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Poetry that finds new ground exploring scale

Associate professor Mina Gorji releases her new anthology 'Scale'

Cambridge Arts Round Up Episode 51 September 2022

In this edition of Cambridge Arts Round Up Simon Bertin visits poet Mina Gorji who talks on her work and her new anthology ‘Scale’ published this month; Kinaesthetic artist Chris Dobrowolski talks on his often large scale installations and on having imposter syndrome that often sparks creative ideas;  Cambridge University Scientific Historian and award winning author Patricia Fara tell us about women’s suffrage in the first world war and how women at Cambridge played a key part in changing the course of history; and Painter Peter Hawksby talks on Abstract art and what goes into one of his creations. 

Associate professor of English at Pembroke college Mina Gorji. 

At the volcano’s edge, in exilic space, at the bottom of the Arctic Sea, or in the acid clouds of Venus, Mina Gorji’s Scale traces life at its limits. The poems range across scales of distance, temperature and time, from vast to minute, glacial to volcanic, Pleistocene to present day, constellation to millipede. Adapting to the cold of a new continent opens a chromatic investigation of feeling. Shifting between scales, from insect to ancient star, Scale explores the forms, conditions and frequencies of survival.

Scale builds on the considerable achievement of Gorji’s first book, Art of Escape (2019). When it was selected for the Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Tristram Fane Saunders wrote about the ‘incisive clarity’ of Gorji’s work, calling one poem ‘perfection in miniature’.

Gorji’s poems feed into current ecological concerns, but in no conventional or clichéd way. Marina Warner described her poems as ‘building a place of safety – for herself, her family, her readers, and all those who are wandering and uprooted; her poetic methods take their cue from the many marvellous creatures she evokes and the multiple protective measures they adopt – nests, camouflage, mimicry, display. Above all, language can help create shelter.’

Kinaesthetic Artist Chris Dobrowolski has been artist in residence at the South pole with British Antarctic Survey


Non-Depictive Artist Peter Hawksby talks on abstract art at his studio in Norfolk street. 

Listen to the podcast Cambridge Arts Round Up Episode 51

Award winning author and Clare College scientific historian Patricia Fara on suffrage in the first world war 

Many extraordinary female scientists, doctors, and engineers tasted independence and responsibility for the first time during the First World War. How did this happen? Patricia Fara reveals how suffragists, such as Virginia Woolf’s sister, Ray Strachey, had already aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress, and that during the dark years of war they mobilized women to enter conventionally male domains such as science and medicine. Fara tells the stories of women such as: mental health pioneer Isabel Emslie, chemist Martha Whiteley, a co-inventor of tear gas, and botanist Helen Gwynne Vaughan. Women were now carrying out vital research in many aspects of science, but could it last?

Though suffragist Millicent Fawcett declared triumphantly that ‘the war revolutionised the industrial position of women. It found them serfs, and left them free’, the outcome was very different. Although women had helped the country to victory and won the vote for those over thirty, they had lost the battle for equality. Men returning from the Front reclaimed their jobs, and conventional hierarchies were re-established even though the nation now knew that women were fully capable of performing work traditionally reserved for men.

Fara examines how the bravery of these pioneer women scientists, temporarily allowed into a closed world before the door clanged shut again, paved the way for today’s women scientists. Yet, inherited prejudices continue to limit women’s scientific opportunities.

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