Outriders is a special commission from the Edinburgh International Book Festival where five Scottish based writers have been sent to five different locations within the Americas. Here they are paired up with another writer and the duo’s go on a trip within their chosen country to form new ideas, create new work and undertake interesting and unpredictable adventures. It’s a fantastic idea and this afternoon we are hearing from Scottish poet Harry Giles and Canadian Katherena Vermette.

The event is chaired by Edinburgh based poet and writer Ryan Van Winkle and begins with a short discussion about the genesis of the Outsiders project. Harry Giles was born in Orkney and this formed their ideas about what they would like to achieve during the weeks spent in Canada. They wanted to use the migration of the population of Orkney to Canada as a starting point of the trip. Katherena was approached about the project and the journey began in Montreal. Here the pair then went on a 36 hour train journey to Winnipeg and onwards to Hudson Bay.

Katherena reads two poems, both were inspired during her travels with Harry. Metis Sage is a five stanza poem that looks at the merging of indigenous and French culture in Canada. If It Were A River is a shorter poem and the writer mentions that she is still evolving what she has written and is taking time to digest the trip. The opportunity  allowed the poet to experience her country in a new and fascinating way and this has resulted in a fresh approach to creativity.

The result of Harry’s journey is a long poem entitled Traveller’s Lexicon. The full results of their writing is being published as a pamphlet and will also be available on the writers website. The extract that Harry reads gives an insight into their own personal experiences of the strong link between Orkney and Canada, where the poet describes the landscape in succinct detail. Both poets have taken advantage of their travels to create new and interesting work and it is to the benefit of the book festival audience to experience it first hand.

The other writers involved in the Outriders project include Malachy Tallack with Jennifer Haigh, Jenni Fagan with Bennie Jo Campbell, Stef Smith with Ximena Escalante and Kevin MacNeil with Marianna Enriquez. Each is presenting an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.