Eight years ago I was at the Atlantic Islands Festival on Luing. It was my first geopoetics event, and it isn’t too much to say it was life changing. It was partly the inspiring setting – several of the poems in my first collection were written there – but also the mix of disciplines and kinds of creativity on offer. I can’t remember it all, but there was poetry, film, archaeology and geology, bird-watching and story-telling, music and workshops on websites for writers and submitting work for publication. Also some Zen meditation, which made it into the book, and tai chi, which didn’t! There have been some smaller events since then, but this June I’ll be at the first on a similar scale:
Norman Bissell, the director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, announced it thus:
The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and the University of the Highlands and Islands will host Expressing the Earth in Argyll 2017 to bring together creative artists, musicians, poets and film makers along with academics, researchers, students and teachers to explore, create and debate the earth and the environment in this spectacular area of Scotland.
Expressing the Earth will look to the multitude and proliferation of the islands and peninsulas and address the ways in which people are influenced and brought together by these features from the Neolithic and Bronze Age, early Celtic Christian heritage and seafaring history to more recent industrial exploitation of the Slate Islands.
Themes and activities, rooted in Geopoetics, include literature, history, visual arts, film making, archaeology, geology, geography and theology – with active engagement and creative outcomes as central to the conference as academic papers and presentations.
The conference will take place at the Seil Island Hall in Argyll with field activities also in Kilmartin Glen, Easdale Island and the Isle of Luing. Poetry readings, musical performances and social gatherings will play a key part in the conference programme and it is intended that publications and exhibitions will follow.
There was a call for engagement earlier in the year, and I am delighted that so many artists, musicians, film makers, writers and academics of all kinds have responded. I don’t know quite how we are going to cope with the richness of the talent on offer, all packed into three days – we are going to wish that even Scottish summer days were a bit longer to cope with it all! The Centre’s facebook page has been featuring some of the papers and workshops on offer, or you can find out more here:
I’ll be talking about herbs, not just the uses and beliefs of herbs that I’ve been sharing here, nor the poems that are going into the next book, but the attitudes to knowledge and culture and the environment that have come out of my studies, and I’ll be talking a bit about the wonderful herb garden at Kilmartin, which we will have a chance to visit. I’m very excited about the way my writing and my philosophy and herbal knowledge has come together, and I hope that anyone who comes will find it interesting.
Book now, if you can – tickets are going fast!