Podcast Number 4!

August 31, 2009

headphonesWe’re pleased to announce that podcast number four is now ready and live for your listening pleasure! ‘Beyond the Boundaries’ finds our intrepid Ryan in conversation with sculptor Michael Bowdidge about William Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’; poet Robert Alan Jamieson talking about his ode to Shetland – collection Nort Atlantik Drift and an audio sequence from the DVD of the same name. Saint Jude’s Infirmary serenade us with ‘Tacoma Radar’ featuring Jack Vettriano from their brand new album, This Has Been the Death of Us and talk poetry, music and Scotland. There’s some wonderful Pessoa in there, a moving snippet by Harry Smart, a bit about donkeys and some chat about Nothing but the Poem. Tasty jazz courtesy of Ewen Maclean of multitalented musical ensemble  The Hale Clamjamphrey pulls the whole thing together delightfully. A thousand thanks, as ever, to Colin Fraser of Anon Magazine for his wonderful editing, production and tinkering.

How do? You can either stream it directly from our website, or download via iTunes or from Podomatic. It’s as easy as 1,2,3. We hope you’ll decide to subscribe: Ryan has been gathering new content like a thing that gathers nuts in May, and we’re excited! We don’t like poetry, we love it!

Berlin WallOn Sunday at 4.30pm, a unique quartet of international poets will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to showcase new work created under the presiding spirit of Robert Burns. They’ll have made the journey from Crear, where they’ve been workshopping together all week, and they are Scotland’s Donny O’Rourke, from Germany, Michael Augustin and Sujata BhattIoana Ieronim from Romania and Wojciech Bonowicz from Poland. Robyn’s been with them all week, and if her reports from the north are anything to go by, this event, marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, should be marvellous. Naturally, we will report back if you can’t be there! Hope you’ve all been having a poetry-tastic festival. A few more days to cram stuff in, hurray!

Join us in the garden…

August 25, 2009

We’re back in St Andrew Square tomorrow for a festivally, poetry bonanza from 12pm – 3pm. Ryan’s toting a few readers along who’ll serenade you with sweet poetry and there’ll be a chance to screen-print your own poem too. Also, we’ll be able to coo at the massive lines from poetry adorning the abandoned windows in the square. Along with Edinburgh City of Literature‘s Anna, we helped whittle the choices down to the ones you’ll see before you for this project with Jump Marketing and Essential Edinburgh. There’s Robert Louis Stevenson, Norman MacCaig, G K Chesterton to name but a few.

Forecast is threatening rain, but poetry’s for life, not just for fair weather! Don your wellies and join us!


August 24, 2009

Over the past few weeks, we’ve indulged in events activity with the best of them. We’ve already discussed Mike Russell’s Selected Works of Wednesday past, and Friday brought our Present Poets and Past Makars event, also at the EIBF. Jen Hadfield, Liz Lochhead and Aonghas MacNeacail were the present poets and Sorley MacLean, Norman MacCaig and Naomi Mitchison among the past makars. It was a lovely event, in which the three poets read their work, and those of the others, beautifully. Of particular note was Jen’s wonderful recitation of Mitchison’s ‘The Alban Goes Out: 1939’ – a poem I’d never heard and had to investigate on my return to the library; Liz’s stories about being the sole woman poet among the men when she first started writing in the 70s, and MacCaig’s kindness and gossip, and Aonghas’s lovely poem written to the SPL.

On Friday eve back at the SPL (after a mint choc chip ice cream!) we enjoyed ‘Movement and Stillness’, an event which explored our poetic interaction with the natural world featuring contemporary & folk music (bluegrass, blues, British folk), poetry and poetic-prose from North America and the British Isles. Readers and musicians were Sarah Cuddon, Ryan Van Winkle, Jamie MacNeill, Jed Milroy and Kieron Maguire, and man, you should have heard Jamie’s bluegrass. There may be plans afoot to do some more exploring, so watch this space…

The courtyard readings are still ongoing from 2pm till 3pm every day. Last week’s weather drove them inside up to our mezzanine a few times, but here they are above in their natural courtyard habitat, enjoying a blink of sun! Everyone and anyone is welcome to listen and/or read. Just turn up at 2pm, and add your name to the host’s list.

Scottish weather

August 20, 2009

Feeble Unbrella is a common complaint, brought on by the temperamental Scottish climes.

Feeble Umbrella is a common complaint, brought on by the temperamental Scottish climes.

TennysonLast night was, as discussed yesterday, Michael Russell’s Selected Works at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Our Selected Works series is now 32 episodes old, and you can read some selections of previous pickers in our Reading Room. We’ve got a few interesting folk lined up for the autumn/winter programme, though I’m afraid we can’t reveal those just yet, but watch this space!

We went to see our Robyn in conversation about the poems Mike picked, the ones that he was sorry not to be able to fit in, and other things besides. His choices and a few remarks:

from ‘Requiem’ by Anna Akhmatova – MR pondered if we can ever grasp the full meaning of poetry in translation, and we learned that Akhmatova’s poems, written under the Stalinist terror, were learned by 10 faithful followers, and none were actually written down until 1962.

‘Death and Dr Hornbrook’ by Robert Burns – as a Troon lad, ‘as soon as the Christmas tree was down, the Burns books came out, in preparation for the annual recitation competitions in his honour’.

‘264’ by Jim Carruth – MR confessed to being a great fan of Jim’s work, and it was a treat to have him in the audience to read this moving poem about his father aloud.

‘The God Abandons Antony’ by C P Cavafy – E M Forster said of Cavafy that he ‘stood at an angle to the universe’, and MR has fond memories of reading him as a student.

from ‘Little Gidding’ by T S Eliot – interesting to think that T S Eliot and Akhmatova were writing, and not being published, at the same time, though for quite different reasons; Eliot made his home in England, and paper shortages during the war prevented publication.

‘Hallaig’ by Sorley MacLean – reflected upon the tragic shrinking of the Gaelic language, how this must be addressed and reversed, and how Sorley MacLean is one of the most important poets of the 20th century

‘I Explain a Few Things’ by Pablo Neruda – the poem by which MR discovered Neruda

‘At the Scott Exhibition, Edinburgh Festival’ by Iain Crichton Smith – a lovely anecdote revealed: MR had the pleasure of filming ICS on Coll while working at the BBC. In attempting to capture him in black and white, wreathed in smoke, several takes meant ICS had to ‘smoke like a beagle’!

‘The Lotus Eaters’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson – an apt choice, in what would have been Tennyson’s 200th birthday! MR enjoys the public aspect of his poems, and the way the words ‘roll you on’.

‘Curiosity’ by Alastair Reid – ‘a remarkable man’, less known in Scotland as elsewhere for his translations or Neruda and Borges, and his writings for the New Yorker. MR revealed that he quoted a bit from ‘Curiosity’ in a speech, leaving everyone in the audience pondering which bit…

If curiosity gets the better of you, you can read MR’s selection and much more here in the SPL! And we wonder what you would pick as your selected works?

SPL @ EIBF 4 August

August 19, 2009

almost-a-beautiful-day © Pascal Saez at the Edinburgh International Book FestivalWe’ll be hosting some events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this month and thought we’d flag them up for you here, in case you’re passing by, or loose-endish, or fancying a poetry fix or a chinwag. And so without further ado:

Tonight, Wednesday 19 August, you will find new Minister for Culture Mike Russell discussing his favourite poems in conversation with our very own Robyn Marsack at 8.30pm. We love this event format – a bit Desert Island Discs, but with poems instead of music and Robyn instead of Kirsty Young.

On Thursday 20 (and Thursday 27) at 11am Julie will facilitating Nothing But the Poem – in which you look at the poem, and nothing but the poem, so help you.

On Friday we’re toasting our 25th year in ‘Present Poets and Past Makars’, with readings from Jen Hadfield, Liz Lochhead and Aonghas MacNeacail. We’re simultaneously sorry and pleased to say that this event is sold out.

On Sunday 30 August we finish our EIBF shenanigans with ‘Revolutionary Europe’, a feast for the poetry fan, with Donny O’Rourke, Wojciech Bonowicz (Poland), Michael Augustin and Sujata Bhatt (Germany) and Ioana Ieronim (Romania) following a week of creative combustion at Crear.

If this isn’t enough, there’s plenty more where it came from in Charlotte Square; Underword and Utter are still serving up lashings of quality for free in Fingers Piano Bar on Frederick Street and the School of Poets are providing a platform every day in our Courtyard Readings from 2pm till 3pm. Also, this Friday (21st) at 6.30pm, we’re delighted to be hosting ‘Movement and Stillness’ – an evening of contemporary and folk music and poetry and poetic prose, while Ryan in Residence and friends will be taking up position in St Andrew Square for a bit of screenprinting and poetry banter on Wednesday 26th.

Phew. Grab your festival legs and let’s waltz!

Linen bag boutique. (Books - library's own)The SPL has stepped into the delightful world of linen books bags! We took delivery just yesterday, and they’re now available in our shop for the frankly minuscule price of £2. You can hardly get a bag of chips/pint of beer/cup of tea and scone/Beano for £2 these days! And they look handsome too – we chose Iain MacIntosh’s interpretation of our strapline ‘By Leaves We Live’ as our motif. Black and white and awesome all over. So now, this bizarrely temperamental rain needn’t soggy your next instalment of top poetry books!

High tea

August 11, 2009

all the way from Devon

all the way from Devon

Today we enjoyed splendid fare: high tea, with clotted cream all the way from Devon. A very nice poet friend of the SPL popped in, and since one wouldn’t really chow clotted cream unaccompanied, he brought some scones and jam too. There is apparently a Japanese proverb that declares ‘If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty’. When 5 ladyfolk of the library have tea AND scones and clotted cream and jam, are they invincible?

This week we embraced many tourists who’ve descended upon Edinburgh for the annual festivals season. August in Edinburgh is famously super fun, with several festivals running in tandem, and loads of fringe activity. Oh, and the parties! This year is particularly big for poetry, with poetry nights Utter! and Underword, as well as the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the West Port Book Festival. There’s also our courtyard readings, Our Ryan in Residence’s various poetic forays and a whole pile of other stimulating, wonderful, vibrant activities! We’re joining in the fun with ‘Movement and Stillness’, a celebration of our poetic interaction with the natural world featuring contemporary & folk music (bluegrass, blues, British folk), poetry and poetic-prose from North America and the British Isle on Friday 21 August at 6.30pm. So much to do and so little time!

The Burns Banner went up! We told you yesterday but we’re telling you again. It looks cracking, and Robyn informs us that it can be seen from Princes Street! That’s what we like, us poetry sneaks – poetry on the street.

On that very note, next week we’ll be announcing a link up with the Southbank Centre, involving GPS and poems…

Ivor Cutler usurped Edwin Morgan in the exhibition stakes. If you’d like an oasis far from the madding crowd, come and chill with us – A Stuggy Pren features photos of Ivor in many cunning guises, as well as listening posts and DVD action. Some of our first visitors have given it the thumbs up already!

We held a Nothing But the Poem session with a twist in its tail – we invited the participants to facilitate for themselves, and happily they seemed to enjoy it!

Tom Pow’s fabulous Dying Villages Project print landed on Robyn’s desk. The website will tell you more, but prepare for a heartbreaking work of staggering sadness.

Two of our holiday makers returned back to the SPL fold bearing French sugared almonds and chocolates from Berlin. Not like us to be distracted by a tea time treat…

Fabulous weekends all! Hopefully we’ll be seeing you at some upcoming frolics in the not-too-distant!