As August draws to a close, with a hint of Autumn in the air some mornings, I’m reflecting on what suddenly became a very busy month for me. I’ll put down some of the highlights, before I start on an equally busy September, and with October likely to be hectic also.
August is the time of the celebration of Edinburgh’s Festivals. I’ve lost count of how many the city hosts, but I was intending having a quiet Festival period this year, but it didn’t turn out that way. Things kicked off for me with the launch of The Road North’s exhibition in the Scottish Poetry Library. Alec Finlay and Ken Cockburn travelled throughout Scotland in 2010 and 2011, writing, producing a fantastic illustrated blog record of their journey, and chumming up with friends at various points. The final production of the project is a lovely mirror-map, which equates their Scottish places with the stations of Basho’s wonderful Oku no hosomichi. I was delighted to be involved with two of the stations – Eiheiji (Langass, North Uist), and Shitomae (Beinn Dorain). It’s clear to me that the journey hasn’t finished, for any of us. I’m still inspired to produce new poems from memories of my sections, and I’ve applied things I learned on these journeys to other walks, including East Lothian and Berwickshire coastal trails.
The following night I was in Dunbar’s John Muir Birthplace Museum for the opening of the exhibition ‘one touch of nature makes all kin’, a celebration of John Muir’s philosophy and outlook through art, writing, and on the opening night a tribute to Joseph Beuys. Beuys was first brought over to an Edinburgh Festival by Rickie Demarco, and in the way of these things I’ve got connections to Rickie also, as has Alec Finlay through family friendship with his father, Ian Hamilton Finlay. The following week I was back in the JMB for a poetry reading with the Dunbar Writers, supporting readings by Ken Cockburn and Angus Reid. Angus had been staying in a remote cottage on the Dunglass Burn, and his poetic responses to the experience were very moving.
At the weekend I was at a giant picnic at Yellow Craig with friends, and on the Sunday at the 100th birthday celebrations for Jim Dixon. My friend Bashabi Fraser has written a book-length poem From the Ganga to the Tay (published by Luath), and it was lovely to be at a performance of the whole poem by Chrys Salt and Donald Smith, with music by Michael Braudy, who combined Western and Indian classical schools of violin playing. I read at the Captain’s Bar with the Federation of Writers on the 10th, and again on the 15th. On the 12th I was at the Scottish Poetry Library for the first of four Courtyard Readings, and in the evening I took part in Kevin Cadwallender’s 36-hour Poetry Marathon at the Forest Café. This was followed by an exhilarating and hilarious poetry reading, ‘A Knife Fight in a Telephone Box’, MC-ed by Tim Turnbull at his lugubrious best. I didn’t know before this that the ability to read poetry while pretending to be trampolining is a performance skill poets should practice.
On the 16th I went to a marvellous reading in the Fruitmarket Gallery, to hear Simon Barraclough, Helen Mort, Isobel Dixon, Helen Ivory, Andrew Philip and Rob A Mackenzie read. It was a knockout session, with all six readers on top form. On the 20th I led the renga at Coldingham (see previous post), and on the Sunday I visited my friend Jo Gibson to have a preliminary read of her MS for publication next year. 23rd I was back at the SPL, then a Federation reading at the Forest Cafe. Wednesday another Courtyard Reading, Thursday a reading at the Royal Oak, with Kevin, Eddie Gibbons, and many other friends. Today I collected my Calder Wood Press catalogue from the printers, and tomorrow (Saturday), my final Courtyard Reading.
Phew. Friday, 2nd September, sees the start of the Callander Poetry Weekend, and I’ll say more about that later.