Poetry in the Garden starts
when Colin strikes the small Tibetan bowl.
The warmed and singing bronze awakes
a humming clarity, which sounds
through noise of knife and fork, book sales,
poets checking one another out,
and gathers stillness from the rainy night.
Later, Gaelic, Arabic and Greek
will take the song from tongue to tongue
goltraighe, geantraighe, suantraighe.
This is from Orpheus Plays (2) in my sequence Eurydice Rising which was first published by Sally Evans in Poetry Scotland in 2006. People who have known me since then will remember the Poetry in the Garden gatherings in Callander which were hosted by Sally and her husband Ian, and were such a highlight of our lives for such a long time. And yes, that is where poetry started for me, after a long time away from it.
‘Colin’ is Colin Will, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday, and yesterday launched Swept Together: New and Selected Poems, which I had the enormous pleasure of editing. And he did open proceedings by striking the small Tibetan bowl both in 2005, to call us to order and again yesterday. I first came across Colin when he hosted the Open Mouse section of Sally’s Poetry Scotland website (which he designed). He also designed the first websites for the Scottish Poetry Library and for StAnza, for which he was Chair (twice) for quite a while. It’s fair to say that Colin has been one of the foundation stones of the recent Scottish poetry scene.
We met at Callander, then began to come across each other at poetry events. He founded Calderwood Press and published several people who also became friends – Anne Connolly, Marion McCready and Lindsay McGregor among others. Sally was his first publisher, but in 2010 The Floorshow at the Mad Yak Cafe was published by Red Squirrel Press, and now we share the editing for that press with Sheila Wakefield, about a third each. In 2015 we both had poems commissioned by StAnza based on a photograph with tree branches superimposed on a beach scene. Mine was weird and about dementia (you can find it in The Territory of Rain, it’s called Sea Henge), but his was typical of Colin, close observation of landscape, warm and affectionate, and with a touch of wry humour. We launched books together at StAnza in 2018, his The Night I Danced With Maya and mine Haggards.
Editing Swept Together was a chance to remember all those poems, all those times when our paths crossed, and to remember when poetry started, and it was a chance to make sure that the ones I remembered so fondly didn’t get left out – Buzzard, The Last of the Little Green Men, Wonky, In Time – and many more. My debt to both Sally and Colin (and also to Sheila Wakefield, whom I met through them) is enormous.
If you missed any of Colin’s previous books, this is a chance to catch up. You will find some humour, some very sensitive and thoughtful explorations of human relationships, a lot of forceful environmental anger, some gentle and witty observations on aging, love, death nationality and friendship.
You can buy it here. You’ll like it. A LOT.