Image: photographs of my new "Scotland the More" prints, which I will be launching for sale during my trip to Brussels this October for Transpoesie. Read the poem here (English/French and Dutch). Watch the poem here.
The room was on the ground floor and had a stunning view of Arthur's Seat. I remember looking out the window and thinking I wanted to write something that would sum up Scotland from my experience.
In my life, I've lived in Dunblane (Stirlingshire), Torphins and Lumphanan (Aberdeenshire) and Edinburgh. Most of my holidays in between were trips to the Orkney islands, Shetland or the train trips me and my mum would take down to her hometown of Glasgow. I wanted something that would mention all these fantastic places and articulate both our history and where we were now. It was a charged time: it was about 3 months after the Scottish referendum and I was still feeling a bit jaded about the "no" vote. So, I sat down and wrote a list poem - about what Scotland was and wasn't. Initially, it was clunky and over 5 minutes long.
First, I tackled the prints: initially, my plan was to work with photographs I had taken, but most of them weren't of a very good quality. Therefore, I searched through the internet for public domain art or old photographs.
It was a really difficult trawl: there are thousands of photographs and pieces of art of Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the tagging system is often difficult - lots of portraits of various barons, royalty or rich people were often tagged "Edinburgh" or "Orkney" for no discernible reason. I didn't want to use touristy photos - I wanted to use something old with modern fonts, to show the distinction between modern Scotland and older artwork. I went through about 9 different designs and drafts before I settled on what I've produced.
I ended up using three photographs of Edinburgh and Glasgow (Design 2, 3 and 5) and two pieces of artwork. The artwork is of the Orkney vole (Design 1): an animal totally unqiue to the Orkney isles I learned about as a child and a painting of Macbeth (Design 3): my middle name is MacBeath and my parents now live near the Macbeth stone - the stone that Macbeth was supposedly beheaded on.
So there you go! Here's how I wrote my favourite poem and put together accompanying prints. I'll be launching them for sale whilst I'm in Brussels. After I get back, I'll be putting them on sale on my website. It'll be £5 for a pack of 5, plus posting and packaging. I hope you like these prints. Use them to frame, send to a friend or put them on your fridge - it's up to you! Until then, if you've got any special requests send me a message.
The adventure does not end there however... if you want to find out even more then check out this map I made of all the inspirations behind the lines. If you're savvy enough you'll be able to find some mountains, lochs, shops, a nightclub, a sheep and a public loo. Good luck!
My This is a bit of a change from my usual blogpost, which is often my more article/prose/reflective writing, but I wanted to write a bit more about this and didn't want to clog up my home-page too much.
My most-performed poem is "Scotland the More", an ode to a country that let me be an artist. I remember writing it when I was living in student halls (during a bit of a rough patch) and rehearsing it in the scratched up mirror. I ended up re-drafting it when I got to Prague, I'm so proud of where this poem has gone: it's taught in schools, and even on one course at Glasgow University. In October, I'll be representing Scotland at the Transpoesie Festival in Brussels, where the poem will be projected behind me in translation behind the performance (you can read it in Dutch and French here). A section of the poem will also be displayed on Brussels metro system, in a project inspired by Poems on the Underground.
People often want to take this poem home with them, but I'm not published (yet!). Therefore, I decided to develop postcards and prints. As this poem tries to shake up Scotland's history, I found old prints and photographs in the public domain. These range from photographs of Edinburgh and Glasgow, to paintings of Macbeth in the Highlands and even some drawings of one of our unique animals: the Orkney vole!
I'm still developing them at the moment. My plan is to make them larger than normal postcards (all the better for writing down lots and lots on the back!) - this is so that they can be framed or displayed if people wish. I will still try to find a paper quality, however, that looks nice if framed but also lets people write on the back so they can be sent to friends. Prices will hopefully range from £5 to £7 for a packet of five, but if you're interested, send me an email. Until then, here's a sneak peek!