Category Archives: landscape

Getting REEL

walker in silhouette

REELPoetry 2022 – the festival of poetry film, is on 25/26/27th February, live (in Texas) and online (everywhere). I’m delighted to have been able to curate a short program of poetry films, which I’ve called Stravaig. I like to think of it as a wander through film-poems both from Scotland, and around the globe about the natural world and our relationship with it.

As well as a couple of my own short films, the Straviag program (Festival program, Day 1: 26th Feb) has works from film makers I am really pleased to be able to include – Life-breath Songs, presented by Scotland’s Makar Kathleen Jamie – the poet driving this national poetry collaboration – is a collection of three beautiful poetry films by eminent Scottish poetry film maker Alastair Cook (founder of Filmpoem), and featuring the gorgeous voice of Eilidh Cormack (of folk trio Sian). The Mirror is a poised collaboration between poet Em Strang and filmmaker Jonny Randall.

I’m also very pleased to be able to include the challenging The animal that therefore I am by award winning Dutch filmmaker Bea de Visser – a unique collaboration with animals (and other human animals). Jesse Adlam’s and poet Greta Stoddart’s Lie in a field on your back gives a precious moment of pause in the rush of the world. Artist Alisha Anderson delivers a remarkable visual-speech-poem centred on the aftermath of forest fire in Meristem. The wave by Janet Lees with poet Lucia Sellars is a song for and of the sea, and for life.

REELPoetry 2022 – the festival of poetry film, is on 25/26/27th February, live (in Texas) and online (everywhere). For tickets and program details see http://www.publicpoetry.net/reelpoetry (Please remember to adjust event times from CST to your own timezone.)

REELPoetry 2022 poster

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Well met

I’ve been reading a remarkable book called The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram. It’s a study in ecological philosophy that seeks to examine and understand world views of cultures that don’t separate human consciousness and the natural world. Frankly, it’s not always been the easiest read – I’m afraid my slow brain does have to chug over some paragraphs several times to make sense of them! However, it’s been worth it. Mostly I’ve found it invigorating, and I’d recommend it.

This short poem is about a kind of encounter which most of us might have had sometime, perhaps often if we are lucky. This (and other meetings like this) played in my thoughts a lot while I was reading David Abram’s book. I see this poem as a meeting between two very different minds in the same domain (i.e. not between ‘a human and nature’). It might be commonplace – it certainly was once. It’s slight, but (I hope) there is more to it than meets the eye.

Well met

Where the fireweed straggles
after the arch of the viaduct

I met the deer in an accident
we closed quietly.

A young doe looking up without
alarm to a slow moment

we measure in-between –
calm breaths elongating

our horizon – until unworried
she turns and walks away.

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weel kent

 a field prepared for sowing

Last week I attended an interesting workshop by Alycia Pirmohamed, a Canadian-born poet based in the UK, and the winner of the 2020 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. The online event was part of Shetland Arts Wordplay 2021, and focused on ideas about landscape in poetry.

One of the writing exercises involved about envisaging a recent walk, and in another part of the workshop we studied a passage from Schizophrene – a ‘fragmented notebook’ by Bhanu Kapil. The passage made use of a lot of parentheses and, amongst other things, we talked about how this changed the way in which a reader interacted with the text.

Off the back of some of these ideas, and echoing a little with some of my previous forays into interactive poetry, I did a little coding and came up with a draft piece using a system of interactive parentheses. I know – bonkers! Anyhoo, it is called weel kent which is basically Scots for ‘very familiar’.

As with most of these interactive experiments, I can’t embed it here in the blog, but you can view it by tapping the button below which will open a new web page.

Like a quite lot of my pieces, weel kent is intended to be wry more than very serious.

Once you get there, if you tap square brackets [] in the text, each parentheses will expand to reveal their own content. That stays for a little while, then fades away. If you tap again, it appears again, and so on…

weel kent was quite a quickly compiled experiment. It might have been interesting to play around with layout a little as well. Perhaps this could have reflected the form of the short walk described. However, while a web page is good for interactivity, print is a much easier medium to play fluidly with layout. Next time maybe…


Cup and ring

cup and ring illustration

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Cup and ring marks are a kind of carved rock art or petroglyph. They are found widely in both Mediterranean Europe and across north western Europe, including Scotland. As with so many prehistoric artworks, their intention and meaning are far from clear. They consist of a central indentation surrounded by concentric grooves of carved circles. Like a tiny map, or a labyrinth for the hand, they seem to invite touch.

The place where I was when I had the idea for this poem does not have such a mark (that I know of), but the poem is connected with thoughts about their meaning.

 

Cup and ring

(a benediction)

Turning at this middle stone mark
Driesh and Mayar, Dun Hillock,
Tom Buidhe, Tomount, Monega, Maols, and Claise,
Fafernie, t-Sagairt Mòr, and Bannock,
Broad Cairn, Lochnagar, Meikle Pap,
and Broadlands
back again.
 
While the wind spits grey break rumours,
this little top lees a cup of sun:
be warm and happit here a sitting moment,
brim hill-flask full,
short sweet napped, 
rest still as quiet ground
in a place well met.

 


go-around

StAnza Poetry Map of ScotlandDelighted to have my poem go-around placed on StAnza’s Poetry Map of Scotland. They located the pin for this poem perfectly on the exact spot between the hills of Glas Maol and Creag Leacach where this encounter happened.

Read the poem and check the map here.

WordPress tells me this is my 200th post on subjects, objects, verbs – hooray!

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