Let’s get chemical…

November 26, 2009

Latest podcast is out! Bumper-er than usual, it features Ryan chewing the fat with actors and orators Gilchrist Muir and Jamie Gordon, and an eloquent, pensive and thoroughly fab discussion with one part of the Chemical Poets, Alasdair Maloney. Is Bob Dylan a poet? When does hip hop become poetry, and poetry hip hop? Hurrah for birdsong and down with buses… This, and more!

Best of all, it’s free and easy to subscribe, and would do wonders for our stat-tracking: do one good thing today…

Happy thanksgiving to one and all!

John Glenday’s Grain

November 26, 2009

The ineffable Joyce Caplan with the delightful Gail Wylie and a sign reading: GRAIN - SOLD OUT!

Last night, tag-teamed with the Poetry Association of Scotland, we played venue for the launch of John Glenday’s Grain (Picador). ‘Fourteen years in utero‘, teased chairman of both the PAS and the SPL Joyce Caplan in her welcome, it seems like it was well worth the wait, as all the books sold out.

An introduction from Andrew Greig and one of John’s poems set to music and sung by Kim Edgar bookended a fine reading. Foodies down the close  supplied the wine. The place was packed. Hurray for our poet of the month and long-serving board member, John!

And the poetry shortlist is…

Clive James for Angels Over Elsinore (Picador)
and the judges said: “Beautifully written, intelligent, full of ideas clearly communicated and feelings perfectly encapsulated – these are proper poems with musical structure that are clever, moving and memorable.”

Katharine Kilalea for One Eye’d Leigh (Carcanet)
and the judges said: “A humorous, unpredictable and imaginative debut.  Kilalea makes deceptively well-crafted poems that are like sculptures.”

Ruth Padel for Darwin: A Life in Poems (Chatto & Windus)
and the judges said: “A fascinating and original work that recreates the life of its subject in rich, diverse language.”

Christopher Reid for A Scattering (Arete Books)
and the judges said: “A life-affirming collection, full of urgency and feeling.”

Carry a Poem goes city-wide!

November 24, 2009

News just in! We’re delighted to be joining forces with the UNESCO City of Literature team on our Carry a Poem campaign! In February 2010 Edinburgh’s residents will be challenged to carry a poem as thousands of free Carry A Poem books and pocket poetry cards are handed out across the city as part of its fourth citywide reading campaign.

The free Carry a Poem book shows how Scots from all walks of life carry poems with them, and reveals the stories behind the poetry choices.  The book will be distributed all across the city, through arts and leisure centres, libraries, cafes, and primary and secondary schools, with residents being called on to catch poetry fever this February, when a dazzling array of events will descend upon the city.

What poems do you carry with you? And how do you carry them?

Happenings 24

November 20, 2009

I searched a lot of donkey pictures for our podcast page today: Emily Ballou reads a beautiful poem featuring one. This chap was a close runner up.

We hosted 2 launch events, one for Silver: An Aberdeen Anthology (Polygon) on Wednesday night, and one for Ruth Thomas’s new collection of short stories, Super Girl (Faber) last night. Both excellent and well-attended nights, you can read more about our Silver event here, and a review of Ruth’s book here.

Next week, we’ve got two more! We look forward to Tuesday 24 November, 6.30pm, and helping Thomas A Clark with the Edinburgh launch of his new collection, The Hundred Thousand Places (Carcanet), an evening which will include a rare reading. Then on Wednesday at 7.30pm, we will be joining forces with the Poetry Association of Scotland and raising our glasses to John Glenday and his long awaited new collection, Grain (Picador).

Our latest podcast is alive! Emily Ballou, author of The Darwin Poems, and Ryan discuss poems of childhood and what home means, and then Ryan reads one of his own poems, ‘Bluegrass’, with acoustic accompaniment from Jed Milroy.

Francis Bickmore of Canongate Books and Kin fame wrote us a nice big piece upon his favourite classic poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. You can read about it, that “psychedelic sea voyage, tale of the unexpected and playground of sight, sound and uncertain mysticism” in our Reading Room

…and Kona Macphee wrote us another encouraging column.

Just out of interest, what’s your favourite classic poem?

Watch this space to find out the favourites of the BBC’s Brian Taylor! Coming next week…

We enjoyed reading to the elderly residents of the Bonnington Care Centre on Tuesday and look forward to more such sessions soon…

We like the idea of the taste of Guinness and Chocolate cake

…and dresses with poems on them.

We’re gearing up for more workshops with school groups, a Polish poetry group coming in tomorrow for a Nothing But the Poem session, Christmas card lists and spring events planning…

Till next week!

‘Granite city, silver city, ancient seat of learning, thriving port, boomtown of North sea oil, Aberdeen has many faces, and poets have praised it – and occasionally damned it! – down the years.’

So it was we were pleased last night to host an event in Edinburgh to toast the book from which the above text wends,  Silver: An Aberdeen Anthology (Polygon), edited by Alan Spence and Hazel Hutchison. And despite about 50 other events being on at the same time (well, ok, maybe just the three that we knew of: the Golden Hour at the Forest, Canongate Books‘ IRREGULAR at the Voodoo Rooms, and the Genomics Forum Social Session – “Dr Jekyll’s DNA found – is Hyde in the clear?” the topic of discussion) there was a pleasing throng to greet our evening’s readers. Alan Spence read with fellow editor Hazel Hutchison, Rory Watson, Wayne Price and Kevin Macneil. David Bruce also read, for the first time, a poem by his father, the late George Bruce.

Afterwards, over at the star-spangly Voodoo Rooms, Don Paterson brought poetry to an evening bedecked with the northern prose of Chris Killen, Helen Walsh and Kevin Samson. Reading from his Forward Prize-winning latest collection ‘Rain’, he was amusingly dry as he contemplated the collection’s dearth of cheer. Three cheers for ‘Two Trees’ and ‘Why Do You Stay Up So Late?’ from me – come on down and burrow in if you’d like to read them.

To end, that wonderful song… with male chorus!

Photo by kind permission of Alastair Cook

On the homepage of our current podcast, we were thrilled to be able to use a photograph by the wonderfully multi-talented Alastair Cook, documenting a piece of found poetry for the Global Poetry System project. It features a marker pen scrawl, bearing the wisdom ‘Nobody Knows Anybody …Not That Well’ against a blue wall. It was additionally fab to find that someone has responded to the grafitto, and that Alastair has documented that too: the respondent replies ‘Aye they do’.

It’s lovely when poetry becomes a conversation. Just yesterday our Ryan and I converged at the Bonnington Care Centre near Newhaven to read poetry and chat with the elderly residents there. It was a treat to escape the desk and take poetry out into the town, and to receive such a lovely response too: we heard their memories of real lamplighters, as featured in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, and some hadn’t heard Burns or Belloc or ‘The Sair Finger’ read aloud since they were at school many years ago, and joined in with a gusto I hope I’ll have at 97!