‘Strange to contemplate this spot, gouged cleanly out, as going back millions of years’
Extract from Aspects of Edinburgh: Poems and Drawings
By Stewart Conn and John Knight
Published by Scotland Street Press
From 2002 to 2005 Stewart Conn was Edinburgh’s inaugural makar, or poet laureate. Publications include An Ear to the Ground (Poetry Book Society Choice); Stolen Light (shortlisted for the Saltire Prize), The Breakfast Room (2011 Scottish Poetry Book of the Year) and most recently a new and selected volume The Touch of Time (Bloodaxe), plus The Loving-Cup, Estuary and Against the Light (Mariscat Press). Distances, a personal evocation of people and places, was published by the Scottish Cultural Press. He also edited 100 Favourite Scottish Poems and 100 Favourite Scottish Love Poems for Luath Press. Of his plays The Burning, The Aquarium, Play Donkey and Clay Bull were premiered by the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum Company; while Herman and Hugh Miller won Fringe First Awards. A fellow of the RSAMD and an honorary fellow of the Association of Scottish Literary Studies, he can be heard reading from his own work on The Poetry Archive.
Closely allied to his work as an architect with Historic Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland), John Knight’s drawing skills were honed through observation of the many historic buildings the length and breadth of Scotland he worked on for 25 years. In 1974 he was commissioned by East Lothian District Council to draw thirteen East Lothian villages for heritage display boards – published subsequently as a book – requiring some 90 sketches. More recently he was asked, by the local history society, to prepare a set for East Linton. Also in the 1970s he was commissioned to provide illustrations of the houses associated with Robert Louis Stevenson in Edinburgh for James Pope-Hennessy’s biography of the author. His work has been included in mixed exhibitions at galleries including the Talbot Rice and the Fine Art Society, and a collection of his drawings taken into the Historic Environment Scotland archive will shortly be accessible online. On retirement as a Principal Architect in 2002 he was awarded the OBE.
From Arthur’s Seat
North-east the Firth, a bracelet
merging with mist; south-west
the Pentlands, sharply defined.
Directly opposite, the Castle.
A sudden gust makes me lose
my footing. Gulls slip past,
eyeing us disdainfully.
Strange to contemplate this spot,
gouged cleanly out, as going back
millions of years; its saucer
fire and ice, volcanic rock
shaped by glaciers,
where now cameras click,
and lovers stroll in pairs;
while those golfers
on the fairways below
keep their heads down
and eyes on the ball –
oblivious of the shadows
furtively closing in,
the imminence of rain.
Tempting, watching us
here, to deduce
the same; whereas
often when happiest,
we are most conscious
of darkness. See, it sweeps
towards us, the rim of an eclipse.
Aspects of Edinburgh: Poems and Drawings by Stewart Conn and John Knight is published by Scotland Street Press, priced £9.99