Artist in Residence: Nalini Paul

NALINI PAUL

Nalini Paul’s poetry is inspired by natural landscapes, walks and memory. Born in India, she grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and has been living in Scotland for most of her adult life. She is widely published and has collaborated across various art forms, including stage and film.

She was George Mackay Brown Writing Fellow in Orkney from 2009 until 2010, where she worked with dancers, musicians, visual artists, archaeologists and the RSPB.

Her first poetry pamphlet, Skirlags, was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Award in 2010.

Her collection, The Raven’s Song (2015) is inspired by raven and crow myths from Orkney, Shetland and Canada.

Nalini’s poetic work for stage with Stellar Quines Theatre Company, Beyond the Mud Walls, is set partly in 1940s India and was showcased for ‘Rehearsal Rooms’ at the Traverse, Edinburgh, in September 2016. She was a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow in 2017, spending a month at Grez-sur-Loing, France working on her poetry partly inspired by The Bhagavad Gita.

Nalini undertook a residency in Lewis and Kolkata as part of the ‘New Passages’ project (2017-18), exploring connections between India and Scotland. She currently tutors and lectures at Glasgow School of Art.

LANGUAGE, LOSS AND IDENTITY: AN EXPLORATION OF ORKNEY/HIGHLAND STORIES AND MYTHS

I will be exploring the use of ritual in relation to punishment and reward; and whether these bred myths around regeneration and transformation. Was there a hierarchy of language, which enabled power over individuals/groups? Was there a form of subversion against this domination? (If this is before written language, we can never ‘know’, but we can imagine.)

The framework may be based on oral histories/stories, myths, etc (as opposed to ‘history’).

The research could look at myths and stories connected to wells in Pictish Scotland (the one in Burghead may have been used for ritual drownings). Look for connections between these stories and the raven and crow myths which I have explored in my poetry collection, The Raven’s Song (2015), in terms of transformation.


I am currently working on an extended piece of fiction (which may include poetry at some stage), exploring the loss of language and literacy, communication, landscape, memory and belonging.

Through metaphor, it aims to subvert existing hierarchies and narratives (of coloniser over colonised subject) by giving voice to the voiceless female protagonist. The landscape (both imagined and lived/real) forms an integral part of the character’s identity.

By focussing on specific physical details of that landscape, one is reminded of the loss of natural spaces (both micro and macro); and I wish to explore the individual’s connection to ‘natural’ landscapes through sensory perceptions and materiality. The physical nature of the landscape (and potentially it’s ‘thingness’) that gives life to the character, echoing the fragility and complexity of the individual and her natural environment.

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