The Great Heights of Performance Poetry

Beinn Sgulaird
Category: Writing

As writers, part of our job is to read our work. In my last blog, I asked where is the most unusual place you’ve read your poems or stories. I’ve read in a few strange venues in my time, but my latest venture has topped them all – literally. On the 10th of June, I did a poetry recital from the mist-topped peak of Beinn Sgulaird, a 3074 ft Munro. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much of an audience, apart from a few rather large sheep who peered curiously from crags and rocks. The weather was absolutely atrocious, and somewhere on the ascent we lost the path so that I had to scramble on all fours, at one point putting my hand in a very unsavoury clump of sheep droppings. You’ve heard the expression suffering for your art…but why, oh why, would I do such a thing?  Well, for a sponsorship of £5.00, I invited people to request a poem of their choice to be read from the summit of the mountain. The idea behind this was to raise enough money to produce an anthology of environmental poetry featuring some of the best poems from Earth Love, a poetry journal I edited for eleven years, but recently closed due to spiralling costs. 

In case you’re wondering, I did go down the sensible route and apply for funding – unsuccessfully –hence the Extreme Poetry Expedition. So, there I was, ascending the mountain armed with an eclectic repertoire from poets as varied as Federico Garcia Lorca, Wendy Cope, Andrew Marvell, Billy Collins, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Liz Lochhead, Edwin Morgan, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Elizabeth Bishop, and many more.  But I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you; because the footage is available to view on the Earth Love website, where you can laugh at me reciting ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in the pelting rain. Or, if you’re not that cruel, just sit back and enjoy the poems, recited against the stunning backdrop of some of Scotland’s remotest and highest peaks.

Although the weather was bad, it cleared periodically to give us some spectacular and exhilarating views.  However, it did mean that I didn’t have time to recite all the poems the first time round. So, you’ll notice some of the footage is from Ben Lomond which, being now acclimatised to Extreme Poetry, I also climbed to recite the remainder of the poems to an audience of two living beings (not sheep, but humans)! Thank you, whoever you were!  And I have to say, there’s nothing like reciting ‘Almost Miss Scotland’ from over 3000 ft in the air. 

I’m glad to say that enough money has now been raised for the anthology to go ahead. I’d like to thank Leon Firth from Paisley Hillwalking Club for guiding me up the mountains, for taking on the unenviable job of filming and for providing a Shakespeare sonnet.  

If anyone is thinking of taking poetry to extreme places – a poetry skydive, poetry potholing, or maybe just a poetry marathon – I’d love to hear about it!

Thank you to everyone who sponsored me for a poem.

This blog is dedicated to Dougie Connor, 23.08.63 – 10.06.12.


Tracy Patrick

Tracy took part in the Scottish Book Trust 2008 mentoring scheme.