May 29, 2009
Gorgeous weather we’re having today in Edinburgh, and may the same be said for wherever you find yourselves.
In SPL Happenings, we’re gearing up (gently) to send our newsletter, the Poetry Reader, to print. Full of musings, photos, signs and wonders, you can pick up your free copy here in the library when it’s ready, or sample our back issues any old time you like.
We like the glossy programme for Refugee Week Scotland on the theme of Home, running from 15 – 21 June. We particularly like this sound bite, from ‘Margaret’, on being asked ‘What does home mean to you?’: “Home is just home, isn’t it love? If he’s there [indicates to her husband]. Sixty years in March. When I see him I know I’m back.”
Robyn attended a reception at the Lyon & Turnbull auction house on Broughton Street on Tuesday. Over Friday tea and cake, she revealed the revelations of an auctioneer, on the price hierarchy of animal portraiture: ‘sheep are the least prized, followed by cattle, horses, then pigs. There is no difference in value between dogs and cats’ . Someone mentioned animal farm.
This week an American woman visited who’s cruising round the world to Helsinki via Norway and St Petersburg. She said getting to stop off in Edinburgh and visit us in person was the highlight of her trip. Eat your heart out Palace Square!
Ruth Padel was brought for the first time to one visitor’s attention by the recent press machinations. We assembled a pile of titles and an easy chair and left her to it. She deemed them excellent. We hoped that would happen.
Over on Facebook, on being asked to peer into the crystal ball of the SPL’s future, one person suggested “how about a big Iron-Man-style animatronic robot that looks like Ted Hughes? It could be 100ft high and go up and down the Royal Mile distributing flyers and cakes and reading out famous poems in a booming electronic voice. It might be more fun if it was a bit dangerous, out-of-control and difficult to turn off — the Poetry Library staff would have to go out each evening with grappling hooks, burning torches and special electric dart guns to deactivate it and return it to SPL base.” We enjoyed that. We even found ourselves asking where we would store such a behemoth. We hope for more feedback, and maybe even some serious ones too.
We ate cake (as above).
We admired aloud, as we individually but silently admire every day, the Blue Picardy spaniel pup who canters down the close.
May the sun keep his hat on till Monday! The forecast thinks it might…
May 28, 2009
There’s lots of websites we like. This may seem like a shabby, blatant plug, but honest guv, it’s a fair cop! - we’ve been doing a lot of head-scratching about where the SPL will be in ten years and thinking back to where we were ten years ago, when the internet was something that resided elsewhere, and emails were checked in an internet cafe up the road…
How things have changed! The Poetry Archive has made precious recordings available to all who want them, delicious treats from Tennyson intoning ’The Charge of the Light Brigade’ to previously little-heard Sylvia Plath poems and all manner of voices and poems in between. The Poetry Foundation offers a veritable repository of goods, from poems texts, to blogs to poems as art, and there’s a goodly amount of time to be whiled away slavering over the Poets’ House in NY. You can tap straight in to the thoughts of real people and only connect, via blogs, Facebook and Twitter. The world is our silicon chip.
Interweb aside, we’ve come a long way too, from 300 books in a single room to our current unique collection of 30,000 titles, our purpose-built Edinburgh home and our partner collections all over Scotland. And we’re taking this opportunity to consider where we should be in ten years time, and we need to know what you think, you our borrowers and supporters and friends. So please don your ceremonious thinking caps, and take some time to think about and reply to the two questions we’re asking. Your opinion really will help us shape the SPL of the future:
1) What is the most valuable thing about the SPL, which we mustn’t lose?
2) What does the SPL look like ten years from now? Think big….
May 26, 2009
We’re in the midst of a great poetry season on the BBC, but what is really making the headlines? The lives of poets: first of all, betting on the laureateship, and now the murky dealings around the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford. How many column inches have been devoted, over the past five years, to the actual poems of Carol Ann Duffy or Ruth Padel?
The Independent used to carry a column by Padel discussing one contemporary or classic poem in depth, and that did poetry a great service; Duffy has edited the Daily Mirror’s poetry corner. The Herald carries its daily poem; The Scotsman has dropped from poem of the week to poem of the month. Coming across poems by chance – as in the Poems on the Underground in London, which have been running for decades and are much treasured – seems to me the best way to put poetry in front of people. We want poets on the radio and in the press as a matter of course, not because they’re competing or seasonal but because they’re writing poems that will provoke, amuse, charm.
And we’d like these poems and poets to appear without the media asking every time whether poetry is still read or valued. Of course it is! You’d hardly know it, so few poetry books are reviewed or discussed outside literary magazines, with the honourable exception of the Guardian; recitals are reviewed, but not poetry events. Let’s move the focus off the personalities and on to the poems. As Ezra Pound said, ‘literature is news that stays news’.
May 22, 2009
Friday has bounced round quickly, since we were shut for Victoria Day on Monday. Apologies to the few who came to see us and were greeted by a locked door.
This week we…
…were pleased to see a few familiar faces on the shortlist for the inaugural Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets. Say that last sentence fast for top tongue twisting effect.
…were saddened by an online poll stating that people were generally frightened of reciting poetry, and that 82% of the particpants could not recite a poem off the top of their heads. We would like to cordially invite the faint of heart to our Listen with… SPL event on Wednesday 17 June in order to feel the poetic love.
…, on a related note, had a nosy at Patrick West’s questioning piece, ‘Why are so many people blank about verse?’
…got all thrilled, in that Possession kind of way, at the news that three unpublished poems by WH Auden have surfaced in the archives of the British Film Institute more than 70 years after they were written…
…were visited by friends of friends, and were charmed to discover that their 6 month old baby loves having poetry read to her.
…urge you to support Salt Publishing through difficult times by buying just one book
…are loving that Friday feeling! Happy weekend all!
May 21, 2009
The inaugural Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets has been released by the British Library, in partnership with the Poetry Book Society and with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust.
A total of six poets and four publishers from over 120 entries have been shortlisted for the two awards, worth £5,000 each. They are:
Poetry Award shortlist– for an outstanding work of poetry published in pamphlet form in the UK during 2008:
* Bone Song by Polly Atkin (Aussteiger Publications)
* The Shortest Days by Elizabeth Burns (Galdragon Press)
* That Water Speaks in Tongues by Siobhán Campbell (Templar Poetry)
* Milk by Sarah Jackson (Pighog)
* whichever music by Kate Potts (tall-lighthouse)
* quot by seekers of lice (self-published)
Publishers’ Award shortlist – for an outstanding UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form, on the basis of their publishing programme in 2008:
The shortlist was judged by poet and performer Ian McMillan, poet and author Jackie Kay and Richard Price, poet and Head of Modern British Collections at the British Library. The winners will be announced at a Readings and Award Ceremony at the British Library at 6.30pm on 24 June. Tickets are available online or from the box office on 01937 546 546. Our congrats to our friends HN and EB…
More lovely musings upon the pamphlet…
May 21, 2009
Ever the sleuth, Lizzie has come up with more detective goods concerning WM Cadenhead’s Maggie, & Other Poems. Awaiting in my inbox on arrival this morning from DI MacGregor: ”there is of course a poetry link to Cadenhead’s, as mentioned in their own website [viz: 'Whilst not much is known of George Duncan, a great deal is on record about his brother-in-law, WM Cadenhead. It must be said that this is not because of his distinction as a vintner but because he was a local poet of renown throughout the Victorian era'.] William Cadenhead was a popular poet. Here are the entries in which he appears on our catalogue.
His poem ‘Kitty Brewster’ was included in an anthology as recently as 2001. Kitty Brewster? The whisky merchant wrote a poem in praise of a brewer? Yes, he did: ‘Her dram was good, but O, her ale / ‘Twas it that did her credit.’ !”
May 20, 2009
This is the wee dog who, most days, gently guards the window of WM Cadenhead‘s, our neighbouring purveyor of fine whiskies, on the Canongate. Actually, he just lies there and peers out amiably. Today as Lizzie made her way back down the Canongate
from an errand, she overheard a little school girl ask her teacher – Is that Greyfriars Bobby, miss? Gold star for effort, and not far from his final resting point at all.
It reminded of the time when, welcomed to the Scottish Poetry Library, a group of awed pre-schoolers were asked what they thought they’d find within. Much lip-licking and brow-furrowing and wide-eyed gazing around, and then …“A cat!”…
Postscript: Lizzie has just read this and I stand corrected!: he’s a she who goes by the name of Maggie… Cadenhead’s Maggie?
May 19, 2009
Heading up only our second interview-in-residence, we give you Tim Turnbull. Pinched directly from the lovely Donut Press website, Tim was born in North Yorkshire in 1960 and lives in Scotland. He worked in forestry before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University in 2002.
He was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Bursary in 2004, and in January 2006 won the £10,000 Arts Foundation Performance Poetry Fellowship, the first of its kind in the UK. He has published two short collections, Work (Mews Press, 2001) and What was that? (Donut Press, 2004), and his first full collection, Stranded in Sub-Atomica (Donut Press), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Tim recently published es lebt!! (roughbooks, 2009), a selection of his poems in English and German translation.
Where have you come from?
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery, this afternoon, and a splendid place it is too. In the longer term, from Yorkshire via Sussex, Cumbria and Tottenham. Artistically, from writing shouty, bad tempered songs to slightly more sophisticated, though no less fractious, poetry.
What books/music/influences got you into writing?
I’m reading the 1996 Canongate version of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger at the moment and am alarmed to find that the Picador edition I picked up in the eighties, (I had a girlfriend who was learning Norwegian), might have put ideas into my head. It’s a good job that you can never meet your younger self. I was always a big fan of Sparks, Ron Mael’s lyrics and of course his wonderful moustache.
Is it harder to write prose or poetry?
Prose, as I’m finding at the moment, because there’s more of it. You can’t obsess over a couple of hundred words for several weeks and count that as work. I’m working on a couple of prose things at the moment so come back to me on this one in about a year.
If there was a limit, what’s the one poem you’d carry with you, mentally or actually, and why?
I’m torn between The Ballad of Eskimo Nell and Paradise Lost. It’s a tough call.
Who’d play you in a film of your life?
James Stewart, the only actor gangling enough. In truth I’d like to be James Stewart. He’s my hero.
Describe yourself as a type of cheese; a city; a decade.
Wensleydale: creamy but a little sour; Ripon: no one can quite believe it is a city; the thirties: low, dishonest but with a matinee idol moustache.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever done and why?
That’s probably the Arts Foundation’s Contenders gig at the Purcell Room, not for the money I won, the prestige or the venue but because, out in the darkness of the auditorium, I could hear Ian McMillan laughing.
If you had to attend a fancy dress party in which the theme was ‘come dressed as a poem’, which poem would you choose, and how would you dress it?
‘The Mask of Anarchy’ by Shelley. I’d come as Sidmouth, riding on a crocodile. It would be a stunning entrance but a health and safety nightmare.
What’s your favourite kind of donut?
I’m not in favour donuts on the whole, except in a blood sugar emergency when it would have to be strawberry jam.
…to be trifled with.
Exactly what is it you dig for?
Fire, victory and to get a fine tilth in the vegetable patch.
What CDs would be left in your collection if your car was broken into?
I don’t have a CD player in the car; I’m still on cassettes. I would hope they’d leave the mix-tape of 80s rockabilly with Restless’ version of the Pointer Sisters’ hit, Neutron Dance. It’s not available anywhere in any other format.
In your opinion, what happened to the art of the moustache?
It was brought into disrepute in the sixties and seventies by bohemians, gigolos and swingers. I noticed a few inappropriate Frenchified, nineteenth century efforts on Shoreditch Twits (as I think they’re called) when I was in London the other week. I think the youth should look to classic role models like Duke Ellington, David Niven and Clark Gable. Not enough thought goes into moustaches these days. I’m a great admirer of Brian Johnstone’s moustache, which he says was inspired by R. L. Stevenson.
You’re doing a launch here in the SPL. Tell us more…
We’re launching the new collection Caligula on Ice and Other Poems from Donut at the SPL along with my old mate Tim Wells new book Rougher Yet. The books arrived a couple of weeks ago and I was knocked out. Liam Relph, the designer, has done a knockout job on them. Folks should buy them for Liam’s work, never mind the poetry. Come and have a look on Thursday.
With the Caligula collection out of the way I’m determined to really get going with this bloody novel. It’s about a Goth band called Kunstlicht who live in my head, and monsters. I’m trying to make their music on the computer as well (from bits of chopped up Wagner and Symbolist poetry). Then I’ve got Latitude festival this summer and Basel and Leipzig, so far, for the German book in the autumn.
We hope you’ll join us for Tim and Tim’s launch, here at the SPL on Thursday 21 May at 7pm…
May 17, 2009
Ears at the ready, Poetry Listeners: W N Herbert explores the work of Edwin Morgan on BBC Radio 3′s The Essay on Wednesday 20 May at 11pm. According to the BBC, ‘according to Herbert, Morgan is the poet who articulates most fully how variable Scottish poetry can be, and how distinct from English and Irish writing it is. With both Herbert and Morgan reading examples of their own work.’
On an Edwin Morgan note, our new archive website is up and running! Check it out…
And on a BBC note, this poetry spy watched ‘Ian Hislop’s Changing of the Bard’ this morning on BBC iPlayer (quick! you can view it until Saturday 23 May), and rather interesting it was too. Fascinating to discover the ways in which the most recent laureates have utilised the modern media available to them: Tennyson the photograph, Masefield the LP and Motion the internet in establishing the Poetry Archive. Also, who’d have thunk, that Tennyson was one of the great celebs of his day; Farringdon featured highly on the list of what to see on the Isle of Wight , with droves turning up to climb his trees for a better view, and picking his flowers…
We’re closed for Victoria Day tomorrow, so till Tuesday, happy Mondays…
May 15, 2009
We’re pleased to bring you our Happenings this gusty Friday…
Stephen Raw brought his paints to the library on May 7 for a Burns Banner workshop. We were delighted to welcome contributions from writers, a crew of first year artists from the eca and the SPL massif… You can see more snaps from other workshops, and find out how you can be involved (you know you want to!), over at the Burns Banner website.
On a Burns note, it was a treat to find the opinions of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell on the great bard.
We were pleased to be alerted to this website vending all manner of things librarian, including the ‘Polite Librarian’ mug…
Lilias and I attended the launch of Reel Iraq last night at the Roxy Art House. What a space, what music, what a crowd, and oh us, what splendid food! Flat breads, dates, dips and teas. Have a look at the wonders offered in the full programme. We pity the fool who misses out…
We pondered bearded poets and further to the point asked ourselves whatever happened to the moustache?
The dates for BBC’s Poetry Season are out! Grab your popcorn and away we go!
We found out we’re a respectable No. 21 in the Twitter Library League, which includes the world…
We’re limbering up for the future and we’re wondering what poems YOU can’t do without, on which more next week… A bonny, rainproof weekend to all!