Category Archives: landscape

Walking out the words

Back in December I posted about The Curlew publishing one of my poems called ‘Horizoned’. Recently the editor got in touch with me to ask about using the poem for some teaching she is planning, and if I could record something about my motivation in making this kind of poem. I was delighted to do this of course, but I thought it might be fun to try to show something about what goes into some of my ‘wandering’ poems.

Really I wanted to take people on a wee walk, because there is something about being there (and getting there!) that is essentially important. An aspect of embodied poetry perhaps.

There’s a long tradition of walking poets – the Wordsworths and Bashō prominent among them. When I googled about the topic I found some fantastic work by Mike Collier of the University of Sunderland which is well worth a look.

Here is my wee piece, with a reading at the end. I tried to cover the questions of what and why seriously, but answering using images, sound and physical effort(!) as well as words. I hope the result is entertaining as well as informative…

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More posts about walking.

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Morning post

Morning post

hoarfrosted contours
time served by seasons
in another life
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Monikie’s Mariners

I had a pleasant donder around Monikie Reservoir with my pal Cavan this morning. Lots of interesting birds on the water just now. We spotted some redshank and heard their lonely note calls, but at this time of year it’s the large number of cormorants in from the coast that are most noticeable visitors.

Apparently in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan took the form of a cormorant to disguise himself in order to enter Eden. More tragically, but romantically, Norwegian mythology says that those who are lost at sea can visit their homes in the form of one of these birds.

I don’t know about that, but I suppose the well-stocked quiet waters of Monikie must seem like paradise to a cormorant – at least compared to a chilly winter gale battered coastline. Curiously when they come to Monikie they always roost together on only one of the three islands, the one on the south side of the water. And they really do roost – seeing such large birds perched high in the branches of the trees is a little unexpected.

I wrote a poem inspired by these winter visitors a few years ago. Visiting them again this morning made me make look back for a wee redraft…

Heliopause 1: Mariners

[northern hemisphere: 23.4 degrees obliquity, perihelion]

Black stroked full flaps down
over un-cast overcast naval greys,
wingtip taps reflected wingtips
a parallel rhumb line rhythm flight
ruled over inshore mirror water.

Pulling up in a clumsy prehistoric stall,
a drunken marine’s shore-bound landing
pitches the branches of this,
their February Isle.

Around again our orbit wheels
past drear and dreich northern months,
until anglers rewound cast again
from their wooden clinkers.

When longer days’ winds whistle
and fetch and chop and slop the surface.

And, filled with heat and hunger,
the cormorants quit to seek
saltier sustenance
from deeper waters,
from driven seas.

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A gothic nook

It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions of the airy flights of my imagination , were born and fostered.

So wrote the Mary Shelley reflecting on her time spent at in “The Cottage” on Dundee’s Broughty Ferry Road.

She thought differently of the place in later years, however, “…my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy.

“The Cottage” is long gone but today, on a substantial buttress wall (dated 1899) in Dundee’s South Baffin Street, a plaque marks the spot. I was nearby this morning, and as the Wyvern Poets are currently working on a ‘Frankenstein’ project, I thought I’d pay a visit.

Curiously, I couldn’t help thinking that Mary’s later thoughts might have been even more gothic if fed from the place as it is today. A fine location for a scary movie…


Of the Marvels

This month’s prompt from Wyvern Poets was ‘a found poem’. I’d been looking at tweets by Martin O’Leary with images from HiRISE, an incredibly high resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter.

The pictures are amazing. Some of them make me think of colour field paintings by Rothko, some of lush folds of the richest silks. The titles of the images interested me too. They seem to make an accidental blend of succinct description and (at least to my ears) sensuously exotic place names.

I decided to make a piece that brought these titles and images together with some found words by another famous traveler to strange lands – Marco Polo.

The result was this found poem/video.

With special thanks to NASA/JPL/University of Arizona for the use of their fabulous images, and to Martin O’Leary for @HiRISEBot.

Of the Marvels

Best viewed with sound ON, and better yet, some nice cosy headphones…

More –

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On the wall

With plenty of help from exhibition organiser Tansy Lee Moir, my projection/montage/video piece was safely installed at St Margaret’s House in Edinburgh last night. My piece is based around readings of three short poems from Drawing Breath.

The Grown together exhibition opens on Saturday November 11th.  The exhibition (seen in preparation below) shows a marvellous and very varied collection of tree inspired artwork. Chuffed to be in the company of so many fine artists.

 

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the balance

 

                              the balance

                                              Fair horizoned photographs
                from trig points and summit cairns
                                                      fine and airy breaths of sky,
                                                                                         but something
                                                                        remains unaccounted.
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                                                            The way was not crow-flown,
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                                                there was weather,
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                                                                        sweat was
                                                                        certainly involved,
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                                                                                        and, yes,
                                                                                               there were
                                                                               sore knees.

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