The time is right, the sun is shining and Walking With Poets is launched

Jennifer Williams, SPL Programme Manager here, sending you sunny, bright as blossoms wishes on this finally fine Spring day. I’m very delighted to introduce Frances Hendron, our new project manager, who is going to be helping us carry out two major projects at the SPL over the coming months.

Frances’ first task is getting our Walking With Poets Residency project off the ground and into blossom. Here she is, talking about the exciting first stages.

Under the guiding auspices of the visionary environmentalist John Muir, Walking with Poets is a partnership between the Scottish Poetry Library, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Cove Park.

I understand the initiative came about as programme managers Jennifer Williams from the Scottish Poetry Library and  Amy McDonald from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh walked around the Edinburgh garden and dared to dream a project offering residencies for four poets in each of the Scottish botanic gardens. And it has come true! The project is supported through Creative Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland programme.

For the next few weeks and through the summer, as project manager for Walking With Poets, I’ll be doing a lot of preparatory work to make sure the arrival of each poet to their garden is as smooth as possible. Not only does this mean thinking about each location and what it offers to each poet, as well as how the poets’ ambitions for writing and walking poetry with the community in each garden will be realised, but also sorting out where they might actually lay their heads to dream and other practical issues. I have the luxury of travelling Scotland to visit each of the four Gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The four poets and their gardens are:

Eric Gregory Award-winner, Sue Butler, author of a number of poetry collections including Learning to Improvise (Rockingham), and Arson, (Happenstance). Her poetry has appeared in a number of collections including The Times Literary Supplement and the Independent on Sunday. Sue has worked as a copywriter on Beijing, Malaysia and Europe. Sue will be resident in Benmore in June.

Mandy Haggith is a freelance writer and environmental activist based on a woodland croft in the northwest Highlands, her residency will be in Edinburgh in July. Originally from Northumberland, she has lived in Scotland since 1987. She studied Creative Writing with Tom Leonard at Glasgow University and has two published poetry collections: letting light in (Essence Press, 2005) and Castings (Two Ravens Press, 2007).

Jean Atkin works as a poet and educator, and lives in Shropshire. Her first collection, Not Lost Since Last Time, was published in February 2013 by Oversteps Books, and she has previously had three pamphlets published. Jean has worked with children as a poet in schools, up hills and on beaches, and as Poet in Residence for Dumfries & Galloway Science Festival 2012. Jean is returning to Dumfries and Galloway to take up residence in Logan in August.

In addition to poetry, Gerry Loose has also made films and staged his own plays and art exhibitions. He has worked with the Botanic Gardens in Kyoto and his ‘Seed Catalogue’ exhibition and book gave him access to gardens round the world, from New Zealand to Sibera. He designs and makes gardens, with his poetry as likely to appear there as on the page. For the month of September, Gerry will be in residence in Dawyck.

What a great ‘job’ I have helping make this happen from June to September! I have no doubt that visitors to the four Gardens will love seeing and hearing nature and words performing together.

Each of the poets will be blogging here and I’ll be keeping you in touch with events and plans via the Scottish Poetry Library website too!