Commissions, Installations & Interdisciplinary Work


Interdisciplinary (science and poetry) workshop, 5 Nov 2022

As part of the British Trust for Ornithology‘s annual Northern Ireland Birdwatching Conference, I am  offering an interdisciplinary workshop on birds and poetry, with an emphasis on how poetry may help foster an appreciation of birds and their song. 

The event will focus on poets such as Hopkins, Longley, Carson, RS Thomas, Tennyson, and my own work. We will look at poems about birds that reflects the aural qualities of the species’ song. The workshop will include birdsong listening exercises (birdsong recordings and spectrograms) to tune participants into the species’ song. These listening exercises will be interspersed with engaging with the poetry in a way that reinforce participants’ birdsong identification skills; and to also heighten people’s enjoyment and appreciation of the poems. 

This interdisciplinary workshop will take place on 5 November 2022, at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island, Co Armagh. 

Blurb for this event:

“Mary Montague is a biologist by background with a PhD in birdsong. She is an active volunteer with BTO. Having worked for many years as a teacher in schools, Mary now works as a freelance writer and tutor. Mary is a widely published poet and a regular contributor to The Guardian’s Country Diary. She facilitates creative writing and poetry courses/workshops in local arts and community centres (e.g. The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast), and also teaches biology-based courses as part of the Open Learning Programme at Queen’s University, Belfast. Mary is interested in the attributes of birds that have made them a perennial subject of poetry. Looking at and listening to birdsong in particular (using song recordings and spectrograms), she will discuss how poetry and other forms of art and literature can contribute to our knowledge and appreciation of birds.”


Crescent Swift (commissioned poem)

I was commissioned by Sophie Hayles, CEO of the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, to write a poem about the swift for the Belfast Book Festival (2022). The common swift, Apus apus, migrates between Africa and Eurasia, and the Crescent Arts Centre is home to one of the largest swift colonies in Ireland.

The migration of swifts connects Europe and Africa today, but also hints at the memory of Pangaea, when the continents touched. Swifts evolved during the Eocene, almost 50 million years ago, when life was diversifying into new habitat. I thought about all of this, and about the swift’s commitment to flight and return. It seemed that the shape of a swift’s body, which can also that of a crescent, was the right shape for the poem. A concrete poem emerged to let the words lift off.

“Crescent Swift’ at BBF22. Photo by Claire Savage

The poem, “Crescent Swift”, was launched on 16 June 2022, at “Flying Home: the World of Swifts”, a conversation between myself and Sarah Gibson, author of Swifts and Us. The event opened with my reading of the poem.

Sarah and I in conversation. The poem “Crescent Swift” can be seen behind us (Photo by Sophie Hayles)

‘Crescent Swift’ is soon to be mounted as an installation at The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast.


Swallows (installation)

My poem ‘Swallows’ (from Tribe, Dedalus Press 2008) was selected to be part of the installation “A Poetic Flight”, as part of the Belfast Book Festival 2022.

‘Swallows’ was displayed with the poem of the same title by the Ukrainian poet, Natalka Bilotserkivets. Our work was formed part of the installation alongside that of commissioned work by visual artists Patrick Murphy and Bill Gates.

Swallows by Mary Montague
Swallows, by Natalka Bilotserkivets

“A Poetic Flight”, in words and images, is a permanent installation at The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast.


The rest of this page is a work in progress (Oct 2022)

  • Schroedinger’s Rhymes and Reflections
  • Science and Poetry
  • Homelands of Glendarragh