Stories that bring the world together



Posted on 03/10/19 in Landscape and Nature, Walking, Writing

National Poetry Day in the Cairngorms

National Poetry Day poster

Hooray! It’s National Poetry Day today!

For my five years at Kingussie High School library, this was always one of the highlights of my year, when we had poetry readings at lunchtime with drinks and biscuits. There was always a heart-thrilling mix of poems, including in other languages and, last year, in song.

Staff and students at Kingussie High School singing on National Poetry Day 2018
The PE department demonstrating cross-curricular skills singing Bob Dylan’s ‘How Many Roads?’

National Poetry Day is a wonderful, country-wide celebration of poems classic and contemporary; a chance to return to an old favourite and discover new gems; an encouragement to sharpen your pencil and have a go yourself.

If that sounds too difficult and you’re struggling for ideas, why not try a Cairngorms Lyric? They’re only 15 words long and even if you’ve never been to this beautiful part of Scotland, you can still write one. If you do, please share it with the hashtag #CairngormsLyric and let’s see how many we can have ringing round the internet!

School pupils writing in outdoors with Cairngorms behind
Young people writing Cairngorms Lyrics at a Rural Skills Day in Glenmore

Here’s one of mine, the first of a series of ten called Calling the Mountains which I will read at Ness Book Fest tomorrow (Friday 4th October) and will be published in our Shared Stories: A Year in the Cairngorms anthology coming out in November:

Ben MacDuie – Beinn MacDuibh
The Mountain of the Son of Duff

High King of Thunder
Old Grey Man
Chief of the Range
Head of the Clan

Another fun and non-threatening way of coming up with poetry is to do it with others. I don’t believe poems are meant to be solitary pursuits; they grow out of our lives together and are shared back into the world. They can also be created in community.

Women and children around a table doing writing activities
Families writing together at the Cairngorms Nature Big Weekend

One of my workshops for the Shared Stories: A Year in the Cairngorms project was with the tremendous folks who volunteer across the Park as Health Walk leaders. In the morning we followed HighLife Highland ranger, Saranne Bish, around Anagach woods, where she told us so many fascinating things about the forest and sent us seeking out all its colours. Here’s a wee video of it made by Sian Jamieson from the Park team: Anagach Walk

Colour card matched with objects from the forest

In the afternoon, I led a workshop on how Health Walk groups might explore different creative responses through words, whether investigating place names, using Talk Cards or writing. One activity was to get everyone to complete the sentence ‘On today’s walk…’ on a post-it note. I gathered these in, arranged them in an appealing order and – voila – a Group Poem was born! Reading it out to everyone at the end of the workshop brought surprise and delight at how easy it was to create and how rewarding to hear.

Health Walk volunteer leaders workshop
Health Walk volunteer leaders’ workshop
On Today’s Walk

Group Poem created at Cairngorms National Park Health Walk Leaders’ Training Day
11th September 2019

On today’s walk
we met, we talked, we stopped, we observed

life on a dead tree

On today’s walk
we chatted with new people
we stopped a few times to look around
the sun shone
and the wind blew the cobwebs away!

On today’s walk
we looked at the spectrum of colours

the chatter flowed
the senses were stirred

On today’s walk
we collected a range of scraps
of colour in nature,
looked at lichen
through a magnifier

we sensed the soft decay of autumn

we found the mushrooms for tea

On today’s walk
there was no rain

the invisible snail left a clue
a visible, silvery trail

On today’s walk
we did talk, talk, talk
Reading ‘On Today’s Walk’

Why not try it with your own group, whether on a family holiday, with work colleagues (see here for how CEO Grant Moir did something very creative for the Park staff away-day) or in a club or hobby group? Whatever you do, please take a moment on National Poetry Day to stop for a moment and savour a poem – reading or writing. Use the comments below to tell me your all-time favourites!