Have you voted yet…?

June 30, 2009

We’re semi-finalists in the Best Arts Project category of the National Lottery Awards. If you haven’t voted yet, maybe Lorraine’s poem will persuade you…

By leaves we live, with votes we grow

 An election is occurring; it’s a chance for poetry
Please vote well, vote firm, vote early – help us win the lottery!

Votes are petrol for our engine and more wind behind our sail
They’ll buy books for all of Scotland, help our library upscale.

We won’t spend it on a duck house, on a moat, or sky tv-
Spread the word and urge your friends to help us win the lottery!

Lorraine is a regular SPL-er. She comes to reading groups and events and can often be found writing poems here at Our Sweet Old Etc. She’s fab.

If you haven’t voted (please vote!) you can do so by dialling 0844 686 7233 or by visiting the National Lottery Awards website and clicking the blue button. The deadline is 10 July.

Berlin roofscapes by Eleanor LivingstoneI’m back from Berlin, with a ‘feine gebäckmischung’ of chocolate biscuits and stories of poets, translators and festivals from Stockholm to South Africa. I didn’t manage to buttonhole Rita Dove with a copy of the SPL leaflet: we use two lines from her praise-poem ‘Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967’, but I feel sure that such an amiable and accomplished poet would be pleased to be quoted in that context.

Conversation with the Director of Poetry International Rotterdam revealed that the Dutch Queen attended the festival’s opening session, marking its 40th anniversary. She stayed for the whole evening and spoke to assorted poets as though she’d actually read their work. Eleanor Livingstone, director of StAnza, remarked – resignedly – that she hadn’t seen Prince William at any StAnza event during his time at St Andrews. (Perhaps someone out there glimpsed him at a late night open mic session?)

On the other hand, right-wing candidates in the recent EU election had singled out PI for the axe, should they come to power. Not such an idle threat these days.

Olga Sedakova (who spoke warmly of her visit to the SPL in 1996), has been teaching in Italy recently and told me that students were rediscovering Dante for themselves, and not only the Inferno, reciting his work in public places. While Jackson Kaujeua from Namibia issued his challenge: ‘poverty is not a calling’ – no one is vowed to it though so many are bound by it.

Everyone in this leafy corner of Berlin was talking about poetry and swapping names of poets to look out for – the best kind of Festival exchange. Poesiefestival Berlin is celebrating its 10th season, finishing on 5 July with a staging of Les Murray’s narrative poem, Fredy Neptune: Fredy, of course, includes Berlin and Australia in his epic life voyage. I was sorry not to see out the week, but we’ve got Jen Hadfield reading here on Thursday evening, and I’m happy to be back for that.

~ Robyn

Alexander McCall Smith’s leaf

Bananas dipped in dark chocolate: a present in the kitchen which Jane said tasted ominously like barbeques

Concrete poetry excitements forthcoming, in collaboration with the Ingleby Gallery

Dewey decimal, Dave learns the ropes

Edwin Morgan in our forthcoming Poetry Reader…; Excitement* (*see W)

Fun, like holding meetings on the terrace because of the nice weather

George Mackay Brown sales up 844.4% as a result of the BBC ‘Hamnavoe’ episode

Heaving boxes out of the window because it was bright and they were warm

Ivor Cutler ruminations…

Jane typesetting the Poetry Reader

Kevin Cadwallender agrees to aid us in an exciting poetical adventure

Lemon drizzle cake for Friday tea; Lizzie’s on holiday

Michael Marks Pamphlet Award winners announced

Nothing But the Poem on Monday with Ryan and 5 others

Only a week to go till our visit from Jen Hadfield on Thursday 2 July; our Lilias speechifies well down in Melrose last weekend at the book awards

Paul Muldoon on Colbert Nation. Will ‘Tea’ really become the number one poem in Amercia?

Quite a lot of meetings this week

Robyn departs to Berlin this morning for the Berlin Poetry Festival. Jealousy in SPL HQ!

Someone leaves their sunglasses behind…

…two chaps find them and the owner is pleased

‘Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea’ ~ Henry James

We’re semi-finalists in the Best Project Category of the National Lottery Awards!

X marks the spot where baby pigeons are nesting

Yesterday we were excited to find @LRBcakeshop on Twitter

Zounds! It’s time to go!

Carry a Poem…

June 26, 2009

Jane carries a poemOk, so Jane doesn’t actually carry the poem that means the most to her around in a cardboard box, but she does have it in her purse.

Robyn’s is in her diary. Mine’s in my head.

We want to know the poem that means the most to you. We want the story that goes with it. And we want to know how you carry it.

We’re searching for people’s most treasured poems – and we need your help. Can you spare five minutes to let us know about a poem that means a lot to you? Maybe it’s one you learned at school, and still know by heart. It could be a poem that was recited at your wedding, or that one that offered some consolation. Perhaps it calls to mind a particular place that’s special to you, or just cheers you up every time you read it. You might love your poem for its comforting familiarity, or its ability to unsettle you; because it takes you right inside yourself, or right outside; because it captures the way you see things, or helps you see things afresh.

As part of our ‘Carry a Poem’ campaign, we’re collecting people’s tales about poems that matter to them. We’re encouraging everyone to think about their vital poems and the stories that lie behind them, and we’re keen to learn about the poem choices of people all over Scotland, from all walks of life.

You’ll be able to read and listen to some of these poems and stories on our website, and maybe even in a publication of some kind. Your choice will strike a chord with people you’ve never met – and maybe you’ll discover a new treasured poem to carry with you.

– If you could only choose one poem to carry with you, what would it be? It can be by any poet, from any country and in any language.

 – Can you tell us about when you first heard or read your chosen poem? What did it make you think, see or feel? And what does it mean to you now?

 – Do you already carry it with you in any way – in your wallet or purse? In your diary? In your head or in your heart?

Because Colbert said so

June 25, 2009

This video of Paul Muldoon appearing on Stephen Colbert‘s Colbert Nation was brought to our attention the other day via Twitter. In it, after a chat about poetry and why we still need it, (and how Muldoon puts food on the table with it) he and Stephen ‘I got a black belt in haiku’ Colbert recite Muldoon’s poem ‘Tea’ together, ‘to make it the number one poem in America’.

Colbert succeeded in making Robert Pinsky’s ‘Samurai Song’ the number 1 poem in America in 2007.

We put it on Facebook and it did the rounds of the SPL. Robyn has just reported back, having found it immensely entertaining. But it made us ponder sadly the dearth of prime time slots afforded poets in Britain. Poetry is instead packed into one big season, singled out as something we should like, presupposing that few do, instead of dropped on the radio after the weather or played before Eastenders. Do we have an equivalent of Colbert? Someone who makes something popular by mere mention? We couldn’t think of anyone…

Today on Amazon.com, Muldoon’s Madoc: A Mystery is is a list-topper, the search term ‘Muldoon tea’ guesses itself as soon as you complete ‘Muldoon’, and one Amazon reviewer writes: ‘Stephen Colbert read from this with Paul Muldoon. I didn’t really care for the poem, but if Stephen Colbert reads it it must be a 5/5.’

And the winners are…

June 25, 2009

Elizabeth Burns's The Shortest Days (Galdragon Press)The winners for the inaugural Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets have been announced and they are…

Elizabeth Burns for The Shortest Days (Galdragon Press) and Oystercatcher Press, as best UK poetry publisher. The winners were announced last night (24th June). Both winners receive £5,000.

“Ian McMillan, chair of the judges, said: “Elizabeth Burns is an outstanding winner from a very strong shortlist because of the maturity and completeness of this work which fits the pamphlet form perfectly. Oystercatcher Press feels like a publisher taking risks with older and newer writers from outside the perceived centre of British poetry. What is more, their output is ‘pamphlety’ in the extreme.”  – From Bookseller.com

Here’s a lovely piece that somehow passed us by the first time round, by one of the Michael Marks judges Jackie Kay on the pamphlet.

Did you know that we have a room full of them here at the SPL ? Pamphlets being slips of things, they are easily lost among the more bruising spines on our shelves. They are stored upstairs in pamphlet boxes instead.

Charles Causley's keysCharles Causley (1917 – 2003) has popped up a few times in the past week or two. The first was when Lizzie received an enquiry: the enquirer knew the poem to be about ‘being old and nearing the end of life’, involving ‘a vision of the poet being a young boy again at the side of a river and his parents as he remembers them when he was young are on the other side calling over to him that its not too difficult to cross over to them’.  ‘Mother in her straw hat’ stuck out, and the whole was redelivered to mind after being ‘read by the poet on a Radio 4 programme about a month ago’. Lizzie was a little stumped and sent it round everyone else, and Robyn came back with this: ‘Yes, I know this one! It’s a wonderful poem by Charles Causley, called ‘Eden Rock’ – it’s the last poem in the Collected.’ Precise!

Today, in the course of a meeting about W S Graham, there Charles Causley was again!; one of the meetees happened to have upon his person the keys to Causley’s house (‘named for the Saxon spring,/ Stands by the sour farmyard, the long – / Dry lip that once was Sibard’s Well’) in Launceston in Cornwall. The disarmingly normal, blue-sheathed Yale key above will click you through to a little virtual tour of the exterior and study, with piano, tapestry cushions and flock wallpaper.