Launched in June 2016, Gull is a print and web zine of minimal ecocentric poetry and prose, as well as occasional artwork. It seeks to foster and develop a sense of care and ethical concern for the environments which we call home.
Open to work from poets and artists around the world, each issue also aims to feature at least one contributor from Kent, Gull's home county in the UK. This allows the zine to engage a global community of writers, while at the same time maintaining, and developing, a sense of its own ecology and place.
Each issue is very small, with the print edition covering just two sides of an A4 page. The digital edition is identical in content to the print, but appears in a format suited to reading on a computer or mobile device.
Copies of the print version are mailed to all contributors unless otherwise requested, and are also distributed around various shops, restaurants and bars in Gull's hometown of Folkestone, Kent, in the UK. It is hoped that by putting the zine in local spaces, homes, and hands it may help to further develop a locally connected community of people with overlapping ideas about the environment and our relationship to it.
If you would like to distribute Gull in your local area, whether by hand or by leaving the zine in local spaces, please feel free to contact the editor for master pdfs which you will be able to print, fold, and disseminate in whatever quantity you wish. Email info [at] gullzine.com.
At the inaugural issue's launch event in June 2016, a short talk was given on the ideas Gull hopes to embody, the issues which it seeks to address, and the kind of work it showcases. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of that talk.
Gull is about connection. Connection with our natural world, and everything that comes with that connection. The question Gull asks is, how do we find that connection? And the answer it gives is the writing (and sometimes art) that fills its pages. But what kind of writing is that? The poet Harriet Tarlo calls it “located writing”. This, she says, is writing that requires “an intimate observation of and involvement with a particular place” and that “clings to its hold on the local and physical world; it is 'from here'”.
So, Gull is about connecting us to nature, but not just to any nature. It is about connecting us to nature that is local, that is from here. Gull wants to help show that there are things worth paying attention to everywhere, including right here, on each of our own doorsteps. This is meant quite literally – see how far from your front door you must travel before you see a plant breaking up through the pavement or hanging out of a wall that you've never really looked at before.
But why should we want to connect? For me, the editor, there are so many reasons. I feel a sense of belonging, I feel I am part of something bigger than myself, I feel peaceful and relaxed in nature. And, after all, to quote the poet and artist Thomas A Clark, it seems that “if we have been given the gift of the world, the very least we can do in return is to give it our attention”.
But there are other reasons too, reasons for us all. More and more studies are showing that green spaces are good for our wellbeing, that time spent in nature is beneficial to our mental health, that schools with green surroundings have better student performance, and that the more surrounded we become by ourselves, the more urbanised our lifestyles, the higher our stress levels get and the more susceptible to mental illness we are.
It would appear, then, that it's unhealthy to spend all of our time in a built environment. To quote Thomas A Clark once more, “you can either hold up a mirror to the life you lead, or you can knock down a building and open a horizon”. After looking in the mirror at the lives we are leading, it seems that knocking down buildings to open new horizons is the natural antidote.
Being connected isn't just about us, as desiring humans, though. It is about everything else that lives. We are part of a living community, but what we aren't connected to we find it hard to care about. This has led to what is now being called the 6th great extinction in earth's history (the last great extinction wiped out the dinosaurs), and is also currently leading us headlong into climate change. Gull wants to make us more aware of our environment so that we connect with it and can start to care for it more.
This connection can come about in many ways, and one way is poetry. That's not just a case of writing whatever we feel, but of learning about our environments so we can write about them. Poetry is a broad practice and involves more than just moving a pen across paper. The famed American poet and essayist Gary Snyder says in interview
"First you have to learn about where you live. [This] means knowing what the native plants are … You have to know where your rivers and your creeks are; that is to say, be aware of the water shed … One of the ways that you do all of this is you get out and go for walks or ride your bicycle, and you have a flower book, a bird book and several other books so that you will know the trees and the plants."
Through such a writing practice, of getting out, being aware, learning, we also start to become more intimate and familiar with our place, our environment. We begin to connect, and connection is the start of caring. Small things, even individual plants that we begin to notice every day, can take on significance for us. Connection is an art of noticing, of giving attention. We know this in our own lives already – it is how we become friends and how we fall in love.
All this might seem a lot to fit into such a tiny publication, but there are actually advantages to working on this scale. Minimal kinds of poetry and prose may offer something different to their longer alternatives. Keeping things short can help to focus our attention, perhaps encouraging more acute observation. And being shorter does not always mean having less to say or carrying less weight. Indeed, often the opposite is true. Sometimes we say too much, and it is easy to end up drowning the world in words, losing the world in the process. The Irish novelist, Flann O'Brien (real name Brian O'Nolan), sums up the advantages of this perspective in his book At Swim-Two-Birds, where he writes “A wise old owl once lived in a wood, the more he heard the less he said, the less he said the more he heard, let's emulate that wise old bird”.
To end, here's another quote from Gary Snyder that sums up the over all aim of Gull perfectly:
"Doom scenarios, even though they might be true, are not politically or psychologically effective. The first step, I think, and that's why it's in my poetry, is to make us love the world rather than to make us fear for the end of the world. Make us love the world, which means the nonhuman as well as the human, and then begin to take better care of it."
some poets, writers, & artists we admire
A completely incomplete list in absolutely no order... If you feel your work sits somewhere within or around the web of writing below, or if you happen to be one of the names in that web, then we want to hear from you!
Gary Snyder = Lorine Niedecker = Wendell Berry = Kenneth Rexroth = Peter Matthiessen = Annie Dillard = Jay Griffiths = Robert Macfarlane = Hayden Carruth = David Abrams = J A Baker = Henry David Thoreau = Nan Shepherd = A R Ammons = Matsuo Basho = Kobayashi Issa = William Carlos Williams = Bob Arnold = H.D. = Han Shan = Robert Lax = Harriet Tarlo = Thomas A Clark = Alec Finlay = Gerry Loose = Autumn Richardson = Richard Skelton = John Martone = Wendy Mulford = Peter Larkin = Kathleen Jamie = Mark Goodwin = Ian Hamilton Finlay = Peter Blue Cloud
Chris Poundwhite has been reading, writing, and thinking about ecocentric poetry and prose for nearly a decade. His poems have been published in a number of print and online journals and magazines, and he has taught poetry workshops at various festivals including the Winchester Writers' Festival. He also served on the committee of the British Haiku Society from 2009-2017. A lover of the wild and writing inspired by it, he recently started a business teaching courses and workshops on ecopoetry called Go to the Pine. You can find him on twitter under @chrispoundwhite.