Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Commonty: Fankle Issue 7 Rolls out..

I do like The Fankle!  Cunningly folded, deftly worded, The Fankle is rumbling into autumn with the Barrel issue.  Click here for a snifter The Commonty: Fankle Issue 7 Rolls out..

Monday, 10 October 2011

National Poetry Day 2011

Just back in the land of internet after my week on the wild side at Cove Park, and find I was a Contemporary Scottish Poet for 2011 National Poetry Day.

Must try to continue to be.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A wet week at Cove Park (but wet is good)

My grant from Arts Trust Scotland came through in the nick of time for me to take up my Fielding Mentored Week with Polly Clark.  This takes place at Cove Park in Argyll, a place that feels like the back of beyond and yet is strangely near to Glasgow...

I'm staying in a Cube, a charmingly converted industrial container.  It has retained a faint starkness, which is very suitable to the purpose of being isolated with your poetry project for one precious week.  Any asceticism is comfortingly eased however by high insulation, comfortable bed and delightful desk and sofa over the Big View. 

I'm working on The Dark Farms, which is all about The Galloway Forest.  It's about signs of change and time, both human and cosmological, passing, in a place where very dark skies survive, but farms are falling in, where the forests have swallowed up ancient paths, where there are even ghosts of sheep.

The Hunt  (an extract)
It’s intricate, this sheep ree, links and passageways
to fox them.  The sheep running like water

down the bitter face of Mulwhachar to pour
between the rock walls of the Buchan Burn. 

The smell of lanolin and panic, the Blackface
tricked by grinning dogs, who leave

no choices and no dodging back. And the dykes,
raddled with shearing dags and blood...

Polly's mentoring sessions were great.  Words like incisive and rigour do come to mind, but in a good way.  The poems are sharper, more honed, and more effective as a result.  I've learned a lot.  I've also put in a huge amount of time, even surprising myself somewhat at my dedication to task.  Usually I just don't have it, period.  Also, the rain.  It has rained some of every day, and all but one virtually constantly.  I get up now and then, regardless, and walk through water, greeting charming Highland cows, or up and down the steep road to the shore.  There are other artists here, a sculptor, a novelist, a film photographer, a biographer and now a performance artist too.  All great company.  My last night tonight, I'm planning to be back.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Dark Farms - this time I really found one

I've been back to the Galloway Forest, exploring for places bearing signs of change.  This is the farm at Glenhead.  In 1901 S R Crockett described his arrival there with a fellow traveller.
'Placid stillness without as we ride up - a broad straw hat lying in a friendly way upon the path - the clamour of children's voices somewhere down by the meadow - this is Glenhead, a pleasant place for the wandering vagabond to set his foot upon and rest awhile.' 
Crockett goes on to describe the coolness of 'the narrow latticed sitting-room - where there is such a collection of good books as makes us think of the winter nights when storms rage about the hill-cinctured farm...'  Later they follow 'the slow, calm, steady shepherd's stride of our friend, as he paces upwards to guide us over his beloved hills.'

In 2011, as you can see from the photograph, Glenhead is empty.  Unusually, in fact, it's actually bricked up.  I walked along the overgrown track where once Crockett noticed the fallen straw hat, and I leaned on an orchard gate and stretched out my hand for a small but sweet apple.  The yew tree pins together these two times, as do the heavy erratics which form the bank around it beside the track.  Working my way through bracken and brambles to the house, I could only sense loss, and  disturbance.  There's something uncanny about a house shut up.  I thought about the sitting room and its shelf of good books, a space enclosed in permanent darkness now. 

You can still hear the burns running.  Damselflies flitted like sparks through the reedy grass.  I was glad to leave.