An acclaimed poet who co-founded a collective of British writers of South Asian origin has followed Wordsworth on a Lakes’ literary journey with a difference.
In a unique University of Cumbria commission, Dr Reshma Ruia answered the call to black, Asian and ethnic minority authors to explore the idea of ‘belonging’ in a pioneering poetry residency based at bard’s Rydal home.
The university’s associate professor of English Literature, Dr Penny Bradshaw, said the appointment was exciting and would lead to ‘a more diverse engagement’ with the famed backdrops of literature’s great Romantic era.
Born in India, brought up in Italy and based near Manchester, Dr Ruia said she was elated and fortunate to be given the opportunity to explore and expand Wordsworth’s thinking around the relationship between people and nature as ‘a dynamic, constantly changing dialogue’.
She added: “I think he would be intrigued and pleased this same conversation is taking place in another period with someone from a different cultural heritage.
“We live in a multicultural society that celebrates inclusivity and diversity. This is very apparent in urban areas, but lacking in rural Britain.
“We need more Asian and black writers and poets to interact with the countryside, bringing freshness of vision and imagination.
“Landscapes need to be reinvigorated and re-examined through new sets of eyes. I wanted to get out, feel the place, physically and spiritually, walking, absorbing scenery, connecting with surroundings.
“My life is filled with noise and people. This solitude has helped distil my thoughts. I hope it will open doors and make this beautiful area feel more accessible and less daunting to Asian and black writers.”
Dr Bradshaw said the commission was an important step for the university and was thrilled to have worked in partnership with Rydal Mount in offering the residency at Wordsworth’s beloved family home.
She added: “Wordsworth described the Lake District as ‘a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and an interest’.
“However, recent reports and public reviews show many ethnic groups feel disconnected from national parks and rural areas.
“This project aims to show the potential literature has to help redress the balance.
“It’s particularly poignant that Rydal Mount’s curator, Leo Finighan, recently studied on the University of Cumbria’s literature MA and shared the beautiful home and five-acre garden with Reshma.
“She has been exploring mountain pathways, Loughrigg, Nab Scar and so many of the poet’s old haunts.”
Dr Ruia, who lives in Altrincham, cofounded The Whole Kahani.
Her Lakes’ poetry will be published initially on the university’s Centre for National Parks and Protected Area’s website.