Difficult Paradises

For our ‘Monday Conversation’ on 26th October 2020, we welcomed Tim Dee, Michael Malay, and Liam Olds.

Stranger, turn back again, frustrate and vexed: 
This land, cut off, will not communicate …

(W.H. Auden, The Watershed)

In our newsletter, Michael Malay (English, University of Bristol) wrote about natural renewal on the sites of coal spoils and wondered about the role of writers in responding to such ‘difficult paradises’. To pursue these questions, Michael was joined online by entomologist Liam Olds (founder of the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative) and by Tim Dee, widely considered one of our greatest living nature writers. Tim’s book Landfill is (in the words of Helen Macdonald) ‘a deep meditation on difficulty and waste, on the beauty of the disregarded, and on what we make of matter out of place’.

In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing…
(T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land)