Inspired by the Landscape

Although we have travelled to very many places in the UK over the years and further afield – even to the other side of the world in New Zealand – as I look through my collection of poems there are far more inspired by this corner of Dumfries & Galloway than anywhere else.

Here we have the sea and so many different types of coastline where we enjoy sandy beaches, clifftops carpeted with nature’s own patchwork of spring squill, thyme, saxifrage , bluebells, celandines and then there are miles of merse, salt marsh or inks as they’re known locally. Here in winter, we get huge flocks of geese grazing.

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A version of the following poem was published in an anthology ‘Singing Over the Bones’ in 2010 to celebrate Wigtown Women’s Walk.

Salt Marsh Defined

 They call it merse, salt marsh, inks

where there’s the boardwalk and a stone

marking the two Margarets’ death.

That  black sulphurous layer

they call merse, salt marsh, inks.


A feeding ground for Greenland’s geese;

land for grazing Galloway cattle;

where granite marks the deaths

of one eighteen, one sixty three,

they call it merse, salt marsh, inks.


Margarets Wilson and McLaughlin

Eleventh May 1685.

Now we hear the cries of birds,

shiver in cold sun, remember them

by the merse, salt marsh, inks.


The martyrs’ stake marks the spot

So we remember how

By the merse, salt marsh, inks

These women stood defiant,

Proud of their covenanters’ vow.


The Martyrs’ stake commemorative stone was surrounded by sea after an unusually high tide.




Reading a post by Jan Fortune this morning on Medium, I was encouraged by the following

Writing is powerful and we want it to be brilliant. No writer should be content with dull prose clogged with adjectives and exposition. No writer should be happy with didactic, sentimental poetry. No blogger should want to bore people. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it can’t be perfect.

Yesterday I reluctantly handed over a couple of pieces of writing to be read next Wednesday at the 20th anniversary celebration of Wigtown as Scotland’s National Booktown. I’d been asked to write a couple of poems and my end result was – in my opinion – not poetry but doggerel. Even after drafting and redrafting, I still wasn’t happy with the result. However, it was approved of so I let it go. I just have to accept that sometimes a deadline means that some things can’t be left indefinitely on the back burner for redrafting.


Power of Words

I’ve just been reading an excellent piece by Michael Morpurgo in the Guardian (If I’d found out how to link it to facebook I would, but I’m still part way up a steep social media learning curve!)

It made me realise that writers like him can probably reach more people than many politicians. Think how many have either read War Horse or seen either the stage version or film. Think how many folk you have heard talking about it   – I’ve overheard two conversations in the last few days referring to it. Think how many will have read the book as a child and then thought more seriously about war and the disastrous long lasting effects as a result.

This weekend was the Spring Book Weekend in Wigtown and I was reading, alongside others from  A Kind of Stupidity cover.indd

None of us has the high profile of Michael Morpurgo, but hopefully the words within this anthology will make some people more aware of the futility of war and the atrocities inflicted on the innocent.