Congratulations to our poet friends on this year’s Callum Macdonald Memorial Award (CMMA) for poetry pamphlet publishing in Scotland, in partnership with The National Library of Scotland

The short listed entries are:

Hinkum Clinkum, by Sheena Blackhall, published in Aberdeen by Malfranteaux Concepts.
Hope/Truth by Priscilla Chueng-Nainby, published in Edinburgh by Lemongrass Hut.
Postcards from the Hedge by Hugh McMillan, published in Dumfries by Roncadora Press
Ring O’Sangs by Mary Johnston, published in Bonnyrigg by Poetry Monthly.
Sky Blue Notebook from the Pyrenees by Jayne Wilding, published in Dunbar by Calder Wood Press.
Slaughtering Beetroot, by Angela McSeveney, published in Edinburgh by Mariscat Press
The Flood, by Alistair McDonald, published in Dunoon by Classical Head Press

The judges were delighted with the great variety of the 38 entries. Among the number, Tessa Ransford OBE commented ‘we received everything from the handmade to the more professionally produced, Scottish Arts Council-funded productions. There are a set of translations from German into Scots, a Chinese-inspired collection, and one of Scots rhymes for children.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on Friday 29 May at 6pm. All of the entries will be on display at the event, where the winner stands to receive £750 in prize money and custody of the Callum Macdonald Memorial Quaich.

Poème chocolat

May 14, 2009

Just as we were polishing off the last of the jaffa cakes, Lilias drew our attention to Pierre Martory (1920 – 1998) and his resonant ‘Poème chocolat’, part of his dual-language edition of The Landscapist (Carcanet, 2008). The last few lines seemed particularly worthy of mention:

But seriously
I was trying to find at the base of my cerebral convulsions
The word poem
And I always found chocolate.

Hear hear.

Adler Blue Bird



The Studentship

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded Collaborative PhD Research Studentship, held jointly by the University of Edinburgh department of English Literature and the Scottish Poetry Library, for research on ‘Culture in Conflict: The Moment of Concrete and the Development of Scottish Poetics’.  The project will focus on the period 1960-1980, exploring the contributions of  Edwin Morgan and Ian Hamilton Finlay to the shaping of a Scottish response to the ‘concrete international’ and the development of ‘concrete’ techniques into other forms of narrative and visual texts.  

The studentship offers an outstanding opportunity to pursue a fully-funded PhD while gaining work experience in research-related areas, including training in library archive management and exhibition curation.  The studentship is funded for three years and will begin in September or October 2009.

Candidates should have a relevant undergraduate degree and should have completed a postgraduate master’s degree by September 2009.

AHRC website:

For further details contact Professor Laura Marcus, email:  

Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae, outlining qualifications for the studentship and the names and contact details of two academic referees.   They should also submit a writing sample (for example, a Masters’ programme term paper or a chapter of a dissertation).    Applications should be submitted to: Professor Laura Marcus, English Literature, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, David Hume Tower, George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JX (

Closing date for applications:  Monday June 8th.  Interviews will be held at the beginning of July.

Ryan's beard“Typifying a once-popular, but nowadays seldom-encountered species of turn-of-the-century ephemera, Poets Ranked by Beard Weight has become a rarity much prized by bibliophiles, and one that still stands out as a particular curiosity among the many colorful curiosities of the period…”

Read the full article, Poets Ranked by Beard Weight, with pictures…

Our Ryan in Residence, left, sports a beard. Gravity (UPI Rating) unknown.

Jaffa O’Clock

May 13, 2009

jaffa cakes

A member of our library support team* brought these mini jaffas today. Julie’s conjured them out just in time for tea. I mention them merely because we’ve not had any cake (or biscuit chat, if you care to be pedantic) for a while, and it seemed timely. We wouldn’t want to seem remiss in our gastronomic duties.
*Julie’s husband David

Bogcotton by Juliet Rees

We were delighted today to read that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Poetry, Music and Spoken Word evening in the White House last night. ‘Demonstrating how communication is a constant throughout the ages,  the hope is also that this evening’s gathering helps ensure that all voices are heard, particularly voices that are often not heard.’ Here’s a gossipy account of the evening courtesy of the New York Times. Oh that we could’ve gatecrashed!

But, meanwhile, in gusty Edinburgh, something a little bit delightful that we can and will attend! Hamish Whyte and Diana Hendry will be selling poetical wares on Sunday 17 May from 2pm – 5pm as part of the Stockbridge colonies annual yard sale. Hamish tells us that there will be books for sale (mariscat and others) at incredibly cheap prices plus original poems (signed and unsigned copies available), ephemera etc.  They hope also to have a poetry tree (like a cloutie tree) and may even give readings on request. Coupled with the Botanics Annual Plant Sale nearby on the same afternoon, there’s the green-fingered poetry lovers’ Sunday afternoon catered for…

What we love is to see poetry getting out and about, schmoozing, sticking its nose into unusual places and being read and heard. Hurrah for Obama, Hamish and Diana!

Haggis and us

May 11, 2009


The day Haggises invaded the SPL

You may not know, but the Scottish Poetry Library had a hand in the invention of Macsween‘s vegetarian haggis! As we explained in issue 4 of our Poetry Reader: “The inaugural party for the SPL saw the birth not only of a new national organisation, but a new national dish.  Vegetarian haggis, as created by Meg Stiven and Gowan Calder and packed in plastic by John Macsween of Edinburgh, proved such a success that Macsween developed the recipe for commercial use. The mix of ‘vegetable margarine, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, carrots, turnip and mushrooms; together with the traditional oatmeal, onions and our special blend of spices and seasoning’ is now sold all over Scotland, and Macsween remain long-standing and generous supporters of the SPL.”

It is lovely to see how veggie haggis has taken off and we are additionally delighted to read of their double whammy at the 2009 Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards. And here’s another treat: for our Best Scottish Poems 2008, Alexander Hutchison was chosen for his magnicifent ‘Surprise, Surprise‘ (from Scales Dog: New and Selected Poems (Salt, 2009)), which takes an entertaining look at the ‘corned, curried and devilled’ future of Scotland’s national dish!

Poems Aloud!

May 10, 2009

Ceilidh PlaceThe rain was coming down in sheets outside by 11pm last night, but inside the refurbed Parlour Bar snug of the Ceilidh Place, the fire was roaring. The evening got off to a fine start with Ullapool’s own Joan Michael reading a poem by Gael Turnbull. We went on to enjoy a glory of diverse treasures: snatches of Frank Kuppner, George MacKay Brown and Somhairle MacGill-Eain, in Gaelic and English. Faith Liddell took Alan Bissett as her prop to perform Matt Fitt‘s ‘Kate O’Shanter’s Tale’, and Andro Linklater addressed James Fenton’s ‘I’m In Paris With You’ to Faith with a theatricality Compton MacKenzie would’ve applauded.. Honorary President of the UBF Donny O’Rourke brought music to the mix in singing Burns’ ‘My Love is like a Red, Red Rose‘ then Alan sang a song his grandfather had written. There was an Icelandic ghost song, a funny short story about a cloak made of midge skins and the sweet singing of Gerda Stevenson and Nancy Nicholson. The evening went with a poetic swing, and one lady expressed her surprise at how time had flown by exclaiming ‘11.50pm?! It’s almost the Sabbath! I better get this gin in me.’ The ceilidh spirit is alive and well in Ullapool!

As mentioned on Thursday, Friday’s trip to Isle Martin was cancelled due to hazardous weather  (Angus Peter Campbell was storm bound in Lochmaddy on Uist for the same reasons). Some of the sea sick among us were not too discomfitted by this, but the resourceful Joan Michael of UBF vanquished disappointment by moving the tour to the Village Hall.  I turn to Ishbel, who visited last year for this picture, taken from the window of one of the abandoned houses there:

An abandoned house on Isle Martin by lovely Ishbel

An abandoned house on Isle Martin by lovely Ishbel

To paint a ‘pen portrait’ of Isle Martin, it is best to steal the words of Andro Linklater, the festival’s enormously entertaining first participant, who lived there while writing his biography of Compton MacKenzie: “the island is roughly 3 miles by 1 mile and shaped like a bulbous, bow-headed whale. There are cliffs down to the sea, and a magical loch where the blow hole would be (both source of drinking water and swimming pool – just make you drink before you swim…) It had a population of 90 – 100 people at its peak. The whale’s tail curves in towards the mainland  with a bay on the east side.” He spoke about ‘Monty’s’ immense theatricality (‘affecting the Gaelic to the people of Barra’), and about his industriousness in founding the Gramophone, the SNP and the Siamese Cat Club…

Mark Wringe took Angus Peter Campbell’s place in reading the Gaelic, and Derrick McClure the Scots of Campbell’s Meas Air Chrannaibh (Fruit on Branches). They followed up with an interesting discussion of the translation process.

Margaret Bennett told tales of Scottish Highland emigrants, during the clearances and the Scottish famine, to Canada, then James Graham, one half of ‘the Posh and Becks of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, sang gorgeous Gaelic laments, collected from singers in the Ullapool area.

In the evening we had Alison Miller and Alice Thompson talking about their intriguingly contrasting novels, Demo (Miller) and The Falconer (Thompson), and a comic tour de force from A L Kennedy on, quite simply, words.

The weather looks almost exactly like the picture below – a calmer Loch Broom than yesterday.  My welly purchase (in which I hirpled to the Loch Broom hardware shop, soddenly pump-shod, and acquired some navy Dunlops) was not timely. A L Kennedy says my dress, jumper and welly combo makes me look like I’m about to feed hens. I thought I was rocking an ‘I Know Where I’m Going!‘ kind of theme…

Loch BroomI’ll be representing the SPL later at Poems Aloud (persuade your Ross-shire relatives to join in!) and will report back from that later…

Disclaimer: I lost my camera battery charger in the nick of time, so I am pilfering these Ullapool snaps from the delightful Ishbel McFarlane. The weather is not doing that today.

Disclaimer: I lost my camera battery charger in the nick of time, so I am pilfering these Ullapool snaps from the delightful Ishbel McFarlane. The weather is not doing that today.

The communications department of the SPL is in Ullapool once more for their splendid book festival. Every year, an SPL-er comes up to chair Poems Aloud (cajoling, encouraging and forcing the assembled to read their favourites). (If no-one feels like reading, I shall simply have to threaten them with a lengthy dramatic rendering of Robert Service‘s ‘The Cremation of Sam Magee‘…) If you’re in the area, it’s at 11pm on Saturday night in the fabulous Ceilidh Place, and please say hello – I am the bespectacled person under ‘Writers and Chairmen’ in the top picture.

From my room in the delightful West House, the view reads thus: lots of Loch Broom, rain, mountains, windy tree tops and a lone seagull, fighting through it all. Factoid!: apparently Loch Broom, in Gaelic, Loch Bhraoin, literally means loch of rain showers, which is apt for today! The Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry has just been sighted departing for  Stornoway. Sadly, the trip to Isle Martin tomorrow has been rejigged, due to the temperature – it’s 8 degrees up here! We shall enjoy a virtual tour, via the village hall instead!

Next stop is the Ceilidh Place for tea, and SPL material stock-upping; supplies of our Edwin Morgan print have been stowed! More soon, including, I hope, a few interviews


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers