All posts by Ken Cockburn

Ken Cockburn is an Edinburgh-based poet, translator, editor and writing tutor.

Northlight Dunbar

I’ve been working in East Lothian this week, at Dunbar. As part of the Northlight ‘creative season’, I have mini-residency at the beach hut by the harbour.

These sea-creatures were drawn last week, and sadly are no more.

In the hut I’m showing ‘Sixteens’ – more on that tomorrow. Yesterday I walked the John Muir Way east from the harbour towards the lighthouse at Barns Ness, and on towards Torness power station.

There’s a poetry and music event on Friday night (10 August) – details here.

Abriachan Forest

A belated post about a couple of days I spent at Abriachan Forest, just above Loch Ness, back in March, walking and writing in the forest. Day 1 was working with folk from APEX Scotland, and Day 2 was organised by Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre. On both days we did a range of things – making ‘sixteens’ in the woods, labelling the landscape, looking close-up at the lichens on a glacial erratic, reading Boswell and Johnson, who’d ridden down the other side of Loch Ness on 30 August, 1773, and writing back at the forest ‘classroom’ over cups of tea. My thanks to Suzann, Christine, Cynthia and everyone else who joined us over the two days.

Les Citadelles



Alec Finlay and I have been working on a long poem about the journeys we made for The Road North, and two extracts have been translated into French, and published in the most recent edition of Les Citadelles. Philippe Démeron is the journal’s editor and also the translator, and he has chosen the poems ‘Loch na Tormalaich & Loch Duilleag-bhàite, Kilbride, Argyll’, and ‘The Groves of Isle Maree, Wester Ross’. Our swim among water-lilies,

shucking tangled legs
through greasy stems
I kick a lap
among the stars

becomes in Philippe’s French

pour dégager mes jambes empêtrées
dans des tiges gluantes
je donne un coup de genou
dans les étoiles

while this is our tree-list from Isle Maree and its French equivalent:

birch and chestnut
alder and beech
willow and dog-rose
sycamore and juniper

le bouleau et le châtaignier
l’aulne et le hêtre
le saule et l’églantier
le sycomore et le genévrier

We are in good company: elsewhere in the issue are poems by Kenneth White, Derek Mahon and John Montague, as well as an essay on the recent Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer, and poems by contemporary French poets including Armelle Leclerq and Roger Lecomte.

Armelle and Roger were my original connection to Les Citadelles. I met them in Bratislava in 2006, when we were all invited to read at the festival Ars Poetica. Roger is on the editorial board of Les Citadelles, and from that initial contact Philippe has translated and published several of poems in the magazine, for which I’m very grateful.

The magazine doesn’t have its own website, but click here for information about this issue, and here for more general information about the magazine. (Both pages are in French.)

The cover price is €10, and the ISSN is 1253-0557. (At time of writing, I have a spare copy, which I’m happy to send to the first person who requests it.)

The Fourth Wound in Fras 16


My translation of the opening of Christopher Ecker‘s compelling novella The Fourth Wound (Die vierte Kränkung is the original German title) has just appeared in the magazine Fras, no. 16.

Set in Brittany during World War Two, it tells the unsettling tale of a non-combattant German living there in a state of increasing uncertainty – emotional, psychological, social and moral – and of the shadowy local figures he must reluctantly engage with. Its thriller elements remind me of John Buchan, and it draws eloquently on Breton myth, history and landscape.

Christopher – who I met through the poet Arne Rautenberg, who I’ve also translated – lives in Kiel. His novel Madonna won the Book of the Year (Rheinland-Pflaz) in 2007, and his new novel, Fahlmann, has just been published.

Copies of Fras 16 are available for £4 each from FRAS Publications, 10 Croft Place, Dunning PH2 0SB, Scotland, UK.

Bydand


I ran some workshops for P7 classes at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen last month. We gave the kids a tour of the museum, then I set them to writing about artefacts they’d been struck by. The Riverbank PS poem is a collective effort by the pupils of said school. ‘Bydand’ – staying or remaining, or ‘Perseverance’ as they have it in Leith – was the regimental motto, hence the evergreen ivy around the stag.

Seven Hills, Seven Questions

I walked Edinburgh’s Seven Hills as planned at the end of last month, mainly in warm unseasonal sunshine, though the day we walked to the Castle Rock was gothically haar-shrouded. [January 2017 – the various blogs about the walks (on another website) are sadly no longer available.)

The project culminated with an event at Fingerpost (formerly Croy Miners’ Welfare) last Wednesday (18 April), which is World Heritage Day – an exhibition / installation space animated by film, theatre, choral singing, my reading of ‘Seven Questions’.

I managed a walk on Croy Hill, where the Antonine Wall ran – the ditch (right) is the most obvious extant feature. The view above (centre) is looking north, barbarianwards.

The Road North at StAnza 2012

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'there go the geese / and the foxgloves / not yet over (Slioch)'

The ‘sampler‘ of The Road North which was shown at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh last summer can be seen in St Andrews as part of this year’s StAnza poetry festival.

1.00pm – 5.00pm
Thursday 15th – Saturday 17th March
Public Library Meeting Room, Church Square, St Andrews
Free

 

Details here

Seven Hills: Poetry Walks in Edinburgh, 22-24 March 2012

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The lower summit at Blackford Hill

Edinburgh, like Rome, is a city built on seven hills. I’m running three poetry walks later this month to some of those hills, as part of the preparations for World Heritage Day 2012 on 18 April.

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Below Calton Hill

Here are the details:
Calton Hill
Thursday 22 March, 1.30pm–5.00pm, meet at Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DT, where we’ll return after the walk

Arthur’s Seat
Friday 23 March, 1.30pm–5.00pm, meet at Scottish Poetry Library, where we’ll return after the walk

Castlehill
Saturday 24, 1.30pm–5.00pm, meet outside the Scottish Parliament visitors’ entrance (opposite the Queen’s Gallery); the walk will finish at Edinburgh Castle

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Arthur's Seat seen from the David Hume Tower

All the walks are free, but please book via e-mail as numbers are limited: kencockburn@blueyonder.co.uk

On the day please bring waterproofs and a notebook, and wear footwear suitable for rough underfoot conditions.

At the end of each walk we will spend some time discussing the walk, and reading what we’ve written; on Thursday and Friday at the Scottish Poetry Library, and on Saturday at the Education Room in Edinburgh Castle.

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Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat, seen from Blackford Hill

A bit of background:

‘Seven Hills’ is part of Shadows of our Ancestors, supported by Historic Scotland and UNESCO, which promotes and celebrates Scotland’s five World Heritage sites – Edinburgh Old and New Towns, New Lanark, the Antonine Wall, St Kilda and The Heart of Neolithic Orkney. A group of five artists – a poet, a sculptor, a performance artist, a photographer and a composer – will each work at one of these sites, developing work for the public celebration of World Heritage Day on Wednesday 18 April, which will take place at Croy Miners’ Welfare, North Lanarkshire, next to the line of the Antonine Wall.

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Brigid Collins's artwork for Shadows of our Ancestors 2012

All the artists are working loosely to the theme of ‘AD 142’, the year the Antonine Wall was begun. ‘Seven Hills’ will link to the theme by considering aspects of the land that broadly haven’t changed since Roman times – uplands and lowlands, coast and sea, the Scottish weather – as well as referring to the history of the Roman presence in the area, and considering the changes over time.

I’ll blog the walks to Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat and Castlehill (as well as further walks I’ll make to Edinburgh’s other hills) and gather texts for the April  event. All those coming on the walks will be also invited to contribute work they make up on the hills  – poems, photos, recordings – to the project blog, and to the event at Croy.

From the German

I’ve had translations of German-language poems published in several magazines this autumn.


Banipal describes itself as a ‘magazine of modern Arabic literature’. Some years ago I translated for it poems by Adel Karasholi, a Syrian Kurd long exiled in Germany, who now writes in German. The magazine has now started to feature a ‘Guest Literature’ in each issue, and Banipal 42 features Germany. The editors asked me to translate six poems by Ulf Stolterfoht. He’s not an easy writer to translate – he himself has translated J.H. Prynne and Tom Raworth into German, and his work is similar to theirs in its slipperiness. I approached task with some trepidation, but was helped by Ulf’s patient responses to my questions, and I came to enjoy their unexpected twists and turns, their extravagant playfulness. There’s a good interview with him (in English) here.


Modern Poetry in Translation has published a poem each by Thomas Brasch, Thomas Rosenlöcher and Heiner Müller. It’s taken my translations of poems by Brasch and Rosenlöcher previously (issues 3/6 and 3/11 respectively). Heiner Müller I knew of as a playwright, until I discovered a volume of his poems when visiting Berlin in 2009. ’Napoleon at Wagram’ uses the dialectical method – like musical counterpoint – two very different narratives, about Napoleon and Lenin, are juxtaposed, and the reader is invited to make the connection.


Poems by Christine Marendon are in Feathers & Lime (2007); earlier this year I began working on her poems again, and four have just been published in Shearsman 89/90, and another two in the on-line journal no man’s land. I like the enigmatic imagery of her work: tantalising hints and glimpses of characters, situations and narratives.