The Ullapool Book Festival is supported by the independent bookshops of the Northwest Highlands, and they always impress me every time I visit the area. This year I was delighted to see Sally Evans’ The Bees in the shops there, together with some of the new Diehard Windfall series. And the range and variety of titles stocked in the shops is just wonderful. Where else, I ask you, could I have walked into a shop and bought a copy of the poems of Po Chü-I, one of the finest poets of T’ang dynasty China?
I took David Hinton’s selection of Chinese wilderness poetry with me to Glencanisp, and it must have seeped into me, because I found myself writing a couple of poems in that style. On the surface it’s conversational, but many are profound reflections on the natural world and our place in it. And my poems, while not claiming to be profound, led to a fascinating debate round the fire one evening, about detachment and involvement.
Other poems were very different, and many of them are still unfinished. Influenced by Mandy Haggith’s The Last Bear (of which more later), I found myself starting what I think will be a longish poem about a year in the life of a bear, with bear physiology and behaviour prominent. The Goldilocks story has a lot to answer for.