Sunday, 16 May 2010

(1) Edinburgh

Our Edo is Edinburgh.

1 Cherry Blossom Moon
Alexander Maris, 2010

When was it ...

Ten years ago, living by The Meadows with their gean-blossom walks, I dreamt up a project, to take Basho’s Oku-no-Hosomichi as a routemaster for Scotland, traveling as he and Sora had, from the capital, Edina for Edo, on the road north to the Western Isles. And now I’m ready.

Now Ken and I will swap roles, Basho & Sora or Sora & Basho, and take to the road. In the planning the scope of our ploy has grown: making a word-map of Scotland that pairs one Scottish location with each of Basho’s 53 stations. On the way we will meet folk, drink 53 types of tea and 53 kinds of whisky, share conversation, and blog our way north. At the end of it all there will be poems – as skylines, audio and a map – all for free. For the opportunity, we have to thank a Creative Scotland Vital Spark award.

And so in 2010, on this anniversary of Basho's departure, 16 May, our year-long journey begins, in Ken’s second-floor flat on Bonnington Rd. These are some things we'll pack for the journey.

old pink & new orange maps
the dog’s picnic blanket
Rescue Remedy spray

miso packets
flasks and chocolate

compass, watch,
gazetteer and notebook,

hokku-labels for trees
and paper wishes


The Old House

260’s our degree zero
– not all the vista
but still a start

I have lived with this view to Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Crags and Calton Hill (Castle Rock with neck craned) for several years, but soon I will flit to the South Side. The new place, Hillview (Blackford Hill, with neck craned), is on a wide street lined with cherry trees. I’d like to give the new house a new name.

these familiar streets –
Pilrig, Rosslyn, Bonnington,
Tinto, Breadalbane

This was Basho’s hokku of departure (tr. Cid Corman)

the grass door also
turning and turning into
a doll's house

a flitting in the offing
swopping one hill view
for another

Eck and I cross to the park. Outside Pilrig House we meet the owner practising with his metal detector, for a visit to Pathhead Roman camp. He chats about the trees on the far side that a developer, citing Dutch elm disease, axed, though they weren’t elms; Stevenson, who had relatives here, on his mother’s side, staid folk, who thought RLS outre; and further back the siege of Leith, when a Protestant army camped here to ‘persuade’ the French to leave.

after five years
a last gathering before
the flit, and the road

Back in the flat guests arrive, for tea (Gabalong Black) and whisky (Nikka White, a Japanese malt), squash for the kids (Owoce lesne from the Polish deli), fresh-fruit cake and banana-&-walnut loaf, and talk about places and poems to come – though the host can hardly sit still to join in.

Ken, naebuddy ever said
it was goan tae be
easy bein poets

I read out Basho’s famous opening, dreaming of distance, and then the kids present their chorus, one-word-each


1 Basho & Ango (arcane ritual)
Paul Edgerley, 2010

Arcane Ritual

In the playpark we devise a game – or is it an arcane ritual? – the winner's whoever can stay balanced longest on one foot on the chain-hung logs. Mark devises a hopping strategy and throws Lorna off-balance. We pin verses and tie wishes to trees.

Nicole & Stefan call with apologies – “sorry, for not coming today. We had two emails yesterday planning our lifetime otherwise...” and send pictures of Ogaki, where Basho’s journey ended.

Let looking with extensive view
Survey Scotland from Whithorn to Polewe

(after Samuel Johnson)

1 260 Bonnington Road | Edo
Ken Cockburn, 2010




Pilrig House (55°58'3.91"N 3°10'56.40"W) is on the north side of the park.

the road north is a journey that will conclude in 53 audio | visual word-maps: poems describing different locations, typeset in the form of skylines and other natural features, accompanied by recordings in a variety of voices. The poetic mapping of Scotland will be available from May 16, 2011. In the meantime, visit the website of our recently completed word-map for the Peak District National Park, white peak | dark peak.

Coda: On The Street Where Irfan Lives

Cherry Blossom

The street where I live is lined
with cherry trees
and this is the season of cherry blossom.

The trees are blossoming pink
which has not yet fallen
onto the parked cars like strawberry milkshake snow.

There is one tree opposite our house
which blossoms white
in defiance of the consensus.

If I were Japanese, maybe a Zen monk
with one robe and one bowl,
I would write a poem.

The poem would have seventeen
syllables, of course, something
about the impermanence of things.

As it is, I’ve a wardrobe
full of clothes for every occasion
and we eat from plates where I live.

I believe there is a full moon tonight,
another opportunity for a poem
if I were Japanese, moon viewing,

but the sky is clouded over
just as the mind obscures
the clear light of awareness.

Irfan Merchant