Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sense of Place Renga at Botanics


Being the end of term session of my Sense of Place course, why not a sociable, collaborative Renga - linked haiku-like stanzas and since rain might not be far away, we took shelter in the Temperate Palm House, a 19th c magnificent conservatory in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Some even ventured out into the gardens, braving potential fall-out of volcanic ash.

I can't say we followed a very strict interpretation of Renga - we kept to the spring/early summer season we are in and used the direct experience of the place. And I ducked out of the role of Renga Master - much more interesting for the students to take it in turns to organize and reorganize the resulting sequences and savour the differing results.

It was fun and maybe we reached a zen place. The soup and rolls in the cafe were good too.
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Save our Libraries protest rumbles on

Over in Moy, Northern Ireland, visiting relatives, the first thing I noticed driving into the town was this depressing appeal to 'Save our Library' in letters blocking the window panes.
A typical scenario - small town with much loved library catering to those without cars who cannot drive miles away to the big library they intend to save in Dungannon, and in fact, which the council has spent a fortune revamping. Great. But now it seems, this is at the cost of all the little surrounding satellite town libraries.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Brendan Kennelly's 75th

Happy birthday to Brendan Kennelly who is 75 this year.

My favourite poet, former lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and first mentor. The force be with him for many more years of beautiful, sometimes controversial and moving poetry and his naughty sense of humour.

Listen to his melodious voice on the poetry archive

Monday, 16 May 2011

Tree Books and a Matsuri in the Hidden Gardens, Glasgow

Xylotheque, a library of trees, attached by wire, rather like the books in the Bodleian attached by chains. Each book contains a sliver of wood from one of the native Scottish trees. This charming installation is to be found under the seats of a special shelter in the Hidden Gardens, Glasgow - a shelter especially created for poetry recitals, in particular Japanese haiku.

Hidden Gardens, the Tramway, Glasgow

It rained. Of course, it rained. It was Glasgow in spring. But it was only a light pattering in the birch, branches swaying. The sound of an occasional train hooting and swooshing by and the jingle of an ice-cream van now and then to remind us we were not in the Highlands hidden in a birch forest with waterfalls and perhaps a loch glimpsed through the leaves but in a transformed area beside the converted Tramway.

We stood by the wooden xylotheque structure, mentioned above. Enough room for a few people to shelter whilst the rest of us dripped under umbrellas or hoods. We were there to hear a series of haiku composed by Alec Finlay and Ken Cockburn on a commemorative trip they made around Scotland last year, to honour the trip Basho made many centuries ago in his 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' in Japan. Fuji might be represented by a similarly iconic Scottish mountain, a famous view in Japan represented by another here, or personal incidents echoed here such as a poem about glimpsing Boreray, one of the St Kildan archipelago which they never visited to parallel an island similarly glimpsed but never reached by Basho.

Larry Butler, Angus Reid, Colin Will and others had also contributed haiku from their visits throughout the year and the results were read along with Ken and Alec's, the whole event started atmospherically by the lilting Eriskay Love Song sung beautifully in Gaelic by Margaret Bennett.

Margaret Bennett

Alec Finlay, Mr Masataka Tarahara, Consul General for Japan, and his wife and Ken Cockburn(reading)

One of the highlights for me was the contribution made by the Consul General for Japan in Edinburgh, Mr Masataka Tarahara, who came over for the event. He explained how there are many affinities between Scotland and Japan: love of mountains and lakes/lochs, also both countires have four seasons and many, many ruined castles. He then proceeded to sing a haunting song in Japanese. The theme was that castles have their day of splendour and then fall into decay - as do humans! Ah, that old theme.

After the reading, people were encouraged to compose their own haiku inspired by the setting, write them on labels and tie them to the tree. Ken told me often the ink fades and only the labels are left, then they too eventually deteriorate and return to nature. Biodegradable, so not litter then.

To read the poems, see
and Ken's blog:

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