Poetry brings together the inner and outer landscapes and expresses them in words; Corbenic brings those words back into the landscape. This witty, thoughtful and engaging initiative quite literally puts Scottish poetry back on the map. John Glenday
Glenday is one of more than two dozen Scottish poets whose work is etched on slate, stone and wood or enclosed within perspex glass on poles along a 3.5km poetry path around the Corbenic Camphill Community set in the Perthshire countryside.
One of a dozen such communities in Scotland, Corbenic is 110-strong all told and home to 38 residents, many of them with special needs and living in six households set within some 100 acres of agricultural and forestry land at Trochry, on the A822 Old Military Road from Dunkeld to Aberfeldy.
The poetry path is the brainchild of Jon Plunkett, poet, and Martin Reilly, stone carver, who helped manage the woodlands around the old Drumour shooting lodge and estate and along the River Braan. Thanks to fungus and Hurricane Bawbag, many of the trees are seriously blighted, their lichen-covered branches falling off like pieces of rusty industrial machinery in the central belt.
But the path, built by volunteers and opened in June 2015, rarely fails to delight – or, at least, intrigue – as it meanders through hazel coppice, by a wee lochan or skirting dense rhododendrons along the banks of the Braan. Poems, accompanied by sculptures and other installations, are curated by Plunkett and Reilly with interpretation of visual arts and poetry panels.
Here, for instance, is Arboreal by Richard Livermore, set beneath a replenished sculpted tree stump:
And here: a homage to silence by Sally Evans carved on slates inserted into an orderly clump of logs:
Or, as you leave the coppice and look to the Perthshire hills from a ruined croft, a salute to sturdy folk who once endured hardship and hail by Nikki Magennis:
The American poet Robert Frost once said: “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Many of the Corbenic poems do just that, although there’s often a naive, almost banal, other-worldy New Age feel to some that brings a shrug. And, then, you come across a Kathleen Jamie you know, but must now read anew:
Or one of Plunkett’s wee verses that makes you giggle in the sunlit silence of Easter Sunday:
Poetry (and sculpture) clearly matter to the residents and volunteers of Corbenic. And that’s increasingly true for the rest of us too. Sales in the UK last year reached a record high of £12.3m, a startling 1.3m volumes, with two-thirds of buyers aged below 34 seeking, maybe, clarity about the world as it lurches towards eco-disaster.
Most images by the author. Main image via YouTube
Jon Plunkett and others were at the Soutar Festival of Words in Perthshire this weekend (April 28-29)