Blue sky thinking

April 30, 2010

I returned from the USA a week later than I expected. Chicago – home of the Poetry Foundation and the Art Institute – is no bad place to be stranded, and it has marvellous bookshops, too, but I was glad to be home and especially just in time to go to Edwin Morgan’s party. I see today that Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales,  has made a poetic virtue of necessity, and it’s a point of view with which I sympathise. It’s going to be trains for me for a while!

Blue Sky Thinking

Let’s do this again, ground the planes for a while
and leave the runways to the racing hare,
the evening sky to Venus and a moon
so new it’s hardly there.
Miss the deal, the meeting, the wedding in Brazil.
leave the shadowless Atlantic to the whale,
its song the only sound sounding the deep
except the ocean swaying on its stem.
Let swarms of jets at quiet airports sleep.
The sky’s not been this clean since I was born.
Nothing’s overhead but pure blue silence
and skylarks spiralling into infinite space,
a pair of red kites flaunting in the air.
No mark, no plane-trail, jet-growl anywhere.

Reproduced with permission of Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, April 2010

For more information about the National Poet of Wales visit:

~ Robyn


April 28, 2010

Yesterday, Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s national poet, turned 90. In celebration, there was a soiree in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which also saw not one but two books launched. Hamish Whyte of Mariscat Press  has just published Dreams and Other Nightmares: New and Uncollected Poems 1954 – 2009 and the Scottish Poetry Library, in collaboration with Hamish and Mariscat, have produced Eddie@90. Kept a secret from the man of the hour till last night, the book is ‘a celebration of his life and work, a collection of tributes from 80 friends and admirers all sharing their memories, affection and appreciation of the man and his work…’ Beautifully designed by Iain McIntosh and limited edition, it, and Dreams and Other Nightmares, are both available to purchase from our shop. You can also read Eddie@90 online on the bottom right hand corner our homepage.

The cake was fresh cream and had space candles. The crowd was large. The mood was high. You can read newspaper pieces marking the Age of Edwin from the Scotland on Sunday, the Scotsman and this wee Herald piece, where he looks very jolly in the photo cutting the cake alongside Liz Lochhead and Ron Butlin.

Aonghas MacNeacail wrote this lovely poem in reflection on the occasion, and let us reproduce it here.

edwin @ 90

more can –
can more?
ceann mór
“great head”
aye brims
with poem –
king bard

Happenings 32!

April 23, 2010

This week we returned to our cake-enjoying ways with a toffee variant courtesy of Foodies down the road. We have a new face at the front desk – Lisa – and it would only be rude not to welcome her in the way we love best…

Tom Pow and his suitcase of Dying Village artefacts have taken up residency, from yesterday till tomorrow, by way of a recorded tour today with Ryan and Colin. He invites you to come and explore his finds, and enjoy the sights and sounds of his adventures, and listen to his stories at 1pm and 4pm tomorrow.

Speaking of audio, Tim Turnbull is the star of our current podcast, and hot on his heels next week we’re going to be hearing from the lovely folk of the Southbank Centre in London, including an excerpt from the amazing Bellowhead‘s folk opera version of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘ featuring Lemn Sissay as the Mariner… OOH!

We can’t believe it’s a year since our Edwin Morgan Archive was launched to the world, which means it’s almost a year since Edwin Morgan’s 89th birthday, which means next week he’s 90. There’ll be plenty more where this came from then…

In this week’s events news, the Poetry Society’s Poetry Doctor and our regular blogging columnist Kona Macphee held a day of surgeries; Iain Matheson, frequent face at and friend of the library held a night of violin and poetry, in which lovely Dutch violinist Kees teamed up with librettist and Edinburgh Makar Ron Butlin.

Lorna was at the National Gallery of Scotland ‘Inspired? Get Writing!’ prize giving on Thursday (our warmest congrats to all involved), this time last week I was about to journey to the Dorothy Wordsworth Festival of Women’s Poetry at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our Robyn back from the U.S. We’ve also got some events plots up our sleeves… All this, and more, next week!

Judges in the 10th Callum Macdonald Memorial Award praised the standard of 41 pamphlets they have seen from across Scotland. The 7 shortlisted entries show ‘a spirit of adventure in every aspect’, said Tessa Ransford OBE, widow of literary publisher Callum Macdonald.

The winner and two runners-up will be announced at a ceremony at the National Library of Scotland on Wednesday 19 May. The shortlist is:

Hugh Bryden of Roncondra Press, who is one of the judges, won the competition last year. The award is supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust.

You can see Tom Pow’s in residency with his Dying Villages project and exhibition here at the SPL from tomorrow, Thursday 22 April, 12 – 4pm.

There hasn’t been a Happenings post for a while, which seems unbelievable, given the number of excitements that have occurred! Most notably, our noble Dave, front desk poetry jockey, has moved on. We rarely need an excuse for cake consumption, so Dave’s departure was no different. Here’s to the next adventures of Dave!

We’ve been eventing in all kinds of ways, most recently just last night with a Nothing But the Poem session here with Ryan, Stewart Conn’s launch and the week before with Dark Matter: Poems about Space.

Next up in the events realm is Tom Pow’s Dying Villages residency from Thursday – Saturday next week, when he’ll settle in and unpack his suitcase of poems, stories, images and sounds gathered while exploring the dying villages of Europe, from Spain to Russia. There’s also an exhibition, displaying a range of artefacts from the Dying Villages Museum. Installed just yesterday, and photographed above, it looks great.

Our Robyn is in the U.S. visiting our siblings in poetry Poets House in New York, Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the Poetry Society of America, among others.

We were pleased to hear this sound snap, recently acquired by the British Library, of Ted Hughes and Sylvia discussing poetry and their relationship.

Off for a few art and poetry fixes this weekend: Julie is exhibiting work over in Glasgow at the Glasgow International Artists Bookfair and I’m skipping down to Grasmere to the Dorothy Wordsworth Festival of Women’s Poetry!

Julie joined Twitter! You can now follow her on @poetrylibrarian!

We’re closed on Monday 19 for the April holiday, so see you tomorrow or Tuesday! Wishing you all a great weekend…

Our Robyn edited  the ‘Best New Zealand Poems 2009‘ – ‘mitigating the withdrawal symptoms I’d begun to experience after reading so much poetry for the anthology I edited last year with Andrew Johnston, Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets (Carcanet Press, 2009) – and selected, among others, a poem by Gregory O’Brien about the racehorse Dylan Thomas – ‘Dylan Thomas (B.2003), Coolmore Stud,  New South Wales’.

The poem has since been emboidered onto a fine horse blanket by Noel McKenna (pictured) and will be worn by a racehorse later this month at Noel’s exhibition opening in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney. Unfortunately it won’t be Dylan Thomas wearing the poem on this forthcoming occasion. D. T. is presently busy at stud in Ireland and won’t be back in Australia until September. So a similar horse, of some eighteen hands in height, will be wearing the custom-built blanket.

Poetry in motion? The smart money is moving…

Yesterday evening, Stewart Conn read from his new Bloodaxe collection The Breakfast Room here at the library, accompanied by John Sampson, the man of many musical talents. Stewart opened proceedings with a quote from Don Marquis: “Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo”. I was unacquainted with Marquis, and any helpful references to archy and mehitabel passed me by too.

This morning, my desk was adorned by Lilias with archyology: the long lost tales of archy and mehitabel (not an uncommon occurrence, such poetical treats: only the other day it was Thomas Dekker’s ‘May’ – ‘O! and then I did unto my true Love say,/ Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer’s Queen’.). The blurb explains: ‘One morning in 1916 newspaperman Don Marquis discovers a cockroach, jumping about on the keys of his office typewriter, tapping out a poem, letter by letter. The cockroach is archy, a free verse poet in a previous life. From archy’s poem he learns that the cat mehitabel was once Cleopatra. Thus begins a literary legend, the comic rantings of archy, whose poems use no capital letters, because the cockroach could not work the shift key on his boss’s typewriter. mehitabel is a racy, free-spirited alley cat . As she can’t type, archy, sophisticated wit, scandalmonger and whimsical philosopher, becomes her reporter…

Having written many popular books in the archy and mehitabel series, New York columnist Marquis’s archyology was only found when he died in 1937, having been packed into a trunk and left in a Brooklyn warehouse. Lilias says mehitabel is the queen of cats. Rebecca West called her ‘a divine creature’. So today, I feel doubly lucky: a chance last night to hear Stewart read from his new book with John’s music in the library packed with his many well-wishers, and two excellent new acquaintances in archy and mehitabel to join me for lunch…