Emma Must is a poet living in Belfast. She grew up in Hampshire. She is passionate about the natural world and was formerly a full-time campaigner on environment and development issues.
Following months of frenetic campaigning in 1992/1993 to try to stop a motorway being built through Twyford Down near Winchester in Hampshire - in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to where she grew up - she co-founded Road Alert! then worked for a decade as a campaigner with organisations including ALARM UK (the National Alliance Against Road-building), Transport 2000 (now the Campaign for Better Transport) and the World Development Movement. In 1995 she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for Europe, on behalf of the UK anti-roads movement, for her efforts towards land conservation.
After initially studying Geology and Geophysics, she gained a BA in English from Leeds University. She holds a University of Cambridge Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA), and a Masters in English (Creative Writing), with Distinction, from Queen’s University Belfast. In 2021 she completed a PhD in English (Creative Writing) at Queen’s, focusing on ecopoetry and ecocriticism. Professor Moyra Haslett supervised the critical component; Professor Sinéad Morrissey then Professor Ciaran Carson supervised the creative component.
Emma co-edited Poetry & Audience magazine whilst a student at Leeds University. She later co-founded & co-hosted the popular Open Mic Poetry events at Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight. She has lived and worked overseas in China, Mexico, Spain (and on the Isle of Wight!) and for shorter periods in India, South-east Asia and the USA. In the mid-nineties she lived and worked for a few months at Tinker's Bubble low impact community in Somerset.
Her poems have been published widely in magazines and journals in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere, including in Magma, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry and Audience, Abridged, Banshee, The North, The Tangerine, Under the Radar, and The Honest Ulsterman. Her poem 'Toll' won the Environmental Defenders Prize in the 2019 Ginkgo Prize and is included in Out of Time: Poetry from the Climate Emergency, edited by Kate Simpson (Valley Press, 2021). Her poems are also featured in numerous other anthologies, including: The Book of Life (Dedalus, November 2022); Vital Signs (Poetry Ireland, October 2022); Hold Open the Door (UCD Press, 2020); Writing Home: The ‘New Irish’ Poets (Dedalus, 2019); The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear); and New Poets from the North of Ireland (Blackstaff, 2016).
Emma's debut poetry pamphlet, Notes on the Use of the Austrian Scythe (2015), won the Templar Portfolio Award, sold out and has been reprinted. Her poetry was Highly Commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award (2018 & 2019), Commended in the Resurgence Poetry Prize for Ecopoetry (2016), and won second prize in the Strokestown International Poetry Awards (2013). In 2018 she received an ACES Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She has also received several other smaller grants since 2017.
Emma's first full-length poetry collection, The Ballad of Yellow Wednesday, was published by Valley Press on 8 December 2022.
She teaches academic writing and creative writing in universities, in the community, and online.
Author photo by Jonathan Ryder