Category Archives: readings

a tree speaks

In November there will be an exhibition at St Margaret’s House in Edinburgh called Grown Together. Timed to coincide with the launch of the Tree Charter, this will feature the work of nineteen artists with a shared interest in trees.  I’ve been working on video material for a loop which will be part of a small installation.  The videos combine ambient audio captured in some local woodlands with animated  text and readings of some of my poems from the small collection called Drawing breath.

Here’s a test piece for one of my videos.  (Please ignore the headphone graphic near the start – it’s just there to indicate that there is audio to passing visitors).

The poem takes a tree’s-eye-view of passing humans, coming around to memory and how remembering works, or doesn’t…

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drawing breath

Trees can be very big, and some of them are very old. Their character and way of life is complex, in many ways hidden, and very different from our own. They can make us pause and they can make us gasp.

drawing breath is a collection of twelve poems arising from a collaboration with visual artist Tansy Lee Moir.

I’ve made booklet with the poems, some photographs, and some of Tansy’s drawings, and I’ve also made a series of recordings of readings.  Hope you like them!

You can find links to all of these and more about our collaboration here.

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Reading at Howden Park

I’m going to be reading some poems at Tansy Lee Moir’s residency presentation event at the Howden Park Centre, Livingston on Sunday (23d) afternoon.  If you’re anywhere nearby it’d be great to see you there.

Facebook event

Out of our collaboration I’ve written twelve poems to make a small collection called ‘Drawing Breath’. I’m going to post more about this soon, including some audio recordings, and details about a print copies.

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Charcoal

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I had a grand visit to Tansy Lee Moir’s Drawing in the Trees workshop at the Howden Park Centre yesterday.  I was there as part of my collaborative work with Tansy’s ongoing Dialogues with Trees project.  This was an excellent opportunity to see what happens in a workshop, and read one or two of the poems I’ve been writing to the artists taking part. The weather wasn’t ideal for drawing outdoors, but looking out the window today – it could’ve been worse!  We managed a quick foray between showers to some trees near to Howden Park.  Apparently watercolour pencil works well on wet paper…

After we were renewed by a quick coffee and sugar supplement, Tansy began to demonstrate some of the ways she works with charcoal to make her superb tree images. Then everyone enthusiastically started to get their hands dirty! I do enjoy photographing people when they get really engaged in a process.  Everyone’s focus was excellent and the amount and standard of work that happened in a short time demonstrated that this was a talented group of folk!

I’m sure that I will write more poems following from the experience of watching this group. I’ve found that the kind of concentrated looking that I like to use photography to achieve is a good starter for later ideas.  The truth is, however, I’m a pretty ‘slow poet’ – I don’t think I’d get far if put on the spot in the way that you sometimes hear on a radio program (“and we’ll hear what he’s written based on that story a little later in the show…”)  I suspect that perhaps there is an element of showbiz at work here, and authors might get a little more preparation time. However, fact is I’m slow, and I’m ok with that.  It takes me ages to get stuff down, and a few more ages to hammer it into something vaguely resembling a poem!

Fortunately yesterday I was in the happy position of having what I might call some Blue Peter poems. For those too young to remember or perhaps from overseas, Blue Peter was a long running UK children’s show.  Presenters demonstrating creative craft projects for young viewers would regularly reach authoritatively under the workbench to loft a minor triumph of paper, card, adult supervised use of cutting tools, and more-often-than-not ‘sticky-backed plastic’ with the words “we don’t have time to do all of this just now, but here is one that I prepared earlier…”  (I suspect that the “earlier” glueing etc was most likely in fact accomplished by craft-worker prototypes of QI’s research ‘Elves’).

A long ramble!  The point being, from my previous work with Tansy, I had some poems I’d already written about drawing and trees. So I could reach into my folder and produce something relevant that “I prepared earlier…”.  I could hardly ask for a more clued-in audience! I think the poems went down quite well. To close this post, I’ve included one below. 

For those that are interested, there is another Drawing in the Trees workshop in March.  I’ll be reading more poems at the Residency Presentation event later this April at Howden Park Centre.

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powdered charcoal

Charcoal

The fifth element, chopped and fired,
pulped, pressed and regrown as a sketch.

Only a few hundred grains
from hilltop shadows to putty pure glen.

From Marianas deep bass
to an almost inaudibly floated treble tremolo.

A winter-land in negative,
high altitude luminance over solid black ground.

A thin gauged pressure range,
stick dark ridge line and leather coaxed hollows.

A slim meniscus of opportunity
where leviathans may be tickled from grey sea mists.

Drifted mirages of wood
Emerging solid, substantial and inevitable as time.

Bodies breaching skyward,
Trunks shattered titanic in shadow-tone swells.

These fragile giants – at a clumsy sleeve
they might plunge and vanish, like a forest lost in fog.

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Collaboration: Dialogue with trees

I’m excited to be working on a collaborative project with artist Tansy Lee Moir as part of her ‘Dialogue with trees’ residency.  I’ve already made one visit to Calderwood in West Lothian to see and learn about the wonderful trees that are the subject of Tansy’s drawings.  Over the next few months I hope to visit again, and in the meantime I’ve begun work on a short series of poems developed from ideas about trees and my reactions to Tansy’s artworks.

The residency is proceeding with a series of events and workshops, and will end on April 23d 2017 with an evening at the Howden Park Centre when Tansy will give a presentation about all her work during the residency, and I’ll be giving readings including poetry developed over the course of our collaboration.

You can see an exhibition of Tansy’s superb drawings of trees right now at the Howden Park Centre in West Lothian.

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Putting poetry on the map for Book Week Scotland

map

I love the idea of landscape as layers upon layers of fragmented story, like an old hoarding in town where torn and muddled fragments of years of past paint and posters are visible if you have the time to look and pick a bit.

Stanza’s Poetry Map of Scotland – a map with a meta layer of poetry – appeals on many levels.  This post is about an event next week where some contributors to the map (including yours truly) will be reading contributions as part of Book Week Scotland.  There’s also an open mic for ‘readings from the map’ so you can join in too if you like (see below for details).

 

screenshot-2016-10-31-08-40-32-1Quoted from the Stanza blog:

For Book Week Scotland in 2016, StAnza will turn its hugely popular project to map Scotland with poetry into a live event, taking place at Zest Coffee Shop in St Andrews on Thursday 24th November. More than 200 poems have been submitted since the project was launched in 2014. We have invited a selection of poets whose poems feature on the map to lead us on a poetic journey around Scotland, and Zest will make sure that we don’t lack food and drink for the trip.

Those taking part include Gordon Jarvie, Sue Haigh, Steve Smart, John Brewster and Lyn Moir. We’ll also have some open mic slots if anyone else would like to read their own poem from the map, or perhaps a poem from the map about a favourite place. You can browse the map online and if you’d like to ask for a reading slot, just email stanza@stanzapoetry.org.  The event is free and unticketed but if you’d like to be sure of getting a seat, email stanza@stanzapoetry.org for that as well.

Meantime here are those details again, and we hope to see you there:  Thursday 24 November 2016 18:30 – 20:00 at Zest Coffee Shop, 95 South Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9QW.

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