Rolling…

Busy weeks and getting busier. 

Elsewhere to Be, a collection of creative writing – fiction and non-fiction – I’ve been editing for the WORD Centre at University of Aberdeen has (finally) gone to the printers.  The writing was inspired by the lives and experiences of landless families displaced by the effects of agricultural expansion in the early to mid-nineteenth century.  Together they reflect on experiences of displacement, loss and recovery, of living on the margins and striving for better things, using the personal experience and imagination of present-day writers to explore the lives of those who made Bennachie their home during this period.  Written in English, Polish and Scots and skillfully translated by Beata Tschirch, the project was a great experience.  More information on a launch and where to get your copy as soon as things firm up!

Privileged to have my three-poem sequence, Lament for the Children, published in NorthWords Now Issue 41 in such good company.  The poems were written as part of the Pibroch project and inspired by Padraig Mor MacCrimmon’s pìobaireachd – Cumha na Cloinne.  The pibroch, Lament for the Children, was, indeed, central to the development of the show and collection – both of which are structured around the four ‘movements’ of that piece – urlar, dithis, suibhal and taorluth.

Poetry @ Books and Beans: Thursday 27th May

In the meantime, I’m actively looking for venues for Pibroch starting from July this year – and hoping we’re not driven back into lock-down.  An abridged version will feature as part of The Gathering in Stonehaven 23rd-25th July and I’ll be sharing some of the poems online later this month at Poetry @ Books and Beans: Thursday 27th May at 6.30 pm UTC+01.  Free and online.  Check out the Poetry @ Books and Beans facebook page for more information and links.  Will be joined by Sheila Templeton reading from her new collection – Clyack – and the usual enthusiastic line-up for the Open Mic.

And in the meantime2 , there’s still time to register for the online launch of Pushing Out the Boat 16 on Sunday 16th. Writing from around the world though with a North East flavour and a fine line-up of readers.

Time to get this show back on the road…

Well, I’m sure it has been an extraordinary year for most of us, and for many of us a year of loss and sadness.  For me, it has been, mostly, a year of isolation – wait and see, restricted for much of it to my home due to my high vulnerability to COVID-19.  Unlike many of friends in the global South, I have had the benefit of vaccination and the support of a government (in Scotland, at least) somewhat more concerned with the lives and health of their population than others seem to have been in countries like Brazil and, until recently, the USA.

A year of isolation and retreat has, however, provided an opportunity to focus fairly on writing projects and some associated music and film-making ideas.  It has also provided the opportunity to provide some online mentoring and editorial support for other writers and projects.

So, as we come out of lock-down (again and at least temporarily), it’s time to get the show on the road again on so many levels.

The Asphalt City

Over the last 12 months, with the help and support, in particular, of Mary Armour, I’ve produced (and re-produced and finally produced) Threads, a novel set in Angola, Scotland, the USA and South Korea between 2005 and 2011.

It is the product of first-hand experience, deep research and, perhaps most challenging of all, a determined empathy for all its diverse characters.  

Working in Angolan oil & gas operations in 2005, I was struck by the fact that the ‘pilgrims’ depicted in Heart of Darkness (1899) were alive and well in the 21st Century.  But any reprise of Conrad’s novella of the present age, has to offer a polyphonous, multivalent account, giving voice, especially, to indigenous perspectives.  In Threads, Caliban’s much-maligned mother, Sycorax, confronts Conrad’s Mr. Kurtz with the consequences of his actions and demands a compensation greater than his death. 

Adopting terms from Portuguese, Kimbundu, Calão and Scots, the tale challenges reader-expectations as the point-of-view switches between colonised and colonist, woman and man, living and ‘dead’, unfolding in a shatter-zone of experience and memory.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on the development of this really challenging project over the next few weeks.

Remains of Piper Alpha 7th July 1988
Remains of Piper Alpha 7th July 1988

Also ready to roll is Pibroch – my spoken word show and poetry collection exploring parallels between the Climate Emergency and the Piper Alpha disaster which occurred in the North Sea in 1988.

Pibroch was originally conceived a one-person spoken word performance with accompanying music and visuals.  And it still is and can be!   The pressures of the last year have, however, driven the piece to be far more digital that might otherwise have been the case and it will be suitable for streaming as an installation as well as a performance.  This has been a great opportunity to learn new skills in film making and music production which have been integrated into my practice. 

There is a complementary collection currently in preparation. Publication of Pibroch by Red Squirrel Press is expected in 2021.

More information on some of the themes and practical issues with the development of Pibroch will be appearing on A View from the Long Grass over the next few weeks.  So watch this space!