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Poetry installations: blending whisky with verse.

An exciting medium to present poetry and explore the passage of time has arrived at Ashton Lane’s Ubiquitous Chip, but just like the process of whisky making, it will take time for the full impact to be revealed. 

Glengoyne Distillery has rebranded as a company with an “unhurried” attitude and has commissioned Jonathon Keats to make poetry installations at their distillery and various venues in Glasgow, London, New York, Melbourne, and Amsterdam. These poetry installations will slowly reveal their prose as UV light causes the ink obscuring the verse to fade over the next fifty years to reflect the time it takes for whiskey to develop its flavour. 

Jonathon Keats has experimented with the passage of time in his installations before; we have 998 years left until his simple pinhole camera has finished documenting the effects of climate change in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. His eccentricity is reflected in his expansive repertoire including choreographing honeybee ballet and attempting to make God, for species classification purposes. 

This is an exciting project at the Ubiquitous Chip where consumers can witness how whisky and poetry have harmonised wonderfully to represent the passage of time. It is hoped that these installations will provide solace from the currently instantaneous nature of mass-produced art and to kindle a passion for the process. 

The poets commissioned include two Scots; Cat Hepburn, who started the Sonnet Youth spoken word poetry night, and Jeda Pearl, whose poetry explores identity and intersectionality. Jeda Pearl explained that after receiving her brief, she drew inspiration for her poem “Mynd Oor Gloamin Corrieneuchin” from the “beautiful sense of timelessness and slow growth while walking in nature” and the deep conversations with friends that “could last all night”. The poem was written in Scots so she enjoyed conveying her themes through “far fewer words than in English!” Courtney Peppernell from Australia, Alison Malee from America, and Martin Reints from Holland will also have their work displayed in their home countries. 

Hopefully presenting poetry in these contexts will inspire more people to appreciate the art form, as Jeda Pearl suggests that due to the “unexpected place(s)” it may be found, “people who may not normally read or listen to poetry” will be able to enjoy it. Of course, these poems are exhibited in places that may be inaccessible to some people due to “location and presentation (audio is not provided at present)” as Jeda Pearl points out. 

Financial accessibility is also a problem in literature, both from the perspective of a reader and as an author as the “vast majority of us cannot earn a living exclusively from our art, and we need to supplement our income”. She also adds that “as someone who is disabled, a person of colour, and from a working-class background, access is very important to me, especially where publicly-funded organisations and projects are concerned” and recommends various organisations such as the Scottish BAME Writers Network where she holds the role of Writer Development and Communications Manager. The network is run by writers and works on advocacy, professional development and events. Other organisations worth noting are Open Book, Not Going Back to Normal and Scottish Book Trust. 

If anything, this project has shown us another novel way to present poetry. Jeda Pearl notes that it can be found everywhere through “verse, novels, nursery rhymes, spoken word artists, Instagram poets.” Lockdown has driven the need for innovative modes of presenting literature with Book Week Scotland hosting a variety of online panels, events and even virtual tours. This is something Jeda Pearl has appreciated “as someone who is disabled with an energy-limiting chronic illness”. When restrictions ease, we will have more venues for the public to enjoy poetry events at, such as local bookshops, libraries, various art venues “and Scotland has a rich tradition of open mic nights which are often free or donation-based”. 

Let’s hope that as poetry becomes more commonplace, it is able to provide solace and promote the voices of all of those who want to leave a lasting impression on the poetry scene. Just as peat, water and climate influence the taste of a single malt, the surroundings of a poet can be distilled into lines on a page to be appreciated and provide comfort to multiple people over years to come. 

Jeda Pearl is a disabled Scottish-Jamaican writer and poet. Awarded Cove Park’s 2019 Emerging Writer Residency and shortlisted for the Bridge Awards, Jeda Pearl’s poems and stories are published by New Writing Scotland, Tapsalteerie and Shoreline of Infinity. 

Instagram: @jedapearl 

Website: jedapearl.com


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