Friday 18 October 2013

Into the Forest

I've been gathering tree poems for years, and my dream of creating a tree poetry anthology is finally reaching fruition. Into the Forest will be published by Saraband in November (just in time for Christmas!) and it is going to be a thing of beauty. The cover and internal images are gorgeous, the design of the book is lovely, and of course the poems themselves are a forest of wonder.

There are more than 150 poets featured, ranging from nobel laureates like Seamus Heaney and Gabriella Mistral, to people you will never have heard of because they haven't been in print before. The anthology is structured into chapters following the species of the Gaelic tree alphabet but the selection of poems is ecologically liberal, including many close relatives of our native species living all over the world - from California to China, Norway to Norfolk.

I won't begin to try to explain how much more work is involved in the editing of such a collection than I expected. I'm just pleased that it has come together and been so creatively produced by Saraband.

The book is in aid of Trees for Life, and I'm giving my royalties to them to support regeneration of native woodlands in Scotland.

Into the Forest is dedicated to Gavin Wallace, whose tragic death earlier this year saddened everyone who knew him. I guess there must be hundreds of others just as grateful as I was for the  recognition he gave to our efforts and for the practical help he gave with Arts Council grants to individuals and to organisations. He was so modest about it all - a delightful man. I met him in the flesh first at the Ullapool Book Festival, after I'd received a Scottish Arts Council writer's bursary, and when I thanked him he gave a little smile and said something brief and nice and then turned the subject to the blossoms dressing the trees all the way up Market Street in the way they always do in Ullapool in May. I am sure he would have loved this book.

Thursday 3 October 2013

A watery poem for National Poetry Day

Today's National Poetry Day so to celebrate that, here's a poem on the theme of the day, water. It's from my collection Castings, now out of print. I found this traditional Cree story and loved it so much I wanted to see if it worked in the environment I am familiar with. In the Cree version I found, it is told by a man who is watching, with a wishing bone, hidden in some bushes. I've translocated it to the Highlands and retold it from the woman's point of view.
Wishing Bone Poem
(from a Cree story told by Jacob Nibeneganesabe)

This is my story.
I am married to this peaty pool.
He washes me
quenches my thirst
is fond of amphibians and ferns
sparkles in breezes.
I show him my love
swimming in him

Earlier this summer
the arsonist sun
scorched him away.
I lay in the dry hollow
waiting for rain.
Storms came
but their waters drained away.
I wept in the dry hollow.
Salt tears crusted my face.

I went looking for my husband-pool
trawled the glens and mires
I found him in a dark rocky hole.
He bathed my eyes clear.
Ever since I have been bringing him home
little by little
cupped in my hands.