Saturday, February 29, 2020

counterpane: the bed of illness & recovery

the mountain: like a body

beneath a blanket

– after Ransetsu

still me, it seems, awake in the quiet
of another room

healing loves to wrap itself
in a blanket

open the window
shoo the fug out the room

soft orders of quilt
marshal my dreams

seeing the mattress in the street we share a laugh:
she wants to bounce on it, I want a lie down

it’s wise to pack your own parachute
& make your own bed

whumping the pillows
care not cure

for the sake of equality
shake the duvet

her fists sleep tight
fillips of light blow in at the window

pain stays within the blanket
speech reaches out of the bed

the sheet’s daubed with dark patches

for the ill blankets are a sign of labour
sheets a sign of defeat

in the realm of health
sleep is wealth

the setting in which a body
rests its landscape: blanket

beneath the nullity of the blanket
there is the good of a rest

some climb the hills with their legs
others use their knees to shape duvet mountains

for the bed-bound the idea of ‘free time’, ‘leisure time’, or ‘rest’, is insulting

time in bed is devoted to long spells of laboured passivity
seeking brief episodes of recovery

rest is shelter for a body filled with weather

from that day on her bed became a den

bedrooms can be navigated in terms of distant inaccessible landscapes

tweed is the closest cultural approximation of nature

there should be no moving thing in the bedroom
except perhaps a candle flame

we each have a bedtime name

Ransetsu, retranslated from the Spanish of Jorge Carrera Andrade by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta

Some of these poems were first exhibited in the exhibition, Day of Access, Travelling Gallery, 2019; some were first published in Paidemua magazine, 2020.

Alec Finlay

photographs by Hannah Devereux, originally published in A Far-off Land.

on paths

day for night



we have been
to the end
of the path

and are ready
for our beds
and dreams

of pillow hills
a firm staff
in our hands

and the inclin-
ation to leave
old arguments

limit is part of life

Friday, February 28, 2020

on walking

a walk coincides with itself
at the moment we turn for home

a walk places our life
outside of our self

a walk is something to take with us 
as we leave it behind

the doctor handed me a prescription:
one wee walk every day

a lot of wee walks will get you
further than one big hike

he walked like a cat
avoiding a clothes peg

there’s no need to seek the perfect walk
there’s always another on the horizon

each walk and each
step in the walk

mind your feet
move your head

lose your feet
find your head

mind your head
move your feet

find your feet
lose your head

after Daniel Kharms

beginning with a line sort of from Daniel Kharms

the trees sway their tippy-tops
the walkers walk in colourful socks
gathering bits of forest stuff
while their boots smile and nod

after Kharms

we’ll stop looking
   walkers go walking!
we’ve opened our eyes
   viewers go viewing!

we’ve stopped watching
   walkers gone walking!
we’ve closed our eyes
   viewers gone viewing!

give us the spunk to walk
   gummy pines
give us the guts to stop
     foamy burns

two gates

The Mountain of Patient-led Healthcare

These drawings are from a classic guide to mountain rescue.

Separated from the text, I found the illustration were touching images of human vulnerability, care, solidarity, and love for one another. Drifting them away from their context of the heroic mountains, I adapted them to contexts of healthcare and activism.

The pairings are, firstly, Maggie Jencks and her friend Laura Lee. Laura was a chemotherapy nurse who treated Maggie and went on to become the chief executive of Maggie's Centres, which remains one of the most radial examples of patient-led healthcare.

The other pairing, Derek Jarman and Simon Watney, represents two tireless campaigners for a respectful and unprejudiced response to HIV/AIDS. Wanted was the co-founder of OutRage.

They climbed the mountain for all of us.

Signpost (rest)

ways of seeing

These drawings are some of the ways I've represented landscape and the physical experience of walking, or illness. The book pages were from guides to mountain rescue and navigation.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

sun & rain walks

name walks

The first thing I did when I began my residency with Paths for All is take out the maps for a few locations where I knew there were walking groups I might work with. I noted some of the more interesting names and sourced translations of their meanings.

From these names I could then make pairs that suggested imaginary walks, or walk poems, if a poem can be such a simple thing as a pair of names. 

These walks are not necessarily routes that make sense, on the ground. I'm not sure if anyone will ever walk them. Rather the thematic connections offer an awareness of what names tell us about landscapes and ecologies.

As large numbers of people are forced into isolation and walking groups cease their activities for weeks, perhaps months, name walks are one imaginative way to remain connected to the landscape.

The examples illustrated here relate toPFA walk groups in Moodiesburn, North Lanarkshire, and Hospitalfields, Arbroath. They express all of the common-sense that names contain – where to find different things, what species belong where, the lows and highs of the land. 

And they invite a walker to consider what was is and could be on a local walk. 

Are there lapwings calling on Peasiehill. 

What the berries are growing around the fank – fold or pen – at Berryfauld?

The gled is a kite: there are only a couple of hundred of breeding pairs in Scotland so they will be rare now locally.

Barrs recalls the Gaelic that lies beneath names in this region, as it comes straight from bàrr, top or head.

These posts are published as part of a year-long artist in residence, funded by Paths for All.

some compasses

a compass will align the winds design

Of a' the airts the wind can blow
I dearly like the west
For there the bonnie lassie lives
The lassie I lo'e the best

How we align ourselves is one way to know where we are or feel we wish to be. Robert Burns song exemplifies this sense of direction, creating a conspectus of desire. The poet knows where he's going and why: Jean Armour lives in that airt.

The identities of the 4 airts – quarters of the compass – will always have meaning for us, even if my north is your south and your east my west. The compass also creates lines of connection, pairing NS and EW.

This form, which could be called a compass poem, plays with some classic topographical themes and their symbolism. As poems, there isn't always a reason why I have placed each element where it is. They are playful arrangements of thought. They also refer to recurring themes in my work:

counterpane (the landscape of the bed)

hill names, such as the elemental pairing of black/white

place-names, where the farms of a valley or estate are identified by their location (here at Moodiesburn, North Lanarkshire)

stones with symbolism, for example, as the famous Shelter Stone in the Cairngorms

tree species, which define a landscape

These posts are published as part of a year-long artist in residence, funded by Paths for All.