June 3, 2009
What do you call a gathering of pamphleteers? Actually, a gathering is a printing term (for a number of signatures – a signature being one piece of paper folded up to make many pages, often 8 pages) so perhaps that will do as it stands. There we were, gathered, on a hot Edinburgh Friday (29 May) – rare enough in itself – at the National Library of Scotland, browsing and gossiping, drinking and nibbling, generally enjoying ourselves in a slightly sticky, literary way. Wondering, of course, who would be carrying off the Quaich awarded to the poet winning the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award for 2009.
Once Lady Marks — principal sponsor of the award through the Michael Marks Charitable Trust – had arrived, it could all get underway. Mercifully – given the heat and the speculation – the speeches were brief. Lady Marks, finding herself in the Athens of the North, made apt and encouraging references to the battles of Thermopylae and Marathon in referring to pamphleteers’ redoubtable stand against the vast market forces ranged against them. She congratulated the runners-up Jayne Wilding and her publisher Colin Will for Sky blue notebook from the Pyrenees (the text printed in sky-blue ink), and Mary Johnston for A Ring O Sangs. Mary referred to her own publication as ‘just translations’. But she knows better than to describe that noble endeavour as ‘just’ translating again!
The Quaich was carried off by Hugh McMillan and his publisher Hugh Bryden for Postcards From the Hedge. Hugh took up the battle theme by reading us his ‘Three Letters to McMhaolain mor from a tenant, 1745-46’: ‘I am sorry to have missed you at Culloden / but I had an apex ticket and had to return / or pay a heavy supplement….’ You don’t often find Culloden and laughter in the same gathering, so it was a rare note on which to end a good evening.
June 3, 2009
The Itinerant Poetry Librarian has been traversing the world on a shoestring continuously since May 2006. In short: “FAQs: • Yes we carry our entire life and the library with us as we go • Yes, it is quite heavy • No, we’re not mad. As Charles Simic said, ‘But what if poets are not crazy?’ That’s the spirit boyo!”
‘They’ (though, as far as we can gather, she mostly employs the royal we) are equipped with a free public library, which is installed with librarian, and archives the sounds, poems and poetry of the cities, peoples and countries she meets.
They’ve now clocked up over 1000 hours of public library service, in 11 countries & 21 cities worldwide, in over 150 different locations. That’s a lot of energy and love to the power of poetry and the wonder of libraries. We say brava.
She’s got a new website; an excellent place to pootle about, it was particularly lovely to read the notes people have left her and the random factoids (why does Leipzig have two National Libraries of Germany based there? why does the Manchester Central Library have a cool dome structure and an entire floor dedicated to Chinese language books?) about libraries she’s visited. Edinburgh next…?