Earth Lines: Geopoetry and Geopoetics

Patrick Corbett, Norman Bissell, Philip Ringrose, Sarah Tremlett, Brian Whalley

Earth Lines is a compilation of poetry and essays on the broadest theme of geoscience. It combines geopoetry and geopoetics and an essay on the subtle differences. The historical appearance of geoscience in poetry is reviewed. Over forty poems on themes of stratigraphy, geological process, geologists at work, geoidentity and geopoetics can be found, as can essays recording a geopoetry walk and the poetics of climate change. A geological perspective on Auden’s In Praise of Limestone concludes the volume.

The Earth is heart and centre of this book; what it means to people, how it influences people and how we have influenced it. Deeper appreciation of the planet-people interaction may come from reading these earth lines.

Earth Lines is a delightful outcrop of poetry and prose. This collection looks back to deep time for inspiration, and forward to the environmental challenges we urgently face. Wandering through landscapes, exploring identity, Earth Lines seeks out the many stories told in stone, and how they move us to express ourselves through art and science.

-Dr Elsa Panciroli, scientist and author of ‘Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution

Review of Earth Lines: James McCarthy, Geology, Geopolitics and the Future of Planet Earth –

Earth Lines book launch – 1 October 2021

The Earth Lines book launch was part of the Scottish Geology Festival. The programme included:

  • Patrick Corbett on the background to Earth Lines: Geopoetry and Geopoetics
  • Readings from poets: Elizabeth Wong, John Hegley, Alice Major, Alina Hayder, Stuart Graham, Mark Cooper, Neil Hodgson, Sila Pla-Pueyo, Jack Cooper
  • Round Table discussion with Norman Bissell, Yvonne Reddick, John Bolland, Brian Whalley, Rob Francis
  • Sarah Tremlett will introduce Earth Lines Online, with a reading from Ken Cockburn
  • Q&A from audience

A recording of the event is available on our YouTube channel: view here

Earth Lines is now available to purchase from our publications section – click here

Earth Lines should be cited as: Corbett, P., Bissell, N., Ringrose, P., Tremlett, S. and Whalley, B. (eds.) (2021) Earth Lines. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Geological Society.

Audio and video recordings of some of the poems and poets featured in Earth Lines, including some additional poems

Geopoetry Map LinkGeopoetry Map for Earth Lines: Geopoetry and Geopoetics

The Geopoetry Map shows the locations of the poems included in the volume and those in this online collection, including some additional poems.

Sarah Acton is a landscape poet, artist and creative facilitator. Sarah works with local Dorset and Devon museums, schools and organisations to develop arts and writing projects for social engagement and community. She works closely with the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (UNESCO) as poet-in-residence, and receives frequent commissions from Stepping into Nature, AONBs, and Alzheimer’s memory cafes. Sarah is currently playwright and project lead for the Heart of Stone project on the Isle of Portland, supported by Arts Council England National Lottery project grant funding. She is also co-lead artist for both the Museum at Home lockdown project for Lyme Regis Museum and Talking Tent for Dorset AONB.

Earth Shapers

2020, UK

Poet: Sarah Acton
Film-maker: Sarah Acton

From a kid collecting fossils in Lyme Regis, through the realms of academia and a geological career exploring for metals in remote regions of the world, Andy has lived, breathed, and felt Earth’s dynamic processes. Geology and geosciences are his passion, but his observation of fabrics and textures go beyond rock- and ore-forming processes to their beauty and connectivity to those defining our psyche and cultural diversity. His art and writing holistically incorporate his deep interest in life and the natural world around us. He retired from geology to focus on his artwork and fell into poetry as a way to convey his thoughts on geology, global challenges, and the absurdity of life, politics and more. He is known for his humorous geological rewrites of famous Christmas carols and songs, lives in Toronto Canada, and yearns to travel the post-COVID world.His images and some of his writing can be found on

“When I briefly told attendees about my years conducting geochronological research, John Lane challenged me to consider writing something on Deep Time.

“Geochronology was an important part of my Ph.D. research. I realized back then that the ages of the rocks I was studying were incomprehensible to many outside of geology, yet I spoke of the errors of each rock’s age in +/- one or two million years. Not one year, not a century or millennia. Sometimes, even I catch myself and find it hard to believe that a tiny crystal can tell us how old parts of our Earth are. The recorded recital was included as part of a Geopoetry Slam at this year’s European Geosciences Union General Assembly.”


2020, UK

Vigo Lane

2020, UK

being a song about mine water performed by Poke O’Swedgers

John Bolland is a writer, artist and musician. He lives the North East of Scotland. His short fiction and poetry have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. His first full poetry collection – Fallen Stock – was published by Red Squirrel in 2019. He has been a prize winner in the Fish International Short Story Competition and runner-up in the Royal Society for Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Prize.

A member of the STEM Poets group and a graduate of Glasgow University’s M.Litt., he has collaborated in residencies ranging from an Aberdeen PR agency to St. Andrew’s Universities Theology department.

Originally trained as a chemist, John has focussed exclusively on his writing and other creative projects since 2014 after a long, parallel career in the oil & gas industry. His work explores the experience of working in the extractive industries and the issues of inter-generational responsibilities that arise from this experience. He is currently finalising a new poetry collection and performance piece – Pibroch – which explores parallels between the Climate Emergency and the Piper Alpha disaster (1988) and has recently completed a novel, Threads, set in Angola, Scotland and the USA which explores themes of extractivism and neo-colonialism. 

Blur Times

2020, UK

Blur Times combines film-poems created as part of my spoken-word project – Pibroch – with a series of geocouplets reflecting on the nature and experience of time.

Pibroch is a poetry collection and spoken word performance which explores parallels between the (current) Climate Emergency and the Piper Alpha disaster which occurred in the North Sea in 1988.

As a former oil & gas worker and activist with Extinction Rebellion, I was struck by the parallels and empathic disconnect between these two narratives. I perceived a mutual failure in compassion as oil and gas interests continued to pursue catastrophic projects whilst some climate activists did not seem to empathise with the experience of workers in these industries who were, in the case of Piper Alpha literally, trapped on a burning platform. We are all, currently, trapped on this burning platform – and, as in 1988, we are continuing to pump hydrocarbons into the flames.

In the course of awareness raising and activism during 2019, however, I was also aware of a parallel ‘fatalistic’ strand of responses to the Climate Emergency: a scientifically correct view that, in the long durée of geological time, this fluctuation in global atmospheric composition and, thereby, temperature was neither unprecedented nor extreme. As an oil & gas colleague once assured me (repeatedly): ‘At the end of the day, we’re all just a thin black line in a cliff.’ In responding to the Geological Society’s call for submissions, I was aware (as a trained physical scientist with a lifelong interest in geology) of these parallel truths: the urgency and vitality of life and the resilience and continuity of biophysical processes.

This seems to me to demand a critical exploration of the experience and significance of time itself – questions of both its granularity – in moments, seasons, lifetimes, generations, kalpas – and its direction. The geocouplets in Blur Times attempt to challenge the vital urgency of the film-poems with an objective relativity. Elements of contemporary quantum gravitational theory suggest that time is not a variable in the fundamental equations which describe being and theoretical physicists, such as Carlo Rovelli, have suggested, tentatively, that it is the sensitivity of ‘life’ to entropy – the driver of ‘times arrow’ – which creates the delusion of time. This physical challenge to both the anthropocentric and the geological narrative prompts, I believe, serious ethical questions about the ‘discounting’ of the value of ‘future’ experience in personal and political decision-making: for example, my life and my great-great grandchild’s life are, in a sense, co-present. Perhaps time, for us, exists because of entropic blurring. This theme, the bedrock of physical reality and the fluidity of experience remains a continuing inspiration in my work.

Publication of Pibroch by Red Squirrel Press is expected in 2021.

Ken Cockburn is a poet, translator, editor and writing tutor based in Edinburgh. After several years working at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, since 2004 he has freelanced, working in schools, colleges, care and community settings, and collaborating with visual artists on book, exhibition and public art projects. He also runs Edinburgh Poetry Tours, guided walks with readings of poems in the city’s Old Town. 2021 sees The Caseroom Press publish his pamphlet, Edinburgh: poems and translations.


2020, UK

Poet: Ken Cockburn

Close was written in 1996, when The Scotsman newspaper offices were still in the impressive building which fronts onto North Bridge, and whose lower walls form part of Fleshmarket Close; when buses still ran up and down the High Street (it is now largely pedestrianised); and when my daughter was four years old.

Patrick is a geologist and poet. Born in Surrey he moved to Purbeck (Dorset) at a young age and grew up there. He developed a love of geology and worked as a professional and academic geologist for 35 years before retiring, when he took up poetry and returned to his roots. He is on the Board of the Scottish Poetry Library and is involved with the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and the School of Poets in Edinburgh.

Patrick has degrees in geology, statistics and petroleum engineering from Exeter, University College London, Kingston and Heriot-Watt Universities. He is Professor Emeritus at Heriot-Watt University and has a strong interest in the University’s heritage and alumni (the latter as Vice President of the Watt Club). He is a Fellow of the Geological Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has a strong interest in using poetry to improve the communication of geoscience and science in general (particularly with respect to Energy, Climate Change and the Anthropocene).

Bare Bones

2020, UK
Poet: Patrick Corbett
The topography of the Isle of Purbeck is captured in this poetic traverse from the fields and quarries down to the coast.  Inland stone quarries have exploited, over centuries, the folded limestone as the sea erodes it through the endless drive from the westerly storms – storms which cause everyone to take shelter in the pub where their stories and memories will perhaps remain.

Yvonne Reddick is a poet, researcher and editor. Her latest book is Ted Hughes: Environmentalist and Ecopoet. She is an AHRC Leadership Fellow, researching poets’ responses to debates about the Anthropocene. Her interest in geopoetry springs from hearing tales of life offshore from her father, who was a petroleum engineer. Her recent creative work is based on the tension between her wish to remember his life and work, and her concerns about fossil fuels as a cause of climate change. Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian Review and her critical work in the Times Literary Supplement

Reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal

2020, UK

Read by Yvonne Reddick

‘I’m interested in finding adventurous women writers from the past whose footsteps I can follow in. Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals give us her perspective on everything from hillwalking to travels through Europe. I admire the vivid way she conjures up place – you feel as though you’re there in 1803, making your way up Arthur’s Seat with her! When I think about the ‘deep time’ of the volcano’s formation, I’m also reminded of the layers and lines of literary history that inspire me and many others.’

Phil Ringrose has followed his interest in poetry in parallel to his professional career in geoscience, mainly by publishing poetry as a hobby through his online web site. Having lived in India, Scotland and Norway, and drawing on his career as an Earth scientist, including field work in the Sahara and Greenland, his poetry takes a highly global perspective asking questions about humanity, sustainability and our common future. Philip is currently a geoscientist with Equinor in Norway and Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Some time back he graduated with a BSc in Geology at the University of Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow on the topic of post-glacial tectonics and seismicity.

The Bubble

Poet: Philip Ringrose
Film-maker: Miriam Ringrose

The Bubble is part of the ‘Earth from Outer space’ collection of poems and was inspired by the story of the collapse of Greek civilization in the setting of the rocks of the Acropolis in Athens and the magnificent Parthenon. The bubble analogy draws from the science of thin fluid membranes to capture the fragile yet inspirational nature of our modern human society. The filming was done on the shores of Trondheim Fjord in Norway.

I am a research geologist and marine biologist. I live in Dulwich in South London. For most of my career, I have worked as a research scientist at the Natural History Museum in London, and have contributed to several major long-term exhibitions there. I am now retired, but continue with my research as a Scientific Associate in the Department of Earth Sciences. For my research I have concentrated on the geology and biology of living and fossil corals and reefs with subsidiary interests in biogeography and the history of science, with field work and other travel to numerous locations around the world including many tropical islands in Atlantic and Indopacific. Current projects include contributing to a guide to the geology of the Peak District, and the evolutionary and ecological history of living and fossil scleractinian corals and its implications for climate change. Other interests include architecture, choral singing, football, hill-walking, industrial history, landscape history, languages, natural history, photography, and railways ancient and modern. Favourite British landscapes include North Wales, Pennines and North Devon. My parents inspired my interest in poetry and writing, and the wider world of politics, education, countryside, sport and travel.

Ballads of Middleton Moor

2021, UK

Poet: Brian Rosen
Film-makers: Brian Rosen and George Darrell

Rachel Tennant is a landscape architect, poet and photographer. Her profession has provided her with an experienced eye for the elements of landscape and design as well as an understanding of our interaction with the world whether natural or man-made world.

Rachel’s writing, art and photography is heavily influenced by the external environment. She aims to distil a physical and emotional response to a location that captures and renders the ‘spirit of a place’. For her it is hard to separate the words and the image from the place and more increasingly her work has combined all these art forms together.

Rachel’s work has been included in the Scottish Writers Centre 10 year anthology; Brushes with War pamphlet; Glasgow Review of Books; the Voluntary Arts Council publication My Time; part of a touring exhibition in the Screen Machine; The Quilter; the Glasgow Anthology Tip Tap Flat, Glasgow Women’s Poets anthology; Prole Magazine; Glasgow University’s Glasgow to Saturn; Evelyn Glennie’s website; and the Gladrag.

Orkney Stories 1-3

2020, UK

Poet: Rachel Tennant

I revisited the Orkney mainland in October 2020 after more than a ten-year absence. I was once again struck by the power and beauty of the landscape which is imbued with an incredible sense of history and time. It is palpable – from the ragged coastal cliffs pounded by a daily onslaught of the sea to soft rounded patchwork fields edged with neat, rounded Orkney stone walls and always the brooding shape of the high hills on Hoys as a backdrop – all washed by such a magical and clear light. Interwoven and intricately layered within the land is the story of its ancient self, its very creation and the waves of people who lived and interacted with the landscape leaving their own patina.

The Orkney Series is a set of 9 video poetry pieces based on my reflections and the impact that island made on me following that visit.
Brough of Birsay is a dramatic and beautiful island off Brough Head on the North West coast of the Mainland continually pummelled by the Atlantic. It has been inhabited since before the Picts and is only reached by a causeway at low tide. It is easy to imagine the sanctuary, for all its meanings and reasons, that the island bought to the waves of different settlers. Its Norse name, Byrgisey, means Fort Island. All that remains active is the lighthouse and the colonies of sea birds. Yet the layers of the lives of its previous inhabitants remain a strong presence which is essentially what this piece is about along with the drama of the island’s location.

The pandemic had closed much of the tourist industry except for those living in the same Tier system and unusually Skara Brae at the Bay of Skaill was deserted. There was nothing but the sound of the waves and seabirds and bright bursts of sunlight washing over sand and this neat stone and turf roofed village. Its disappearance and reappearance through storm action is as astonishing as observing the exposed intricacies of the lives of the people that lived here before the Pharaohs of Egypt. I wanted to catch that sense of time caught – like a snapshot.

The presence of the sea is continuous. Its brutal onslaught has helped shape the Orkney Islands dramatic coastline which in turn reflects its base rock. The Old Man of Hoy is created from the scouring of the ocean to create inlets (Geo’s) that in turn become separated as sea stacks. When I first visited Orkney, I cycled across Hoy to experience the famous sea stack. As I approached this giant toothy rock a helicopter landed on its summit for a few seconds and flew off. This to me, along with its ascent by climbers, epitomised the stacks slow, steady decline but with it a fighting resistance of the sea to remain.

Sarah TremlettSarah Tremlett MPhil, FRSA, SWIP, Bristol Poetry Institute Partnerships Board Member is a poetry filmmaker, poet, artist, curator, theorist and author of The Poetics of Poetry Film (Intellect Books and The University of Chicago Press). Presenting her work worldwide, she is co-director of Liberated Words Poetry Film Events, and editor of Liberated Words online. Her project Tree is a geopoetic family history, poetry and poetry film journal across different periods and locations.


2020, UK

Poet: Sarah Tremlett
Film-maker: Sarah Tremlett

Firewash as both a poem and poetry film is a poetic apostrophe, centering on an intuitive response to an ancestor who mined at a site where there was manganese, in Cornwall in the 12th century. The poem first evolved whilst staying at the same location during a gale; and is taken from Tree a geopoetic family history and poetry film project, across different periods and locations.