceland includes a new collection of poems by Alyson, photographs taken by Alyson and second-year Geography students and scientific essays on Iceland by Professor Chris Caseldine. It is published by Dropstone Press and was printed by RBoothPrint in Penryn. It is now on sale locally at Falmouth Bookseller and online through Amazon.

The residency explored the synergy between art and science.  As poet in residence, Alyson’s aim was to challenge her own understanding of landscape and introduce Geography students and staff to an imaginative and poetic appreciation of language. She had not planned to write a book as a result of her time with the University, but the field trip inspired a number of poems, which Professor Caseldine suggested she publish as a new collection.

Alyson Hallett said: “The field trip to Iceland was an amazing opportunity for me and I found the landscape hugely inspiring. Through the residency I have established a really strong relationship with the Geography department, who could not have been more welcoming.

“My understanding of landscape has deepened and I am fascinated by the differences in language that poets and scientists use. The experience has shown me that it’s inspiring for everyone when artists and scientists come together and share their ideas and working practices.”

Professor Chris Caseldine of the University of Exeter’s Geography department on the Cornwall Campus said: “Having Alyson on the trip added a totally new way of looking at the landscape and the poems offer so much more than a straightforward ‘academic’ understanding of everything we did.”

Second-year Geography student Megan Rowe added: “The book is valuable not only as a memento of our trip to Iceland but as a tool which allows us to consider the beauty of the area we studied in a way we wouldn't have on any other geography field trip.”

Originally from Street, Somerset, Alyson now lives in Falmouth. She has published books of poetry and fiction, and has also written drama for Radio 4 and Sky Television. Alyson won first prize in the Scintilla Open Poetry Competition and has received major awards from Arts Council England for her work. She runs an international poetry as public art project, The Migration Habits of Stones, with work sited in the UK, USA and Australia and is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Exeter.

Date: 2 December 2011

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