SUISS Fuelled My Love of Concrete Poetry by Meryl Phair










Little Sparta, the garden of Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, is nestled in the Pentland Hills, a short bus ride from Edinburgh. During my time at SUISS in 2018, we took a trip to the 5-acre oasis of wooded paths. Along with wildflowers and ponds, the garden has over 275 works of art that bring Finlay’s concrete poetry to life in sculptural form. A wavy rock in a stream reads, “Ripple n. A Fold A Fluting of the Liquid Element,” and a stone fence holding back a bramble thicket states, “Camouflaged Flowers.” I was inspired by Finlay’s ability to turn words into physical objects and create poetry where the surrounding environment was just as informative to the understanding of the poem as the word itself.


Four years and countless hours of writing later, I self-published two books of visual poetry with Tell Tell Poetry, an independent publishing service. Throughout the process, my thoughts about the visual elements of poetry have been a central focus. The collections explore layout, typography, and form. They have been a joy to work on and I couldn’t be happier with the final editions!


Figures of Speech is a collection of the various forms of visual poetry I have been experimenting with over the years. This collection utilizes space, words within words, double meanings, and punctuation to explore language through visual text. Besides enjoying the playful nature of the poems, I hope readers take away a sense of how complex and malleable language is. What we think we know about the world can easily take on new meaning and form.

“Beeing” is a collection of poetry that explores environmental themes and personal identity. This book came out of personal struggles I was having with my mental health as well as meditations on environmental collapse. Putting these poems together allowed me to explore the interconnected nature of human and planetary health. Writing this book has taught me that even the most challenging things we go through will provide opportunities for new growth. With each purchase of “beeing” 15% will be donated to the Women’s Earth Alliance, an organization that supports women working on developing solutions to climate change.


SUISS gave me the rare opportunity to focus exclusively on my poetry. It opened my mind to experimental forms of creative writing, especially concrete poetry and the work of poets like Ian Hamilton Finlay. Throughout the program, I was inspired by the extremely talented writers and creatives at the University of Edinburgh. I’m so grateful for the experience and I hope you enjoy my books!




Book Website:


Link to purchase Figures of Speech:


Link to purchase beeing:


Women’s Earth Alliance:

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