kathleen-Jamie-600x600The past few years I’ve found myself increasingly engaged with poetry from across the Pond, Scotland in particular.

In part, through my appearance in ANON magazine, the “honourable mention” I received in the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition, and connecting with the Scottish Poetry Library.

My paternal grandfather’s family hailed from the central lowlands textile burgh of Paisley, across the River Clyde from Glasgow, which may explain why I’m partial to Scottish poets. (My Burns’ Nights were famous in the 1990s.) Whatever the case, I’ve found some kindred spirits of my generation among them.

Once such is Kathleen Jamie. Jamie “resists being identified solely as a Scottish poet, a woman writer, or a nature poet,” reads her entry in the Poetry Foundation’s web site. “Instead, she aims for her poetry to ‘provide a sort of connective tissue,’ as she notes in a 2005 interview.”

Her influences include Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, John Clare, and Annie Dillard. Quite a foursome, that, and it shows or doesn’t show – rather, it is felt. She takes the powerful language of Heaney, the precise observation of Bishop, Clare’s perspective on landscape, and the natural history acumen of Dillard’s nonfiction.

Jamie’s poems are highly musical – meant to be read aloud, and “attend to the intersection of landscape, history, gender, and language.”

Her latest collection, The Overhaul, was published in the UK by Picador (where another Scottish-born poet of my generation, Don Patterson, is editor) and took home the prestigious Costa Prize.

Here is the title poem from this collection, “The Overhaul,” by Kathleen Jamie:

Look – it’s the Lively,

hauled out above the tideline

up on a trailer with two

flat tyres. What –


14 foot? Clinker-built

and chained by the stern

to a pile of granite blocks,

but with the bow


still pointed westward

down the long voe,

down toward the ocean,

where the business is.


Inland from the shore

a road runs, for the crofts

scattered on the hill

where washing flaps,


and the school bus calls

and once a week or so

the mobile library;

but see how this


duck-egg green keel’s

all salt-weathered,

how the stem, taller

— like a film star –


than you’d imagine,

is raked to hold steady

if a swell picks up

and everyone gets scared…


No, it can’t be easy,

when the only  spray to touch

your boards all summer

is flowers of scentless mayweed;


when little wavelets leap

less than a stone’s throw

with your good name

written all over them –


but hey, Lively,

it’s a tme-of-life thing,

it’s a waiting game –

patience, patience.


While I was away this weekend up at the Rodale Institute’s organic farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, my poem “Cultivating (Preserving)” appeared in the Scottish online journal, Bolts of Silk. It’s another poem from my “Dwelling” sequence, which Alison Hawthorne Deming has called, “a phenomenology of how we live on the Earth.”

Bolts of Silk, which has the subtitle “beautiful poetry with something to say,” is curated by the delightful Crafty Green Poet, Juliet Wilson of Edinburgh, Scotland, whom I met through our both being published in another Scottish journal, Anon.

The irony of this poem being published while I was unplugged up at an organic farm was not lost on me. Perhaps (I’m not going to ask) it wasn’t lost on Juliet, who follows me on Twitter and could very well have seen my last tweet on Friday evening as I was heading to the farm.

In any event, here is my poem,


Cultivating (Preserving)

Dwelling as preserving
is cultivating.
Dwelling means knowing
what inhabits a place
and understanding that
which belongs to a place.

We cultivate what grows,
while building things
that don’t grow.
We seek the organic
in our own creations,
which are inorganic.

Imposing our will
on the landscape,
we can remove either
that which promotes capacity
or that which prevents capacity.

We are tenders of the garden,
we tend what needs tending
(heart or “langscape”)
What we save remains—

–Scott Edward Anderson

Side Portrait of the poet Edwin Morgan, aged 8...
Image via Wikipedia

The great Scottish poet Edwin Morgan passed away nearly two weeks ago and the tributes and accolades have continued throughout the Edinburgh Book Festival that’s just ended.

I’ve been fortunate to follow much of it via Twitter, having connected with such wonderful poets and poetry lovers as @ByLeavesWeLive, @OneNightStanzas, and @craftygreenpoet among others, who have made me feel like I was there alongside them, paying my respects.

Morgan was a remarkably gifted poet, and gifted not only in the sort of conventional sense of the word.  I mean he had an incomparable ear for the rich variety and breadth of poetry that one rarely sees in this day of specialization and of literary “camps.”

Morgan saw the magical in the ordinary and wasn’t about to limit himself by the constraints of either subject matter or style.  He could be funny, such as “The First Men on Mercury,” but he was equally adept when he turned his hand at tender, more traditional love poems.

One of my favorites — probably my favorite Morgan poem — is “Strawberries,” which you can read in its entirety at the Edwin Morgan Archives at the Scottish Poetry Library.

For now, I’ll just quote the ending, which is stunning even without mention of the strawberries or the scene between two lovers:

let the sun beat

on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

–Edwin Morgan

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I recently discovered the work of photographer and filmmaker Alastair Cook through Anon Magazine (we both appear in Anon7).  He wrote about a project he calls FilmPoem, which are short films he’s made based upon contemporary poems.

“The combination of film and poetry is an attractive one,” writes Alastair. “For the poet, perhaps a hope that the filmmaker will bring something to the poem: a new audience, a visual attraction, the laying of way markers; for the filmmaker, a fixed parameter to respond to, the power of a text sparking the imagination with visual connections and metaphor.”

His project reminds me (in spirit if not in style) of some films I made in Super 8 back in the mid-1980s — I called them “cinepoems” — two of which were shown at an independent film show at Cleveland State University in 1985. One was based upon Kenneth Patchen‘s “I Went to the City” and the other was called “Through the Glimmerglass (And What We Saw There).”   (I really should digitize those films and make them available.)

I have always been fascinated by the combination of film and poetry and it’s great to discover Alastair’s work.  Here is his film “Adrift,” based upon a poem by the fabulous Juliet Wilson (whose work also appears in Anon7):

Adrift from Alastair Cook on Vimeo.

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