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SAMS poet gets Oban inspiration

Poet Suzannah V Evans, pictured on the beach at SAMS, has a residency during August.
Poet Suzannah V Evans, pictured on the beach at SAMS, has a residency during August.

An award-winning writer and poet-in-residence at SAMS says working by the sea – and even experiencing the changeable Argyll weather – has inspired her latest work.

Suzannah V. Evans, who is completing a PhD in poetry at Durham University, is spending the month of August at SAMS to learn more about ocean habitats, part of the research behind her creative writing.

But by experiencing other aspects of marine science and staying in Oban with a view over the famous little bay, Suzannah says she has found a passion for the marine environment and landscape of Argyll.

Some of her newly written work will feature in a reading at SAMS this Thursday.

Suzannah said: “Where I’m staying in Oban, I look out over the bay. I’ve learnt that the town’s name translates to ‘little bay’ in Gaelic and this has led me to read more about the landscape here. I’m also writing about the weather and the light, because you see it change so quickly.

“Being in this landscape, it’s not a passive thing. You are not just looking at it, you are in it.

“I hadn’t intended to write about Oban during this residency but it has become meshed with the sea theme. As part of my research here, I’ve been reading about marine science but as a writer I am not able to remove the science from the landscape.

Place, as a poet, is important to me. I grew up in London where everything is busy and in your face. In Oban and in St Andrews, where I studied, everything is stripped back. You can just see the place better.”

Suzannah’s writing is being supported by Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP) programme. The grant funding will allow her time to produce her first full length collection.

Her previous residency was at a boatyard, where she was able to observe the work going on and the comings and goings of people and craft. This experience helped her to better understand the subject of her PhD: the works of French poets Jules Laforgue and Tristan Corbière, who often wrote of the sea.

“The boatyard experience was so good that I realised I needed that time again. I wanted to be somewhere where I could speak to people directly, not just read about things. I also wanted to be in Scotland, as my father is from here and I love Scottish writers like Ian Hamilton Finlay, W.S. Graham and Robert Burns.

“I knew it would inspire me, like the boatyard did. Being by the sea is perfect.”

Suzannah won the Ivan Juritz Prize for Creative Experiment 2020 and a Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North, and is the author of Marine Objects / Some Language (Guillemot Press, 2020) and Brightwork (Guillemot Press, 2021).

A selection of her work appears in the anthology New Poetries VIII (Carcanet, 2021). Her poetry has been broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol and performed at festivals including StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, and York Literature Festival.