The Signet Library was alive with the sound of excited chit chat, tangy raspberry mocktails and tiny breakfast canapés this morning, for the launch of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Julie, Robyn and I were in attendance for the unveiling of this year’s programme, the first under the directorship of Nick Barley. We’re incredibly excited to be involved again this year, having assisted Don Paterson in his guest selection of a poetry strand. Participating poets include Seamus Heaney, Jackie Kay, John Stammers, Sinead Morrisey, John Glenday and many more. And what with the mini-festival within a festival, Unbound, there’ll be music, poetry and story at night – every night, for free! – in the rouged embrace of the Highland Park Spiegeltent. The programme for Unbound will be released in 3 weeks time in collaboration with the Skinny.

If you haven’t picked up your paper programme, you can drop in and get one from us, or download it online. Get circling and get deciding! What’s your hot ticket? And for those of you unable to make it, we’ll be blogging the poetry strand right here. August, come hither!

Last night the winners of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets were announced at a readings and award ceremony at the British Library. Selima Hill won the Michael Marks Poetry Award for her pamphlet Advice on Wearing Animal Prints, while Scottish press HappenStance won the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award.

Chair of the judges Ali Smith commended the winners, saying “Selima Hill’s Advice on Wearing Animal Prints is a courageous work; startling, strange and unforgettable, it’s a piece of disciplined wildness which grows in power with each re-read.” She admired HappenStance for “the elegance, thoughtfulness and clarity of their design, and the infectious interaction, open-mindedness and energy of their publishing ethos.”

Both winners, selected from over 150 entries, were presented with a cheque for £5,000 by Lady Marks.

We want to offer our warm congratulations to all shortlisted candidates and both winners, and are particularly delighted for Helena Nelson, HappenStance founder and publisher, and long time supporter of the work of the SPL and the poetry of others. Just last week we were pleased to play a part in a successful and rousing 5th birthday party for HappenStance here in the library. Above is the impressive cake!