Writer and poet Jenna Clake, who is based at Teesside University, writes about how she hopes to help support and promote ORCA's work at the charity's first "Writer in Residence"
When I travelled to Iceland a few years ago, I was somewhat ignorantly struck by how a country that generates its income from tourist activities focusing on its nature and wildlife – especially whale-watching – also eats the very same creatures it adores.
This dichotomy – of wanting to watch the whales in their natural habitat, then walk off the boat into a restaurant to eat one – has stayed with me since. As humans, we have a very interesting relationship to the animals we admire and then eat – we do, of course, admire cows or sheep in a field, then go home to eat them – but our relationship to whales is, I think, quite unique.
I am a poet and lecturer based at Teesside University, having recently relocated from Birmingham. My work so far has been more concerned with domestic situations, looking closely at human relationships. Having moved up north, and now being close to the sea, my thoughts about my trip to Iceland have been a more prominent. I have seen the whale bone arch at Whitby, read about the North-East’s whaling trade. Whales seem – in a delightful and imperative way – impossible to forget about here.
Reports show that PCB levels are dangerously high in our oceans, and that the UK’s last pod of orcas is in severe jeopardy. We have a matter of years to tackle climate breakdown. What can a poet do? I have been thinking.
I am delighted to be working with ORCA as its Writer in Residence. During my residency, I want collaborate with ORCA to write poems that explore our relationship with whales, draw attention to the changes we – as individuals and groups – can make to cetacean conservation.
In the same way I have been asking, what can a poet do?, you might be asking, what can I as an individual do? I hope to provide some answers, or some thoughts. I will also be developing writing workshops with ORCA, to help us think about the ways we might approach conservation and pollution.
I hope that being ORCA’s Writer in Residence will be a positive step towards improving cetacean conservation; I hope you will enjoy following (and perhaps joining) me on this journey.