Thursday, 28 May 2009

a world of poetry

One of these days I will have to review some of the new poetry that has fallen into my lap lately. I am a sucker for books with water in the title so I have Matthew Hollis' Groundwater and Gillian Clarke's A Recipe for Water, which have stunned and excited me.
Then there was Alan Jamieson's video poems - beautiful combinations of text and sound and image which I'd love to find a way to share.
Then there will be the Atlantic Islands Festival on the island of Luing from 4th-11th July
which has been organised by Norman Bissell at the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics. I don't know how he has managed to pack so much interesting stuff into one week, but it is truly impressive, and I am looking forward very much to taking part.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

From Wood to Ridge Sorley Maclean

Or Somhairle Macgilleain as he would have written it in Gaelic. The book I've been reading is the Penguin collection of poems with a simultaneous translation From Wood to Ridge. It is beautiful and powerful, and completely gives the lie to people who see Gaelic as an archaic language only fit for conveying pastoral nostalgia, dealing as it does with love, war, and the politics of an uncompromisingly modern conflict between the personal and political.
I confess it leaves me almost speechless. It's always hard to evaluate a poetry that is not in its original language - you can't be sure how much of what you are getting was in the original intention and how much has been filtered out, or imported in, by the process of translation.
It's possible that you can get an enriching, two poems for the price of one, by translating - as I put it in a poem called Translating Swallows " I warm my thought at another mind's fire." You can see this in Seamus Heaney's Midnight Verdict, for instance, where you get Heaney as well as Ovid and Brian Merriman - and in fact you get three, there because the juxtaposition of extract from The Metamorphoses and The Midnight Court also allows the two poems to comment on each other and create a third vision.
But the problem with Sorley Maclean's poetry is that it is such a powerful synthesis of poetic form, language, land and culture, that I can't get much out of it without feeling overwhelmed by how much I'm missing. I can't help feeling that all poetry should aspire to this.
Here is a link to the official Sorley Maclean website.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

a new outlook

The new study is at the front of the house, and I'm only just getting used to the view. The old one (which was so small and packed that I once referred to it as the origami bookbox) looked out over the back garden bounded on one side by the hedge - a sparrow high-rise tenement - and on the other by the side of the utility room , the greenhouse and the fence. It was very sunny, enclosed, focussed, green and domestic.

The new one is at the front, facing North, and overlooks the street. It also overlooks the high stone wall which is all you can see downstairs into the neighbours' front gardens and windows, so I feel much more part of the bustle of village life, especially now while the construction work is going on.

But it also overlooks the orchard, the last of the many for which the village used to be famous in the days of the Glasgow Boys, who would take houses here and paint, and try to get acquainted with the girls at Denovan's art school at Craigmill. One of these was the famous country diary lady, Edith Holden, who studied there for a while, and refers to a holiday there in the summer of her famous book. The trees on this side of the house are taller and different birds hang out in them, and in the winter you can see beyond them to the Ochils in the distance - a very different perspective.