the shortest night
Nearly eleven p.m., dry and mild,
bright enough for reading outdoors.
Warm intimations of honeysuckle,
lemon balm, tiger lily’s sharper bite.
Sleepless through three thin hours undarkened,
fortified tea brewing dusk spun verses,
I fidget dust my tiny cabinet of
keepsakes found and curiosities kept,
rearranging these unsure talismans,
certain enough what each is, less clear why.
I find and re-read some childhood chapters,
and discover though changed they move me still.
Until, like a birthday dawn, bird sung dews
condense fresh light from thin and unslept airs.
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…
I originally wrote this intending to send it in to Visual Verse for a great image of a horse by Bruce Connew. I never got around to it, and I’d forgotten about the poem until I happened on it today. Anyway, I still kinda like it, I hope you will too. As often from me, there’s also some sciencey inspiration – see below…
Karen McComb, who heads the research group and co-lead author of the study, said “Horses may have adopted an ancestral ability for reading emotional cues in other horses to respond appropriately to human facial expressions during their co-evolution. Alternatively, individual horses may have learned to interpret human expressions during their own lifetime.”
Source: ‘Horses can recognise human emotion, study shows’ Guardian 10/2/2016
scary sounds tinder
my right brain.
my left eye
you. your voice. angry. anger. danger. is it?
do i? do we? does the herd?
set, set, set.
my heart revs.
a dren a lin.
ready, twitch, ready.
time made your mood our threat.
your anger the wolf on the prairie.
your impatience an adder under-grass.
your oath hard iron in flight.
so if you don’t need to, just don’t.
step calm. breathe gentle.
speak less. listen more.
hear. my. gaze.
click to listen:
Sounds of rain
Staccato taps syncopate
justification on your cautious hood.
I accidentally attended a workshop at the very excellent Scottish Poetry Library yesterday. ‘Accidentally’ because the workshop wasn’t exactly about what I though it was – my fault for not reading the small print in sufficient detail once again! I should have looked up acrostic first (well, now I know…)
What the workshop was about was about image and poetry, but in the sense of using text and other elements to make a poem that is spatial as well as (or maybe more than) temporal. Well, so to speak…
…clear as mud? Think ‘concrete poetry’ (for example).
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, however, so I decided to give it a go…
To be honest, I felt a bit at sea – I’ve always found this kind of thing quite difficult to get into. But in any event it was good to grapple with it with people who didn’t. I was impressed by the range of visual and crafting, as well as writing skills that other participants brought to the party. (Of course, having actually got what the workshop was to be about initially, it probably was more likely that they would know where they were at!)
As always though, it’s grand to have a chance to see shiny minds at work. I was struck by a kind of ‘lightness of step’ that I admire a great deal in much of what people were doing. Watching (and listening) to this I sometimes feel I’m gazing at dancers in point shoes bourrée their way past a place where I’ve stomped in with wellies and a view to some spadework.
This morning, however, I thought of a way of bringing some of my partly developed efforts from yesterday together. Of course it took about three and a half hours to make – but here it is, in all its thirty second splendour! With thanks to Helen and Malcy for a very educational and interesting experience, and to all the other participants, for being rather amazing…
An echoed note bends from my
throated whisper to pipe your name.
In the morning I will see
A curlew fly with purpose, horizon
Perpendicular to the driven path.
His bill less hooked than remembered,
His flight as strong as I recall,
His ghost cry stilled in passage.
RSPB’d data beats decreasing,
Awaits a weirder silent season,
As we glance shivers when you sing.
Inquisitions of rain discover
Cusps in Brighty’s surface.
Shallow lacunae warmed
By fallen silks of beech.