Category Archives: Scotland

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…


Corbenic Poetry Path

We finally got around to visiting the Corbenic Poetry Path yesterday. The path is a delightful 3km walk through a variety of woodland, moorland and riverside habitats, around the periphery of the Corbenic Camphill Community near Dunkeld in Perthshire.

As the name suggests, poetry placed around the walk is part of the experience, and poems are placed at frequent intervals. Verses appear in the form of small post-top resin encapsulations, notices, and carvings on wood and stone. Some of these form sculptures well placed to work sensitively with the surrounding landscape, on a variety of scales. Sometimes the tone is contemplative, sometimes sombre, but also at times humorous and celebratory. Many of the works play with their specific locations, or refer to different aspects of the places in which they stand. There are also a number of sculptures, in materials both made and found, and even a sound installation (sample – note rainfall in background!).

There is a map on a panel near the (very small) car park, but the poetry path is dynamic – features do come and go. I think following the walk is enhanced by uncertainty about exactly what you might find next, but confidence that something unexpected will appear soon. Not knowing what is coming fosters a feeling of discovery, and I think that was part of the pleasure of our visit. The route of the walk itself is well made, charming and varied. Views across Perthshire from the walk are marvellous, often framed or emphasised by the artworks.

To be honest I had to look up ‘Corbenic’! Apparently in Arthurian myth it refers to the castle holding the Holy Grail. So perhaps, if this doesn’t sound too grand, ‘Corbenic’ can be taken to mean a location connected with a search for something of a nature which is both rare and has a spiritual dimension.

As I mentioned some poems are mounted on top of ‘poetry fence posts’ in resin blocks, the same size as the section of the posts, and about an inch thick. The small size requires a small point size of text which falls well below what is ideal for older eyes (…and, let’s face it, many of the poetry audience have been travelling on our personal grail quests for a whiley now…) These blocks had been glued on to the post ends, but (cue Scottish weather) this has not always proved a very firm anchor. Several were loose, and at least one was missing entirely, perhaps being repaired. However, all this is really a pretty minor bug-bear. But, when all is said and done, as well as a spiritual and artistic path, the walk is also route in the real world – change and erosion are inevitable!

It was a rainy day when we walked around, but given “appropriate clothing” I think the poetry path could be enjoyed in all but the worst of weather. As it was quiet, and RB and I went around on our own, we read some of the verses out loud as we went. I think this adds to the experience, as long as you don’t feel you might be irritating someone else. One advantage of a rainy day!

NB: Although the path is well made, some slopes would be hard for those with real difficulty walking. It is not suitable for wheelchair users.

Details and location

 


horizoned

Horizoned

Fafernie is a rounded top
astray amid other places.

Southeast a shank to the Knapps,
slow strewn stone rumpled ancient beds.

Northwest Callater glens a way
to distant Cairngorm stories,

if these are unobscured by clouds
looming grey with rain lofted into snow

as ambiguous as now.

 

At the small cairn a throw from the top
I meet ptarmigan partners.

Sighting me they take stations:
he stands porcelain on the topstone,

eyeing me with red khol caution.
A step past, she sits well grounded,

dissolving spring speckle into
lichen and wind rounded stones

as still as earlier ice.

 

Bending slowly, I rediscover
her against the uncertain sky.

Firmly static, from above she flickers
lost and found and lost again.

Stalking an unready camera,
I exist too much, and they burst

in flurry croaked alarms of flight,
just far enough to horizon me

as vanished as myth.

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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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old post

windstream whittled

boundary lines surrendered

sculpture on the way

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Tallying

In February I attended an excellent workshop by prima poet Helen Mort called ‘Lines of Ascent’. This was part of this year’s Stanza strand celebrating hills, mountains and high places in poetry. The exercise this poem started from was about experimenting with perspective. Inevitably much subsequent plodding to and fro was required to arrive at my effort below.

Also, n.b. I am very fond of biscuits, including the old fashioned varieties …

Tallying

Tay’s estuary is a custard cream
from thirty two miles
and three thousand feet,
sat on my old friend Mayar.

She’s just a southerly yellow stripe,
currents fickle and ambiguous
smeared to a sweeter layer of light
between Broughty and Tentsmuir.

In February survey square biologists
cookie cut the machar there,
quadrats cast as girdle nets,
griddles tallying growth and life.

From here we’re shrunk invisible,
with my biscuit tea-dunked in hand,
I see us all in plain view vanishing,
sugar granules spilt in distant sand.

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Gallery

Something a little different – a gallery with an assortment of some of the images and montages that I’ve made to illustrate this blog over the past wee whiley …