Happenings 8

May 29, 2009

Cake!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…

SPL of the Future…

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….

let the storm wash the plates

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’.

~ Robyn

Happenings 7

May 22, 2009

nothing is not giving messages

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.

…like everyone else, thought May a big month for the sisterhood, with Ruth Padel elected Oxford Professor of Poetry.

…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?’

…enjoyed the launch of the works of Mr Tim Turnbull and Mr Tim Wells, and loved the hot new Donut Press products.

…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 gearing up for poems about home being shared over picnics in the Poetry Garden at St Andrew Square for Refugee Week (15 – 21 June). 

…are loving that Friday feeling! Happy weekend all!

pamphletsThe 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:

* HappenStance Press

* Oystercatcher Press

* tall-lighthouse

* Templar Poetry

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…

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 theBobby? 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?