Today's post was inspired by a comment from a U.K. reader, Jerome Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher pointed me to the Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, who first gained renown in the 1960s as a practitioner of concrete poetry. Concrete poetry is the kind in which the layout and typography are part of the poem's meaning, so that it is a visual as well as linguistic object. Here is one of Finlay's "poster poems," called "Acrobats:"
But sometimes Finlay (who died in 2006) actually makes poems out of concrete, or stone, or wood. At Little Sparta, the garden he created in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh with his wife and collaborator Sue Finlay, garden spaces are designed around sculptural pieces engraved with poems. (These great photos by Andrew Lawson are all from the Little Sparta Trust website.)
In this way, Little Sparta (so named in contrast to nearby Edinburgh, "the Athens of the North," with whom Finlay had been in decades-long conflict over issues of zoning and taxes) participates in a long tradition of poet-philosophers' gardens going back to classical times and epitomized in the eighteenth century by William Shenstone's The Leasowes.