I visited Edinburgh University Main Library today, open to the public on Doors Open Day. I wanted to see again the mesostic poems, by myself, Alec Finlay and others, that were installed on the bay ends as part of the library refurbishment in 2009. Each is about a particular author whose work is in the collection; an earlier post gives more background.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
The poems have now been installed in the garden, as labels, bird-boxes and on barrel-seats.
Last week the book mesostic interleaved was launched at the University of Edinburgh Library and the Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh. Conceived and co-published by Alec Finlay, it features 100 poems on authors held in the university library. I contributed a number of poems, on favourite authors like James Hogg and Thomas Mann, and on others I had to do a bit of research on before I could start anything, like the pioneering 18th century vet George Stubbs, or the 17th century scientist and Catholic theologian Anastasius Kircher.
The book is as minimal as a white cube gallery, with its texts carefully placed bottom of each page. At the top the poem is printed again, this time in barcode. The poems have also been published as bookmarks which, so I’m told, will be distributed, or leaked, slowly and randomly, by the university library. They’re also attached to the new, nattily coloured shelf-ends within the library.
Copies are available at Alec’s website.