Saturday, 13 February 2010

A hug for poetry and UNESCO

I'm really chuffed– it's like having my name in lights above a theatre. And what a theatre Douglas Dunn on our plans to project his poem @carryapoem Twitter

Update Feb 15th - here it is, from yesterday, courtesy of where it can be viewed extra huge

Update Feb 19th it seems one couple got engaged in front of the carryapoem projection! Fabulous!

and this is astounding - a 360 panorama of the castle, Princes Street and the 'carry a poem' line projection:

As I mentioned earlier this week, February is 'Carry a Poem' month in the first UNESCO City of Literature, the World Heritage Site city of Edinburgh.

The promo film is magnificent, and I particularly like the starring role of the Edinburgh Police Box, designed by the once City Architect, the splendidly named Ebenezer MacCrae.

So, not one to allow an opportunity to pass to blog about architecture connected with poetry, first of all here is my 'carryapoem' for St Valentine's Day, as kindly sent to all Twitter Followers by @carryapoem and I trust that it brings pleasure to those who have come upon it new, although I suspect it is an old friend to many.

It's reproduced in a number of places on the internet, so I hope I'm not too badly breaching copyright to repeat it here, in the additional hope it might be more widely loved still.

There is a delightful little poem called The Hug. "Some kind of hardcore poetry people wanted me to take it out... In the United States, if you have any jollity in a poem, it can't be a poem capital P." A line at the end goes, "When you hug someone, you want it to be a masterpiece of connection." Tess reads this with a wicked sense of full-blooded fun in her eye, raising those pencilled-in Modigliani eye-brows of hers - not centralised by romantic love any more, but still in the hope zone.

The Hug is also anthologised in what is one of my favourite reads, STAYING ALIVE - real poems for unreal times, Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe.

The Hug

A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too,
with our arms around each other.The poem
is being read and listened to out here
in the open. Behind us
no-one is entering or leaving the houses.

Suddenly, a hug comes over me and I'm
giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light
off to make itself comfortable, then
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding
you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn't
come out of nowhere, but if he could, he
would have. He looks homeless because of how
he needs. "Can I have one of those?" he asks you,
and I feel you nod. I'm surprised,
surprised you don't tell him how
it is - that I'm yours, only
yours, exclusive as a nose to
its face. Love - that's what we're talking about, love
that nabs you with "for me
only" and holds on.

So I walk over to him and put my
arms around him and try to
hug him like I mean it. He's got an overcoat on
so thick I can't feel
him past it. I'm starting the hug
and thinking, "How big a hug is this supposed to be?
How long shall I hold this hug?" Already
we could be eternal, his arms falling over my
shoulders, my hands not
meeting behind his back, he is so big!

I put my head into his chest and snuggle
in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes
into him. He stands for it. This is his
and he's starting to give it back so well I know he's
getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly
we stop having arms and I don't know if
my lover has walked away or what, or
if the woman is still reading the poem, or the houses -
what about them? - the houses.

Clearly, a little permission is a dangerous thing.
But when you hug someone you want it
to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button
on his coat will leave the imprint of
a planet on my cheek
when I walk away. When I try to find some place
to go back to.

Photo found at:

A performance installation series by Julie Troost (worth reading the site).

So, a hug to all who read this, and a hug to poet Douglas Dunn especially, whose work I have admired for many years.

A line of romantic poetry is to be projected onto the rock beneath Edinburgh Castle for Valentine's Day.

The words "Look to the living, love them, and hold on" will shine on the north face of Castle Rock.

The line is from the poem Disenchantments by the award-winning Scottish poet Douglas Dunn.

The spectacle, which will last five-and-a-half hours on Sunday evening, is part of the Carry a Poem campaign run by the City of Literature Trust.

Ali Bowden, director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said: "We are delighted that Historic Scotland is supporting the Carry A Poem campaign, and joining us in bringing poetry to Edinburgh Castle, the iconic cultural image of Scotland's capital city.

"This one-off projection joins five other poems shining throughout the city - two onto the City Chambers, the new extension of the Usher Hall, the National Library of Scotland and at the foot of Leith Walk - all of which can be enjoyed until March."

Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said: "Douglas Dunn's lines are so appropriate: they say that love endures, like the Castle Rock which they'll illuminate for a night."...

Indeed. Joyful and enjoy!

And a small plug again here for this:

The Scottish Community Foundation can now reveal the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and Edinburgh College of Art as the successful projects to progress to Stage 2 of the £3M Arts Funding Prize for Edinburgh.

The three short-listed projects fought off competition from 10 other Edinburgh based arts organisations to be in the running for the £3M prize. The prize – administered by the Scottish Community Foundation on behalf of an anonymous donor - is to create an arts facility of cultural and architectural merit in the Capital, in either a new or refurbished building.

I'm rooting for this:

The Scottish Book Trust’s proposal is to significantly improve the Trust’s premises at Sandeman House, off the Royal Mile. With a more useful space, the Trust hopes to work collaboratively with neighbours and colleagues in the literature sector, such as the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, the Scottish Storytelling Centre and the Scottish Poetry Library, to create Scotland’s Literary Quarter. The Trust also aims to create an education centre within the nearby historic Trinity Apse (currently the Brass Rubbing Centre).

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: ‘This is a really important step for us. Whether we win or lose, we’re delighted our proposal stood up to the competition. To progress to the next stage of the competition is not only exciting for the Scottish Book Trust, but for all those who have a stake in literature in Scotland, including readers, writers, publishers and our colleagues in the literature sector.’

The initial funding came from Edinburgh World Heritage and the architect is Malcolm Fraser:

The category C listed building largely dates from 1916, and was intended for the use of the congregation of the Moray Knox Free Church, but it also incorporates parts of an earlier tenement on the site which dates from 1849.

Amongst other improvements to the building, the proposal suggests an extension to the front elevation of Sandeman House. This would enable level access to the building via Trunks Close, and also give the Scottish Book Trust more of a presence for passers-by. The scheme also proposes a redesign of some of the internal spaces of the building, enabling the Scottish Book Trust to increase their programme and grow as an organisation over the coming years.

With the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Canongate Books, The List, the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City of Literature all based nearby, improving access to Sandeman House could bring new life to the close and enhance this fantastic grouping of cultural organisations as well as Edinburgh’s offering to visitors. leaves we live... quote from Patrick Geddes, entrance to the Scottish Poetry Library


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