On Thursday 10 July, I took a train from London, King’s Cross, to Edinburgh Waverly.
It was a gorgeous ride, much along the sparkling coast, and a good deal of which was taken up by listening to the kindly chatterings of a 75-year-old lady on her way to Inverness to see her daughter and grandchildren (twins).
I hope I can remember more of what she told me- showing slight symptoms of dementia, she repeated herself more than once, so you’d think I would remember…This is one story:
Mother used to feed us goat’s milk, straight into our cups. …When the war came, Mother decided she had to sell the goats: Nancy, a brown goat, and Betsy, a black goat. The next day, Mother heard about the bombing of the particular town where the goats had been taken, and was overcome with worry and grief for the fate of her poor goats.
(Again, I wish I remembered, for example, where the lady herself was from – somewhere in southern Scotland- and where the town was that the goats had likely met their fate…)
Anyway, that evening I arrived at the ASLE-UK conference to attend as a delegate, present a paper on Melville’s Cetology (the study of whales) in Moby-Dick, and, most immediately, read poems from my forthcoming book, Darwin’s Microscope.
I was privileged to be one of three poets to read that evening in the magnificent Playfair Library of Old College, Edinburgh.
My first and only poetry reading before this was for the presentation of my final year honours poetry project at University in 2007 (Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in VA). I read in the Martin Science building, adamant to physically represent the combination of poetry and science that I feel my poems embody, by reading the poetry in the Science building.
The two other poets who also presented their work included the enthusiastic Helen Moore and Jerry Loose, who made it in the nick of time! I think the reading was a great way to kick off the conference, which comprised an intensely academic few days- having that bit of creativity mixed with the academics, as well as a great series of short films called ‘Eco-Eye,’ was refreshing and as a ‘Study of Literature (and the Environment!)’ should be. Oh, and the University is actually paying me for the poetry reading- my first gig where I make money as a poet, hooray!
On a final note, this conference made my second trip to Edinburgh and I must go back to spend more time there…it is a gorgeous and accessible city, practically empty once you’ve lived in London for almost a year, and I hope to return, perhaps to give more poetry readings!