Book cover shows a mosaic of green tiles and orange circle representing an iris.

Author: Katrina Porteous (Trinity Hall 1979)

Publisher: Bloodaxe Books

330 million years ago, what is now the rocky shore close to Katrina Porteous’s Northumberland home was a tropical swamp inhabited by three-metre long predatory fish with huge tusk-like teeth. They belonged to a family of lobe-finned fishes which evolved to move on land as well as swim, and which are the ancestors of all four-limbed vertebrates, including humans. The fossil fish found in Northumberland is called the ‘rhizodont’.

Porteous’s new poetry collection begins with a lovingly-observed contemporary journey through these ancient landscapes, from the former coal-mining communities of the Durham coast, to the Northumberland shores where the rhizodont’s remains were found. Against a backdrop of vast geological time and recent fossil-fuel burning history, these poems address current issues of social and environmental change. They are followed by two sequences about aspects of the latest technological revolution – autonomous systems and AI, and the remote-sensing techniques used to explore the most inaccessible reaches of our planet, Antarctica, to measure Earth’s changing climate.

‘Rhizodont’ is Katrina Porteous's fourth poetry collection from Bloodaxe Books, and extends territory explored in her three previous books. It combines scientific themes from ‘Edge’ (2019) with the ecological localism of ‘Two Countries’ (2014) and ‘The Lost Music’ (1996), both of which were concerned with the landscapes and communities of North-East England.

Katrina Porteous is a poet and historian based on the Northumberland coast and a former Harkness Fellow at Berkeley and Harvard Universities (1982-84). She is particularly known for her radio-poetry and her work in Northumbrian dialect: she is President of the Northumbrian Language Society. Her second poetry collection from Bloodaxe, ‘Two Countries’ (2014), was shortlisted for the Portico Prize for Literature 2015, and her third, ‘Edge’ (2019), was based on three collaborations with electronic composer Peter Zinovieff for Life Science Centre Planetarium, Newcastle. Her work has been set by Kristina Arakelyan for the BBC Proms (‘Whin Lands’, 2023). In 2021 she received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors.

Publication date: 
Thursday 27 June 2024

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