This week behind the scenes at the library:

Julie started to strike our Edwin Morgan exhibition, to make room for the late, great Ivor Cutler and our summer exhibition, A Stuggy Pren

We are in the throes of organising the unveiling of the Burns Banner, a project which has taken artist Stephen Raw the length and breadth of the country and produced over 600 letters from places as far flung as the Antarctic! You can see the glorious efforts people made at our Burns Banner website!

Along with the lovely Anna from Edinburgh City of Literature, we helped the guys at JUMP Marketing come up with quotes for some of the windows on St Andrew Square! Watch this space – we’ll be delighted to show you pictures when they’re in place…

Lizzie and Julie gave a tour of the library to the very eminent Indian historian Professor Baron De and a delegation from Kolkata.

We bade a fond farewell to Lisa – our Edwin Morgan Archivist. Hopefully we’ll get a mini interview in with her next week, before she leaves, about her role in the archive and what she plans to do next. We used her imminent departure as an excuse to visit our new local pub, Holyrood 9A, and found ourselves very impressed with the cherry beer. This afternoon we also indulged in a tea party with a kick of pink fizz! We also enjoyed two types of cake: the ever-wonderful lemon drizzle, and a this is no ordinary Swiss roll, this is an M&S cappuccino Swiss roll!

Till next week! Good weekends all!

Salt Benefit!

July 28, 2009

Red Squirrel Press are throwing a nice big shindy in aid of Salt Publishing this Thursday (30 July) from 7pm till 9pm in the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith. Featuring readings from Rob A MacKenzie, Kevin Cadwallender, J L Williams, Colin Donati, Anita Govan, Steve Urwin, James Oates and Alistair Robinson, some of them are published by Salt and some are friends and supporters.


Salt recently announced that without a significant injection into its
cash resources it would be facing a credit crunch disaster, so the Red Squirrels, based in Northumberland and with a new Scottish arm focusing on vibrant poetry, decided to throw this FUNdraiser in their honour. Everyone is welcome, and entry is free, but donations are heartily encouraged to help Salt through these difficult times. The more the very merrier!

In the past week or two, we have: enjoyed the launch of Jane McKie‘s When the Sun Turns Green; welcomed international students in Edinburgh for SUISS (Scottish Universities’ International Summer School) for Lizzie’s annual tour, talk and read around (this year we had poems read in Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Dutch and Catalan);  gratefully received a gift for teatime of Kendal gingerbread cake/biscuit from Alexei, one of our volunteers; waved Robyn off on her holidays; marvelled at the big rain!; had plenty of meetings; pondered our Carry a Poem campaign in more depth; discussed how the reopening and rebranding of the nearby Holyrood Tavern would impinge favourably upon future staff outings; enjoyed interviewing Jen Hadfield; discussed the Forward Prize shortlists; gasped at this Carol Ann Duffy poem; sold Scottish poetry books to tourists; braced ourselves for the Gathering this weekend and our poetical involvement with the poetry competition; prepared for more concrete poetry tomorrow at 11am; tweeted; got excited about linen bags!

Jen HadfieldIt’s a treat to have our Poet of the Month Jen Hadfield dispensing some Sweet Old Etceteras behind the scenes with us, particularly after her lovely performance here at the SPL on 2 July. She sandwiched a fascinating discussion about language and home with Robyn and the assembled between readings from her work, beginning with the eponymous poem in Nigh-No-Place and ending on ‘Paternoster’, and all while perched atop a bar stool from the Waverley Bar. 

She lives in Shetland. Of her two books published by Bloodaxe, Almanacs was written in Shetland and the Western Isles in 2002 thanks to a bursary from the Scottish Arts Council, and it won an Eric Gregory Award in 2003. Nigh-No-Place, written in Canada and Shetland, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2007 and won the T S Eliot Prize for poetry in 2008. 

How is it with you now?

Trying to hang onto the good example of the lasses I was swimming with yesterday at Bannaminn Beach. It’s not as cold as you think, raised and set down by the waves. Beautiful bright water like laughing gas, jaggedy cliffs, and midget plaice scooting about in the shallows. 

Who or what got you writing?

Places usually, place-love…the here-and-now, as if the present tense is always an apprehension of loss. 

What I love…

Walking when the air’s the same temperature as my skin and feels like second skin, oversleeping and waking up in a pre-linguistic state, and so, writing; Owl, my slubby cat – a part of my identity…um…the surprise of a pipefish, fluttering barnacle; watching the garlic grow; my dear folk; trying to photograph hummingbirds. Singing lessons.  Taking on too much.

What I hate…

Taking on too much. Putting non-work before my dear folk. Cabbage-root fly, the buggers.  Being a fretter.

Where’s your native home?

In an ideal world, in the here-and-now, writing. Or in the kitchen of our Lil.  


Tell us more about your art.

Can I tell you more about my cat? Wee shouty fella when it comes foodtime, but so courteous that when once he growled at me by mistake, he came over all remorseful. Sort of oval shaped, in his famous furry grey pyjamas.

The art. Not art just now. I keep trying to paint, I don’t know why, I’m rubbish at it. What seems to come easy is making shapes in wire; or puppets out of broomhandles. The trick seems to be not to try. Whatever I make seems to tie in with the writing about homeplace.

The fancy dress theme is ‘Come as a Poem’. Which poem would you come as and how?

‘I Will Lend You Malcolm’ (W S Graham). In snow-goggles, hello and goodbye like someone who’s not spoken in a long time.

How many seas?

More than I’ll ever visit, unlike my sister…probably…

What’s your poetry for?

That would be the prescription to keep me in the here-and-now. Making me wonder where I am when I’m not writing.

Best impression of Owl?


Describe yourself as a bird; a cake; an item of clothing.

Um, a frumpy little snipe, brink of spring;  nakedness. Not in any salacious way; but clothes ARE perplexing. I’m not really a cake person. A suet-dumpling, or wishbone, I’d say.

What were you meant to do?

Just this, thanks to my very brave and generous family. 

Where to now?

To hang out the washing I think, and answer some emails.

Forward thinking

July 23, 2009

Forward cover 2009The Forward Prize shortlists have been announced, after ‘a record number of submissions’. The £10,000 Best Collection category  is a who’s who of contemporary poetry titans: Don Paterson for his yet to-be-published Rain; Peter Porter for his 18th collection, Better Than God; Glyn Maxwell for his ninth collection Hide Now; Christopher Reid for A Scattering, the first book published by Arete Magazine edited by Craig Raine; Hugo Williams for his autobiographical West End Final and Sharon Olds for One Secret Thing.

In the Best First Collection category are: Wordsworth Trust’s Poet in Residence Emma Jones for The Striped WorldSiân Hughes, a postgraduate student at Warwick who is nominated for The Missing; Swansea-born Meirion Jordan for Moonrise; Lorraine Mariner, who works at the Southbank Centre’s Poetry Library, for Furniture; JO Morgan for Natural Mechanical, a book-length poem charting the self-education of Iain “Rocky” Rockcliffe as he truants from his school on Skye; and Meghan O’Rourke for Halflife.

The prize for best single poem will be contested by Paul Farley for ‘Moles’; Michael Longley for ‘Visiting Stanley Kunitz’; Robin Robertson for ‘At Roane Road’; Elizabeth Speller for ‘Finistere’; George Szirtes for ‘Song’; and CK Williams for ‘Either/Or’.

Many of the shortlisted will be appearing in Edinburgh this festival: at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 23 August at 7pm, Sharon Olds; Don Paterson, reading alongside John Burnside, will be there on Sunday 29 August at 2.30pm; Peter Porter and Hugo Williams are reading with CK Stead on Saturday 22 August at 10.15am; Emma Jones is reading there with Gillian Clarke and Lorna Crozier on Monday 24 August at 10.15am; Robin Robertson with Michael Symmons Roberts on Sunday 23 August at 4.30pm. J O Morgan will read from Natural Mechanical and discuss book binding at the West Port Book Festival on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 August. Emma Jones is conducting a residential weekend course in Cumbria with Jacob Polley in November.

New writers?

July 22, 2009

SBT logoWe’re very happy to flag this up on behalf of our pals up the road at the Scottish Book Trust: the New Writers Awards (formerly the Scottish Arts Council New Writers Bursaries) will provide eight  unpublished writers with financial support to enable them to concentrate on their work, as well as providing professional guidance to move towards publication. This includes all you new poets out there!

Recipients will receive a cash award of £2,000, and, in addition, Scottish Book Trust will provide tailored professional development support, e.g. mentoring or professional development planning, or an advice session with a publisher/agent. Scottish Book Trust will also provide networking opportunities with publishers/agents. New Writers will be given three months to work on their material before moving forward with professional development support.

Tell me more!

If you’re wondering what to do with your Sunday (19 July) wonder no further: you’re all invited to The Meadows for THE BIG LUNCH

You may think, ‘gasp, what short notice!’ but fret not, you can still make it!
It is being organised as part of the nationwide ‘Big Lunch Project’ (part of the Eden Project), to encourage people who spend too much time cooped up inside to spend a day collectively enjoying food, laughter, play, music, art and conversation.
Picnics are being organised all over the country to promote spending time outside, so please do come along. It’s a great way to meet new people and do something a little different with your Sunday.
Needed: FOOD  (to feed the hungry, and picnic the poor) A picnic just ain’t a picnic without the food, so bring some for yourself and a little for someone else just in case.
DECORATIONS  (bunting, picnic blankets, sparklers, anything for an atmosphere)
MUSIC  Bring whatever you got, be it a voice, a harp, a harmonium, or an ipod with wicked speakers. We want music to make the day sound pretty. The plan is to get a jam session/open mic situation going so PLEASE get involved if you can, even if it’s just to shake an egg.
BOOKS  Bring inspiring things to read (aloud/in your head, it’s up to you)and share them with others.
ART  Big Lunch want to encourage creativity of all forms, so bring along your paper and pens, markers, sketch pads, glitter, pritt stick, paints and canvas. We are going to get hold of a large amount of roll out paper on which people can draw and document the day in mural form.

Big Lunch at Meadows