On the Move – Helen Mort’s second Challenge created for Cape Farewell and the Poetry Society

Components for the hydrophone designed and built by Tam Treanor; used in ‘Fish for the Table’ (below)

The second of four Challenges from Switch 2014, created by Helen Mort for Cape Farewell and the Poetry Society.

Former Foyle Young Poet Helen Mort sets out her second poetry writing challenge, asking you to respond to Cape Farewell’s archive of photos, videos and blog posts.  Cape Farewell leads expeditions of artists, musicians, writers and scientists to places like the Arctic and the Amazon so they can see the effects of climate change close up and respond to it in their work.  Now you can add your voice by writing in response to the challenges.  Helen will be choosing her favourite poems to publish on this site and to win some particularly exciting prizes…

What does it feel like when the place you call ‘home’ changes? In the last challenge, we looked at how ice is disappearing and habitats are under threat. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are changing marine habitats for fish and altering aquatic ecosystems too. Climate change is changing fish distribution and affecting the fishing industry.

Listen to and watch Tam Treanor’s film ‘Fish for the Table’, recorded underwater as part of the Cape Farewell Sea Change Orkney-Shetland expedition 2013. You might want to listen to the sounds first without watching what’s happening on the screen. What do they make you think of?


Credit: Tam Treanor (www.tam-treanor.co.uk)

How do the strange sounds affect how you view the movement of the fishes? The sight of fish swimming or shoaling around each other is fairly familiar, but the sounds we hear them make are eerie and unfamiliar. Do you think the fish sound individually or as a group? Are they moving randomly or with purpose? Do the sounds make you think they are exploring, communicating, or trying to escape?

Writing your poem

Write a poem on the theme of ‘moving’.  It could be about moving to a new place, moving house, moving on or just about the movements we make every day.  You could draw inspiration from the artworks Helen has selected at the bottom of this page.  Think about how Tam’s film affects the senses, and try and capture some of this in your poem.

For the fish in captivity in Tam’s film, and the fish whose habitats are being altered by climate change, external forces are making them move in new and unnatural ways. In ‘Fish for the Table’, the animals swim round and round in a confined space, rather than being able to roam free. In the wild, fish may have to swim further and further to find the habitats they need. Think about what external forces are affecting the movement in your poem.

You might want to introduce the theme of sound into your poem, and consider what it adds to the atmosphere, as in Tam’s film. Watch it with and without sound and see how this alters the experience.


The winners of the four Cape Farewell challenges will have their poems set to music by famous composer David Julyan, who has written the musical scores for the films Memento and The Prestige, among many others! There will also be a special event to celebrate the poems and music in summer 2014. Winners will be published on the Young Poets Network and SWITCH websites, and there will be other goodies too.

Sending in your poems

This challenge is for poets aged 25 and under, from all over the world. The deadline is Sunday 23 March – but you can send in your poems any time before that too. Send as many poems as you like to educationadmin@poetrysociety.org.uk in the body of an email (not an attachment), with your name, age and address. We will add you to the Young Poets Network emailing list – please let us know if you’d rather we didn’t!

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985. Her collection Division Street is published by Chatto & Windus and has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. She has published two pamphlets with tall-lighthouse press, the shape of every box and a pint for the ghost, a Poetry Book Society Choice for Spring 2010. Five-times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, she received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. In 2010, she became the youngest ever poet-in-residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. Helen is also the new Derbyshire Poet Laureate.

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