‘Can you stomach it?’ ‘Do you have the guts?’ This month there’s a fire in our bellies as we take on the topic of guts in the latest Dragon Hall Debate.
Guts and digestion crop up in our colloquial phrases in all sorts of ways. In recent years the importance of gut flora for health, and even the possibility that the gut might be a ‘second brain’ have all become part of our public discourse around health. So what can the experts tell us about the gut? Here, our three speakers – poet Tiffany Atkinson, scientist Lindsay Hall and journalist Tim Hayward – share their work in this area, taking on everything from our social history, the microbiome, and how the gut has been represented in our culture.
How poetry can help us articulate the body – even the embarrassing bits
Tiffany Atkinson is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is the editor of a theoretical textbook, The Body: A Reader (2003), and has strong research interests in the medical humanities, especially the history of anatomy and representations of the body. ‘Dolorimeter’, a poetic sequence exploring representations of pain, illness and recovery, won the 2014 Medicine Unboxed Prize, and her fourth collection of poems, Lumen, will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2020. She is currently working on a series of critical essays about ‘the poetics of embarrassment’.
Listen to Tiffany’s reading of her award-winning poetry sequence, ‘Dolorimeter’.
How microbiota could help us develop new therapies
Dr Lindsay Hall is interested in the interactions between the host and its microbiota in early life. Her research group at the Quadram Institute seeks to understand the role that the early life microbiota plays in regulating immune responses – during health and in diseases such as IBD – to help in the design of new therapies.
There’s also this interview with local charity The Big C, which explores some of Lindsay’s groundbreaking research into how the gut could hold the key to new cancer therapies.
How social history has shaped the language we use to talk about our guts
Tim Hayward is a writer, columnist and broadcaster. He has published several books including Food DIY (2012) and the bestselling Knife: The Cult, Craft and Culture of the Cook’s Knife (2016) which has now been translated into eight languages. He’s a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet and has also written and presented several radio documentaries, most recently the highly successful, five part Gut Instinct (2018).
Tim’s series for Radio 4, Gut Instinct, takes in the social history of the gut as well as the language we use to talk about it.
You can find out more about Tim’s writing and career at his website.