‘A poem is a walk,’ A. R. Ammons once claimed. Thomas Traherne put it in a similar manner: ‘To walk is by a thought to go / To move in spirit to and fro.’ With that in mind, this weekend, the Scottish Poetry Library, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE) and Cove Park launch a new project we hope you’ll come to follow over the next four months – Walking With Poets.
Walking With Poets will look at an old subject, one of the oldest, nature, using new media. It provides poets, readers and visitors to Scotland’s botanic gardens with a fresh way to engage with the environment and writing about it.
The inspiration for Walking With Poets came after programme managers Jennifer Williams from the Scottish Poetry Library and Amy McDonald from Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden strolled around Amy’s workplace and, inspired by their locale, dared to dream of a project offering residencies to four poets at RBGE and in each of its regional botanic gardens.
With support from Creative Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland programme, the project started to come together. We invited poets to submit their ideas on how they could contribute, assigning those writers who most excited us with their plans to one of the following locations: mountainous Benmore, which sits on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll, Edinburgh, Dumfries & Galloway’s Logan, and Dawyck, in the wooded hills of the Scottish Borders.
The idea is to explore new ways of writing about nature in our unwired 21st century. Armed with iPads, our poets will use new media to explore their garden, uploading images, blog posts, podcasts, and poems on a regular basis to www.walkingwithpoets.com. Those who want to contribute to and comment on the online experience, can use the hashtag #gardenpoet or add comments below blogs. Like a garden itself, we expect the blog to grow throughout the summer as this unique project blossoms and unfolds. The project, however, isn’t solely accessed via the internet. Each of our poets will run schemes members of the public can take part in.
The project kicks off in earnest this weekend when Sue Butler begins her residency at Benmore Garden. An Eric Gregory Award-winner, Sue is the author of a number of poetry collections including Learning to Improvise (Rockingham) and Arson (Happenstance). Sue will be resident in Benmore throughout June. She will be in Benmore Garden most days, observing and writing about her experiences in the Garden, and she has a number of projects lined up which visitors to the gardens will be able to enjoy as well as readers of the blog:
• Open Day, Sunday 2 June – Sue will edit and publish ten communal poems after speaking to visitors during Benmore’s annual Open Day.
• Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Benmore Garden’s Redwood Avenue, Sue will curate, write and edit 150 original poems during her month long residency in Argyll.
• Fathers and gardens, Sunday 16 June – Sue invites visitors to the garden to celebrate Father’s Day with poetry and horticulture in mind
• Starting on Saturday 8 June and finishing on Saturday 29 June, Sue will host and guide regular Walk, Listen and Write workshops on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 2 – 3.30pm. Everyone is welcome.
A full timetable of events will be posted soon. All poetry events are free with garden admission. We’ll be reporting back on Sue’s time in Benmore, so watch this space as well as the Walking With Poets website. And if you want to see what Benmore Garden looks like, click on the trailer below.