A-B-Craobh (A-B-Tree) is a creative research project celebrating the links between writing and trees represented by the Gaelic Tree Alphabet. It follows on from creative work begun in 2011, funded by the Scottish Forestry Commission and Hi-Arts, developed further at the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh, through a poetry residency organised by the Scottish Poetry Library in 2013. This led to a prize-winning poetry sequence, A-B-Tree, in 2015 and a poetry anthology Into the Forest (Haggith 2013). In 2018, I received a research scholarship to bring the project to the UHI and to assess its potential development into a pedagogical project. A warm reception, particularly by Scottish School of Forestry (SSF) staff and students, has led to the current project.
The project’s primary tool is a knowledge base of linguistic, ecological, practical, historical, cultural (folklore) and literary (poetic) elements for the 18 species in the alphabet: birch, rowan, alder, ash, willow, hawthorn, oak, holly, hazel, bramble, ivy, blackthorn, elder, pine, gorse, heather, aspen and yew. The knowledge base is a rich resource on the socio-cultural dimension of Scottish woodlands, well field-tested in forests and public gardens around Scotland, with a range of partner organisations (see http://www.mandyhaggith.net/a-b-tree.asp), as a stimulant for creativity, particularly for poetry. It also heightens awareness of the Gaelic language and the wealth of Gaelic heritage around trees and shrubs.
The key research question this piece of research aims to address is: what do students learn by writing creatively about trees? Subsidiary questions are how to facilitate interdisciplinary learning between literature and forestry; what students learn when scientific knowledge is integrated with creative practice, in particular when forestry knowledge is explored using creative writing and whether the Gaelic Tree Alphabet is a useful structure for creative and interdisciplinary knowledge sharing between literature and forestry.
My methodology for seeking answers to these questions is through the use of poetic inquiry.
This project is exploring how to stimulate inter-disciplinary learning between the arts and sciences, in particular between poetry and forestry. It celebrates an ancient connection between trees and writing in the form of the Gaelic Tree Alphabet and seeks to inject some knowledge about trees into classes for literature and writing students and to introduce forestry students to poetry, gently, in both cases.