Riddler in Residence: Green Words Poetry Anthology

Green Words Poetry Anthology

Explore nature-themed poems written by people from the local community and curated by Riddler in Residence Aly Stoneman. The poems celebrate urban nature and wildlife in Exeter Cathedral’s green spaces and beyond.

The groves burst with blossom, towns become fair, 
meadows grow green, the world revives’ 

‘The Seafarer’, The Exeter Book (about 970AD), translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland
(The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology, P.54)*

The Riddler in Residence Project is kindly supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

*‘The Seafarer’ (MS 3501) is an Old English poem written down in The Exeter Book (about 970AD), which is preserved in Exeter Cathedral. Epigraph from The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology, edited and translated by Kevin Crossley Holland, Oxford University Press, 2009. 

Welcome to this collection of poetry, curated by Exeter Cathedral Riddler in Residence Aly Stoneman. The Riddler in Residence is one of a series of projects, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, welcoming all people to participate in creative heritage activities at the Cathedral and out in the local community. We have been particularly pleased to partner with St Petrock’s, our neighbours on Cathedral Green, on this project. St Petrock’s supported us to offer ten weeks of creative writing sessions to people experiencing homelessness, giving them space to tell their own stories.

The title Riddler in Residence is inspired by the riddles contained in The Exeter Book, the oldest book of English Literature in the world, which has been in the Cathedral since the 11th Century. Alongside the (sometimes bawdy) riddles, the Exeter Book features epic poems like The Seafarer and The Wanderer with themes of loneliness, exile and the passage of time that are still resonant today, particularly for those without a home.

There will be four Riddler residencies over the course of the Heritage Fund project, each with a different theme. Nature and the environment are the themes for the current Riddler, linking in with the work the Cathedral is doing to increase biodiversity in our public and private spaces. The green spaces around Exeter Cathedral are used by thousands of people every year for solitude and socialising. It is here we gather to mark important national moments and small, personal ones. The rhythms of the year, marked inside the Cathedral by the liturgical calendar, are mirrored outside by the cycles of nature as the leaves bud and fall. These poems, created as part of the Riddler residency or submitted to our call out, highlight the abundance of nature in the green spaces around the Cathedral and beyond. They tell stories of beauty, murder, theft, growth, decay and more, each writer interpreting the theme with their own focus and in their own style.

We hope you enjoy this anthology. If you are inspired by what you read, then keep an eye on the Cathedral Events and Engaging Communities pages on our website for future Riddler residencies and other creative opportunities.

We are particularly grateful to the Heritage Fund for their support; to Bishop Robert Attwell and Sarah Ball for facilitating access to the Bishop’s Palace Garden for creative writing workshops; to St Petrock’s staff and clients for their willingness to engage with this process and to the many writers who responded to the call and produced such thought provoking, wonderful words.

Lis Spencer
Community Outreach and Partnerships Officer at Exeter Cathedral

Anthology Introduction

Exeter Cathedral Green Words Anthology and Map brings together and locates new poems, riddles and hand-made prints inspired by Exeter Cathedral’s green spaces and the relationship between human culture and the natural world in Exeter and beyond, created by people from the local community and further afield.

Some of these poems germinated during weekly ‘Wandering Words’ sessions with service users at St Petrock’s, who are experiencing homelessness; others sprouted during poetry workshops held both in and around Exeter Cathedral, and as part of Exeter Science Centre’s ‘Climate Exhibition’, where participants examined ways in which people can have a positive impact for our planet in our time of climate crisis. Poems and riddles from The Exeter Book (written around 970AD), which is kept in Exeter Cathedral, offered a rich stimulus for new writing. Contributors also submitted work in response to an open call for new poems on the project theme. Prints were created in the Double Elephant print workshop by members, and also by some of the poets who made illustrations to accompany their poems.

Over the following pages, you may accompany people from all walks of life – gardeners, students, volunteers, teachers, clergy, scientists, printmakers and more – on a shared journey through The Bishop’s Palace Garden (an enclosed ‘secret’ garden that is occasionally open to the public), the Cathedral Green (a popular open space where wildlife and human lives overlap), and Exeter Cathedral (with its superb nature-inspired carvings), then out into the city of Exeter and the world beyond – for everything explored in these poems is happening in a global context.

I hope that you will enjoy reading these poems, viewing the prints, and answering the riddles as much as I have done while editing and compiling this anthology. I am grateful to everyone involved in Green Words for welcoming me back home to Exeter and into the Riddler role, and for contributing to this project and supporting it with so much energy and enthusiasm.

Aly Stoneman, Riddler-In-Residence, Exeter Cathedral (July–November 2023)

Aly Stoneman grew up in Exeter, Devon. Her writing explores the relationship between people and the natural world in a climate crisis. She was founding Poetry Editor at LeftLion Magazine, a winner of The Poetry Society Members Competition [2022] and the Buxton Poetry Prize [2015], and a commissioned poet for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature [2020]. She is the author of Lost Lands [Crystal Clear, 2012] and her poems have appeared in various journals including Poetry News and Under The Radar. Her doctoral research on coastal erosion poetry was funded by an AHRC Midlands3Cities award [2016-2021].

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Exeter Cathedral Team and Riddler-in-Residence Aly Stoneman would like to thank all our Green Words project partners and creative sessions hosts for their support: St Petrock’s, Exeter, with special thanks to Sarah and Tony; Double Elephant Printmakers, with special thanks to Simon Ripley; Exeter Science Centre, with special thanks to Dr Alice Mills and Dr Ross Castle; Exeter College, with special thanks to Maria Rose.

Thank you so much to all our wonderful writers and printmakers who have contributed to this publication (in alphabetical order):

Poets: Amy Adkin, Swarnim Agrawal, Philippa Barfield, Sarah Bartrum, Isabella Beckett-Smith, Kitty Carter, Canon Cate, Nathan Maxwell Cann, John Chrimes, Clare, Micha Colombo, Anabelle Denney, Si Egan, Catherine Flavelle, Theo French, Gabriel, Rebekah Horton, Chris Jackson, Emma Jackson, Lou Jones, Eleanor Konings, André de Mendonça, Leslie Moss, David Newman, Tom O’Connor, Canon Deborah Parsons, Anwen Phillips, P.J. Reed, Ven Nick Shutt, Simon, Riley Smallman, Rod Stacy-Marks, Srijani Rupsha Mitra, Carlin Steere, St Petrock’s ‘Wandering Words’ Group, Tim Toghill, Vasile, James Wilkes, Jules Young.

Printmakers: Lynn Bailey, Pippa Barfield, Lisa Dillon-Langhorn, Linda Dowsett, Sarah Furby, Cathy King, Louise Neilson, Simon Ripley, Joanne Roper, Karen Waterlow.

We are particularly grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support; and to Bishop Robert Attwell and Sarah Ball for facilitating access to the Bishop’s Palace Garden for creative writing workshops.

Finally, we would like to thank everyone who supported the Green Words project, took part in our public creative sessions, contributed their stories, and shared their hopes and ideas for a greener future.