Bioregional Biography and the Geography of Affect: Spatialised Somnambulance in Alice Oswald's Sleepwalk on the Severn

Tom Bristow


At the centre of Oswald’s second book-length poem, Sleepwalk on the Severn (2009), lies a conflation of the feminine gendered moon and an elderly woman dressed in black, pictured against rainfall at night. Distinctions of kind and various senses of incongruence are evident markers in the text that denotes changeability of humans in the unfixed environment. It is with a sensitivity to our own understanding of the hydrologic cycle and our planet’s relation to its moon that Oswald deconstructs textual markers of subject positions; in Sleepwalk identity—individual and communal—is aligned to poetic voice, which in itself is impressionable and unfixed, subject to specific situations in which the text and space are imbricated, one with the other. This essay argues that environmentally emplaced affect can be located through an attention to Oswald’s concrete, spatialised ecopoetic ‘registers’ (voices) and an undulating, accumulative literary score that underpin Sleepwalk’s geographic imaginary.


Ecocriticism; contemporary poetry

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