curiosity about the ways of the world

Sweetly subversive in Castle Street


Poetry as graffiti, a brilliant combination by Banksy (picture by CodySimms)

I like to think this could be a sweetly subversive movement: poetry in motion, gently working its way into the nooks and crannies of city life; sometimes soothing, sometimes stirring.   In London this summer at least some of the 3.5 million daily passengers on the  Underground will find solace in six poems staring them in the face on the tube.  And in Edinburgh? The Poetry Garden will bloom for a day in Castle Street on Friday 16th July.

In fact the Poetry Garden is rooted in St Andrew Square (where it was planted almost two years ago) but – Scottish summers being what they are – outdoor events can be a bit of a gamble.  So Friday’s Summer Reading/Poetry in Motion  has the great bonus of a mobile library (thanks to Ian Kirkby and Jane Douglas from Edinburgh City Libraries Direct Services).


Launching the Poetry Garden in St Andrew Square with lotus flowers in 2008

As  parking can also be a bit of a problem Mike Gallagher of Essential Edinburgh suggested Castle Street. That’s a brainwave which links two of Edinburgh’s new public spaces. While St Andrew Square is a fantastic success the great potential of Castle Street has yet to be fully realised (sadly the monthly Eating Place market no longer happens).

But parking poetry there between 10 am and 3pm on Friday seems to me a great opportunity to show how streets can come to life when people make creative use of them.

Hope I am not wrong! But with a little instant gardening (thanks to the horticulture team at the Botanics) and another inspired collection of poems handpicked by Lilias Fraser of the Scottish Poetry Library…how can anyone just walk on by?  You can even use your library card to take out a book from the van right there and then.


Friday 16 July, 10.30am-3pm
Mobile library van, Castle Street

Meanwhile Poems on the Underground continue to work their quiet magic as they have been doing ever since the idea was first dreamed up in 1986.  Each season there is a new theme. This summer the theme is music with poems by, among others, Kathleen Raine, D.H Lawrence, Thomas Hardy and Gillian Clarke, celebrating birdsong, hymns, songs of love and longing – in tube carriages across London.

Now, there’s a thought for the trams.

PS Posting a shorter and slightly less subversion on Leith Open Space website.


  1. Administrator

    Today’s the day and never mind the weather forecast. When I left Lilias in Castle Street (having collected pots of lavender and rosemary from Botanics) the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing.

    With luck the sun will shine on Poetry in Motion. But I am still taking my umbrella when I go back up there for lunch.

    Looking forward to seeing the mobile library resplendent with astroturf.

    Maybe next year we can summon up an instant beach like they do in London and East Berlin?

  2. Administrator

    Maybe you can add some in the East End of Glasgow? Or maybe the West End is easier. Though I know you are likely to be otherwise occupied with music this weekend! Hope gigs at O2 and MacSorleys are a great success. x

  3. Anny Deery

    That’s the East End of London. Sorry.

  4. Anny Deery

    There’s plenty of poetry scattered about the east end. Opposite my friend’s place off Brick Lane there was some really ornate handwriting along the door frame. Very cool!

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