Friday 9 December 2011

Sticky Catchfly and the Perigrinating Poet...

Kate Murray is a poet and novelist living in Edinburgh. This is the delightful story of how photographing a rare flower led to Kate becaming Writer in Residence - or Poet in Peregrination - at Holyrood Park.

My Poetry Pamphlet – From The Lang Rig
by Kate Murray
Sticky Catchfly

                                                   Poet in Peregrination

It all started with Sticky Catchfly – a gorgeous, pink-flowering, protected plant that I’d hunted down, photographed and versified in the summer of 2008 and which was then featured the following spring in a Historic Scotland Display Case at one of the Holyrood Park gates. How well my poem would fit alongside!

Buy From the Lang Rig
By October (format and cover design by my daughter, Anna!) I had my poems in pamphlet form. The opening poem was Holyrood Park A to Z and a few days later I saw in the Display Case not only photos illustrating this poem to perfection but, on the reverse, a flyer for ‘Art in the Park’ and three blank A4 sheets. Awaiting my poems?

With an unprecedented burst of entrepreneurial spirit I e-mailed Historic Scotland to see if there was any chance of my poems being displayed and told of my nine years/4,000 miles walking and waxing poetic in Holyrood Park.

Four days later they responded, speaking of: ‘an opportune moment …enhancing the public interpretation of the Park …potentially … etc. etc.’ and on February 3rd 2010 came the ‘All Clear’, followed by the poems’ display on 21st April. Whoopee!

From then on I became the 'Poet in Peregrination of the Park', poised to pounce on the unwary visitor.

From Toronto and Wisconsin came Bill and Kurt respectively, Continental Airlines pilots stranded by the ash cloud. Kurt tells me that after he’s read the poems my pamphlet will be placed on the bookshelf of his son, Parker Joseph, for his future delectation. Lovely! I’m up and running.

Next, Guy from Montreal, currently working at Moray House (Post-Grad Teacher-training) buys two pamphlets and asks if I will go there to read and speak of my poems. Well, of course I will!

Staying with North America, on the Radical Road I shake hands with Wendy & Chris from Idaho, congratulate honeymooners Jonathan and Betsy from Philadelphia and chat with two West Highland Way-walking women from Oregon. Then I sell to a second Guy – from Massachusetts, this one – and to sundry persons from New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington.

From the Southern Hemisphere are families from Melbourne and Sydney and an Australian/Canadian couple celebrating their 42nd Wedding Anniversary, following an ascent of their local Arthur’s Seat in Victoria, Australia.

On to Europe and Aur√©lien, a Parisian photographer/installations artist; Mary from Gdansk doing her M.Sc. here; delightful Maggie y Patricia from Valencia – ‘You write in for me, take picture, I buy’ – and sundry appreciative wanderers from Stuttgart, Munich, Wurzburg, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia and, not forgetting Demosthenes from Cyprus, who instigated a discussion on ‘enosis’.)

Endangered Species
There’s an engagement ascent (Nick and Joy from Leicester), another Wedding Anniversary couple ( Stoke-on-Trent) and newly-weds who smile and say, ‘We don’t read poetry – But we could’ and seem highly delighted with their purchase of a pamphlet.

A high point was an e-mail from an un-met admirer who’d contacted Historic Scotland after reading ‘Polyommatus Icarus’ (Common Blue butterfly) on the display board. I quote: ‘The poetry is brilliant …marvellous …reminded me of Christopher Logue’s style …shades of Kathleen Jamie …You are very talented … I’ll write a glowing review any day.’
Wow! Thank you!

And so, to my adopted homeland: the couple who’s just sailed around Shetland; the mother moving from Aberdeen to Edinburgh with her daughter whose job had just relocated from Edinburgh to Manchester; Elaine, who I found admiring ‘Polyommatus…’ in the Historic Scotland stand and many others.

Readings were done too: one – ‘From the Lang Rig' – by myself for a group of Scottish walkers high up, looking out over the penned landscape, one (Bird of Good Omen) by a teenage girl with her family, one by Bennett from the next street who did a flamboyant rendering of ‘Facing Down The Void’ for his partner, and, most stirring of all, the grandfather who read ‘Holyrood Park A-Z’ in a resonant Highland accent whilst looking over ‘sugar-cube Bass Rock’.

‘I shall bequeath this book to my grandson, Oscar,’ he declared and that latter (who’d been a tad embarrassed at first) looked most chuffed. Grandfather’s parting words were: ‘I met a witch coming up and an angel going down.’ (I should point out that he was going down when I encountered him!)

What a summer – two hundred people met, two hundred pamphlets sold.


To purchase a copy of From The Lang Rig contact

Seen from the Lang Rig

February sun.
Inchcolm becalmed
on a jade plateau;
sugar-cube Bass Rock
perched on a length
of bridesmaid-blue satin ribbon.

Due North by Burntisland
a reach of the Forth alchemised
to a golden crocodile
suns itself out of inertia,
glides westwards
through Mortimer’s Deep.

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