December 2, 2010

Due to adverse weather conditions (left), we’ll be restricting our hours a little this week. Our plans thus far are to open:

Thursday 2nd December 10am – 4pm

Friday 3rd December 10am – 4pm

Saturday 4th December     10am – 1pm.

We will be closed on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th December as normal, and we’re hoping  to get back to more regular opening hours next week, weather permitting.  The best thing to do at the moment is to keep checking with our twitter feeds (@ByLeavesWeLive, @poetrylibrarian and @SPLshop), this blog, and it is worth phoning ahead to check that we are open (0131 557 2876).

Overdue notices

You may receive an automatically issued overdue notice while the weather stops you getting to the library. Don’t worry! You can now renew your books online (login required), by calling us on 0131 557 2876 or by emailing

If you happen to be passing by and we’re closed, you can pop your books through our handy post-slot on the far left of the wooden shutters and we’ll check them back in as soon as we can.

Kay and Lilias are holding the fort at the moment for your poetry needs, but if you can’t make it to the building, there’s plenty to read and listen to on our website and others. You can:

read the latest issue of Poetry Issues

listen to one of our many wonderful podcasts

explore the Edwin Morgan Archive and read some of his poems online

listen to this programme about WS Graham from BBC 3, broadcast on Sunday at 9.30pm and available via iPlayer for three more days.


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 18

September 11, 2009

There’s cake in the building, so it must be Friday… it’s of the banana loaf variety.  We’re all a bit wary since reading the article in the Guardian this week on the dangers of eating biscuits (particularly killer custard creams). Not dangers of a dietary nature, but, they make you accident prone apparently. But fortunately for staff here, our favourite, the jaffa cake, comes out of the research as the least dangerous biscuit (cake).

It’s been a busy week here as usual. We’ve been packing up the Edwin Morgan Archive exhibition, Bawr Stretter!, to go off on a seven library tour of Dumfries & Galloway, starting with a stint at the Wigtown Book Festival.

Andrew Greig at the SPL

Andrew Greig at the SPL

We’ve also had the pleasure of having Andrew Greig in the library this week. Here he is comfortably reading his way through all the poetry published by Scottish poets in late 2008, and so far in 2009. He’s this year’s editor for the SPL’s online Best Scottish Poems. You’ll get to find out which 20 poems he has chosen in March.

Our Ivor Cutler exhibition is officially over, but we haven’t yet taken it down… so if you’re still feeling inclined, there’s still time. It’ll be up for another week yet. Unofficially and quietly. It’s been nice hearing the odd chuckles coming from visitors as they encounter him in the photos and on the dvd that’s playing. 

Dave’s been cataloguing lots of new CDs – they’ll be on the shelves soon. And I’ve been putting the finishing touches to the postcard for our A Model of Order concrete poetry exhibition and events extravaganza. Jane and Robyn have been putting the finishing touches to our Annual Report, and Lizzie has had her head deep in enquiries and research as usual. And we had a session for teachers this week to help them prepare for National Poetry Day.

Well, we’ll sign off there for this week. Happy weekends to all.


It is with a degree of trepidation that I cross the threshold of the library today… because I am carrying a packet of STRAWBERRY jaffa cakes. Things could go badly wrong at Friday tea-break-time. They are surely going to be in the category of things are are just not quite right.

Maybe? Maybe not? The strawberry jaffa cake.

Maybe? Maybe not? The strawberry jaffa cake.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with strawberries. Edwin Morgan gets it absolutely right in his poem ‘Strawberries‘ – right down to that perfect last line: ‘let the storm wash the plates’. (We have lovely free postcards of this poem by the way – drop in to get some or we can post them to you.)

Dare I say that a good poem is like an original jaffa cake (orange), and that a not-so-good one is maybe (they’ve yet to be tasted of course) more like a strawberry jaffa cake. Some poems are just perfect – all the ingredients blend together to create something greater than the sum, something that lingers in the mind for ages. Others just don’t. Those good poems – happy accidents? Or more likely incredible skill hiding behind apparent simplicity.

Last lines – are they the hardest part of the poem to get right? Poets out there, tell us please. The challenge of bringing a poem to a close, yet quietly leaving it open for the reader. I’m reminded of the story of Robert Frost and the ending of his poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’. I hope I’ve not imagined this – correct me if I’m wrong. But I believe he was writing the poem and didn’t know how to end it, so just to fill the space of the last line of the last stanza temporarily he repeated the third line of that stanza: ‘And miles to go before I sleep.’ But somehow that sounded right, and he never did change it. And how could it be any other way now?

We’ll let you know how the strawberry jaffa cakes tasted later maybe…


Photos, as promised…

April 28, 2009

Here’s a few snaps of yesterday’s festivities, as promised

Bawr stretter

Badges, bookmarks, booklets, Bawr stretter!, the name of our exhibition of EM’s work, also opened yesterday.

(word) hoards/hordes

We didn’t get an exact figure, but we reckon 89 people on an 89th birthday party is a fine guesstimate…

EM cuts the cake

EM cuts his birthday cake, to much cheering, clapping and snapping. We never did see a more Bruce Bogtrottery cake…


Hamish, caught mid-think, on being asked, how do you rate the cake? (9/10, if you care to know).

Malcolm and Mike

SPL architect Malcolm Fraser and Mike Wade, who wrote this nice piece in The Times, have an intense discussion. This was unposed. Ok ok, it was completely posed.

Ron and Liz

Two of EM’s long-term pals, Edinburgh Makar Ron Butlin and Glasgow’s Poet Laureate Liz Lochhead.

Ron, Mike Russell, EM

Ron made a toast in which he called EM ‘the grandest possible grand old man’. We concur.

This way...


Edwinday postscript

April 27, 2009

Many returns happy/ Many turns happier/ Happy turns remain: first three lines of 'The Computer's First Birthday Card' on EM's birthday cake

Many returns happy/ Many turns happier/ Happy turns remain: first three lines of 'The Computer's First Birthday Card' on EM's birthday cake

The party for the formal opening of the Edwin Morgan Archive, the unveiling of our Bawr Stretter! exhibiton and the man of the hour’s birthday simply couldn’t have gone better. And he was here to celebrate with us, to cut the cake and receive many many warm wishes on his 89th birthday. Minister for Culture Mike Russell laughed his way through an ad hoc speech, having jettisoned ‘the one someone had written for [him]’ to deliver heartfelt praise for the impact EM’s work had on him as a student. Liz Lochhead read EM’s poem ‘A View of Things’, and reminisced about the time she read on his behalf at the opening of the Scottish Parliament – ‘undoubtedly her scariest gig’, the more so for following Nicola BenedettiHamish Whyte expressed his gladness that the archive could be enjoyed by many.

Also of note: our postman, wading in in the middle of the speeches to deliver our post, probably wondering why we were all quaffing champagne at 1pm; singing happy birthday to EM and the three cheers that nearly brought the roof down; the tang of strawberries throughout the library; EM’s birthday balloon, a gift from his two year old pal Maya; Anne Connolly, having pruned her bay tree, having brought us bags of dried bay leaves.

We hope that you will drop in and see us and the archive.


April 27, 2009

Jaffa cakesThe jaffa cakes (EM’s favourites) and strawberries (in honour of ‘Strawberries’) are in place. We’ve swept the courtyard and mopped the floors. The sound system is ready. Julie (and her husband David) gets the Very Special Blue Peter Badge for her Olympian efforts with the exhibition, which I don’t mind saying, looks gorgeous. If you’re on Facebook, you can see some sneak preview snaps of the exhibition on our profile.

I just asked for a quote from Julie, and she said, ask the Loch Ness Monster. I did. S/he said: Zgra kra gka fok! It started a bit of a debate: is the Loch Ness Monster male or female? We thought female…

I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding items he had collected over the years related to his band. He was concerned about whether he should retain entire magazines or just cut out their review. After some thought over the implications of retaining these magazines (storage!) he decided that looking back at this material it was also important to see what other bands were being reviewed and, generally, to have a sense of the music scene at that period in time.

This retention issue is a situation often faced in collections management and here at the SPL the Edwin Morgan Archive contains a large number of journals and newspapers with only a short contribution by Morgan. However, perusing through them provides the opportunity to see not only who else was writing or what events were taking place at the time but they also give insight into society as a whole – there’s a nostalgia factor to going through these materials

I, like Lizzie yesterday, have been quite amused by the advertisements. For instance, a 1968 issue of the Glasgow University Magazine has an advertisement for Coca-Cola showing a spectacled professor in front of a chalkboard and the line, “Simple formula for perfect refreshment”. It’s quite a transformation from today’s topless man in Diet Coke commercials and the professor wears similar glasses to both Edwin Morgan and the library’s Communications Officer (whee! one remove from greatness! CO). We’d love to post an image of “Professor Coke” but we don’t want to get sued by Coca-Cola for copyright violations. Instead we’ll share a photo of a record which is part of the archive. Finding such a record (a 45) at the back of a 1982 Stereo Headphones journal is amazing because this is a format of sound recording not often seen amongst today’s iPod generation. Not only is the archive a rich resource of material because of the insight it provides into Morgan’s work, but also because of these unexpected (and sometimes unrelated) treasures.

~ Lisa


Murder in the CathedralUsually the term archive conjures thoughts of old stuff like dusty, musty papers. Fortunately, the Edwin Morgan Archive doesn’t stink—it’s pretty cool and we hope that plenty of people will visit the library and upcoming exhibition to see for themselves.

While the archive holds mostly material from the 1960s onwards there are quite a few older items, such as the books from Morgan’s personal library at the University of Glasgow. Quite a few of these works are of prose fiction although several are of poetry. Examples of these older works of poetry include L. MacLean Watt’s The Grey Mother and Other Poems (1903), Joseph Geochegan’s Poems and Sonnets (1910), James Mitchell’s The Warning Bell and Other War Poems (1917), and Ivar Campbell’s Poems (1917).

The works from Morgan’s library are also interesting as they are linked to his teaching and writing. Boyd Cable’s Between the Lines and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s Beyond the Planet Earth include handwritten notes by Morgan, while T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral has a whole page of handwritten text pasted into it, as you can see in the picture above. 

To view other interesting works from the archive stop by at the library to see the exhibition which opens next week.

~ Lisa

Happenings 4

April 17, 2009

love books: from the Owl and Lion Gallery, GrassmarketThere’s nothing quite like a launch to share the book love. Last night, our friends up the road at the Scottish Book Trust threw a lovely party for Spirit of Jura (Polygon), a handsome compendium of writings resulting from the Jura Malt Whisky Writers’ Retreat programme. Will Self read a bit of a great short story, and John Burnside and Liz Lochhead wonderful poems. Jura malt whisky flowed. The canapés were, and always are, smashing.

This week we’ve received so many deliveries of an Edwin Morgan Archive nature that we’re on first name terms with couriers the country over. Brochures, storage boxes and badges are the order of the day as we prepare for the formal opening in just over a week. Delighted to have them, but where to put them! Maybe we’ll regress, build a fort and climb inside…

We had the first of our two Getting Into Poetry evenings. Lilias, eight intrepid travellers and some wine got acquainted on Wednesday night. We’re going to hear more about that next week.

We tried our hand at the Poetry Society’s Poet Laureate Quiz! We’ll tell you our score if you tell us yours!

We had a flying visit from Alastair Reid, discovered a pigeons’ nest with babies in it over the close and had the windows cleaned – the latter is no mean feat with a building that’s ‘a poem in glass and stone’ by virtue of the former’s volume. 

To end on a televisual note, we’re looking forward, sideways and backwards to the BBC’s imminent poetry season, and were otherwise and unrelatedly heartwarmed by Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle

We’re closed on Monday for Spring Bank Holiday. Long weekend ahoy! A good one, till Tuesday, to all!

Julie receives another Edwin Morgan delivery: bookmarks!