I was recently asked to provide an artist statement for a project I am currently involved with, and I thought I would expand it into a blog post:
My work as a creative writer derives to a very large extent from my knowledge and experience of the natural world – the geology, botany and ecological processes of the environment. I take great pleasure in sharing my enjoyment of the natural world with others, whether simply as experience or as inspiration for other creative activities. Working with visual artists, for example, gives insights into landscapes and forms which are different from mine, but complementary. Conversely, I can supply scientific contexts to landscapes and environments which enhance understanding and lead to outcomes which blend the scientific and the artistic. The creative synergy between the different approaches is something I find fresh and exciting.
I regard all my writing, including my poetry, as part of a communication process, between myself, my listeners and readers. It is a two-way process, which is why I enjoy public readings and workshops. I gain enormously from audience responses. I enjoy listening to and reading the work of other poets. I am stimulated by the work of other creative artists, including painters, musicians, photographers, sculptors and film-makers. And I gain most pleasure by encouraging new writers to express themselves in performance and in print.
I moved to Dunbar in 2000, and I consider it my home. I find it to be an inspirational place, and my creative output has increased enormously since the move. I have also found it to be a hub for fellow artists of all kinds, and I love that. Since moving here I have explored the town and its surrounding countryside, and I have become immersed in it.
One of the other very large influences on my creative work is my love of travel. Whether it is in Europe’s cultural capitals, the pleasures of French rural life, the enormous landscapes of the American Southwest, the forests of Madagascar, the mountains and monasteries of Tibet, or the gardens of Japan, meeting people in all of these places, such experiences have broadened my outlook, and given me a huge range of material for my work. And the rich variety of landscapes in my native Scotland has always been inspirational.
As a teenager, back in the 1950s, I discovered Zen Buddhism, and its precepts underlie my way of life, and my appreciation of the aesthetic values of China and Japan. I have studied the poetry and arts of these countries for many years, and I have tried to incorporate forms and ideas from them into my more Western writing practice.