The Singing Glacier

A few weeks ago, via a tweet by Maya Chowdhry, we learned about The Singing Glacier. Naturally we were interested and got in touch with one of the artists behind it, poet Dr. Helen Mort.

Here is a little bit about The Singing Glacier from Hercules Editions who have recently published the poetry Helen wrote for the project:  

In August 2016, poet Helen Mort, along with composer William Carslake, travelled to south-eastern Greenland to cross the remote glaciers and climb mountains near Sermiligaaq Fjord. They were later joined by filmmaker Richard Jones, and together their responses formed a unique performance with original music, poetry and film footage.

We caught up with Helen via email to find out more about the project: 

Morgan Phillips: I'm totally new to The Singing Glacier and your work. So, first things first, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?

Helen Mort: I'm a poet, fiction writer and teacher - I've been writing since I was a child and poetry is my first love. I teach Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University and find coming into contact with new authors really rewarding. I'm also a keen fell runner, climber and walker who grew up on the edges of the Peak District, so my work has always been concerned with how we respond to landscapes. My second collection 'No Map Could Show Them' (Chatto & Windus, 2016) explored the history of women's mountaineering.

MP: The Singing Glacier is a collaborative project, there is an amazing film, a score and your wonderful poetry. How did it come all come together? Did you set foot on any glaciers yourself? 

HM: In 2016, I went climbing in East Greenland along with composer William Carslake and filmmaker Rich Jones. We spent three weeks living beside the calving face of the Knud Rasmussen glacier and would cross the crevasses most days. We were there with Matt and Helen from Pirhuk - a company which leads expeditions in Greenland. We wanted to explore the glacier and get to know its rhythms and we hoped to capture the awe we felt through an interdisciplinary artistic response. While we were there, we were all writing, trying to note down our (often contradictory) impressions of the complex landscape.

MP: How has the project been received so far? Have you had any interesting conversations about it? 

HM: We've performed the project live (an orchestral composition for a baroque orchestra along with a poetry reading) on many occasions in many different places and I've now published the poems I wrote as a collection too. I'm fascinated to talk to audience members about their responses. A highlight for me so far has been meeting poet Nancy Campbell who has written extensively about West Greenland.

MP: People seem drawn to glaciers, what do you think it is about a glacier makes it so magnetic? And, what drew you to this project? 

HM: I think we need to be faced with the contradictions glaciers present: we feel utterly dwarfed and pointless in the face of them, but we also have to accept that we've had a tremendous impact on their behaviour - that's the strange arrogance of the anthropocene, we're significant and insignificant at the same time.

MP: Glacier melt is inextricably linked to climate change, how do you feel about the changing climate and the impact it is having around the world? 

HM: I recently watched Chris Jordan's film 'Albatross' on Worlds Oceans Day and it highlighted the devastating effects human have on ecosystems for me more than any other experience (apart from my trip to Greenland itself). I'd like to get more involved in campaigning to reduce the use of plastic. Writer Horatio Clare is calling on children' magazines to stop featuring plastic toys on their covers and I think that's a really important initiative to support.

MP: Finally, how can people engage with The Singing Glacier? And, what's next for you? Do you have any exciting projects lined up?

HM: If people want to read the poems inspired by East Greenland on the page, they can find out more about my Hercules Editions pamphlet on the Hercules editions website

You can watch a version of The Singing Glacier below.
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