18 October – 21 January
The Scottish Poetry Library is delighted to host Stone Moon, an exhibition of the collaborative work of visual artist Alison Grant and poet Fiona Sampson.
The works were inspired by poems from Sampson’s most recent collection Come Down (Corsair 2020). They are not mere illustrations, however, but what Grant calls “portraits of the poems”. While they remain true to the mood and imagery of the poems, they also contain the rhythm and intonation of the poet’s voice, traces of weather and the changing seasons and samples of soil and mud, spring water and vegetation gathered by Sampson herself from landscapes significant to her during the composition of Come Down. In the exhibition Grant explores the nature of poetry itself, the ways of being of poetry and the tension between text and voice, between stuff and breath, between the noumenal and the phenomenal.
Speaking of her collaboration with Alison, Fiona said:
Working with Alison Grant has been pure bunce. We met over a shared interest in limestone: her earlier series of prints explored that complex mineral in forensic and evocative detail, while I’d written a book about living in Limestone Country (Little Toller, 2017). Alison came and introduced herself when I was reading from that book at Edinburgh Book Festival – and seduced me with the gift of one of her limestone prints. How could I resist? But it also truly meant that I knew from the off what a generous person she would be to work with.
Generosity matters in collaboration: you have to murder some of your own darlings, after all, to fit in with someone else’s vision: to make that vision shared. And that generosity has indeed informed everything Alison has done in our Stone Moon collaboration. Alison chose the poems she wanted to work with from my collection Come Down (Corsair, 2020), itself then still a work in progress. I kept sending over revisions, which must have been exasperating! The poems Alison chose from among this welter of possibilities and drafts all had to do with (among other things) the materiality of place, and particularly the embodied experience of living where I do, in an old house in a tributary valley of the Wye on the Welsh borders. Of course, they had to do with other things too: something she completely understood. I find her resulting images full of numinous life, of things almost rising to the surface, or fleeting away.
They’re full of hair-raising precision and delicacy too, of course. For Alison is, to state the obvious, an exquisitely gifted printmaker. Working with her was fun. She came to stay, and introduced me not only to the specific Japanese technique of suminagashi, but to the extraordinary attention to detail which goes into her practice: into printing with inks made from the local red sandstone soil, into making a research trip to North Cerney to see the real-life mediaeval mandragore, and into continuing to develop her highly tuned environmental awareness. It was like an incredibly inspiring form of play. And none of it would have happened has she not initiated and planned the whole project. For me, as I say, it was pure bunce!
I stumbled across a recording of Fiona reading a poem in a moment of procrastination online, the power in the words and the ability of the poetry to sear straight past all my senses and speak directly to my whole understanding literally took my breath away and gave me such joy that I decided to try and understand the power of this art form which I have never studied.
The result of this exciting journey is this exhibition Stone Moon. I have tried to look at what is a poem, tried to make a portrait of a poem and for that it means investigating voice, contemplative reading, all the threads of the poets thoughts, influences, intellect and personality and physicality and most importantly includes the person receiving the gift of the completed poem. All these things seem to me to be the magical threads that come together to make a poem. So thank you to the Scottish Poetry library for completing my work Stone Moon, where your visitors will complete the portrait. And thank you Fiona for two years of entanglement.
SPL Director Asif Khan said:
Stone Moon is a unique project, which marries poetry, art and sound in its own special way. Alison’s work fits seamlessly among the library shelves and walls, as if they have always been there. Being able to add Fiona’s voice to the installations through the QR codes completes the exhibition into a full immersive experience. I am grateful that the Scottish Poetry Library has become this exhibition’s home until January, and we are all looking forward to seeing how our visitors experience and discuss Alison’s art and Fiona’s poetry.
The exhibition is free and open to all during the library’s opening hours. For more information on the project and to see the artwork and hear the poems visit Alison’s website,