Rhyme time

RabWilson. Poet in residence Ettrick Valley.
RabWilson. Poet in residence Ettrick Valley.

The Ettrick Valley’s first writer in residence is looking forward to discovering the area, mountain biking, writing and meeting local people.

Ayrshire poet Rab Wilson, responsible for the biggest poetry book in the world, takes up the first James Hogg Creative Residency at the beginning of August.

Rab said: “I want to write a number of poems based on this experience. I’m not sure yet what that will be. It’s a blank canvas.

“I’m available to do whatever people want me to do. A lot of it will be out on the mountain bike, and hopefully walking these hills and visiting Tushielaw and all these great sounding places, and it would be good to meet local characters who still have that good Scots tongue, and hear the language of Hogg.” .

He continued: “There’s virtually no internet connection or phone signal [in the Ettrick Valley] so I’m quite looking forward to that escape from the world.

“There are good things that could bring the area to the wider public’s notice. I’m looking forward to discovering it.

“To literally follow in Hogg’s footsteps, and then write my responses to that landscape, is going to be a challenge. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Organisers Ettrick and Yarrow Development Project announced its choice from 28 applicants.

The residency runs for six weeks from August 4 and will finish with an appearance at the YES (Yarrow Ettrick Selkirk) Festival in September.

Rab will live in a cottage near the top of the Ettrick Valley, close to the birthplace of the Ettrick Shepherd, and will spend some of his time at the James Hogg Exhibition, open in Ettrick School on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoons.

Born in New Cumnock, where he lives now, the former engineer and psychiatric nurse, 52, has written poetry for most of his adult life.

He came to the wider public’s attention with his interpretation – or ‘owersettin’ – of the famous medieval Persian work The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyamwhich was made into the biggest poetry book in the world, measuring 10 feet by four feet.

Rab is a winner of the McCash Poetry prize and is a former Robert Burns Writing Fellow.

And an early play, a contemporary reworking/imagining of Robert Burns The Jolly Beggars was runner-up in the McLellan Award 2007.

Rab has appeared on the fringe at Edinburgh Festival and has been a featured poet at the Robert Burns International Festival in Ayr. He also appears regularly at the Wigtown Literary Festival in south west Scotland and in 2004 was the first Laureate of the Festival.

He has published six books, including three collections of his own poetry.

He says of Hogg’s best known work: “The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a novel of timeless importance. It was away ahead of its time.

“ It’s one of the few great works that are left that would make a terrific film.”

Ettrick and Yarrow Development Project chairwoman Vicky Davidson said: “The Ettrick Valley has always been a creative place and I am sure that Rab will produce great work. We’re delighted to have such an accomplished poet on board”.

The project is funded by Borders LEADER, The Big Lottery, Buccleuch Estates and the Southern Uplands Partnership.