Category Archives: landscape

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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It’s almost

 

It can be an nervous time, when you have been waiting for a change for a long while, and you know it is coming soon, although you don’t know exactly when it will happen. When the change finally arrives, will it be what you expected? And, meeting it, will you be the person you may have wished to be?

 

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It’s almost

Leaves remain furled at harbour,
tide not turned yet for royals
set aloft on a new season’s airs.

So tell me, is it me, or would these fine trees
be bonnier still without
the addition of wee wooden doors?

Is it the same eco-fetish that
makes me pick at kerbside litter,
or am I just another wannabe-curmudgeon?

Certainly trees don’t much care
about dinky doors, or awkward hinges,
or rusty rat-bag minimalist aesthetics.

They neither bare their wrists,
nor wear their watches on them,
their second sweeps are much too slow.

Less than a woodland minute,
sixty seconds back to seven years, or so,
a growing season’s sea of stories,

a wonky-plank squeezed creasote fence,
to dreamscaped white horse
marrams of unmapped sunlit wonder.

So yes, you say – it’s me. But there’s just time,
to careen and clean before spring
sails. For now – now it’s almost

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