Coastal Habitats

Reflections by kin'd & kin'd

What does it mean to be harmless?

Nautilus, I feel I know you

   With your edge of brightness, cellular

      A tiny pulse along the continuum of epochs

         Living at the margin of your own making

Epochal line ___________________________

            Expanding your presence in buoyancy

               Risking ruin in translation

                  Water-born transubstantiation


By Catherine Craig

All the poems here are by course participants


We are kin’d & kin’d, a composite eco-poet, two people who write and run eco-poetry courses together. Our latest course, over six weeks, took place on the ONCA Barge in the Brighton Marina, and also at Paradise Park, Newhaven, which hosts the Planet Earth Museum (housing a unique collection of fossils, minerals and crystals up to 500m years old), a botanic garden, models of Sussex landmarks, and crazy golf, giant models of roaring dinosaurs, a miniature train…Here, twelve of us sat in the Park’s classroom on brightly-coloured children’s chairs at low tables in front of a dinosaur mural – that and riding round and round on the tiny train, kept us humans appropriately small in relation to the non-human. 

The ironic title of our course was Coastal Habitats – ironic because we were only partially concerned with the actual strand or wrack line on the local beaches; our interest was in the metaphor of the wrack line, in particular, where the human and non-human meet. We did explore the wrack line on West Beach, Newhaven, with marine naturalist Steve Homewood – its rich complexity encapsulated in this piece by a course participant:

Wrack means wreck and speaks to the broken things snapped by the tide. All comes to wrack and ruin on the strand line – shells, shingle, ships, wrecked and wrecking, eroding by tides, shrinking, to sand, to sediment; to smaller and smaller versions of themselves, becoming the larger whole: the seabed; battered monuments beneath the seabed. A new ecosystem crushed from the bones of the old. […]

The debris of human occupation washes up on the wrack line too, the frayed ends of Industry, waste lost overboard. What nature leaves upon the wrack line is ground by  the sea into new land, undergoin sedimentation of the sea floor; what humans leave upon the wrack line, cannot be ground down so easily.

From ‘Wrack and Wreckage’, Annalie Seaman


Our Paradise Park location – being so near both the Newhaven incinerator (aka the Energy Recovery Facility) and Veolia’s vast waste metal sorting centre on the banks of the River Ouse – also evoked ideas of dystopia. We had tried to arrange a tour of the incinerator, but were told it was impossible, so, thanks to Rhoda Funnell and the Newhaven Rowing Club, our poets were rowed across what became the River Styx to view the incinerator’s great glass dome and slender chimneys (‘the alchemists’ palace / hungry for prams and unworn trousers’ [from ‘Crossing the River Wastes’, Ruth Lawrence]). Beauty and horror in the scale of our waste and the scale of our denialism and our greenwashing. As another of our poets wrote – ‘Waste is dirty / Waste is business / Waste is commodity / Waste is energy.’ How our desires and needs come up against what is required to fulfil them. What we take and what have left over; how we can conceive of ‘refrainment’ – how we can use less and what there can be more of.

Similarly, the dark lower deck of the Barge became the abyss and the upper deck, Paradise – underwater and in air, although light can always be found in the dark. Here, light was in the form of a volunteer Greenpeace speaker, Jamie Smith, who talked to us about efforts to stop the hugely destructive bottom trawling off the Sussex coast – we listened whilst wrapped, like trapped fish, in black netting. Later, we took a boat  trip to the Rampion Windfarm – to sway among the 116 turbines in a sea which is now a nature reserve, full of black bream.


Windfarm Form Whirrl’d Windel-Wondel  Marina Marinations


The silhouette wrestling rod and line 

 Skims the vacuous depth  

Pollution filled fish to fry


Barnacles rest on rust crusts  

A cormorant or shag hangs out to dry


Powder pink Valerie Jean’s wake  

Glitters a herringbone swell 

 But no roar of tidal pebbles grate


Barnacles rest on rust crusts  

A cormorant or shag hangs out to dry


Human egos effect margin-gate 

 Profits gain a glazed paradise  

Aglow in aqueous polyester


Barnacles rest on rust crusts 

 A cormorant or shag hangs out to dry

By Lola Bunbury-Davies


Towards and away from paradise, from dystopia – the concepts of towardness and awayness encompassed travel – how folks were carried, to the Barge, the Park, the beach – by train, bus, car, motorboat – the in-between journeys so often taken for granted: 

The boat rows forward

I look back and see where I’ve been

The Elysium Fields I head towards

Are the fields I’ve lived in

I’m being rowed toward awayness.

 From ‘Towardness-Awayness’, Patrick Crawford


Coastal Habitats – the whole crashing muddle of a tide with everything rushing up and leaving, taking and leaving, meeting and changing. Leaving questions and thoughts, new feelings and understandings, a place for imagination, care, sharing, giving. – and some new eco-poetry manifestos: ‘Enjoy unseen energies, follow the thermal / Break the hermetic, mimetic seal of capitalism / Underscore the power value of the dung beetle’  (from ‘Hagifesto Womanfesto, Lola Bunbury-Davies)

A wrack line

in poetry 

a distilled attention –

to wonder-see

among the contradictions.


To find out about further courses, see @kaysyrad or @clarewhistler on Instagram or write to to get on our mailing list.