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Orasaigh: collaboration and more

For this week's guest post Steve Ely follows on from his previous posts on how Orasaigh came to be and reflects the future possibilities of the project

Orasaigh: collaboration, book, exhibitions, readings, workshops …

Orasaigh viewed from across the machair

I’d finished Orasaigh, it struck me how visual the poem was, and I immediately began to think of publication with photographic accompaniment—two complementary subjectivities responding to the same landscape. I was lucky to find the perfect collaborator in South Uist-based photographer Michael Faint, whose fabulously evocative work will be familiar to many from his website After getting knocked back by all the obvious publishers in England and Scotland—all of whom unaccountably lacked the imagination to see the obvious potential in a long poem about an obscure Scottish island, by an obscure English poet and an obscure Scottish photographer—our joint publication, Orasaigh, will be published by the award-winning independent publisher Broken Sleep, in August, 2024.

Ben Kenneth viewed from Boisdale

But Orasaigh seems to have developed its own momentum independently of book publication. Through the agency and hard work of Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Andy Mackinnon, exhibitions based on the book will be held at Cnoc Soilleir, South Uist, and Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist, in August and November 2023, respectively, with an accompanying range of previews, readings, talks, sound-walks and creative writing and photography workshops. The composer Duncan Macleod, of the University of Nottingham, Hyunkook Lee, Director of the Centre for Audio and Psychoacoustic Engineering at Huddersfield University and his student Juraj Fajnor have made a recording of a reading of the poem with accompanying soundscape, much of which was recorded in and around Orasaigh landscape, to be used in the exhibitions. Plans are in progress to take the exhibition to various venues on the mainland, to coincide with the publication of the book in 2024. The creative writing workshops—Writing the Apocalyptic Landscape—developed for the project are being adapted into teaching materials that might be used with University creative writing students, in schools and with writers and poets in community contexts, in-person and online. I’ve recently applied for a grant to fully fund a bi-lingual (Gaelic & English) Creative Writing PhD to be focused on place and landscape. This studentship will be jointly supervised by myself at the University of Huddersfield and by a Gaelic expert from a Scottish University, and my desire is for a Uist or Western Isle based or connected candidate to secure it. Orasaigh just keeps rolling. The Cnoc Soilleir exhibition is just the start.

Steve Ely, June 27th, 2023

The Poet and the Photographer


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