Research reflections

It’s an exciting time in my ACE DYCP-supported project, CYMA. This week marks the final week of the research phase of the project. While I’ll continue to research my topics and relevant techniques throughout, this boundary marks a shift of emphasis: next week, writing becomes my primary focus.

In the field

At the weekend I undertook my first research trip, in which I travelled to the North Norfolk coast to do some site-specific writing and field recording on the salt marshes. The visit came at just the right time.

Flo is a white person wearing a green coat. They are next to a muddy path in a field, holding a recorder with a grey windjammer on it, and looking through a pair of binoculars.
Recording in the field with a secondhand Zoom H4N Pro, 18 March 2023 (c) Flo Reynolds.

While much of my research phase has been about reading theories of sound, it has also meant getting to grips with my field recording equipment. I’ve been running tests – strange rituals involving water, a wheelbarrow, and walking over gravel – and met with sound designer, composer and musician Jonathan Baker to help me get the best out of my equipment.

The research trip represented a chance to put all I have learned so far into practice, and take my new methodology out into the field. 

The Whirligig

I don’t remember how I came to settle on this landscape as a central part of the project – perhaps it’s in a notebook somewhere – but by 2020 when I wrote about scoping the project, I had already found the place I felt compelled to write about.

The Stiffkey Whirligig is a curious paved circle stretching out into the North Norfolk salt marsh, with a gallows-shaped metal pole at its centre.

The Stiffkey Whirligig radio arm is a rusted metal pole with a smaller metal pole at its top forming a right angle. The radio arm is almost silhouetted against a grey cloudy sky and gorse bushes.
The Stiffkey Whirligig radio arm, 18 March 2023 (c) Flo Reynolds.

The National Trust sign in the nearest carpark describes it as “a relic from the Cold War”; military history websites emphasise that it represents an early development in drone warfare from the Second World War, when many American troops were stationed nearby; and a friend local to the area tells me that it was once used as a sheep weighing station.

The metal arm is embossed with the name “Radioplane Company”; a quick Google search reveals that the company has Hollywood connections, having been founded by the actor Reginald Denny, and later employing a certain Norma Jeane Dougherty. 

Waves of stories

I’m less interested in the precise military use of the radio arm, although the vision of small balsa wood aeroplanes being hammerthrown from it, shot at by practicing troops, and then crash-landing on the saltmarsh, is an arresting image. More, it’s the overlapping and occasionally contradictory stories of the site which interest me.

There’s a sense of waves of different relationships between place and people along this coastline, echoing into history through stories of 19th century smuggling, through the Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages, through Roman Britain, and beyond… after all, Seahenge and Holme II were discovered just a few miles down the coast.

Flo is crouching down next to a large pool of water in the salt marsh landscape. They are wearing a green coat and holding a recorder with a grey windjammer and the cable of a hydrophone.
Taking a hydrophone recording in a pool at Stiffkey Marshes, 18 March 2023 (c) Flo Reynolds. I ensure my equipment is clean and washed before use to help prevent the spread of invasive species and harmful chemicals.

Today this coastline is home to the last few fishing boats, luxury second homes, and stand-up paddle board tours of the creeks. Beneath all of this, the salt marsh has been a fluctuating constant. It is an ecologically rich landscape, neither fully land nor water. In light of the climate and extinction events to come, it looks increasingly fragile.  

This is the landscape I have been fascinated by since I first visited in 2017, and where I first started practicing listening exercises in 2018. It’s where I now continue these practices, where I write in situ, and where I try to capture the sounds and stories of the marsh in all their variety. 

Writing live vs. writing the recording

Following the research trip, I now have pages of notes to work with, and many field recordings to listen back to, write from, edit into presentable shapes. One thing I’m particularly keen to compare is writing live versus writing from a recording – do any differences come through in the writing?

Flo is a white person wearing a yellow jumper and green coat. They are standing in front of a dinghy and crab pots on the Norfolk Coast while writing in a notebook.
Live writing on the windy Norfolk Coastal Path, 18 March 2023 (c) Flo Reynolds.

I spent hours on the marsh trying to get the perfect recording of a curlew’s call despite the wind, tapping the radio arm while stethoscoping it with a contact microphone, dipping a hydrophone into its pools and creeks. What do these recordings say of the place they originate from, while I’m back in my Norwich box room, trying to craft a successful pantoum? What might my eventual reader hear of them?

All of these questions, and more, are to be explored as I come at last to synthesising my research, and setting down to write.

CYMA research mixtape

I’m into the research phase of my ACE-funded poetry project (working title CYMA) and wanted to share the many brilliant sources that are inspiring and informing me along the way. I’ll update this list over the course of the project.

Audio sources

Books and written sources

  • Sascha A. Akhtar, The Grimoire of Grimalkin (Cambridge: Salt, 2007)
  • Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis (1627) in Three Early Modern Utopias (Oxford: OUP, 2008)
  • Stephen Benson and Will Montgomery (eds.), Writing The Field Recording: Sound, Word, Environment (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2018)
  • Basil Bunting, Briggflatts (Hexham: Bloodaxe, 2009)
  • John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings (London: Marion Boyars Publishing, 1994)
  • Antony Vahni Capildeo, Like A Tree Walking (Manchester: Carcanet, 2021)
  • The Centre for Deep Listening, A Year of Deep Listening instagram campaign
  • Jean-Luc Champerret, The Lascaux Notebooks, translated by Philip Terry (Manchester: Carcanet, 2022)
  • CRiSAP blog
  • Steven Roger Fischer, A History of Writing (Bury St. Edmunds: Reaktion Books, 2001)
  • W. S. Graham, New Collected Poems (London: Faber, 2004)
  • Cathy Lane and Angus Carlyle, In The Field: The Art of Field Recording (Uniform Books, 2011)
  • Listening Across Disciplines project (2018-2022)
  • Michael Nardone (ed.), OEI #98-99: Aural Poetics, 2023
  • Lorine Niedecker, Collected Poems, edited by Jenny Penberty (Berkley: University of California Press, 2002)
  • Norfolk Record Office, Guide to Oral History
  • The Oral History Society (UK)
  • Alice Oswald, A Sleepwalk on the Severn (London: Faber, 2009)
  • Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice (iUniverse, 2014)
  • Pauline Oliveros, Quantum Listening (London: Ignota, 2022)
  • Daphne Oram, An Individual Note: of Music, Sound and Electronics (Anomie Academic, 2016, reprint 2021)
  • Denise Riley, Time Lived, Without Its Flow (London: Picador, 2019)
  • Charles Simmonds and Lucy Lippard, Cracking (Cologne and New York: Walther König, 1977)
  • John Yau, various poems

Visual, AV, exhibition and event sources

  • Kym Cox, Bubble Beats
  • Land Art Collective, soil chromatography workshop with Hannah Fletcher, April 2023, online
  • Richard Long, various works
  • Diemo Schwarz and User Studio, Dirty Tangible Interfaces

Developing my creative practice in 2023

I am delighted to share that I have been awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant by Arts Council England. This grant will support me to research and write my next poetry book, CYMA, during 2023.

CYMA will investigate the military histories, climate futures and sensory ecologies of a specific site in Norfolk, through a neurodivergent/disabled lens. As part of the project I will be trying new research and writing techniques, and working with other creatives to help me find innovative ways to share the poems with audiences on the page, on stage, and online.

I have been scoping this project since 2018, and it’s hugely exciting to have the opportunity to bring this long-held dream to reality. I will be sharing my reflections as the project progresses in future posts. Stay tuned.

the other body is 1!

It’s been a year since my debut poetry pamphlet, the other body, was published by Guillemot Press, and I’m celebrating its birthday! We launched it on 14 October 2021 (video here). Here I am a little over a year ago, on the day I unwrapped my parcel of author copies and saw my book for the first time.

Flo Reynolds holds up a copy of their debut pamphlet, the other body (Guillemot Press, 2021). The book has a pink cover that has been designed to look like it has been nibbled by critters. Flo is a white person with long brown hair, wearing an orange top. They are standing in front of a brick wall and greenery.
Holding the other body in my hands for the first time. Image copyright (c) Perry Andrews, 2021.

It still feels surreal to have a physical book with my writing printed in it, especially one with such a beautiful design and illustrations by Phyllida Bluemel.

the other body was about five years in the writing. Not every poem in there was five years old when I submitted it to Luke and Sarah at Guillemot in late 2019, but it took that long for the ideas to coalesce, the poems to be written, the line by line editing, and then putting it into pamphlet shape.

I learned a lot from the process and it still fascinates me that the secret ingredient for any creative project is time. It can be a fine balance between acting quickly to keep momentum, and taking enough time for the project to emerge. Then, at the end, there’s the breathless, heart-swelling moment when you know it’s ready, and it’s time to stop working on that particular project. Time moves strangely in the writing.

Following the other body I’ve been hard at work on other projects. I have another pamphlet that is completed, and I’m working on my third. The latest pamphlet is born out of my interest in textiles and the teachers who taught me to knit, to spin, and weave when I was a teenager who thought they might have a career in design in future. And in the background I am planning my largest project to date, my debut poetry collection CYMA. I have scoped out the project over the last couple of years and I’m hoping that 2023 will be the year I can begin in earnest.

No matter the new projects, I still find myself sometimes taking my copy of the other body down from the shelf, reading it, or even just holding it. Wherever my writing life takes me, tob (as I call it for short) will always be my first published book. I’m amazed and delighted that it’s here, it’s beautiful and it’s real.

If you’d like to buy a copy of the book you can do so via Guillemot Press. To stay up to date with my writing, why not subscribe below or add my site to your old-skool RSS feed.

My NCW highlights

Today is my last day of working at National Centre for Writing. It’s been ten years since I first interned there, six years since I joined the core team, and two since I took on the role of Programme Manager.

During my time at NCW I’ve run festivals, international symposia, and literally hundreds of events. I’ve met the most amazing people, from talented early career writers to superstars like Margaret Atwood, and fellow literature professionals from all over the world.

It’s been a blast and I’m sad to be leaving, though I’m excited for my new chapter. I’ll still be working in the arts and culture sector, including growing my freelance writing-facilitating-producing practice.

This post is a look back at just some of my innumerable personal highlights from the last six years. Thanks to all the writers, readers and colleagues who have made these experiences so special and memorable, and here’s to an exciting future of collaborations and creativity to come.

The Quiet, 2017

On a train back from the Escalator Showcase 2017, I spitballed the idea that we could produce Carys Davies’ short story “The Quiet” as a dance piece. This would be for Story Machine‘s interactive literature extravaganza during NCW and Norfolk & Norwich Festival‘s joint City of Literature programme. To my surprise Sam Ruddock, director of Story Machines, accepted this idea and ran with it, turning it into beautiful reality with the help of Glasshouse Dance.

It was a pleasure to assist on this piece, a crash course in producing outdoor events, and a valuable lesson in not being afraid to share my ideas no matter how off-the-wall they may seem. As a curator/programmer, creative brainstorming is an essential skill, and one I really enjoy doing.

Writing Places, 2017-18

Another project on which I really cut my teeth, Writing Places was a project of creative exchange between writers, translators and photographers in the Norwich, UK and Kolkata, India.

I supported Kate Griffin, NCW’s Associate Programme Director, in producing and hosting two exchange visits as part of the programme. The first, in Norwich, took place in May 2017 and included a symposium and public events. The second, in Kolkata, was run in partnership with Kolkata Literary Meet and was my first taste in working internationally. You can read my blog about the Kolkata exchange here.

Kolkata Literary Meet, 2018

My work on Writing Places taught me the value of durational engagement, interdisciplinary approaches and intercultural communication, and I can’t thank Kate and the Writing Places participants and partners enough for this formative experience.

Escalator Showcase, 2022

Escalator is NCW’s flagship talent development programme that has supported over 150 writers at the start of their careers. Having supported the programme in the past, it was a privilege to take on its curation and management in 2021 and to put supporting under-represented writers at the heart of it.

I was lucky to share the experience with the most recent cohort, ten truly talented writers whom I know will go far. The video below shows their final showcase to agents, publishers and the wider writing community, hosted by yours truly.

Escalator 2022-23 is still open for entries until Monday 19th September. Escalator is open to under-represented fiction writers from the East of England region, and this year writers from global majority backgrounds and the LGBTQ+ community are especially encouraged to apply. Find out more and submit your application here.

You can support the Escalator programme and under-represented writers as part of NCW’s Escalator Needs Your Help campaign.

Wandering Words, 2022

In late 2021 I had another of my unlikely ideas: what if we celebrated Norwich’s ten years as a UNESCO City of Literature through a combination of words, sound, and place? Several months later Wandering Words was born.

The project features newly commissioned poems by Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Andy Bennett, Piers Harrison-Reid, Hannah Levene and Jessica Streeting, all of whom have a connection to the fine city. A team of students from Access Creative College composed original, professional-standard sound pieces responding to the poems. Commissioned by Norfolk & Norwich Festival and National Centre for Writing, and curated and produced by me, Wandering Words launched online, in print and via in-person walking tours during the City of Literature festival 2022.

You can still enjoy and experience Wandering Words, both online and by picking up a map around the city. Whether you’re visiting Norwich for the day, or are looking for a new perspective on your local haunts, I wish you happy wandering.

International Literature Showcase, 2021

2021 saw me take on one of my biggest challenges to date: curating and producing the International Literature Showcase programme, alongside colleagues at British Council. Bringing together literature professionals from across the world with UK writers, the ILS facilitates new writing, best practice and international exchange in literature.

This was the first symposium I had run online and it presented a series of new logistical challenges. Luckily the brilliant company and creativity of our writers and delegates more than made up for the fact that we couldn’t all be in the same room together.

The commissioned articles, discussions, events and a keynote speech by the one and only Joy Francis offer incisive perspectives on where literature is now and where we might be headed. In particular I highly recommend this international look at innovation and enterprise in the sector with Molly Flatt, Goretti Kyomuhendo and Claire Mabey.

The ILS continues through a series of seed-funded projects pairing UK and overseas partners, and a forthcoming higher education resource pack. Find out more and access the ILS resources here.

The Writing Life podcast interviews

Last but not least, I’ve been lucky enough to interview many writers for NCW’s The Writing Life podcast. It’s impossible to choose a single favourite author or interview, but I’m especially proud of my interviews with Jenn Ashworth, Lynn Buckle and Kendel Hippolyte.

I’ve also been interviewed myself on the podcast about the NCW Book Club, which I started in 2020, and for my guide to getting your poetry published. Find out more and listen to the latest episodes of The Writing Life here.


It’s the end of an era for my time at National Centre for Writing, but a new chapter is just beginning. I will continue to innovate in literature and writer development as I build my freelance practice.

To book me for freelance work, commissions and events, please contact me on hello [at] floreynolds [dot] com or via the contact page.

To find out more about my work as a writer, facilitator and producer going forward, why not connect with me on Twitter or sign up for email updates:

Watch the launch of the other body

Back in 2021 I launched my debut poetry book, the other body, and I’m delighted that the launch is now available to relive and enjoy on YouTube.

It’s always nerve-wracking launching a book, and given the Covid-19 pandemic things were even stranger. We decided to launch online and to my surprise it really worked. Somehow Luke and Sarah at Guillemot Press managed to make the event feel intimate and creative, even though it was on Zoom! Big thanks to them both, as well as my co-launchers Petals and Clarissa, and the live audience who made it such a fun event to be a part of. I had some beautiful questions to answer from the audience and it was a pleasure to present my work in this way.

You can watch the event below or here – I hope you enjoy!

I wrote the book over the course of several years from about 2015. In it I explore ecology and how we as humans relate to different beings, including compost heaps, snails and slime moulds, to name just a few. At the heart of the book is the titular sequence of short, playful lyrics, although during the event I also enjoyed reading a couple of the longer single poems, including a real tongue-twister.

Over the past nine months it has been really exciting to see readers engage with my work in book form for the first time. The launch event was definitely one of my favourite readings I’ve ever done – though it won’t be the last!

I hope you enjoy the video of me reading of some of the poems. the other body is available for purchase via Guillemot Press. If you’d prefer a signed copy, I have a few copies left so please contact me to let me know you’d like one. I can ship anywhere in the world. And stay tuned for my online store coming soon, where you can purchase my work and resources for writers… watch this space!

the other body reviewed

Recently my debut poetry book, the other body, has received some good reviews. I’m really glad to know that it has connected with readers so far, and it’s fascinating to see the different facets and interpretations that people are picking up on.

Reviewing the other body on his blog, Billy Mills notices the search for a sense of wholeness, and (to my delight) engages with the use of Welsh language and myth in the book. Billy writes:

Reynolds’ work here is profoundly ecopoetic, an attempt to integrate the world in verse. […] This is my first encounter with their work, and I look forward to more.

You can read the rest of Billy’s review here.

Jennifer A. McGowan remarks on themes of bodies, love and divinity in Sphinx. She writes:

These are natural, scientific bodies, but the reader feels (at times uncomfortably) as if it’s their own body, too. The ‘you’ of ‘Hello Stranger’ becomes the ‘stranger of clay and cloth’, attempting to love — to make love, to construct it and examine it — in the forest. Doing so, the poet draws the reader (‘you’) into her poetic ‘I’; acknowledges the reader as an other, necessary, body.

You can read the rest of Jennifer’s review here.

Big thanks to both Billy and Jennifer for taking the time to share their readings of my book. the other body is available from Guillemot Press, and if you’d like to read it you can buy it here.

the other body out in the world

My debut book of poems, the other body, is now published and available from Guillemot Press.

Written in conversation with snails, slime moulds and spookfish, the other body sees me explore inter-species relationships and the ways in which the human body is inextricable from worlds beyond its perception. By turns playful and contemplative, the central sequence coalesces and disassembles into something like love poems, equally for creatures embodied in “tissue + rib + aura” and those whose forms are wondrously different.

The book has been beautifully designed and illustrated by Phyllida Bluemel, and features a ‘nibbled’ Tintoretto Ceylon front cover. Huge thanks to Phyllida and to Luke and Sarah of Guillemot for bringing the book to life!

I will be reading from the other body at a joint launch event with Petero Kalulé (petals) and Clarissa Álvarez on Thursday 14 October 2021. The event is free and takes place on Zoom. You can register your attendance here.

Project update: listening, waves, unfurling

Back in 2019 I wrote about my hopes for a new poetry project, which I called “that listening space” for the time being. I now call it CYMA, for ease, and as the project evolves. I thought I’d share an update on where scoping the project has taken me to date, and my plans for the next stages of researching and writing CYMA.

CYMA (swell, wave, curve, unfurling of young cabbage leaf) will be a poetic exploration of spatial sound in different media: the body, urban space, and the ecology of a richly historied coastal saltmarsh. The project is inspired by and will take the forms of the sonosphere – bubbles, fields, and waves of all kinds – investigating environmental sound as a way of knowing and voicing, and how listening remains possible when hearing is frustrated or silence pervades. The project will build on my abiding interests in bodies, ecology and systems, and challenges me to find ways to privilege the aural over the dominant visual in my writing and thinking.

This pandemic year has been both helpful and unhelpful to my process. Reduced traffic noise has made my urban listening more possible and pleasant; at the same time, I have been unable to get to my primary research site for months at a time. I’ve discovered the works of so many artists, those living and those who have gone before, engaging with listening in their work; it’s been impossible to meet fellow writers and researchers as usual. This feels particularly important for this project, which was begun in 2018 after a conversation with my friend Robbie about the work of Pauline Oliveros, and I’m really missing being surrounded by creativity and sharing ideas and processes with others.

That said, I have been able to attend online events that I wouldn’t usually have been able to get to, which has been fantastic. I’ve also taken solace in reading and writing more than ever before, returning to old favourites and reading genres that I wouldn’t usually choose. Reading about the fields of sound art, field recording and composition has been eye-opening. I’ve realised that it’s no mean feat to learn about a whole new discipline. Like everyone else, I’ve had no choice but to immerse myself in a sense of strangeness and disquiet. At least this feeling is exactly what first made me want to write about sound, space, my particularly eerie site and its military and surveillance history.

In terms of output, I’m generating a lot of notes as I scope out the project. When I begin the writing proper, this project will be very challenging and a real chance to step up my practice and skill. I will have to develop new methods and rhythms of researching, and to return to old ways that I haven’t exercised in a while. I will look at history, ecology, geology and physics, and use site specific writing, listening practices, field recordings and imagination to generate material.

I might also instigate a parallel practice of writing “letters to S” – a cipher standing for sine waves/ sound/ site/ signal/ space/ spirit. In these letters I will write to my subject about my process, research findings, as well as the “noise” of everyday life, and then “post” each letter into a sealed box. The letters will form a secret diary of the project that is secret even from myself, once I’ve forgotten what I’ve written in them. At the end of the project these signals will be received and incorporated into the final output(s) in some way.