I’m doing a workshop on trees for the Dunbar Arts Trust this evening, and I thought I’d post it here. If you’d like to try it yourself, please feel free. I’ve always loved trees; the look of them, the variety of them, the life that’s in them, and the way people and trees interact. Ten years ago when the Scottish Parliament was first elected, the Scottish Poetry Library linked nearly 30 poets with 30 MSPs, who then commissioned the poets to write on the subjects of their choice. ‘My’ MSP was Robin Harper, of the Green Party, and he commissioned me to write a poem about trees. We’ve been friends ever since. Incidentally, he told me once he’d read the poem in the Globe pub in Dumfries, from the chair in which Robert Burns sat. I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do that, but I like the idea.
The poem itself was in five sections, Robin’s Rowan, Argyll Oaks, the Fortingall Yew, Pine Woods of Caledon, and Birks (birches). In each section I tried to weave some characteristics of the tree, some folklore and folk medicine, and some of the uses people have made of the species.
Tonight’s workshop is:
- Write down three things you know about one kind of tree
- Who else lives in your tree, or depends on it?
- Imagine your tree as a character or spirit. What would it say?
- What does your tree do in each of the seasons?
- What does the future hold for your tree?
- Put everything together into a poem or a story for telling. It should be in four verses or paragraphs, with each verse or paragraph having four or five lines.
- What kind of illustration would accompany your writing? Can you do it yourself, or would you like to work with someone else in the group?
So there you are. I’m hoping for good things from tonight, and if you take part, let me know how you get on.