Hannah Christopher

Hannah Christopher

Alumna, BA English Literature, University of Birmingham


I am interested in the ways in which personal experiences in local places are microcosms of universal human experience. The early nineteenth-century writer Thomas Noble touches on this in the preface to his 1808 poem Blackheath, anticipating that readers will think his subject ‘entirely local’ and therefore not of interest to ‘the public in general’. Yet, he writes, ‘my subject is not local; it is as pervasive as Nature’. Less than three miles away from where Noble found his muse in the environs of Blackheath is an unnamed scrap of common ground which has always been known to me as The Place. The term ‘place’ will conjure up different environments in every mind, but in suburban London, my brother and I ascribed the term to this open wild field, unique in its position overlooking the city. It sits above the snaking maze of textured concrete, painted walls and brown brick. It satisfied my sense of what Constance Padwick, editor of the diaries of Victorian painter and missionary Lilias Trotter, describes as ‘space hunger’; a yearning and dreaming for the skyline beyond the ‘man-stifled town’. Landscapes have the power to fill us with an almost physical sense of awe, something well established in research about Wordsworth and his contemporaries, but which seems equally important in the recent boom in nature writing in the twenty-first century, amid an urban and digital environment.

I am also interested in how place informs literary creation, and how literary creation then informs place again. I planned a poetry guided walk around Winterbourne Gardens and was involved in the curation and running of the Canal and River Trust’s first floating exhibition entitled Journeys. The exhibition reframed the industrial story of the Birmingham canals, uncovering personal, hidden histories of canals as places of art, recreation, community and wellbeing.

I am currently working on a group of poems provisionally titled Reflections of Glory engaging with local place as a source of parable which points the created to the creator.