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.
boundary lines surrendered
sculpture on the way
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 …
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.
On Driesh on Sunday I met a man out walking with his daughter. I’d seen the two figures – one tall and one much smaller, a little ahead of me as we all approached the top. I noticed them stopping occasionally, choosing which way seemed best between or through the remaining patches of snow.
At the cairn we got talking and I learned that she was eight and she told me she was pleased that she had now ’done six Munros’. This was especially good because it meant she was ahead of her little sister who had – so far – only done four. Her father explained that the little sister, not with them today, was two years younger.
‘Carrot and stick,’ he joked ‘we have to go to McDonalds later!’ At the top of a hill, I thought, a hot burger and chips does sound like a pretty superior kind of carrot.
‘And did you find this one easy?’ I asked the girl.
‘No,’ she laughed, ’it was hard!’
‘Well then,’ I said, ’you must be a person who is able to do difficult things. That’s a good thing to know…’
Quiet smiles all round.
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 …
Chuck Wagon crossing The Great Scots Pine
The island of Macgyver
Beech pennies tanned rust and ochre,
circles of sky cast in cold pressed leaf,
they do not always look the same,
though Brighty is damp almost all year
the pools are not always present.
I can look above and below,
but not at the same instant.
I must choose one plane,
breathe low and look kindly, and
fix each in focus, turn about.
This short circuit, a balanced cut-log bridge,
needle scent, fern and copper scale contours,
barely fifteen minutes to walk around, but
gently, surely, it all returns to ground.
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).
Quoted 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 email@example.com. The event is free and unticketed but if you’d like to be sure of getting a seat, email firstname.lastname@example.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.