The presence of the sea can be felt everywhere in Cornwall. And the same is true of its effect on writing – from Daphne Du Maurier to Winston Graham, Charles Causley to Patrick Gale, Cornwall-based writers always have looked to the sea for inspiration. It offers the opportunity for contemplation, for threat, for fear, escape and adventure. It is powerful, yet serene – beautiful and hazardous. Cornwall’s myths and legends too are often shaped by the water that surrounds it – from the mythological island of Lyonesse hidden under the waves to the West, to stories of mermaids, shipwrecks and pirates around the coastline.
This edition of Words Nights welcomes two novelists whose writing is shaped by the sea and our responses to it. Lucy Wood and Ben Smith will read from their work and discuss the influence of the elements on their writing.
Ben Smith lives in Cornwall and is a lecturer in creative writing at Plymouth University, specialising in environmental literature and focusing particularly on oceans and climate change. Doggerland, his first novel, published by Fourth Estate to great acclaim earlier this month, is set in the near future and tells the story of a young man tasked with repairing turbines on a vast wind farm in the sea. The Guardian described it as ‘an unremittingly wet book, damp and cold and rusted, blasted by waves and tempests, but also warm, generous and often genuinely moving. It is a debut of considerable force, emotional weight and technical acumen that weaves its own impressive course’.
Lucy Wood is the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Diving Belles and The Sing of the Shore – both steeped in the Cornish landscape – and Weathering, a debut novel. She has been long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize, and was runner-up in the BBC National Short Story Award. She has also received a Betty Trask Award, a Somerset Maugham Award and the Holyer an Gof Award. Weathering was named as one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2016.
Word Nights is an occasional series of literary evenings programmed by Colin Midson, Creative Director of Port Eliot Festival.
The public programme at CAST is currently supported from funds awarded by Arts Council England for the Groundwork programme.