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  • Tom

Symbiosis: On Mushrooms and Poetry

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Hello, Tom here.

I've been reading up on fungus!

And as I'm sure you're already aware its got everything to do with Poetry and Place...

In the lead up to, and facilitating of, our Plant-A-Poem workshops with Highbury Community Orchard, the Overhear team have had their collective head in the world of Growing, Grafting and Foraging for a few weeks. It was just after this that I started reading "Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures" by Merlin Sheldrake. Now, I'm already familiar with the Sheldrake family through Merlin's brother Cosmo (their parents didn't hold back with the wack names!) an established songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who I know best because of his Tardigrade song:

I love a song about a micro-organism, me.

Merlin, with a similar interest in the microscopic, has written this book which is rich with a poetry about the interconnected, networked world of fungi. Viewing the world through this mycology and seeing Overhear through its eyes has compelled me to pen this blog with a few of my own meandering ideas. How do the poems we commission interact with space and location and what advice we can take from the mushrooms' way of living when attending to place? Some fungi are known to push up through tarmac roads and bloom in the most unusual of spaces, this made me think of the relationship between poetry and space we are trying to nurture... the micellean network of poets with their words and metaphors intertwining with the buildings, histories and narratives of space in a way that could change their very makeup, the way we look at them, approach them and understand them.

I'm really enthused by the idea that everything is interwoven and connected in some way (hence why I'm blogging about poetry and fungus) and that there is a symbiosis between all living things. Place and location blur into the background without a strong narrative; that can be the beauty of some parts of the countryside they're ripe for exploring, and uncovering/telling stories about but also the tragedy of abandoned forgotten places or places that have been reduced to wasteland.

Other places are littered with narratives that intrude and barge their way in front of us on billboards or on ring-roads and skyscrapers, or amaze us because of their ingenuity and design. Take a listen to Gregory Leadbetter talking about exactly this on our Podcast here.

Could it also be argued that poetry needs a setting or a context in which to take root and to be made sense of? We think poetry is integral to forming the narrative in a location, poetry can shape the way people see, interact with and view a place's past, present and future. Its networks of words and ideas can slowly take over and reclaim space, break up seemingly impenetrable surfaces through its steady growth in the right conditions.

We're really excited to see how our poems take root in the places they've been written for and how users discover them and attend to the locations through the perspective of poetry.

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