• John Dempster

Look out of your window! A report from John of the Open Mic on 15th June

We had a really lovely open mic session at HighlandLIT on Tuesday15th. 14 people attended on-line, eight of whom read their work. Even though we were physically remote it seemed to me that there was real meeting of minds and spirits.


The theme was George Gunn’s injunction to us at the May workshop to ‘Look out of your window’ and thereby be inspired by what catches our eyes and our attention.


This is simply my personal reflection on the evening, based on my notes!


Conor O’Hara read three poems broadly on the theme of love - including Moon howl and Water kiss. ‘All the lovers make the world go round’; Anne-Mary Paterson shared a prose piece describing the view from the window of the ‘writing room’ in her house, the wildlife she sees, and the distant view of the Beauly Firth.


Next we heard from new HighlandLIT member Cait McCullagh. Cait told us that she is a ‘becoming poet’, as she has only begun writing very recently, and said that poetry was ‘pouring out’ of her during lockdown. But she must have been immersed in the poetry of life for a long while, because what she read was powerful and accomplished. I was moved by her poem about the death of George Floyd, and her evocative reflection of the burial of a young mother and her still-born baby 7000 years ago, showing the care and respect taken. Cait writes as a footnote to the poem ‘thegirl and her new-born baby were buried together. The baby was laid upon a swan’s wing. The child’s foot was placed so that it touched the arm of the girl; their poetics of relation inscribed for all to see’.


Graham Bullen read a further extract from his second novel, The Broch which is now available as an e-book from Amazon. His writing is inventive in theme and execution. Tim Williams (‘Timski’) whose passion and verbal pyrotechnics always inspire, read next. Looking from his window he sees the little boxes of identical houses covering the landscape (speaking memorably of ‘the doors of imperception’) and elegizes the loss of nature and of the magic of nature. A fantastic ecological cri de coeur.


Penelope Hamilton shared a poem about ‘working at home with only myself,’ again reflecting on the theme of our relationship as human beings to life around us. A pigeon slams into the window of Penelope’s room, and falls dead in the garden. Each feather is imprinted on the pane of glass. She goes downstairs, holds the little corpse. ‘I etch the details in my mind.’ And when another self said ‘Don’t be absurd, it’s only a bird,’ her deepest being responds ‘nothing is only.’


Scott Fraser read a striking piece of prose with an autobiographical element, describing a member of staff at an office in a desert region who insists on having a window beside his desk. Outside there is a bougainvillea plant, which grows until he can see little but its branches. He looks through the glass at the plant; it’s as though the look was returned, the growing leaves reaching for the window. He tips the gardener to ensure the plant is maintained in optimum condition. Of this strange relationship with the bougainvillea he says ‘She is my companion, and grown under my patronage.’ ‘She protects me, shielding my view.’ This lovely piece of writing concluded ‘Our strange symbiosis flourishes.’


Finally we heard from Mo MacQuarrie who read a lovely poem reflecting on her local environment and the creatures to be found there by night and day.


The evening was ably chaired by HighlandLIT Chair Mark Williams who was an encouraging presence throughout. Mark commented that though during the lockdowns we became be default ‘inside people’ looking out of the window, the evening showed that, looking out of our window, we had been reminded of our fundamental oneness with nature.



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