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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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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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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Good to know…

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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.

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Lifted

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Lifted

(found #micropoem)

alarm bell

car park

upmo

entrance

judo

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Present in Scent

P1010409Chuffed to have my poem ‘Present in Scent’ in Ink, Sweat and Tears today.