I set off for the launch of the poetry garden this morning with two boxes full of lotus flowers and a big tartan umbrella. Which was just as well because by the time I reached St Andrew Square it was pelting with rain and blowing a gale. Even so I walked home with a warm glow an hour later and not just because the sun had perversely decided to shine as soon as our little ceremony was over. We had left lotus flowers bobbing in the water and a feel good atmosphere in the garden; we had claimed the space for poetry and the people. The revolution starts here.
And it’s an ill wind or an evil downpour that brings no-one any good. When Mike the operations manager from Essential Edinburgh got to the garden this morning he found the water had drained out of the pond but that sudden shower helped to fill it enough to float the blossoms Lilias, Jane and I had spent the last week (and a lot of paper) folding into shape. Then the wind blew them merrily across the surface (the origami, not Lilias and Jane) and, with another stroke of good luck, the printer delivered the poetry postcard fliers in time for Ali to bring them to the garden.
So altogether a great occasion. The press had been lured to the other end of George Street to see Sir Sean Connery close the book festival but thanks to Ewan we had secured a much bolder Scot in Richard Holloway, chair of the Scottish Arts Council, to open poetry in St Andrew Square. And Ron Butlin, Edinburgh’s Makar or poet laureate, read a poem he had written specially for the occasion, “even though I was told I wasn’t going to get paid but that’s what us poets are like.” Or words to that effect.
I wasn’t in a position to take notes but the line that stuck in my mind was “Edinburgh so full of possibilities and prohibitions.” That so beautifully sums up the city’s divided personality (part banker, part bohemian) I took an instant liking to the new Makar and I asked Ron if I could have a copy of the poem. I took an even greater liking to him when he confessed he hadn’t quite finished the poem – he was still working on it but wanted to produce something to mark the occasion.
So now I am home again, with an unused box of lotus flowers I am not sure what to do with. There may be other opportunities. Alex Salmond is officially opening the garden on 10 September. Perhaps I can float something subversive on the pond to mark that occasion. Alternatively, I can just keep them for the monthly lunchtime ‘personal poetry shopper’ events the Scottish Poetry Library will be starting on 5 September. I have great hopes that together we can make poetry rock Edinburgh’s boat.
See the City of Literature website for details of the poetry postcard if you want to make your own wish for poetry in the garden. The more subversive the better!