An exploration of Fifty Words for Snow with a book signing with author Nancy Campbell.
A snow crystal is part of the endless cycle of the water molecule: from its six-cornered solid state it becomes liquid and then gas, and thus a snowflake that falls on the glaciers of the Rwenzori peaks in Africa might melt and evaporate and later freeze again and fall in the apple orchards of Kashmir, and melt again and fall fifty times and more. Just so, a single unit of meaning – one word for snow – offers an approach to new places, a clear path of understanding to travel forwards along.
Fifty Words for Snow covers the alphabet from avalanche (French) to zud (Mongolian). It is a compendium of worldwide winter words: from American Sign Language (via a story of snowboarding at the Deaflympics) and Hawaiian (how snow comes to the aid of environmentalists protesting a telescope on a sacred mountain) to Tibetan (the beautiful snow lotus, which is collected for its medicinal uses) and Russian (the sastrugi which bedevil explorers in Antarctica yet help them orient their steps). Nancy Campbell spots contemporary kunstschnee in movies such as Red Sparrow and Bladerunner 2, and discovers the legends surrounding Itztlacoliuhqui, the terrifying ancient Aztec god of Frost.
In this lyrical, evocative talk Nancy Campbell digs deep into the meanings, etymologies and mythologies of snow around the globe, demonstrating the many ways in which we are connected to one another and to our planet. Fifty Words for Snow (Elliott & Thomson, 2020) was a Waterstones non-fiction Book of the Month in The Bookseller and a Herald Christmas Book of 2020.
Nancy Campbell writes poetry, essays and non-fiction. A series of residencies with Arctic research institutions between 2010 and 2017 led to books including The Library of Ice, which was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2019, and Fifty Words for Snow. Within Europe, she has held Fellowships at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland, Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia in Germany and the University of Oxford. She received the Royal Geographical Society Ness Award 2020 and the Birgit Skiöld Award 2015, and is a former MarieClaire ‘Wonder Woman’.
Nancy’s first poetry collection Disko Bay was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2016 and the 2017 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. In 2018/19 she was appointed the UK’s Canal Laureate by the Canal & River Trust and The Poetry Society; the resulting poems were published as a pamphlet, Navigations.
Nancy began her career in letterpress studios in British Columbia and Brooklyn, and has created a number of limited edition books including How To Say ‘I Love You’ In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet. She is dedicated to developing innovative projects to engage audiences with environmental issues such as interactive live literature event The Polar Tombola. Her work has been generously supported by Arts Council England, The Arts Foundation, The Worshipful Company of Stationers, and the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust. She is a member of the Society of Authors and English PEN.
Nancy is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian, and many magazines. Bill Jacklin: Graphics, co-authored with Jill Lloyd, was published in 2016 to accompany the artist’s exhibition at the Royal Academy, and she has contributed essays to exhibition catalogues for the Royal Academy, Marlborough Fine Art, the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, and many other organisations in the UK and beyond. For some years the editor of international art magazine Printmaking Today, she remains on its editorial board. She has also co-edited issues of Oxford Poetry and Dark Mountain.
£27.50 per person to include mulled wine and a mince pie. Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm start.