Category Archives: Publications

Letterpress & Typewriters

I spent Saturday at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. They were running their annual bookfair, By Leaves We Live, and it must have been one of the best attended ever. I was mostly at The Caseroom Press table with Barrie Tullett, who brought a small selection from his typewriter collection to display, and be used. They were joined by Edwin Morgan’s Blue Bell (part of his archive held by the SPL), and a red Olivetti Valentine, which Angus Reid had bought for his daughter in a Stockbridge charity shop for a tenner, but which drew admiring and even covetous looks from those that know about typewriters.

Barrie recently drew on the old Pepsi advert to write a text about LETTERPRESSIN’, which he letterpressed as a poster, and asked if I’d contribute something similar about POETRY. I obliged, and the result is above. It’s in an edition of 25, at £25.00 each, and copies are still available from the SPL.

A good day of conversations, rounded off with a party for Hamish Whyte’s Mariscat Press, now thirty years young and still going strong.

Snapdragon

Snapdragon is a newly published collection of my translations of poems by the German writer Arne Rautenberg, made over the past decade. Arne lives in Kiel, where I’ve visited him on several occasions, and he has been to Scotland twice, in 2003 and 2007.

As all books are, it is a collaborative effort. I was introduced to Arne by Alec Finlay, who has written the cover blurb above; Stewart Conn heard Arne and me read in Edinburgh and 2003, and his poem ‘Translations’ describing that occasion is included; the book is designed and laid out by Barrie Tullett, with whom I’ve worked on many projects over the years; and the cover was designed by Jantze Tullett, Barrie’s wife.

The ladybird
On the hibiscus flower
In the ashtray

(Haiku)

The poems are fomally varied: monologues, lists and fairy tales – haiku, double haiku and football haiku – one-word poems, nudges and inversions. They are presented as parallel text, German on the left and English on the right.

Between turbulence
And the monstrous rivets
A beckoning home.

His gaze deep in the
Rear wheel of a juggernaut
Thundering on by.

(from ‘Kiel After Rain’)

I mention my choice of title in the Afterword: “I settled on Snapdragon as it seemed to sum up much of Arne’s work: a flower-name, so a word that’s rooted in the real, something delicate and beautiful; yet also with outlandish and unsettling associations.”

The formal details are:
published by The Caseroom Press, 180 x 125 mm, 64 pages, ISBN 978-1-905821-21-1, cover price £5.00.

A review by Lesley Harrison has appeared in Northwords Now, no.22 (if you download the pdf, it’s on p.22). “I don’t speak German, but the English versions conjured very clearly a city-world still recovering from war, and Cockburn’s clipped, wry translations seem to be a perfect window to it, both clever and compelling.”

If you’d like to buy a copy, it’s available via The Big Cartel.

Arne Rautenberg, Glasgow, 2003
Alec Finlay & Arne Rautenberg, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2007
Ken Cockburn & Arne Rautenberg, Kiel, 2008 (photo by Birgit Rautenberg)

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.

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.

ink

ink will be launched at 7pm on Tuesday 22 November at The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DF. The book will be for sale at the special price of £18.00. Dr. Anette Hagan from the National Library of Scotland will speak about book inscriptions, and Pfaelzer Wein (red and white wine from the Palatinate region of Germany) will be served. ink is a beautiful new artist book, featuring full-colour images of the prize-winning sculptural work ink by ~in the fields, and specially written texts by myself – poems, circle poems, ‘Reflections on the writing of marginalia’, and a hidden alphabet poem offering twenty-six imaginary shades of blue. In addition, the contributors present their ‘blueographies’. ~ in the fields are artists Nicole Heidtke and Stefan Baumberger. In 2010 they won the Berlin University of the Arts Award for Interdisciplinary Art and Science for their sculptural work ink. Their visual art practice draws on archival material, environmental topics and ephemeral artefacts, such as lost forms of cinema. ink was developed from inscriptions found in five printed books from five centuries – a Bible, a copy of the Arabian Nights, a songbook, and books about natural history and botany. ink consists of five colourless clear glass bulbs – each partly filled with blue ink. When the visitor approaches, the bulbs begin to rotate, causing a layer of ink to coat the inside surface. Through the ink, illuminated handwritten inscriptions become visible on a spinning armature, thanks to the phenomenon of persistence of vision. The inscriptions are given to the visitor individually. The visitor’s presence initiates the offering of the inscription once again.

Details 208 x 198 mm Hard covers 52 pages Full colour French folds Edition: 500 Publisher: Abertay University Press, July 2011 ISBN 978 1 899796 25 0 Recommended Retail Price: £24.95 If you would like to receive more information about the book, please write to me, or to studio@in-the-fields.org

Overheard Overlooked

This simple little book has been a while in the making. Its contents are taken from notebooks and photos from the past ten years, and its first draft was considerably longer, including short poems, mesostics, prose extracts, lists and made-up definitions. I whittled it down, removing the longer and ‘composed’ texts, and re-sequenced everything, before sending it to Barrie Tullett at The Caseroom Press. He made a couple of dummies – first a Z-book with two front covers, then one the same size as the finished book, but portrait-format. We flipped that to landscape so all the texts worked as single-line pieces, and finally we had this simple little book.

“The poems were found as graffiti, signage, inscriptions, printed matters and utterances.”

Rather than equivocating about their status, debatable though it is, I decided to call all the texts simply ‘found poems’.

The book opens and closes with sentences (three at the start and three at the end), each given a double-page spread.

The main part of the book consists of short texts of between one and seven words long, each given its own page, and sequenced first by number of words, and then alphabetically.

There are some nicer photos of the book here; and some of the material in its original settings below.

I like the way the poems rub up against each other: formal signage and graffiti, newspaper headlines and children’s speech, aspiration and deflation. For me, each one of them has a particular context, calls up a memory, but I’ve tried to make these irrelevant to the reader, so the poems spark off against each other, and shine with whatever associative light switches on in the reader’s mind.

You can order the book for £2.50 (inc. P&P) from The Caseroom Press, or by e-mailing me via the ‘Contact’ page.

149 x 104 mm
Soft covers
72 pages
Edition: 500

Mortlach Storywalks

P2 looking towards Dufftown from Meg's Widd

P7 returning from The Giant's Chair

Earlier this year I worked at Mortlach Primary School in Dufftown, mainly with the P2, P4 and P7 classes. We walked – in snow and sunshine – some of the paths around the town, which the kids had already explored with Wild things!, and I got them to write about their impressions of the ground we’d covered. I collated, edited and wrote up their material as stories, which have just been published as three leaflets, designed by Glasgow-based artist Janie Nicoll. P2 collectively describe Meg’s Widd, P4 become Jimbo, a local boy showing visitors round The Toon’s Widd, while P7 encounter a shape-shifter who opens up the history and ecology of The Giant’s Chair. The leaflets are available from Dufftown Tourist Information Centre, and other venues in the town.

The project was co-ordinated by Mary Bourne, sculptor, and a member of the School Council. Her carved stones using poems by children from all classes have been placed along the three walks.

the river meanders beneath the spider spinning its fragile web while the buzzard drifts overhead as the river…

sLender whIte Noisy watErfall, tumbliNg And imPatient, Rushes tOwards dullaN (LINEN APRON)

rocks under water shaded by trees the heron nests in and flies down to stand on rocks…

Works made by P1, P3 and P5 with Janie Nicoll have been installed in Dufftown’s Cottage Hospital, Tourist Information Centre and at the local library. Additional works are in the school itself.

The P6 class prepared an orienteering route around Meg’s Widd, making a map and contributing words for the stones which serve as control points.

The nursery children worked with Vivien Hendry and Mary Bourne, making peg-fairies which they took to Meg’s Widd. I ‘interviewed’ them about their fairies’ skills and adventures, and Vivien has made a limited-edition book, The Magic of Meg’s Widd.

The Magic of Meg's Widd (photo: Mary Bourne)

Mortlach Story Walks is a partnership project between Mortlach Primary School, Dufftown, Moray and the Speyside Paths Network Group to produce arts-based interpretation for the countryside around Dufftown. It is initiated and supported by the school’s Parent Council.

Reading the Streets


This pamphlet was launched at The Jazz Bar in Edinburgh last week. It’s the first publication by Neil Christie’s Duende Press, and features a sequence of six ‘city’ tanka, and seven haiku about the moon. Neil has produced it as a little concertina, small enough to open to its full extent with a single pair of arms. The poems have been beautifully illustrated by Libby Walker, who graduated from Edinburgh College of Art last year. There’s a continuous and very busy image running through the tanka, and separate, more colourful and abstract images complement the haiku.

You can get hold of a copy – the printed version, or a pdf – from the Duende Press website, and also at the Scottish Poetry Library.

Neil is a fine graphic designer, and I’ve worked with him on several Scottish Poetry Library projects over the years, including the CD The Jewel Box (2000) and the postcard book Poem Prints (2005), but this is the first time I’ve worked on a ‘personal’ project with him. Neil has also designed most of knucker press’s output, and there was a new knucker booklet launched last night as well. How to Wire a Life for Love features Liz Bassett’s astutely observed and finely crafted poems, with illustrations by Angelika Kroeger.

ctrl+alt+del

ctrl+alt+del describes itself as ‘a contemporary poetry foldable/printable ezine’. You can find it here. You print it out on a single sheet of A4 and there is a natty video that shows you hold to fold it. Issue 1 has work by Peter Hughes, whose pamphlet ‘Paul Klee’s Diary’ I enjoyed back in the mid-90s. Issue 3 has some mesostics by myself, and ‘twelve switches’, a translation I made of a poem by Arne Rautenberg (though as you may notice I can’t always count accurately). I like what CAD is doing visually – it reminds me of the late Duncan Glen’s magazine ZED 2 O, with its zany but thoughtful design.