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Helen joins the Academy

 October 17, 2014 | Simon Jenkins

Funded by a donor to create new work and interact with colleagues across the University, Helen Mort is the newest member of the Academy of Cultural Fellows.

“Poetry is something I have always loved,” says Helen. “I was an only child, so I grew up on my own. My mum used to read to me at bedtime, my dad was an English teacher and I used to listen to stories on the radio. These things have a formative influence.”

Her prize for winning a national writing prize at the age of 12 was to take part in a week-long residential poetry course: “That really started me off.”

After completing a degree in psychology, Helen combined these twin passions in PhD research into the relationship between neuroscience and poetry. “It was looking at the extent to which neuroscientists and poets are interested in the same thing – about how we think and how we process metaphors in the brain.”

A gift from alumnus Douglas Caster (Electronic and Electrical Engineering 1975) will now allow Helen to develop her writing as a Cultural Fellow in Poetry, working in the school of English and with a mission to bring poetry to the community. The Academy revives the tradition of the Gregory Fellowships, which saw a string of talented creative take up residence here in the post-war years.

Helen sees campus as a fertile ground for her creativity: “The University has wonderful poetry archives, and I want to write new work which responds to some of this material. I also want to establish links between writers in the University and those elsewhere in the city.

“I have spent a lot of time being extremely busy doing lots of things. The most exciting thing about this is that it will allow me to dedicate time and space to poetry.”

Helen joins the Academy