Tim TurnbullHeading 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.

Love isn’t…?

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.

What’s next?

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…

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…

Happenings 6

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!

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: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Pages/default.aspx

For further details contact Professor Laura Marcus, email: laura.marcus@ed.ac.uk.  

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 (laura.marcus@ed.ac.uk).

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.