Category Archives: Walks

florist flowris schene

Gavin Douglas wrote the lines below about a May morning 500 years ago, as part of his Prologue to Book XI of Eneados, his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.

I read it beneath a cedar in Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens at the weekend, as part of the ‘Spring Blossoms’ walks.

But it also seems a good match to this picture of me at Stonefield Castle, near Tarbert in Kintyre, taken by ~in the fields while I was visiting them there last week (even if rhododendrons hadn’t yet reached Scotland in 1513).

ken_stonefieldcastle

Dame naturis menstralis, on that other part,
Thayr blyssfull bay entonyng euery art,
To beyt thar amouris of thar nychtis baill,
The merll, the mavys, and the nychtingale,
[…]
And al small fowlys singis on the spray :
Welcum the lord of lycht, and lamp of day,
Welcum fostyr of tendir herbys grene,
Welcum quyknar of florist flowris schene,
Welcum support of euery rute and vane,
Welcum confort of alkynd fruyt and grane,
Welcum the byrdis beyld apon the breyr,
Welcum maister and rewlar of the yeyr,
Welcum weilfar of husbandis at the plewis,
Welcum reparar of woddis, treis, and bewis,
Welcum depayntar of the blomyt medis,
Welcum the lyfe of euery thing that spredis,
Welcum stourour of alkynd bestiall,
Welcum be thi brycht bemys, glading all,
Welcum celestiall myrrour and aspy,
Attechyng all that hantis sluggardy!

Arne Rautenberg

Arne at Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy
Arne at Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy

The German poet and artist Arne Rautenberg visited me in Edinburgh recently. We read together at the Goethe Institut Glasgow, and at the Edinburgh Bookshop – along with Peter Manson, presenting his fine Mallarmé translations – so thanks to everyone who came on those evenings.

I made some new translations for the readings, of poems from Arne’s most recent book, Mundfauler Staub (Taciturn Dust). This is a translation of ‘abspann’.

Credits

the man: my grandfather
the woman: my grandmother
the child: my mother
war

the man: my father
the woman: my mother
the child: me
reconstruction

the man: me
the woman: my wife
the child: my daughter
happiness

Angus & Arne
Angus & Arne

Arne and I, accompanied by Angus Reid, also walked part of the Fife Coastal Path, between Kirkcaldy and Aberdour.

2013-04-25 12.562013-04-25 14.292013-04-25 17.15

Spring Shoots – Readings in April & May

After a long hibernation, the days are getting longer and several events in the diary are getting closer.

B&J approach Rasaay

First up is a launch event for Out of Books, with Alec Finlay, on Thursday 11 April at 6.30pm, at the Scottish Poetry Library, and a second event as part of the Boswell Book Festival at Auchinleck, Ayrshire, on Sunday 19 May. Out of Books is collaborative project inspired by Boswell and Johnson’s 1773 journey across the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Taking their texts as their guides, we’ll set out to revisit particular landscapes and recover particular views. Over the summer and along the route we will host a series of events inspired by their antecedents’ famous journey, with further events in and around Inverness, on the Isles of Skye, Coll and Mull, and in Inveraray.

snapdragon11-1

Barrie ‘Caseroom’ Tullett is visiting Edinburgh for the Fruitmarket Gallery Book Fair on Saturday 20 April. I’ll do a stint on the table as well, and read something from Snapdragon about 12.30.

Arne Rautenberg

Arne Rautenberg is visiting Scotland later in the month, and we’re doing two readings together – at the Goethe Institut in Glasgow on Tuesday 23 April at 6.30pm, and at the Edinburgh Bookshop the following day at 7.30pm (this is the Facebook page about it).

cherry blossom 2

In May, I’m leading two poetry walks in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12, both at 2.00pm. Content still to be decided, but certainly some Chinese classics, haiku, maybe Burns in rural-floral mode, something from The Road North

Apollo shadows

And finally, a reading with Pierre Joris and Lila Matsumoto at Little Sparta on Sunday 26 May at 5.00pm, linked to the University of Glasgow’s Assembling Identities conference. Tickets are available here.

Perhaps the snow will have melted from the Pentlands by then.

Snowy Pentlands, April

Sixteens

Sixteens: for Isobel is a project featuring simple, formal arrangements of related found objects, made for Northlight Dunbar 2012, and presented at the Beach Hut, Dunbar Harbour.

I developed the practice of making Fourteens in summer 2010 as part of The Road North. On my daughter’s fourteenth birthday I was on Skye while she was in Edinburgh, so to mark the occasion I picked, arranged and photographed fourteen yellow ragwort heads, and e-mailed her the image. This soon became a way of enabling Alec Finlay and myself to focus on things we came across – including berries, flowers and mushrooms.

Two years on, and I’ll be with my daughter on her birthday. But I’ve been making Sixteens anyway, sixteen related found objects arranged as a four by four grid, and photographed in situ. I’ve made sixteen such arrangements and photographs, retaining one item from each, which is displayed in the beach hut alongside the photos. The items compose a seventeenth Sixteen, derived from its predecessors (just as in a ‘crown of sonnets’ the fifteenth sonnet is composed of one line from each of the previous fourteen).

I made eleven Sixteens before my week in Dunbar, on recent trips to Moray and Orkney, and the remaining five were made on a walk along the John Muir Way east from Dunbar towards Torness power station.

With thanks to Angus Reid and Lorna Irvine for their contributions.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hidden in Hilton

The Wildwood

Back in April I ran workshops with Year 5/6 pupils at Hilton Primary School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as part of a project by Alec Finlay about habitat and outdoor learning. The focus was on exploring and redeveloping an overgrown garden known as ‘the wildwood’.
cHerry rIpening, pLum bursTing, Oak flamiNg

hawtHorn growIng, appLe fruiTing, cOtoneaster twistiNg

Poet-botanist Colin Will spoke to the children about what was growing there. The visit with Colin gave them a lot of stimuli, and they made notes as they went round. What helped them differentiate the plants was a memorable detail – the ash’s ‘black fingernails’, making it a ‘goth tree’, for example.
tHe fruIting pLum, The lOnely rowaN

sHaking wIllow, fLowering blackThorn, smOoth rowaN

I showed the kids different ways to write about the plants they’d discovered and observed. The mesostic poems have a central stem-word, while embedded poems have a word hidden within it, like a cryptic crossword clue. The two below include tree names.
A shivering twig and a shiny key (3)

Servant to a king (3)

The poems have now been installed in the garden, as labels, bird-boxes and on barrel-seats.