A few weeks ago Martin and I went on another all-day walk, from our part of town towards Grangemouth, along the southern coast of the Firth of Forth. I’ve always found that these walks feel more of an achievement, or at least reveal themselves to be more profitable a source of writing and reflection, if they have a particular aim, a focal point, rather than just being about the distance covered. The 30 miles we managed from Leith to Burntisland a few months ago was one thing, but there was nothing I could really remember about it after the fact. Last year’s airport walk is still something I’m thinking and writing about though, and the Grangemouth walk opened up further ideas about the entire coast, its historical militarisation and the contraction of that militarisation over the last few decades, that will keep me writing for some time. I’m interested in the way the landscape has changed, in theory and in practice, in the inherent plasticity of landscape and the way it is overwritten by the imperatives of the moment, made plastic in fact by these altered concerns. And these concerns are themselves always altered in the reciprocal and self-reinforcing lights of power and money. All along the coast you can see the historical consolidation of an offensive and defensive military capability, and when this capability has contracted it has been seen as an opportunity for focus – now, there is no real military presence on the coast apart from at Rosyth. The contraction has left behind hollow spaces, remembered functions, detritus, wrecked piers and concrete blocks, and naval bases turned to the underused berthings of pleasure craft. In a formal sense, what really interests me about the coast and these walks along it is the opportunity it gives to enact this theme in the writing itself. To achieve a sense of this palimpsest layering only seems possible to me through using poetry as a form, rather than just straight prose (although the two work well in juxtaposition), and so I’ve found myself for the first time in a year or two trying again to twist my writing into verse. Or, not really ‘verse’, but what for the moment I’m happy to call ‘poetry.’ Not lyricism or self-expression, but poetry as project, as vehicle to enact certain ideas.
Anyway, here’s a picture or three.