a gull’s blue cry

Seven of us assembled in the grounds of Coldingham Priory yesterday to write a renga. We strolled around the ruins of the old Priory, some possibly dating back as far as the 8th century, before settling down to write in a semi-circle, on a stone seat which was just right  for the writing.

Coldingham Priory grounds

These are the grounds, and

Renga writers at Coldingham

here are six of us; the seventh naturally being the photographer. She’s in another shot though.

We started writing on a schema I came up with a few weeks ago. It’s a slight variant on the traditional renga schema, but it still does follow the seasons in the appropriate way. Alternating three and two lines, we had:

summer, summer, moon, wind, harvest, gleaning, night, fire, openings, spring, flowers, and new.

Here’s the brilliant opening hokku by Anna Dickie:


At the end of the day we tied this discreetly to a tree, along with a parchment ‘wish’.

We rapidly got into the renga ‘zone’, and very often we were completely in tune with each other and with the place. It’s a lovely feeling when it works like this, and the day was, for me, renga at its best. I’m not going to post the final twelve-verse renga here, as we hope to publish it, and we don’t want to have copyright issues. However, as with all renga, each writer ends up with leftover verses which aren’t used in the final poem. I thought some of them were outstanding, and it was often difficult to choose verses. Here are my unselected verses from the day:


warmth of old stones
wind provides
the rhythm section

an arch in the sky
a way to heaven
above the old yew

wood pigeons applaud
the stubble fields

chestnuts never taste as good
as the smell they make roasting

a single malt
get that
down you

green spears
sharpened by soil
break cover

she puts his hand
around her little finger


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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4 Responses to a gull’s blue cry

  1. Looks beautiful and sounds like a lot of fun, good day for it too!

  2. sunnydunny says:

    It was a very special day, Marion.

  3. Julia Carter says:

    As a Friend of the Priory closely involved with the creation and ongoing care of the garden, I’m very pleased to hear of its use as a source and venue for creativity. It is a sheltered garden with many wild flowers and we want it to be a sheltered place for the spirit as well as the person.

    That sounds a bit pretentious but the place is for enjoyment. Also we want to encourage ongoing care so if you see any litter please pick it up and take it away. So far it has stayed in pretty good condition.

    I look forward to reading the verse on the label.

  4. sunnydunny says:

    Hello Julia. It was my Coldingham friend Heather who suggested the Priory – she’s also one of its Friends, so you probably know her. She’s hoping to publish the work in the parish newsletter. The nucleus of our group were from the Eyemouth writers’ group – Eyewrite – and I brought some friends from East Lothian too. I found it an enriching and supportive place for the event. I got a feeling of balance and tranquillity while leading the writing, and the other writers responded beautifully. Best wishes. Colin

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