Author Archives: Ken Cockburn

About Ken Cockburn

Ken Cockburn is an Edinburgh-based poet, translator, editor and writing tutor.

Paolozzi at Large in Edinburgh

 

To coincide with the launch of a new book about the artist in his home city, I’m leading two walks featuring poems by Christine De Luca about works by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924–2005). Paolozzi was born in Leith, and while as an adult he lived away from Edinburgh, he was commissioned to make a number of works here during the last twenty years of his life. He also bequested work to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which houses a reconstruction of his London studio.

The walks are South and East (Friday 2 November, 14.00–16.30) and West and North (Saturday 3 November, 10.00–12.30).

‘South and East’ takes in three groups of sculptures: ‘Egeria and Parthenope’ at King’s Buildings, ‘Early Peoples’ at the Museum of Scotland, and ‘The Manuscript of Monte Cassino’, originally sited at Picardy Place and now temporarily re-located at London Road.

‘West and North’ takes in ‘Wealth of Nations’ at the Gyle Business Park, stained glass windows in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, and works at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art.

Tickets (£6 / £4) and details of the routes are available via Eventbrite.
‘South and East’ (Friday 2 November, 14.00–16.30)
‘West and North’ (Saturday 3 November, 10.00–12.30).

Paolozzi at Large in Edinburgh (Luath, 2018), edited by Christine De Luca and Carlo Pirozzi, is the first book to look at the artist in his home city. It includes poems written by De Luca, the former Edinburgh Makar, in response to some of Paolozzi’s iconic works which can be seen around Edinburgh, as well as work by many involved in the art world: researchers, archivists and practising (RSA) artists. The book is part of the Eduardo Paolozzi Project created and developed by Carlo Pirozzi (University of Edinburgh). Paolozzi at Large in Edinburgh is to be launched at Blackwell’s Bookshop, South Bridge, Edinburgh on 31 October.

These walks have been developed with the help of funding from this Eduardo Paolozzi Project with the support of Edinburgh World Heritage.

Images, from top: Egeria (detail), Wealth of Nations (detail); MS of Monte Cassino; Paolozzi’s studio (details); Wealth of Nations, Master of the Universe, Egeria.

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Dunbar’s Close gardens

This year’s Fringe walks take in Dunbar’s Close gardens. Earlier this week I found, on one of the stone benches, cuttings of various plants with name-labels attached to them. Here is a selection, with thanks to whoever made them.

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Cotton Lavender  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Jerusalem Sage  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Samask Rose

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Sea Lavender  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Wormwood  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 St John's Wort

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Chinese Forget-Me-Not  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Common Rue

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Goat's Rue  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Great Burnet

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Hedge Germander  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Honeysuckle

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Lesser Calamint  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Rose Campion

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Rose gallica  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Southernwood

Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Tree Mallow  Canongate Dunbar's Close 180820 Wild Peony

 

Cotton Lavender    Jerusalem Sage    Damask Rose

Sea Lavender    St John’s Wort    Wormwood

Chinese Forget-Me-Not    Common Rue

Goat’s Rue    Great Burnet

Hedge Germander    Honeysuckle

Lesser Calamint    Rose Campion

Rose Gallica    Southernwood

Tree Mallow    Wild Peony

Reading the Streets: Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018

Canongate SPL 4

Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh

I’m presenting poetry walks on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe again this year, after doing so in 2016 and 2017.

Burns Monument

Burns Monument, Regent Road

As in previous years the walks start and end at the Scottish Poetry Library, off the Canongate near the foot of the Royal Mile. This year’s itinerary includes some sites visited in previous years, including the two nearby graveyards (havens of peace amid the roar of the festival!), while adding new locations, including the Burns Monument on Regent Road. I’ll read some poems I’ve read in previous years, while adding new pieces, including Coleridge’s ecstatic letter to Southey describing his visit in 1803.

Canongate Panmure House from Dunbar's Close garden 2

Panmure House seen from Dunbar’s Close garden

I’m grateful to Valerie Gillies and James Robertson for their permission to include poems they have written about the city. (You can read Valerie’s ‘To Edinburgh’ here.) As well as the linking script, I’ve written a new poem about the philosopher and economist Adam Smith, who lived in the area for the last 12 years of his life, and is buried in the Canongate Kirkyard. (Panmure House, where he lived, has just been renovated by Heriot-Watt University.)

rls-two

Stevenson, from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)

This year’s walk has the title Reading the Streets, and has as its focus some of the contrasts Edinburgh keeps throwing up. The Old Town / New Town divide is the most obvious and present one, and we’ll cross from one to the other. But there are many others, including at this time of year City / Festival, Residents / Visitors and Local / International. The poems are written in two languages, English / Scots, and since I  include some extracts from diaries and letters there’s a Poetry / Prose contrast too.

Palace Park Parliament

Palace and Paliament against Arthur’s Seat

The new cheek-by-jowl neighbours Palace / Parliament form a contemporary divide, though they’re on the same side in the Historic Time / Geological Time contrast as they look out onto Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.

NCBG Stevenson vault 2

Stevenson family vault in the New Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh

I’m also grateful to the Scottish Poetry Library for including the walks in its Fringe programme. They run from Saturday 4 – Monday 27 August, daily (not Thursdays, Fridays) starting at 11.00, and lasting 90 minutes.

Tickets are available from the Fringe box office, and from the SPL via Eventbrite.

The Stuarts’ Memorial in Rome

 

As a follow-up to two earlier posts about the Jacobites in Edinburgh (here and here), these photos from St Peter’s Basilica in Rome show the memorial created in 1819 to three Stuarts: James, and his sons Charles (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, the only one of the three who set foot in Edinburgh) and Henry.

St Peter's Stuarts 06

On it James is styled James III (of Great Britain), and while he was recognised as such by many European states he never actually sat on the throne. After his death in 1766 some contemporary Jacobite diehards liked to refer his sons as Charles III and, following Charles’ death, Henry IX, but diplomatically and realistically the Roman memorial foregoes such  numerical aspirations.

St Peter's Stuarts 01

The text above the door between the angels attempts to offer some consolation for their exile and failure to ascend a throne they believed was rightly theirs: it translates roughly as ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord’.St Peter's Stuarts 04

Immediately opposite it, above a doorway, sits an elaborate memorial to Maria Clementina Sobieska, daughter of the Polish king Jan III, who was unhappily married to James, was the mother of Charles and Henry. She died aged 32 in 1735.

St Peter's Maria Clementina

 

Postcards from Edinburgh (1)

I’ve been tweeting some quotes from about Edinburgh, and here’s a wee collection of the first few.

EPT Wordsworth 02

 

EPT RLS 10

 

EPT DBM 02

 

EPT Garioch 02

 

EPT Piozzi 01

Dorothy Wordsworth recorded in her diary arriving in Edinburgh with her brother William on 15 September 1803. – Robert Louis Stevenson’s Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes (1878) still speaks to the city today.– Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir, or in English Duncan Ban MacIntyre, was a Gaelic poet from Argyll who was a member of City Guard in the late 18th century; the lines, from his poem ‘Oran Dhun Eidann’ (‘Song of Edinburgh’), first published in 1804, translate as ‘Edinburgh is beautiful / in many diverse ways…’. – In ‘To Robert Fergusson’ Robert Garioch (1909–1981) imagines rattling the ‘rigg-bane’ or spine of the Old Town in the company of the energetic earlier poet. – Hester Piozzi, aka Dr Johnson’s confidante Mrs Thrale, visited the city in the summer of 1789, anxious she would encounter ‘a second hand London’, but found something quite different.

 

 

TradFest 2018: Jacobite Edinburgh

Jacobite Minstrelsy 1829 title page

I’m running two walks for Tradfest 2018 on a Jacobite theme. Dates and times are Thursday 3 May at 2.30pm, and Saturday 5 May at 11.00am, each lasting about 90 minutes. The starting point is the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the High Street, and we’ll walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, pausing on the way to look at sites associated with the Jacobites and those who wrote about them.

Hogg Jacobite Relics 1819

I’ll read extracts from works by writers including James Hogg, Tobias Smollet and Walter Scott, describing the drama of Edinburgh’s occupation by the Jacobite army in autumn 1745, the decisive Battle of Culloden, and the long, painful aftermath which gradually gave way to the romantic myth of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Hogg Jacobite Relics Song 81

For more details, and to book a ticket, click here.

Jacobite Minstrelsy 1829 frontispiece

What is Roman Edinburgh?

EPT KC FtW Roman Edinburgh

Like Rome, Edinburgh is a city built on seven hills.

My new collection, Floating the Woods, published by Luath Press, includes ‘Seven Questions’, which considers Edinburgh’s links with Ancient Rome – there’s an extract above.

The book also includes ‘Pandora’s Light Box’, which describes the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery, which today shows contemporary art but which began life as natural history museum.

Other poems move further afield, to Loch Ness, Orkney, Flanders and Rome itself, where in the 1750s a young Scottish architect, Robert Adam, is beginning to find his way.

Floating the Woods 03