Poetry Trail

Thistle © Jenny Haslimeier. Botanical drawing in ink and watercolour as featured in Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail. Courtesy the artist

Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail

part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 and Thistles and Sunflowers festival – a spotlight on artists and stories from the lands of thistles and sunflowers, i.e. Scotland and Bulgaria curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva

#ThistlesandSunflowers #YS2022 linktr.ee/thistlesandsunflowers

May – November 2022

18 May – 13 June | Daily 10am-6pm | Scottish Storytelling Centre | 43-45 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1SR

30 June – 30 November 2022 | Monday-Thursday 9am-5pm | Sandeman House Garden | 55 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1SR Please use the Trunk’s Close entrance off the High Street

18 August | 11am-12pm | Poetry reading with Plovdiv-born and Edinburgh-based poet Vangel Imreorov | Sandeman House Garden | 55 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1SR Please use the Trunk’s Close entrance off the High Street | Further details here

22 September | 12-1.30pm | Dance and music with Katie Jack and Kate Daly | Sandeman House Garden | 55 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1SR Please use the Trunk’s Close entrance off the High Street | Further details here and here

FREE | No booking required

Follow the Thistles and Sunflowers trail of poetry and botany to encounter works by contemporary writers and artists from Bulgaria and Scotland inside and outside the Scottish Storytelling Centre building.

This summer venture outside the Scottish Storytelling Centre through Trunk’s Close to the secret garden of the Sandeman House and follow the Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail hidden there in plain sight. Discover 16 poems by contemporary Bulgarian and Scottish writers outdoors, including works by Stefan Ivanov and Jim Mackintosh, which were part of the indoor exhibition this spring (Please scroll down for images and details). It also includes the poem Love by Georgi Gospodinov, whose work was featured in our Thistles and Sunflowers short film programme The Physics of Sorrow which screened 27-29 May 2022.

All poems in the secret garden are presented in their original Cyrillic script and English translation, as well as accompanied by Jenny Haslimeier‘s botanical drawings of thistles and sunflowers. The writers include Jim Mackintosh, Stefan Ivanov, Georgi Gospodinov Tsocho Boyadjiev, Mirela Ivanova, Nadezhda Radulova, Silvia Choleva, Galina Nikolova, Ivan Landzhev, Nikola Petrov, Marin Bodakov, Anna Lazarova, Krassimira Dzhisova, Peter Chuhov and Maria Kalinova.

Interested in purchasing Jenny’s artwork from the Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry trail exhibition? Please click on the relevant image here to get in touch directly with the artist.


Such a sanctuary away from the bourach. Delighted to be part of Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail. Jim Mackintosh

“We conceived Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail as an urban oasis for reading, resting and meeting family and friends. Also as an opportunity to continue the conversation about the role of small cultures in the global village of world literature which we started with the first installation of the Hidden Letters outdoor sculpture poetry trail as part of Edinburgh International Festival Fringe 2021 in the Peace Garden of St. John’s Church set in the foothills of Edinburgh Castle rock. We are very pleased to give the poems which were initially attached to the Hidden Letters sculptures a second lease of life as part of the Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail and site them in the grounds of Sandeman House – another of Edinburgh’s secret gardens. We hope to build on the initial online encounter between Stefan Ivanov and Jim Mackintosh which was also a point of poetry departure for Found in Translation Book Club based at Edinburgh Central Library to start exploring Stefan Ivanov‘s poem Letter Ъ (listen to the artist reading it in Bulgarian and English at 1:06:00 here), as well as reading and discussing all the other poems featured on site alongside the rainbow benches as part of its dedicated monthly meeting on 4 October 2021.

Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva, curators

The Hidden Letters sculptures are designed in the shape of giant letters from the Cyrillic alphabet which have no graphic analogue in the Roman or Greek scripts. Image by Iliyana Nedkova of the Hidden Letters sited in the Peace Garden of Edinburgh’s St John’s Church

Throughout spring 2022, visitors to the Scottish Storytelling Centre were able to stumble upon the poetic dialogue between Stefan Ivanov and Jim Mackintosh writ large on the exhibition wall of the Storytelling Court in the fine accompaniment of Jenny Haslimeier’s award-winning botanical art. Stefan met Jim for the first time, albeit via Zoom, when they both took part in an online discussion about the role of small cultures in the global village of literature as part of Edinburgh International Festival Fringe 2021 featuring also Eilís Ní Dhuibhne – a conversation with three poets who write in Bulgarian, Scots and Irish Gaelic. Watch this precursor of the Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail here and scroll down for further details about Stefan and Jim. Although the artists are still to meet in real life, they were able to continue their dialogue through four new poems commissioned for Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail, including The Bond, Influences, A List for My Father and words written on scraps of paper by 22 refugees in a library.

Installation view of Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail at Scottish Storytelling Centre 18 May – 13 June 2022. Image by Iliyana Nedkova

See Jim’s new poem Sunflowers and Thistles set to Jenny’s iconic botanical images here. It was performed live by our resident storyteller Yana Aleksandrova as part of Thistles and Sunflowers Balkan Ceilidh on 29 May 2022.

Jenny Haslimeier entered the ongoing dialogue between Stefan and Jim through her love of botany and books, responding to the theme of thistles and sunflowers with botanical drawings, decals and prints including the new watercolour Sunflower Petal (2022) and the Bulgarian sunflower seeds installation. An Edinburgh-based botanical artist, exhibiting widely across her native New Zealand and Scotland, Jenny is the recepient of the Eve Reid Bennett Award of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh twice (2015 & 2016) and Silver-Gilt Medal 2018 of the Royal Horticultural Society. Her creative practice also involves book design, including for Penguin Random House New Zealand. Her book design of Summer Days. Stories and Poems Celebrating the Kiwi Summer was shortlisted for PANZ Best Children’s Book Award 2018.

Sea Holly © Jenny Haslimeier. Botanical drawing in ink pen and watercolour as featured in Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail. Courtesy the artist

The Thistles and Sunflowers trail of botany, poetry and urban design also offered a wee poetry reading nook at the Storytelling Court. It was a rare opportunity to grab a cuppa and browse through books of Bulgarian poetry in translation handpicked from the Scottish Poetry Library catalogue.

Installation view of our wee poetry reading nook as part of Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail at Scottish Storytelling Centre 18 May – 13 June 2022. Image by Iliyana Nedkova

There was an opportunity to find out more about the history of the world’s only purpose-built poetry library and why its Twitter handle @byleaveswelive resonates with the Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail through our FREE lunchtime guided tours off-site at Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Canongate Edinburgh EH8 8DT with Toni Velikova, Assistant Librarian. Tours were available on Wednesdays, including 18, 25 May, 1 and 8 June, 1pm and involved a handling session of visual poetry treasures from the archive.

Tour guide Toni Velikova on site at Scottish Poetry Library. Image courtesy of Scottish Poetry Library

Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail is curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva as a partnership between Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Scottish Book Trust, Reading Sofia Foundation, Bilingualism Matters, Found in Translation Book Club at Edinburgh Central Library, Scottish Poetry Library, DannsEd, Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh. 



Part of Year of Stories 2022 and Thistles and Sunflowers festival running 18 May – 18 September 2022 in and outwith the Scottish Storytelling Centre  – a spotlight on stories and artists from the lands of thistles and sunflowers. An initiative of Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland, Thistles and Sunflowers is curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva and supported by Creative Scotland Cultural Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund; City of Edinburgh Council Flexible Fund, as well as Tasgadh Fund for Traditional Arts devolved from Creative Scotland and managed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal. 

Sunflowers © Jenny Haslimeier. Botanical drawing in ink and watercolour as featured in Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail. Courtesy the artist
Jim Mackintosh as part of his solo exhibition Flipstones at Threshold artspace. Image by Iliyana Nedkova

Jim Mackintosh is a Perth-based poet, spoken word performance artist and author of six collections of poetry, including Flipstones (Tippermuir Books, 2018). Currently he is Makar of the Cateran EcoMuseum, Programme Manager of the HamishMatters Festival and Poetry Editor of the Nutmeg Periodical. Until 2021 Jim was the makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland and Poet in Chief of The Hampden Collection. In April 2022 he curated a concert of trad music and poetry at Perth Concert Hall in support of the Ukrainian people.

Stefan Ivanov swinging. Image courtesy the artist

Stefan Ivanov is a Sofia-based Bulgarian poet, playwright and author of four collections of poetry, including Inwards (2014), Lists (2009), Ginsbеrg vs. Bukowski in the Audience (2004) and 4 Seconds Violet (2003). He holds a Masters degree in Cultural Studies and а PhD in Philosophy from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. His third book Lists was nominated for the National Poetry Award Ivan Nikolov. His fourth book Inwards was nominated for the First Literary Awards of the National Palace of Culture. He won the Sofia: Poetics award 2011. Co-author of Medea – My Mother (2013), which won Icarus – The Union of Bulgarian Artists Award for Best Production. His play Between the Holidays was nominated for the Icarus 2014 Dramaturgy Award. In 2017 his play The Same Day was staged at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, New York. In 2018 he was a playwright-in-residence in the National Theatre of Luxembourg. The animated short film Tasks of the Day based on his poem of the same name qualified for an Oscar 2019 Award. Since 2003 he has published numerous articles, essays and other texts in dozens of different magazines, newspapers and sites.

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