TRAVELLING to a new life in a foreign country can be a disconcerting experience - but when the Lakes-based poet Eileen Pun flew from the USA to England to take part in a student exchange programme, the journey turned out to be far stranger than she could ever have expected.

It was September 2001, and Eileen's abiding memory is that she and the other passengers on the plane were virtually outnumbered by the flight crew.

It was less than two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, the city of her birth; and the almost empty jet reflected the fear of air travel that the Twin Towers tragedy had instantly engendered.

“There were about four or five people on the plane,” Eileen recalls. “It’s really interesting because my parents were so courageous to let me come.

“It shook me, the whole 9/11 situation, but I was still young and now I think what a big thing it was to let your child go on a plane after something so big.”

It proved a life-changing experience as well as a daunting one because within just a year, and despite only being in her early 20s, Eileen had moved to Grasmere to become a welcome new force in Lake District literary life.

Her original intention was to study politics at Lancaster, but she switched to a creative writing MA at Manchester Metropolitan. Now, with a steady stream of published work in journals and anthologies, Eileen has reached a new milestone as one of the rising stars of British black and Asian poetry.

She is one of ten poets to be featured in a new anthology – Ten: The New Wave – launched earlier this month at the Southbank Centre in London.

Back in 2002, when Eileen was a student – while also working as a housekeeper and volunteering at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere – she had no idea her poetry would help create such a literary buzz.

“I was always writing and keeping a journal but I didn’t realise until later that how I write is like poetry. I’d actually tried writing poetry before, although without much confidence. But then I tried again and it just built from there.”

She admits to being ‘quite shy about my writing’, but when she began to show people her poems they said they were interesting and suggested she submit them for publication.

Last year, Eileen contributed six specially-written poems for the New Wave anthology and her contributions feature themes ranging from landscape to love.

She is one of only two of the poets selected who are based outside the south of England, and the only contributor not from a major UK city.

“I think the pace of life in Grasmere suits me very well,” she said. “I think people who write in a city have more of a frantic style.”

Eileen reveals she is happy to have fitted in so well in the iconic Lakes village.

“It still amazes me, no one around here seems to hold it against me that I’m American,” she said, adding that “it isn’t surprising” to her that Cumbria is a place that nurtures inspiration, especially poetry.

“There is, of course, the legacy of Wordsworth and a community of literature lovers that gravitate to this area. But there is also a wider sense of inclusion towards anyone who feels a genuine love and affinity for the beauty and magic of the Lake District.

“I’ve travelled a number of places and have met many people, but Grasmere is the place where I feel most at home.”

The anthology is already being billed as one of the most groundbreaking publications of British contemporary poetry. Eileen and the other poets were selected after a round of interviews. They also had to submit a manuscript of poetry and show their publication history.

The end result has earned the praise of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who said: “These ten exciting poets record with confidence and vigour a tune rarely heard on these shores and this collection of their work is a boost to the body of contemporary British poetry.”