Mark Cocker is one of the UK’s leading nature writers, well known for his newspaper columns and his books about birds and their meanings in human cultures. He is the author of modern classics like ‘Claxton – Field Notes From A Small Planet’ and ‘Birds and People’. NiddFest is delighted that Mark is joining us not only to talk about these wonderful books, but also to take part in a birding walk at Scar House Reservoir, one of Upper Nidderdale’s most dramatic locations.
Here is Mark’s Q and A:
1. What inspired you to write your latest book?
I wanted to give physical literary form to a new 360 degree approach to nature that i adopted about 10 years – trying to look at and take an interest in everything, especially ‘the little things that run the world’ – insects.
2. What is the relationship between your writing and the natural world?
My encounter with nature and my quest for words to explain and describe it is part of an indivisible life process. Though I have come in an amateurish way to be fixated by photography. Not sure if that is a good thing, a distraction or an anally retentive failure of imagination 🙂
3. Do you have a favourite passage of ‘nature writing’ (in the broadest sense) from your own work?
It’s usually the last really good country diary that I wrote in the Guardian. I did a piece on wood warblers in Wales last month that gave me pleasure.
4. Do you have a favourite author whose work celebrates nature, or piece of writing about the natural world?
5. Do you have a favourite wild place or natural landscape? (What? Do you mean it’s not the Yorkshire Dales?!!)
No. I love it all.
6. What is your earliest or fondest memory of being out in nature?
From my very earliest memories in Buxton, Derbyshire.
7. Do you ever write outside?
All my work begins in things I write outside. Otherwise what would be the point. I passionately disbelieve in experience recollected in tranquillity.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
A book about environmentalism in the UK during the last 120 years.
9. What are your three ‘desert island’ reads and why?
Thoreau’s diaries the NYRB edition is really excellent though on a desert island i would love all 12 volumes.
I don’t really “do” favourite books. I see each one as an ecological entity that moves and changes with time. So books serve needs at particular moments and then they rather die away. They remains fixture but they don’t necessarily continue to hold my attention or remain ‘favourites’ any longer. The only book for which i feel a long lasting attachment is i suppose the Thoreau and may be Ted Hughes entire works. A really great field guide on every living organism on the desert island would be rather nice and some form of communication – message in a bottle, perhaps – to a dozen experts to check my i.d.s.