An exhibition of my poems paired with visual artworks is showing at Inverewe Garden in April-May 2022, and Dundee Botanic Garden from June-August 2022. The artists are Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie, Ann Coomber, Dorje Khandro Dawid, Helen Denerley, Chris Goodman, Lotte Glob, James Hawkins, Jan Kilpatrick, Kirsty O’Connor, Bill Ritchie, David Sandum, Fergus Stewart, Kathy Sutherland and Peter White. They encompass video, painting, etching, sculpture, textiles and ceramics.
The poem-art pairs have been brought together in an elegant, tall-slim format pamphlet, designed by Gerry Cambridge.
The poetry is a mixture of tree poems and sea poems, some of which are previously published, some new. Together with their images, they express my home habitat in Assynt, where the woods fringe the ocean, where seaweed smells mingle with the scent of honeysuckle, where curlews and cuckoos call in spring and gales march in from the Minch to set the trees dancing.
As a culmination of my Liminal Zone project, this collection celebrates the shore as a metaphor for the interface between poetry and other artforms, where words and images ebb and flow.
It's exciting and unusual as a poet to have an exhibition and lovely to have this memento: a limited edition of 200 pamphlets, available here.
Why the Sky is Far Away is a mix of poems about people and nature, by far the most revealing of my own story and feelings of any of my books so far.
Liz Lochhead: 'Bears, birds, quirky creation myths, playful hints of song-like rhyme, yes... But what endures from this substantial collection is this poet's tough mid-life love for the natural world, her hard-won acceptance of grief, longing, of the natural cycles of living as a human animal, a woman, in this world.'
Pippa Little: 'These poems sing 'a long strong song' in celebration of life and its most strange, delightful and unforgettable moments.... Haggith has a light, deft touch and an abiding passion for the sanctity of our earth. The poems are wise, too: "bask in the glow of now's fire".'
Chrys Salt: 'These poems speak quietly of a natural world, loved and deeply understood... They are beautifully crafted yet seem to live in the moment of their making, pitch perfect and wise - 'rahayu'. A stunning collection to heighten the senses and teach you how to look.'
Ian Stephen: 'It bristles and bustles with energy, which somehow still pulses through the various and wonderful forms found for a strong series of celebrations.'
Kate Ashton: 'Mandy Haggith's new collection is a lovely unmarked path that traverses continents, discovering peoples' sacred words for things, singing universal truths.'
During the A-B-Tree project I challenged myself to write a poem for each of the trees in the Gaelic Tree Alphabet. The result is a sequence, which I originally produced as a hand-made art book for people who helped a lot in the project. This sequence has since won second prize in the Overton competition in 2015 and it is now available to purchase as a pamphlet and as an ebook.
This little book is unusual in several ways. The poems grow up from the bottom of the page, instead of hanging from the top, as poems conventionally do, and they’re ‘rooted’ with the old Gaelic and modern English names of the tree plus the relevant symbol from the ogham alphabet (the pre-Latin script used for Gaelic in ancient times). It also contains a concertina of beautiful images, one for each tree, by Bill Ritchie.
There are also several hand-crafted booklets of my nature writing, called Earth Wondering, which you can get from this website only, or in a few outlets in the north west (including the lovely shop at An Talla Solais, the gallery in Ullapool, and the Fisk Gallery in Achiltibuie). They include photos by Bill Ritchie and are a bit hand-crafty, with string binding.
For years I have been gathering poems about trees and the result is this beautiful anthology, published by Saraband in November 2013.
The chapters follow the species linked to the letters of the Gaelic tree alphabet (for more about the alphabet see my project A-B-Tree), but the poetry is not limited to Scotland, with gems from California to Chile, Norway to Norfolk. The anthology was published in aid of Trees for Life with all my royalties were donated to the charity to support the regeneration of native woodlands.
It is now, sadly, out of print. I regularly get asked if it is available, so I am hopeful that one day we will find a way to reprint it, in full, or at least in part.
Other poetry bits and pieces
To listen to me reading, check out my occasional poetry podcasts here.
I have had more than 200 poems published over the years in magazines and anthologies. Some of the recent ones are here: Easterly (Northwords Now), Bow-head Whale (Northwords Now), Ice floe (Northwords Now), You Wouldn't Want to Wrestle With a Walrus (Northwords Now, plus audio of me reading it on A Plague of Poetry), Away (The Phare), Little Auks and The Volume of 1kg of CO2 is Roughly The Same As That of a Coffin (Tears in the Fence, and video of an Environmental Poetry event when I read them), five poems in Toasted Cheese, Otter in Shadows (Ink, Sweat and Tears), three poems in Shearsman, five in Dreich, one in Dreamcatcher, and one in Beyond the Swelkie, the new anthology for the centenary of George Mackay Brown.
Other places my poems have appeared include: Gutter, Poetry Scotland, Orbis, Message in a Bottle, the Scottish PEN magazine, Dreamcatcher, Obsessed with Pipework, Stravaig, Prole, Pank, Obsessed with Pipework, Equinox, Streetcake, New Linear Perspectives, The Rialto and Acumen, plus various anthologies.
In recent years I have started using poetry inquiry as a research methodology in my work at the University of the Highlands and Islands. There are summaries in various academic places, but this gives a flavour: I made this poem, 'The One Thing We Can Hug' from words contributed by participants in several online workshops during the COVID-19 lockdown, about what trees mean to them.
During 2019 I was poet in residence at Inverewe Garden, in Poolewe, near Gairloch, Wester Ross. As part of this I created two pieces of multi-media poetry, as wel as contributing poems to some of the art works by other artists, particularly Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie. With Dorje Khandro Dawid, I created a Songline, an improvised audio piece with refrains, intended to be listened to as you walk around the garden. You can download it and listen here. I also created a floor installation consisting of a non linear poem plus some poems made of words written on leaves by gardeners and visitors to the garden. It is called 'Listen Feel Wonder Under'.
I was supposed to be in residence for 2020 and 2021 as well, but COVID-19 put paid to that, and postponed a solo exhibition called 'Trees Meet Sea', consisting of artworks responding to my poems or to which I have responded. The artists include Lotte Glob, Helen Denerley, Fergus Stewart, Peter White, James Hawkins, Kirsty O'Connor, Jan Kilpatrick, Chris Goodman, Kathy Sutherland, Lynn Bennett Mackenzie, Ann Coomber, Dorje Khandro Dawid and Bill Ritchie. This exhibition is now due to happen in spring 2022.
Back in summer 2013, I was poet in residence in the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh , as part of a project called 'Walking with Poets' run by the Scottish Poetry Library. You can find out more about this on the project blog or listen to this podcast.
In 2009 I was awarded a Scottish Arts Council writer's bursary, to do a 'literary dig' of Assynt, and among the results were many new poems delving back into the past or into the politics of land ownership, and many inspired by wildlife and nature. I'm also inspired by Norman MacCaig, who wrote a lot about Assynt, and in 2010 I ran the celebration of the centenary of his birth. A Passion for Assynt, my long poem responding to Norman MacCaig's A Man in Assynt, was in the autumn 2010 issue of Northwords Now. There's a video of it below.
Below is a video of my long poem, A Passion for Assynt, a response to Norman MacCaig's poem, A Man in Assynt.