Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

One of Owen Sheers’ selected writers for the International Literature Showcase


“Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s The Grassing is a literary deep dive like no other – a memoir of family, place, ecology and identity that pushes language to its limits as she journeys back, via a single field in Devon, through her personal heritage and into the stories of the soil itself. This is a work of illuminating grace and observation that offers us glimpses of new ways to know ourselves and to be – “To help ourselves we must help the soil.”’

– Owen Sheers

English-Kenyan writer whose creative and critical work explores environmental themes.

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett is an author and academic whose creative and critical work has a largely environmental focus. Publications include the poetry collections Of Sea (2021) and Swims (2017), both from Penned in the Margins; nature writing memoir The Grassling (Penguin, 2019) and monograph A Social Biography of Contemporary Innovative Poetry Communities: The Gift, the Wager and Poethics (Palgrave, 2017). She is a Leverhulme Research Fellow (2021-2), researching ‘Creative Writing and Climate Change: Developing a New Wetlands Literature,’ a nature diarist for Oh magazine and the Guardian, founder of Grow Your Own Creativity and Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Northumbria University.

Listen to the Gurardian Books podcast

‘Burnett is one of the UK’s most original poets of the nonhuman world, and of our environmental moment. Innovative, dazzling, affecting poems that shimmer with intellectual acuity and emotional resonance.’ – Rebecca Tamas

‘A subtle, moving celebration of place and connectedness . . . The Grassling brings the sounds, smells and sights of the countryside alive like few other books. Burnett stretches the limits of prose, infusing it with poetic intensity to create a powerful, original voice . . . Her prose is both sinuous and knotty, stretching language to capture what is often beyond words, while slowing down the process of reading, allowing us to savour them.’ – PD Smith, Guardian

‘Exquisite . . . needs to be savoured slowly, and then read again. Burnett is breaking new ground as a mixed-heritage English/Kenyan woman connecting so deeply to the historic land of her father’s family in the West Country.’ – Bernardine Evaristo

‘Burnett manages the delicate feat of maintaining our sense of reverence for the nebulous Anglo-Saxon romanticism…, but twins it with astute scientific nous which never strays into the esoteric. She does this with such joy that we cannot help but want to join in… a heartening read.’ – Stephanie Sy-Quia, The Quietus 2019-04-27

‘With a blend of poetry, memoir and a uniquely experimental, sensory style of nature writing, The Grassling celebrates the lusciousness of both land and language … Ideas that might in a lesser writer have seemed whimsical are grounded by the rich layers of Burnett’s prose. – TLS

‘A poetic, lyrical tribute to the earth beneath our feet . . . Burnett is one of the freshest voices in the current crop of nature writers.’ – Countryfile

‘This astonishingly beautiful ode to the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside . . . [evokes] a richly immersive sense of the natural world and our place within it.’ – Country Living

‘I am delighted to have been selected for the International Literature Showcase and to bring light on diverse voices in nature writing and experimental work.’




Poetry Collections

  • Of Sea (Penned in the Margins, 2021)
  • Swims (Penned in the Margins, 2017)

Poetry Pamphlets

  • Letters (Periplum, forthcoming 2020)
  • Rivering (Oystercatcher, 2019)
  • oh-zones (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2012)
  • Exotic Birds (wordland press, 2010; audio published by Reality Street, 2015)
  • THIS IS MY ECONOMY: slam poems for quiet people (wordland press, 2010)
  • Her Body: The City (wordland press, 2009; audio published by Sad Press, 2009)
  • Roses: a hypertext poem (Pores, 2006)

‘Spring: An Inventory,’ poetry commission for The National Trust/AHRC, April 2021

Nature Writing Memoir

  • The Living Light (Penguin, forthcoming)
  • The Grassling (Penguin, 2019)

Short Film

  • M, a film on John Clare by Brian Shields, feat. my poetry and performance (Trigger Happy Entertainment, 2015)


  • ‘All I Care: Distant Touch’ (BALTIC gallery/Wellcome Trust, 2020)
  • ‘Green Memoir,’ The Verb (BBC Radio 3, 2020)
  • ‘Poetry for the Summer Solstice,’ Woman’s Hour (BBC Radio 4, 2019)
  • ‘From the Source: Swimming the Avon,’ The Essay (BBC Radio 3, 2019)
  • ‘Insects,’ The Verb (BBC Radio 3, 2019)
  • ‘Hunting the Earl,’ The Essay (BBC Radio 3, 2018
  • ‘Reflecting Rural Life,’ Free Thinking (BBC Radio 3, 2018)
  • ‘Wild Swimming with Philip Hoare & Elizabeth-Jane Burnett,’ Free Thinking (BBC Radio 3, 2017)
  • ‘Soil Stories,’ Free Thinking (BBC Radio 3, 2017)


Featured in:

  • 100 Poems to Save the Earth, eds. Zoe Brigley Thompson and Kristian Evans (Seren, 2021)
  • EU Peat Anthology, RE-PEAT 2020
  • They Said, A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing, eds. Simone Muench and Dean Radar (Black
  • Lawrence Press, 2018)
  • Breaking Ground: Celebrating Writers of Colour (Speaking Volumes, 2017)
  • Out of Everywhere 2, Linguistically innovative poetry by women in North America & the UK, ed. Emily Critchley (Reality Street, 2015)
  • Dear World and Everyone In It, ed. Nathan Hamilton (Bloodaxe, 2013)


  • Poetry installation at Becoming Plant, curated by Camilla Nelson for Planet Love: Climate Care in the Digital Age, Vienna Biennale, 2021
  • Poetry in The UK Anthology Series, RE-PEAT, 2021
  • Poetry installation at The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish: The Understory of the Understory, Serpentine Galleries, November 2020
  • Poetry in ‘Time Piece 2020,’ The Timepiece Collective, Climate Week NYC, 2020
  • Poetry poster, Cumbria BogLIFE conference, May 2019
  • Artist book with Rebecca Thomas, In the Open, part of the ASLE-UKI and Land2 conference Cross Multi Inter Trans, 2017
  • Poetry installation, The Trembling Grass, curated by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, CCANW/University of Exeter, 2014
  • Poetry exhibited at Skylines, curated by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, CCANW, 2009



  • A Social Biography of Contemporary Innovative Poetry Communities: The Gift, the Wager and Poethics (New York: Palgrave, 2017)

Book Chapters

  • ‘Finding the Words: Using Found Text to Write the Human Impact of Environmental Disaster in Hogue’s All That’s Gone: Hurricane Katrina’s Evacuees,’ Writing Urban Space (Zero Books, 2012)

Edited Collections

  • Elisabeth Bekers, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Helen Cousins, eds., Special Issue Black British Women’s Writing, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, forthcoming 2021
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Emily Critchley, eds., Special Issue #METOO Poetry, Chicago Review, 2018.
  • ‘Poetic Economies of Performance: Part 2,’ How2, 3.3, 2009
  • ‘Poetic economies of Performance,’ How2, 3.2, 2008


  • ‘Any Other Kinship: The Practice of Plant Leadership in Times of Human Pandemic,’ Wellcome Collection Stories, ed. Rebecca Tamas, The Wellcome Trust, 2021
  • ‘Moss so fresh and springy, you want to dive right in,’ Country Diary, Guardian, May 18, 2021
  • ‘Plunge, for Mrs Dalloway,’ The Joy of Spring, RA Magazine (Royal Academy of Arts), Spring 2021
  • ‘How to Weed: A Writer’s Guide,’ In the Garden, Daunt Books, 2021
  • ‘Poetic Nature: Song,’ oh magazine, 61, 2021
  • ‘Poetic Nature: Leap,’ oh magazine, 60, 2021
  • ‘Poetic Nature: Swift,’ oh magazine, 59, 2021
  • ‘Poetic Nature: Robin,’ oh magazine, 58, 2021
  • ‘Poetic Nature: Circle,’ oh magazine, 57, 2020
  • ‘Walking back to happiness – in south Devon’s hidden places,’ Guardian, 16 Sep 2020
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Rachel Edwards, Esther Freud, Philip Hoare, Amy Liptrot, Johnny Pitts, ‘I launch naked into the unknown’: writers on the joy of wild swimming,’ Guardian, August 10, 2019
  • ‘The Folds of the Fields: A Performative Collaboration in the South of England,’ with
    Thomas, R., Green Letters, 23, 3, 2019
  • ‘To every thing there is a season: An ode to spring,’ Town and Country, Spring 2019
  • ‘Trick or retreat: the value of Creative Writing retreats in H.E,’ with Bulloch, R., Jones, B. & Gregory, P., New Writing, 15, 4, 2018
  • ‘Sounding the non-human in John Clare and Maggie O’Sullivan,’ John Clare Journal, 2016
  • ‘Swims: Body, Ritual, Erasure as Environmental Activism,’ Jacket 2, 2016
  • ‘Exotic Birds: Working Through Otherness in Contemporary Interdisciplinary Performance by Women,’ Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, 3.2, 2011
  • ‘Cynthia Hogue’s The Incognito Body as Ecopoethics,’ Readings (Birkbeck), 5, 2010
  • ‘Alison Knowles and the Gift,’ Jacket, 33, 2007
  • ‘For the next twelve days I will be placing a rose somewhere in the city: Gallery of work from contributors to the Forum on Women Writers,’ Pores, 4, 2006


  • ‘Edge of the miraculous, Lessons from a lifetime of travel’, Book review of Horizon by Barry Lopez, TLS, March 20, 2020.
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett in Sharmaine Lovegrove, ’20 inclusive, diverse books for your summer reading list’, Reviews of Surge by Jay Bernard, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Horizon by Barry Lopez, Sound of Mull by Angela Rawlings and Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson, Sunday Times Style, June 9, 2019
  • ‘Correspondences by Nisha Ramayya’, The Constant Critic, April 13, 2017


  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Nina Mingya Powles, Wasafiri Wonders, Wasafiri, 2021
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Ella Foote, Outdoor Swimmer, 2021
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Alexis Conran, ‘Spring: An Inventory,’ Times Radio, March 2021
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and John Pienaar, ‘Spring: An Inventory,’ Times Radio, April 2021
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Nia Davies, ‘Take care’, Poetry Wales, Summer 2018.
  • ‘Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Ian Maleney on soil, family and loss’, Books podcast, Guardian, April 2019
Download and read an extract from Swims

Contact Elizabeth-Jane


Twitter: @ejbpoetry

Instagram: ejbpoetry


Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown
[email protected]


Prose: Fiona Livesey at Penguin [email protected]

Poetry: Penned in the Margins [email protected]