Yearly Archives: 2016

Poems from the Workshop-Victoria Ramsay

At the workshops, I enjoyed attempting to describe ‘the indescribable’. I realised that just by trying to write about a mystery is enough of a process to turn a handle (or a page), toward the direction of yet another mystery.

During the first workshop our group was given an opportunity to speak about our religious or non-religious lives, our early spiritual upbringings and how many of us, over the years had strayed from whatever faith-based religions we once grew up with. I was curious to hear how other folk, later in their lives, had realised and accepted varying conversions to different organised faiths.

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Poems from the Workshops-Simon Weller


Invenio – I discover (I think!).
I think.  I discover.

Discovery joins old notions in new ways.
I put things together.  I am a joiner

Of words.  What shall I make?
The world has enough chairs, tables, timetables.

I can put myself together with this time, this place,
A quiet Thursday evening in the Old Town:

With this house full of books, I suspect, full
Of joined-up writing,

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Self-Transformations: Poetry Reading Celebrating Scottish Interfaith Week

Georgi Gill introducing the poets, Storytelling Court, November 18, 2016

Ten participants gathered together at the Scottish Poetry Library on three Thursdays in a row this November to explore their faith journeys and to write of their transformation towards or out of faith. At each workshop led by a different poet, they tried their hand at Haiku and free verse in timed exercises and in free flow. Word associations and images suggested at the workshops stirred thoughts and emotions later in the week and several participants wrote poetry, some for the first time, some after a long gap and others who were old hands at poetry probed this new combination of subjects—faith,

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Religious language in the interplay of faith communities in Russia

Guest Post
Gulnaz Sibgatullina
PhD candidate at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (the Netherlands)

I had known about the project “Conversion, Translation & the Language of Autobiography” (CTLA) long before coming to the University of Edinburgh in November 2016. But only during my stay here as a visiting graduate student, did I finally have a chance to meet the scholars who conceived this project. In my discussions with Hephzibah Israel and Matthias Frenz I felt as if I was sharing ideas with my academic “soulmates”: despite considerable differences in spatial (India vs. Russia) and temporal (the 18th-19th centuries vs.

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Explorations through Being Human Festival 2016

How can we explore in meaningful ways how languages construct concepts related to the sacred?

Looking for creative means to approach this rather abstract question, I came across the work of Active Inquiry (http://www.activeinquiry.co.uk/) and contacted Gavin Crichton its artistic director to see if techniques from Image theatre might be of any help. Gavin thought that this was certainly possible and was enthusiastic about giving it a try. We discussed theatre techniques that had been developed by the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Baol (1931-2009) and whether these could be used to pick apart and analyse concepts considered central to religions.

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Self-Transformations: Writing Faith Journeys in Verse – Tariq Latif

“I was raised on a farm, in the Punjab,
where death and life were accompanied
with the utterance of Allahu Akbar.
Each day and each season’s harvest
was an expression of Gods’ grace.”

This is a quote from my most recent poem titled “Faith with doubt,” which I wrote specifically in preparation for my workshop. The idea of a divine creator was as natural and as real as breathing for me. This was re-inforced even more when I studied Physics at Sheffield University in 1984 when a friend handed me a copy of the Bible.

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Self-Transformations: Writing Faith Journeys in Verse – Sam Tongue

samuel-tonguePoetry is made of language and we live, and move, and have our being in language. Our thoughts, our hopes, our loves, and our faiths are expressed in language. But none of us are truly monoglot; our words and concepts are borrowed from other languages and dialects and as we travel and experience other cultures and faiths, we constantly translate ourselves into and out of other languages and traditions.

Poems are like this. I think of a poem as a made thing, an invention, from the Latin invenio, which means to both invent and discover. In writing a poem,

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Transformation in Faith: Exploring Hopes and Fears

Explore the hopes and fears caused by experiences of religious conversion. Participate in our innovative theatre workshops to explore how families and communities can respond to conversion sensitively. The World Kitchen Team will provide a themed meal following the workshops, where we can discuss food choice, religious identity and conversion.

In order create a rich and meaningful event, there will be a mix of people from all faiths and none. Everyone will have experienced, or have an interest in, religious conversion.

In order to help us, please register your interest for this event.

Once you have registered you will be sent two short questions to answer to determine your eligibility for attendance and for us to design a workshop that is most suited to all attending.

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Self-Transformations: Writing Faith Journeys in Verse – Alan Spence

Alan Spence

I recently took part in a conference (organised by the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace) on the great Scottish novelist Neil Gunn.

Late in his life Gunn developed an interest in Eastern spirituality, in particular Zen Buddhism. Some of his mature writings, reflecting this, were greeted with a kind of bewilderment and bemusement. However, for Gunn this Eastern culture was not something alien or esoteric. On the contrary, he felt very much at home with it, found it somehow familiar. In his own words, he found it ‘very like the thing!’  He recognised also that there were elements of this culture that echoed aspects of his own Celtic heritage –

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Self-Transformations: Writing Faith Journeys in Verse – Georgi Gill

Georgi Gill - Learning Manager at Scottish Poetry Library

When Hephzibah contacted the Scottish Poetry Library to discuss her ideas for a series of poetry workshops exploring faith, conversion and spiritual awakenings, I was fascinated from the outset.

To lay my cards on the table, I don’t approach the subject of faith from a conventional or easily defined position. As the daughter of a lapsed Methodist mother and a sometime Buddhist father, my spiritual cultural inheritance is something of a hotchpotch. I practise meditation fairly regularly and, like most British people who wouldn’t describe themselves as Christian, each year I relish wrapping presents and scoffing mince pies while a choir sings Christmas carols on the radio.

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