Making a Poet’s Book

Front cover of my book of poems and drawings

I’ve been going to a drawing class at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh for the last year, learning to use pencil and charcoal. This term, my wonderful teacher, Helen Jackson, asked if I’d like to make an artist’s book, combining my poems and drawings. I was uncertain. I don’t often enjoy text combined with visual art – the text seems to serve as an inadequate translation of, or comment on, the art. I’m usually left aware of the inadequacies of language.

But I was drawn to the idea of a picking a particular subject which I could respond to both poetically and artistically. I wondered how my drawing might affect my writing, and vice versa. As the class is at the Botanics, I have been drawing a lot of flowers already. And they have much personal resonance. My father is a botanist and taught me (or tried to) the names of many trees and wild flowers.

So I picked four flowers to study – white dead nettle, plantain, ivy-leaved toadflax and dandelion. All plants I associate with my childhood. I drew each plant in pencil, charcoal and pen and ink. I also used carbon paper to make monoprints. I worked fast – these were sketches which I hoped would capture feeling rather than visual accuracy.

This is the cover, which is made up of sketches which I cut up and stitched together.

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