We are reposting this blog from the Commonty and hope that readers of ecoartscotland will take a moment to reflect on Sunday at 3pm.
Sad Occasion in the Life of Govan’s Graving Docks
from Ruth Olden
An invitation to mark a sad occasion in the life of Govan’s Graving Docks…
On Monday the 24th of March, the Coach House Trust are moving in to the docks to clear away the pioneering ecology that has found its home here. This clearance marks the first stage of the site’s regeneration – a project led by the developer and landowner New City Vision who plan to make a high-end housing and commercial complex of this site. The dock’s Green Mantle has become host to a fascinating array of birds, invertebrate and mammals, and has also served as a place of solace and inspiration to many people.
On the eve of this clearance, a small lit vessel made of the site’s biomass will be released into the river and carried out to sea by the receding tide. This event has been made possible by the knowledge and skills contributed very kindly by the GalGael.
This will be a sad occasion, but I hope it will provide an opportunity to honour this landscape which has become important to so many. We will be gathering on Clydebrae Street next to the garage at 3pm on Sunday 30th March, before walking to the launching point together. Please do arrive at this time so there is opportunity to hear the health and safety briefing. RSVP on email@example.com
Mandy Haggith, ed., Into the Forest: An Anthology of Tree Poems (Glasgow: Saraband, 2013), pp. 280.
Into the Forest, cover image by Carry Ackroyd (by permission Saraband)
An early linkage between literature and ecology in the recent revival of nature writing, Kim Taplan’s book Tongues in Trees (1989) investigated the connection between humans and woodland, trying to tease out our obsession with but also phobia about these tremendous, living forms that surround and frequently dwarf us:
Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence. And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky. For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn some secret vital to our own lives.
In Gossip from the Forest (2012), Sara Maitland used stories and essays precisely to ‘haunt about’ forests in search of connections, and secrets.
For the past few years poet, novelist and environmental campaigner Mandy Haggith has been gathering together poems which speak of the folklore, mythology, inspiration and ecology of forest habitats. Her windfall has now been collected in an exciting (and beautifully-illustrated) new anthology Into the Forest.
Kate Cranney, Oak leaf, from Into the Forest (by permission Saraband)
Emerging from the A-B-Tree / A-B-Craobh project, a series of creative events celebrating woodland, the anthology follows the Gaelic tree alphabet (every letter of the Gaelic alphabet, Haggith informs us, has an associated tree or shrub). The anthology is a documentary of native woodland species, then, as well as a collection of poetry. Each section, from Birch to Bramble, Pine to Heather, Willow to Yew, begins with an introduction to the tree’s principal features in terms of its ecological properties, its mythological associations, and historical uses: ‘birch makes good firewood, is light and easy to whittle or turn on a lathe, and its sap has many medicinal purposes.’ We are told that ‘you can see the present, past and future on an alder branch: last year’s empty cones, this year’s cones and next year’s catkins, and to the Greeks, alder was sacred to the god time of, Kronos.’
Within each section, we find a dizzying array of poets historical and contemporary, from giants of the poetry canon such as Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost to contemporary poets including John Glenday, Thomas A. Clark, and Haggith’s fellow Walking with Poets resident Jean Atkin.
There are very few weak poems here, and Haggith has carefully selected examples within each section which are capable of holding a dialogue with each other to further illuminate or question the tree species they feature. Linda Saunders’ Birch tree in November is ‘the stripped tree, scraffiti of branches / against morning’s dull steel’, contrasting with G.F. Dutton’s young birches which ‘shriek green laughter up the hill / billow on billow.’ The trees go on transforming within, between, and across the collection. The metamorphic, protean, liquid nature of trees is emphasised: rooted forms which are nevertheless rarely static: ‘The tree leans, he / is about to move, he / has achieved a rigid balance between / moving and not moving, earth and air’ (Robin Fulton MacPherson, ‘Variations on a Pine Tree).
The anthology is a careful and thoughtful one, which has grown out of interactions with woodland, with people, with poetry, and shows the way in which they are entwined, connected, in possession of a shared system of roots.
 Kim Taplan, Tongues in Trees: Studies in Literature and Ecology (Bideford, Devon: Green Books, 1989), p. 14.
With Working the Tweed, we have spaces left on an interesting Riverside Meeting Friday 30th August. It is on the site of a river restoration project, re-meandering a the Eddleston Water as part of a Natural Flood Management scheme. The presenters are very knowledgeable and linked to national research on natural flood management and sustainable land use strategy.
ayr converses is pleased to invite you to Be Strong Like Two People: Learning from Elders. Gavin Renwick will give a presentation on his experience of working with elders in the Canadian North West Territories 6-9pm Thursday 22nd August 2013 in Ayr Auld Kirk Hall KA7 1TT. Please RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to attend.
We’re learning how to design shows, stages and buildings for sustainability – but what about our networks? How can we design festivals, conferences, action groups, federations – all of art’s ecosystems – for social change and sustainability? We’ll discuss what it might take to change a community, a sector and a world – and how art’s unique power to infect and inspire can and must be a vital driver of change.
Swallows nesting in Knossos Palace, Crete. Photo Chris Fremantle
Our behaviour is causing a mass extinction on the planet and birds are one of the many lifeforms suffering. Mark Cocker’s new book and the cover article, Wings of desire: why birds captivate us, in this week’s Guardian Review explores the relationship between humans and birds in practical, cultural and spiritual terms. It clearly articulates thousands of reasons beyond the loss of biodiversity for us to make more space for birds in our lives.
Miki, who along with Christine I met at Carrying the Fire where they were doing their Travelling Hearth project, asked me to post this, promoting Merz DIY this summer. It’s an opportunity to experiment with being thinkers, builders, dwellers. I should think the stuff on Let’s Remake might be useful.
Subhankar Banerjee, who’s recent book Arctic Voices, highlights the oil business in the North from the perspectives of the people who live there, has written a piece for ClimateStoryTellers.org on humour.
Arctic Voices was well received,
“One of the great strengths of Arctic Voices is that it shows how Alaska and the Arctic are tied to the places where most of us live. In this impassioned book, Banerjee shows a situation so serious that it has created a movement, where “voices of resistance are gathering, are getting louder and louder.” May his heartfelt efforts magnify them. The climate changes that are coming have hit soon and hard in the Arctic, and their consequences may be starkest there.”—Ian Frazier, The New York Review of Books
In the piece Laughing Matters he highlights the long history and importance of humour as a means to shame otherwise impervious politicians.
Imagining Natural Scotland have just announced their selected teams to develop work towards the August conference in St. Andrews. It includes a wide range of artforms and approaches to questioning how we imagine natural Scotland. The projects include a wide mix of methods, and should represent a good articulation of the range of artists’ ways of knowing, each somewhat juxtaposed and engaged with scientists’ ways of knowing.