Tag Archives: Shearsman

The Road North – published by Shearsman

the road north front cover

After the road-trips of 2010 and 2011, Alec Finlay and I wrote a long poem about our travels on The Road North. It’s now been published in book form by Shearsman as the road north: a journey through Scotland guided by Bashō’s oku-no-hosomichi, 15 May 2010–15 May 2011.

You can buy the book via the Shearsman website.

You can download an audio version free of charge from iTunes – search for ‘The Road North (Alec Finlay & Ken Cockburn).

With thanks to Tony Frazer at Shearsman, and Tomohiko Ogawa for the cover photograph – it’s a postcard of Scotland which Alec sent to Tomohiko, who ‘matched’ it with a landscape in Japan.

If you’re interested in the background to the project, click on the link below to read an article I wrote for The Author, the magazine of The Society of Authors, earlier this year.

KC TRN The Author

And you can still read the original blog, written while we were on the road.

the road north back cover

Revisiting Outlandia

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In August 2010 Alec Finlay and I visited Lochaber as part of The Road North. Our destination was Outlandia, a newly-built mountain hut, or artists’ field-station, commissioned by London Fieldworks (Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson), designed by Malcolm Fraser, built by Norman Clark. Located a short, steep walk up from Fort William’s Braveheart car-park, it looks across the glen to the western slopes of Ben Nevis. You can read the account of our visit back then here.

Four years on and we’re returning to take part in Remote Performances, a collaboration between London Fieldworks and Resonance104.4fm. Over the course of a week, a series of specially commissioned artist performances and programmes created with local residents were broadcast live from Outlandia.

Driving north we stop and test the waters of Loch Eilt, a fondly remembered station from 2010, and we’re staying with Bruce and Jo, and many of the participating artists, at Frisealach in Lochailort, the house of Malcolm Fraser and Helen Lucas, where we also stayed a couple of nights in 2010. On the track up to Outlandia, Alec picks and I eat an angel’s-wing mushroom, prompting a Proustian memory of our previous visit; eating them raw in the hut with oatcakes, and cooked for breakfast at Annie Brigg’s the next morning, with fresh eggs from her chickens.

Our contribution to Remote Performances is a reading of the long poem The Road North, which developed after and to some extent out of the blog we kept over the year we were travelling. In the hut we sit with our backs to the window at a table supporting a large sound-desk. There is no electricity supply to the hut, and Bruce tells me all the equipment is powered by a hydrogen generator, which runs off hydrogen drawn from the atmosphere.

When I look up I see tree-tops and rain patterning the high roof-window. After a introduction from Tam Dean Burn, we’re on… back in Outlandia, recalling B-roads and Passing Places, and speaking to people… here, there and everywhere. We read the whole poem apart from the two Epilogues, which we don’t quite have time for.

That reading is available on Sound Cloud, as are all the other Remote Performances broadcast from Outlandia; and the poem will be published in book form by Shearsman Books this autumn.

With thanks to Bruce and Jo for the invitation to take part, and to everyone who made Remote Performances possible.

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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.