Scottish Centre for Geopoetics
Newsletter nr12
February 2004

2003 was a very successful year for the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and 2004 promises to be equally good. Last year we held a lively and interesting series of talks and events, raised our public profile considerably, and increased our membership.
The publication by our new imprint Alba Editions of Geopoetics: place, culture, world by Kenneth White has been well received, and we hope to publish later this year a book of papers and possibly a DVD or video of the Forty Years of the White World conference at the University of St Andrews in October which was attended by speakers and participants from France, Morocco, Sweden, England and Scotland.
The first issue of Saltire magazine has an article on geopoetics by Kenneth White and the current edition of Cencrastus contains the talk “Living on an Island: an Approach to Geopoetics” by Norman Bissell, who was interviewed in January by Iain Anderson in his Celtic Connections Conversations series.
In a recent Herald article Mike Russell said “what that inspirational cultural thinker Kenneth White calls ‘geopoetics’ … is back in the news because the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics has despatched far and wide a pamphlet which seeks to explain the idea. Even a cursory reading reveals an astonishingly exciting challenge to the way we think about the world and to our received notions of what our cultural history is. Scotland needs such thinking …”
At our AGM in November Office-bearers and council members were elected to continue this work. Our programme this year will include more events in Glasgow, as well as in Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Programme of Events

Thursday 12 February at 7.45pm Putting the Geo in Geopoetics: a talk with slides by Jim McCarthy at the Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh.
Geology and geography have always been fundamental to geopoetics, and in this introductory talk Jim McCarthy will show how geology could hardly be more important for Scotland as the basis of its population distribution, its agriculture, forestry, and its extractive industries. Its classic exposures over 500 million years include some of the oldest rocks in the world and underpin our most valued landscapes and ecology, our natural habitats and wildlife, and our outdoor activities.
The story of the laying down of the foundations of Scotland encompasses vast volcanic eruptions, submersion under the sea, great earth movements and tidal waves, and enormous sheets of ice covering the whole land. What we perceive and what we write about in the natural world, whether in poetry or prose, from the mountain tops to our coasts, in Scotland or elsewhere, is derived from the underlying rocks and the great geological forces over aeons of time which have shaped the landscapes we see now.
Jim McCarthy is the author of several books about Scotland and is a Scottish Natural Heritage board member.

Friday 20 February at 7.30pm The Atlantic Poetics of Kenneth White: a talk by Norman Bissell to the Lennox Literary Society at Balloch Library.
This talk will provide a general introduction to the work of Kenneth White as poet-thinker-teacher with particular reference to his Open World: The Collected Poems 1960 – 2000. It will focus on the influence of the Atlantic seaboard on his work, and his theory and practice of geopoetics as the key to radical cultural renewal for our times. For further details tel. Alistair Paterson at 01389 830739.

Monday 1 March at 7.45pm “Letter from a Scottish Outpost”: Kenneth White on Radio 3.

Saturday 6 March at 11am A visit to the Hidden Gardens at the Tramway, Glasgow, led by Gerry Loose, poet and co-designer of the Gardens. Gather at 11am at the main entrance to the Tramway, Albert Drive, Pollockshields.

Friday 19 March at 7.30pm Discussing Herons: a poetry reading by Graham Hartill and Gerry Loose at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre 329 Sauchiehall St opposite the CCA. A rare chance to hear readings by two poets who are very much in tune with geopoetics, having spent many years working with the earth and studying eastern ways of thinking.

Friday 26 – Saturday 27 March Conference of the International Institute of Geopoetics in Geneva.

Saturday 3 April at 11am A visit and workshop at Rosslyn Glen, House, and Chapel. Gather at the main entrance to Rosslyn House at 11am.

Tuesday 27 April at 7.30pm Putting the Geo in Geopoetics: a talk with slides by Jim McCarthy (see above) at the Quaker Meeting House 38 Elmbank Crescent behind the King’s Theatre, Charing Cross, Glasgow.

Saturday 8 May at 11am A visit to the Isle of May.

Saturday 5 June 10am - 5pm Islands day: talks, poetry, readings at the Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh.

Tuesday 15 June at 7.30pm Living on an Island: an Approach to Geopoetics, a revised talk by Norman Bissell at the Quaker Meeting House, Glasgow.
All talks/readings are free, but a collection will be taken to defray costs.
A selection of books by Kenneth White and some other poets will be available at these talks and readings.

Tree Day and Night
In November we walked through Dalkeith Old Wood following the river much of the way, stopping to marvel at individual oak shapes, at the holly growing out of some, and learning from Tess Darwin much about their history, and how these and other oak woods survived because they were hunting forests. Later we discussed their roots, the moulds and insects they generate, the sounds of the river, the Atlantic oak woods of Argyll, and read from Richard Mabey, Thomas A Clark, Edy Irwin, Walt Whitman and others.
In December Tess Darwin took the group on an illustrated journey through the mythology of trees including the Tree of Life and the Bodhi tree, with references to rowan, hazel, hawthorn, birch, apple, and pine. It was our last and largest meeting of the year.

A new centre for geopoetics in Canada.
As a direct result of a series of lectures in December 2003 by Kenneth White in Montreal, and, further down the St Lawrence River, at Chicoutimi, a new centre for geopoetics in Canada, taking over from the original group Portage and expanding its perspectives, has been set up in Quebec.
This centre will be based at the University of Quebec in Montreal, but will also be open to any persons interested in the field of geopoetics. The themes to be explored by the group will be : nomadism, landscape (northern, oceanic, desert, mountain, urban), oral memory (as a way of tracing lost geographies), and the relationship between place, writing and art.
The centre will kick off its activities this winter with lectures by Eric Waddell on the cartographic painting of the Australian John Wolseley, Christina Horvath on geopoetics in the urban context, and Helen Guy on mountain expeditions.

Special Offer to Members

The following books by Kenneth White are available at a special discount (including post and packing) to Scottish Centre for Geopoetics members only:
Open World: The Collected Poems 1960-
2000 at £18 cf. £20
Geopoetics : place, culture, world at £5
cf. £6
Coast to Coast, Interviews and Conversations at £6 cf. £7.95

Cheques payable to the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics should be sent to Norman Bissell at the address below.

Subscriptions: New and Due

Please send your name, postal and e-mail address with a cheque for £10/£5 concessions, payable to the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, to the treasurer, Richard Browne, at the address below. Annual subscriptions are now due unless paid since March 2003.

Norman Bissell, director, 340 Lincoln Avenue Glasgow G13 3LP tel. 0141 959 6033 or at
Simon Ross, secretary, 14 Union Street Stonehouse ML9 3LF tel. 01698 792283 or at
Richard Browne, treasurer, Main Point Books, 8 Lauriston Street Edinburgh EH3 9DJ tel. 0131 228 4837 or at
International Institute of Geopoetics, website and links: