As with all things autumnal and back to schoolish, the Poetry Association of Scotland are kicking off their Autumn/Winter programme tonight here at the SPL. Donny O’Rourke is the man of the evening, and the usual fine fayre of poetry, wine and a few choice questions from PAS chairperson Joyce Caplan is promised.

The PAS were founded in 1924, and are still going strong, holding Wednesday night events here at the SPL, costing a mere £5, £3 concessionary rate, or free entry on payment of an annual membership of £20 (£15 for concessions). Their website gives a good flavour of what to expect in the coming months, as well as an idea of visitors past.

L’s story: Carry a Poem

September 29, 2009

L's Carry a Poem...Today’s been a day for chasing copy. Some time ago, we asked Facebook friends and Twitter folk what poem they carried with them, and received a pleasing number of replies. Many of these simply said “I really like Philip Larkin’s ‘Trees”’ or: “‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost has been a good, good friend to me.” Now, in preparation for the unveiling of our Carry a Poem website, which will be launched on National Poetry Day, we are chasing stories, seeking embellishment and being nosy. We want to know the tale behind the poem you carry, and we’ve already had a few lovely, thoughtful responses today. We’re greedy for more!

Here, for example, is L’s poem and the story behind it. 

Mine is John Hegley’s ‘PhanTom’. It’s a whimsical little poem but it struck a chord with me. I’d come across it in a newspaper, at a time, many years ago, when I was having to come to terms with the fact I wasn’t ever going to have a child, and it’s been in my purse ever since. Very yellow and fragile now. I don’t really know why I keep it – well, I suppose I do – because I now have a lovely daughter – and I suppose keeping hold of the poem was a keeping hold of the hope.

If you have a poem you carry with you, and you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it. You can either respond to this post, or email Here’s some guideline questions that might help:

  • Where and when did you first encounter the poem?
  • What did it mean to you then? How did it make you feel? Did it change you in any way?
  • What does it mean to you now?
  • Do you actually carry it? (e.g. in your head, on your ipod, in your wallet or diary, etc)
  • And would you be willing to take part in audio/video recording for our Carry a Poem site?

We’d be very glad to have your stories on board.

Lived leaves

September 28, 2009

If you check in regularly you’ll know that Saturday was our By Leaves We Live annual artists’ books and small presses fair, one of the biggest, favouritest days in the SPL calendar. It coincided with Doors Open Day in Edinburgh, to entice those folks who maybe hadn’t visited before, as well as a large number of arts, crafts and book lovers. We welcomed 26 stall-holders in total (one ‘stall’ was our cunningly-placed, formerly legless chair, and another was Kona Macphee perched on a comfy wicker chair behind some wooden blocks), but fair organiser and librarian Julie managed to squeeze everyone in.

Over 500 people floated in throughout the day, to tempt their purses with some properly delicious book gear and listen to our talks upstairs. These were free, and filled on a first come first served basis, our audiences alerted to their imminence by our Robyn on a loud horn. We welcomed Isabelle Ting from the Owl & Lion Gallery talking about the process of making a book and answering questions about bookbinding; David Faithfull told of an artist book created on the Isle of Jura in collaboration with the poet John Burnside; SALT + SHAW talked about how location influences the production of their artists’ books; novelist and indie publisher Hamish MacDonald (whose stall boasted the tiniest book of the day!) guided us through making a simple chapbook and Hugh Bryden of Roncadora Press explained how he finds a balance between the poetic and visual elements in a pamphlet.

We had a marvellous day, were thrilled with the quality of the exhibitors and the numbers of folk filling the library, and are still making our way through the M&S flapjacks bought for the occasion. There are loads more pictures on Facebook, if you’re on there, and if not then you’ll pleased to know we’ll be joining Flickr this week I hope… Did you make it along? If so, what did you think?

Happenings 19: The fair!

September 25, 2009

Peggy and Danny and the balloonsWe spent today preparing for By Leaves We Live, our annual celebration of artists’ books and small presses by blowing up balloons, conscripting a friend called Danny, who only called in to say hello. Dave and Colin (resident podcaster and editor of Anon magazine) busily tied massive pieces of string round said balloons (‘like putting a lead round, really’, spake Dave), and Julie directed the whereabouts and whatabouts of tables, table cloths and book displays.

WE ARE EXCITED! We hope we’ll see loads of you tomorrow to peruse our lovely wares and those of our participating artists. Participants and details of free talks running throughout the day can be found out here. More things have happened this week, but they can summed up in few words: concrete poetry, flapjacks, honig filled sweets from Berlin and the excitement that an events programme fresh from the printers can bring…

Till tomorrow!

Wanted: Book-keeper/Accountant

September 25, 2009

The Scottish Poetry Library is looking for someone self-employed to take up this part-time post. 

We are a small, friendly arts organisation off the Royal Mile, and our book-keeper/accountant will be someone with several years of experience, preferably within the arts/charities sector. He or she will work 5 to 8 hours a week on a variety of tasks, from petty cash to purchase ledger, to quarterly accounts and year-end balance sheets. Experience of using SAGE is highly desirable.

To apply, send in your CV with a covering letter, the name of 2 referees and a note of your hourly rates to Applications close on 5 October, and we are looking for someone to start as soon as possible.

The Orators

September 16, 2009

Four minutes into 'The Raven': 'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Four minutes into 'The Raven': 'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Edgar Allan Poe with your lunch, sir? If you passed through St Andrew Square Garden today, you might well have been favoured with a personal poem recital from our Poetry Orators. Actors Jamie and Gilchrist charmed their audiences with a mix of Shakespeare (‘I grant I never saw a goddess go / My mistress when she walks treads on the ground…’), Burns, Poe and, erm, a poem about the pleasures of relieving yourself… The highlight was an eight-minute rendition of ‘The Raven’ (the whole thing! by heart!) about which Lilias commented: ‘It’s made me weak!’ The Orators took this as a compliment.

Lunching ladies are serenaded with 'Ae Fond Kiss'

Lunching ladies are serenaded with 'Ae Fond Kiss'


We’ll be back in the Poetry Garden on National Poetry Day, handing out poem postcards to the rush-hour crowds – we may even be able to tempt Jamie and Gilchrist back for an encore.

A consultant is required to carry out a feasibility study into developing the Poetry Garden in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh

Summary: The Scottish Poetry Library, on behalf of the Poetry Garden in St Andrew Square Steering Group, wishes to appoint a consultant to carry out a feasibility study into the proposed development from 2010-2013 of Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square as a space for poetry in the heart of the city.

Growing the Poetry Garden
St Andrew Square, recently opened to the public for the first time in generations, has been officially designated as a place for poetry in the heart of Edinburgh, first UNESCO City of Literature. Already the Garden features poems on the glass of the Coffee Republic pavilion and on surrounding buildings, and occasional poetry events.
The Poetry Garden Steering Group proposes to further develop poetry in St Andrew Square and to establish the Garden as an oasis of imagination. We want to bring people into the Garden to discover poetry in the heart of a vibrant literary city, to enrich the experience of those visiting the Garden, and to stimulate the people’s enjoyment of poetry. The  feasibility study will provide a blueprint for this development.

The successful applicant will:

  • Identify potential sources of support and involvement, in cash and in kind, that will enable us to carry out our three-year plan for the Poetry Garden
  • Suggest funding model/s, encompassing corporate sponsorship and public funding
  • Identify businesses, community/arts/funding organisations, and individuals with whom we can develop relationships with a view to securing support for the garden
  • Identify needs of potential funders and recommended methods of approach to secure funding
  • Identify potential barriers to success
  • Make recommendations as to how the steering group should develop and how the Poetry Garden project should be run long-term

The successful applicant will have excellent business and cultural contacts within Edinburgh, extensive knowledge of arts funding sources including corporate, public and trust funding, and a proven track record in conducting feasibility studies and delivering project outcomes.

Interested applicants should email Jane Alexander,, for full details including fee and timescales, consultancy brief and the Poetry Garden three-year development plan.

Deadline for expressions of interest and intended approach: Tuesday 13 October 2009.