Shingle is a long poem which investigates the beaches of North Norfolk through an ecocritical lens. In this piece, Bethany Mitchell inspects the shifting meaning of a place under pressure from natural and human forces. Just as the language of the poem is unstable - never resting in one place or meaning - so too are the coastlines facing the impact of rising sea levels and erosion.
PRAISE for Shingle:
Something happened’, begins this evocative poem of rich noticings, where the Norfolk coastline is a ‘reel of colour + picture + life’. Events are taking place: mysteriously, grievously, explicably. I am reminded of CA Conrad’s injunction in poetry to inhabit the ‘extreme present’, and here the present is figured as a plastiglomerate of beautifully wrought particulars. The poem asks the question of whether observation is a ‘looking glass picture’ – can the anthropocentric perspective ever be deprivileged? Shingle is a standout work, an ecstatic record of a place that probes the overlooked, that proves that ‘there when nothing is there/ there is never nothing else there.’
— Lila Matsumoto, Two Twin Pipes Spout Water
I am totally entranced by the quantum ecology of Bethany Mitchell’s poetry, where ‘one rainbow rat-king of living’ multiplies in the cascade of wanting entanglement, our tails curled, so much to be intimate and to feel all things in the universe. The lines of this work are like nerve cells specially programmed to taste and listen through touch of colour and texture, jumping at ‘adventures’ of ‘invertebrates’ and closely attuned to the vibratory shoreline where words dissolve and conjugate lifetimes. This is a gorgeous work of coming to shape and not quite settling, a morphology of ‘misty wilderness’ in memory, event and song.
— Maria Sledmere, Visions & Feed
Scale-shifting across the jotted, agglomerating shells and colours and ‘fluff debris detritus’ of the North Norfolk coast’s mutable landscape, Shingle asks ‘whose perspective?’ and ‘who is measuring -- what unit of measurement’? Across this long poem’s tracing of fleeting, ‘meshed + netted’ arrangements of nonhuman life, Mitchell cultivates a painterly disposition to wisps and densities, ‘hoarse teals’, ‘bees in willowherb’, and ‘rocks ... strung from ochre walls’. Yet Shingle simultaneously offers a deeply generous ‘not-quite’, ‘a way of / way off’ attention that questions the equation of the seen with the known. Mitchell’s durational enquiry into how languages of description might not hold a place in place carefully practises inhabiting the ‘blurred spaces’ and ‘curved ridged scalloped edges of a closeness’.
— Katy Lewis Hood, Bugbear
Shingle is a remarkable negotiation of a geopoetics, wherein the reader encounters the call of a gull caught between split glass, entangled fronds, a jar of buttons, disused jumpers, maps, creased lines, and unwritten street signage. Mitchell traces the margins of the Norfolk shoreline, calling forth language as detritus. The poetic line, word-fragments, and breath all churn against the open page, shaping an unsettled topographical textscape.
— Briony Hughes, Rhizomes
In Shingle, the fingers of the anthropocene grasp at the edges of Norfolk’s coast. Bethany Mitchell writes with a poetics attuned to the unpredictability of the non-human world: a language that swirls and blooms and catches on itself. This pamphlet-length poem swells with polysyndeton, whilst lines and conjunctions break off and fall away like rocks from a cliff face. Mitchell guides the reader along the beaches of North Norfolk, leading us across broken paving stones, under the wings of swooping sea birds, to find plastic bags and discarded jumpers littering the shore, to flowers grown in the window box of a seaside home; a human imitation of the countryside’s rolling hills. This is a debut rich in language and precise in its craft, deep enough that it may be reread over and over, each time offering something before unnoticed, or unseen.
— Christopher Lanyon, swell
ABOUT Bethany Mitchell:
Bethany Mitchell is a poet and writer whose work is experimental, ecological, and site-specific. Her poetry inspects local landscapes and interactions had within them, and seeks to destabilise hierarchies of human/non-human. Her writing has most recently appeared in the Crested Tit Collective’s Rewilding anthology, Osmosis press’s featured writing, and Visual Verse. She can be found on Twitter @bethjmitch
Broken Sleep Books