We’re not usually so lavish with the old exclamation marks, but Poets for Haiti at the Queen’s Hall on Sunday evening merits them. Raising £12,000 for the work of the Mercy Corps, almost 900 tickets and six full raffle books were sold. The poets drove the audience through the gamut of emotions, sometimes hilarious, sometimes pensive, always electric.

Ron Butlin got the crowd warmed up with a commissioned poem about Inspiring Edinburgh, and Gillian Clarke awed them with a lament for Haiti. Alasdair Gray charmed with a condensed history of Scotland, Liz Lochhead amused with her theatrical advice for telling a story and Aonghas MacNeacail managed to squeeze all three of Scotland’s languages into a 5 minute set. Next up, Frances Leviston read one tender poem, before Robert Crawford changed the mood again with his rousing ‘Clan Donald’s Call to the Battle at Harlaw’. John Glenday opened with a love poem inspired by the tin opener – not invented till 47 years after the tin can – and Imtiaz Dharker caused great merriment with her poem about being over the moon. Don Paterson ended the first half with a lovely poem in which he explains to his son what he does for a living in ‘Why Do You Stay Up So Late?’

After much interval jollity and flogging of raffle tickets for the Blackwell’s donated Wanderings with a Camera in Scotland signed by all the participants, John Sampson opened proceedings in an Amadeus-esque wig and whistle with Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, before Carol Ann Duffy drew the raffle. Jackie Kay opened the second act poets-wise, treating us to a sparkling performance;  first a hilarious imagining of Maw Broon getting acquainted with her nether regions in ‘Maw Broon does the Vagina Monologues’, then ‘Darling’, a heart-stilling elegy to her friend and fellow poet Julia Darling. Bill Herbert celebrated the stookie, Kathleen Jamie the Queen of Sheba and Rody Gorman poked fond fun at place names of the Highlands. Sean O’Brien responded to Liz Lochhead’s piece about the theatre, you couldn’t hear a pin drop when Vicki Feaver ended her set with a tremulous hymn, before Andrew Greig honoured his father’s tool shed.

Douglas Dunn, whose line ‘Look to the living, love them, and hold on’ from ‘Disenchantments’ was projected onto the Castle Rock as part of the Carry a Poem campaign, and which provoked a chap to propose to his partner, read a snatch from that poem, saying ‘I hope they won’t blame me if it goes wrong!’ Of course the curtain was brought down by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who read three poems, among them ‘Premonitions’, re-imagining her mother not dead, but youthful, alive. You can get a copy to keep, part of our collaborative Poet Laureate postcard series.

This was an evening of poetry unlike any other, featuring a line up of people who’ve never shared a stage before and may not again, uniting for a fantastic cause. Carol Ann Duffy has said it was “the largest, loveliest Scottish audience for poetry ever. The evening will stay with me all my life.” We tip our hats to that.

You can still donate to Mercy Corps by visiting their website: http://www.mercycorps.org.uk/

On Tuesday night, Don Paterson, his capacious mind and his jealousy-inducing MacBook Air turned their joint focus upon Shakespeare’s Sonnets, part of our sonnets mini-season. He discussed their distinct form and unusual address, the prodigious technique it took to write them and the most instructive way to read them. In looking at what the Sonnets tell us and what the Sonnets tell us about Shakespeare, Don led the 60-strong audience to a greater understanding of  what the Sonnets tell us about us.

The feedback tells us what we strongly suspected: Don’s presentation was a hands-down hit. But it’s always especially nice to have compliments presented in a poetical manner. So I give you, blog fans, Ali Moir’s feedback on the Tuesday’s proceedings, sonnet-style.

I’m always partial to a well-turned sonnet,
(And like to hang around with poetry buffs)
So thought I’d go and hear a lecture on it
And learn how Shakespeare worked within the cuffs
Of this square frame. And found it’s not a muzzle,
But like gymnastic exercise for brain,
To work within the structure’s lovely puzzle,
To rhapsodize, or make sense out of pain.
Today, mind filled with rhyme and Fibonacci,
With wand’ring barks and golden youths long dead,
I realise the rhythm’s so darn catchy
Will had to write this way to clear his head!
So, thank you for an evening nicely donnish,
His chatty erudition does astonish.

Reproduced by permission of Ali Moir, with thanks