We’re delighted to be one of the pitstops on Ryan Van Winkle’s virtual, world-wide book tour!

Here are all excellent blogs Ryan will be stopping by:

Stops Tour Date Blog

1 12 November 2010 leesmithwriter
2 14 November 2010 Our sweet old etcetera…
3 16 November 2010 G.P.S. Global Poetry System
4 18 November 2010 Surroundings – Rob A. Mackenzie’s blog
5 20 November 2010 Robin Grey
6 24 November 2010 Scottish Book Trust
7 26 November 2010 Flotsam
8 28 November 2010 Molossus
9 30 November 2010 Dan Meth

Our Ryan in Residence has been with us for two and a half years, splitting his time between bringing poetry and people all over the city (and beyond) together, and working on his own writing. We couldn’t be more chuffed for him that he won the Crashaw Prize, resulting in having his first collection, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here,  published by Salt. You can buy the book here. Ryan also programmes and hosts the excellent Golden Hour at the Forest Cafe here in Edinburgh, and presents our weekly podcast. Having interviewed a whole host of folk for that, we took more than usual glee in turning the spotlight on him with a few questions…

What’s your favorite food?

I chose my best friend and my favorite food when I was 11 and young enough to make pronouncements like that. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become wary of saying anything is my favourite, and I’m distrustful of anyone who would have an answer like that. Life, to me, is far more complicated. I don’t have a favourite city, a favourite colour, a favourite drink, and I reckon this is why I really want but can’t yet allow myself to get a tattoo.

So, in solidarity with my 11-year-old self, I’ll call my favorite food pizza. I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut which is famous for having, what some say, is the best pizza in America. New Yorkers always disagree. But New Yorkers don’t know anything.

And, I’m happy to say my best friend is still Mike Sanzone. A very fine artist indeed and someone I hope will occupy that ‘Best Friend’ throne for a long time to come.

Moustaches vs beards?

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I have recently shaved after a 15 year love-affair with the beard. When Magda at Snip and Sip cleaned me up I couldn’t imagine myself clean shaven so I asked her to leave the mustache. Anyway, I went on a blind date just after this and and the woman was slagging off a bearded guy nearby. I was utterly offended and said, “I’ll have you know, you are talking to a Beard.” Like that scene in The Jerk. So, I’d say – beard-core 4 lyfe!

Favourite hirsute poet?

Allen Ginsberg. Though, I’m not so familiar with the hairstyles of poets.

What turned you onto poetry?

I’m so freaking cliché! Like a lot of young, male, writers, my first poetic crush was on Charles Bukowski. He was honest and full of blood and spoke to me in a genuine way. That stuff made me think maybe I could do this, maybe I had something to say which could be said through poetry. It changed my opinion of what a poem was.

Of course, the problems with Bukowski are many. He’s a rubbish role-model and I’ve seen many young poets go too far into the gutter trying to emulate his life style. Second, he’s a d**k. There’s that poem where someone asks who his three favorite poets are and he replies “Charles Bukowski, Charles Bukowski and Charles Bukowski.” He really seems to have felt that there were no good poets around (read Raymond Carver’s poem about him, ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’). This is just wrong. And lazy. From the standpoint of trying to promote and encourage readers of poetry – he’s a real double edged sword and I think it is very unfortunate. Because he does turn people on to poetry, he’s great. However, because of his insulting, posturing, egocentric views, a lot of potential readers don’t read beyond him. Like with music — one poet leads to another and so you listen to, say, The Gaslight Anthem and that leads you back towards Bruce Springsteen, which leads you back to Bob Dylan which goes back to Woody Guthrie. Bukowski, annoyingly, only leads you to more Bukowski. And John Fante – who wasn’t a poet.

Luckily, I was curious enough and went to a book shop where I found Hayden Carruth’s Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey which I loved immediately for its title and later for its incomparable grace. This book, I think sealed the deal between myself and poetry and got me out of Bukowski’s dangerous, self-perpetuating, poetic orbit. It convinced me to read more.

How would you describe the Scottish Poetry Library to a stranger?

Tea and biscuits.

If you could invite any poets living or dead to a dinner party, which would you invite and why?

I think I’ll stick with the dead. If I open it up to the living – I’d probably just invite poets I already know and love and I’d sound all sycophantic.

So, let’s see – my dinner parties usually take 8 (though I’ve only got enough wine glasses for one and enough forks for six…)

I’d like to get Carver and Bukowski back together to live out Carver’s poem ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (An Evening With Charles Bukowski)‘. I’d keep Bukowski away from the ‘hard stuff’ though.

And I’d like to see Emily Dickinson in the mix as I’ve gotten a new found respect for her since visiting her house in Amherst last month. (Look out for the podcast – coming soon.) Basically, I always thought of her as kind of a reclusive weirdo but now I think she was just born ahead of her time, I think she was strong and determined and knew how she wanted her writing to be presented and how she wanted to exist in society and society and the literary world were not really ready for her. I think she’d be awesome.

I’d like to get Richard Brautigan over too because I’ve always had such a massive crush on his writing, his voice is lovely and I think he was great at hanging out. Here’s a favourite anecdote recounted by Keith Abbott:

“Just before dinner was served, Richard made a big show of putting on a Grateful Dead record. He said that he had been saving the record as a surprise for (Robert) Creeley. Bob nodded his thanks. When the first cut started Creeley brought his head up abruptly “This is my favourite cut on that record” he announced. Richard beamed happily. As Creeley listened to the song Richard told a story of all the obstacles that he had encountered during the day in his attempt to find this particular record for Bob. Content that he had made Creeley happy, Richard went back to the kitchen to attend to dinner. When the song was over, Creeley got up, went over to the stereo and, trying to play the cut again, raked the needle across the record, ruining it. “Uh-oh” he said …. At the sound of the record’s being ruined, Richard came rushing out of the kitchen and … going over to the stereo he brought out a second copy of the album from the stack alongside it …. “I’m, ready for Bob this time” he boasted. Then he went on to relate how Creeley had wrecked the very same album on a previous visit.” The song Creeley wanted to hear again – ‘Ripple’ by Robert Hunter. Anyway, let’s put Creeley at the dinner party too. It would be nice to see those guys hanging out again. I still get sad thinking about Brautigan’s suicide. I wish he didn’t.

And let’s have UA Fanthorpe over – because her poem ‘Atlas’ is masterful and I have a lot of questions to ask her about Love. Oh, oh – and can we invite H.D. ? I love her poems and, again, I think she was ahead of her time and I think it would be interesting to chat with her about how she got pigeon-holed as an ‘Imagist’ even after she outgrew that movement.

Lastly, I would love to have Etheridge Knight over. I’d cook a hell of a meal just to say thanks for his poem – ‘Feeling F**ked Up.’ I owe that man about a thousand good meals. Plus, based on his poems and performances, I think he’d be a wonderful person to speak to. Maybe he and Bukowski could trade tales about prison. I think he was funny and sensitive and sweet and incredibly talented. I couldn’t imagine anyone not getting along with him.

What do you miss most about Edinburgh when you’re gallivanting around the world?

What I miss the most, what always makes me happy to come home, are my friends and family at the Forest specifically and my friends in general. You get kind of used to walking around Edinburgh and saying hello and having chats with people on the street and I do miss that when I become a stranger.

Why leave when you can live in a place you can understand and that understands you?

Good question. For those who don’t know – that is a quote from Bill McKibbon and it opens up my collection Tomorrow, We Will Live Here (available at all fine book stores and petrol stations) and I guess the book itself is my answer.

But maybe that is me just trying to sound clever. The book can’t really answer that question because I can’t really answer that question though I think about it a lot and my work is focused on that problem. I often wonder why I left America which I did understand, which did understand me, where my family was, where everything I knew and was comfortable with was. I think I left because I didn’t like being comfortable, it seemed too easy and I probably wanted to challenge myself. And I think I thought an artist shouldn’t get too familiar, too at home in any one place.

And now, I’m perpetually talking about leaving Edinburgh. A city which, for all my criticisms of it, I understand and which understands me, where my friends and work, etc are. Where I feel utterly comfortable most of the time. In fact, I was just talking with Mikey Krumins today (in London) about moving here. He’d just moved to London from sunny New Zealand and neither of us could explain what it is inside of us that makes us want to depart someplace cosy for someplace harder, more difficult, more unforgiving, more ‘real’. I know the poet Kevin MacNeil has been dealing with this conundrum too — why leave? Read the book – tell me if you have the answer.

In your mind/ maybe you are…?

No fair – you’re quoting me! In my mind, I’m still 16 years old – and not in a good way.

Describe yourself as a superhero; a beverage; a town in America…? And why?

Spider-Man / Peter Parker – I feel more like Parker than Spider-Man. I mean, Parker’s life is always a mess. He’s perpetually distracted, exhausted, getting interrupted, ruining good relationships. Yeah, I can identify with that. And if and when I ever get any responsibility, no matter how small, I will say “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Thanks Stan Lee.

White wine, of course. – Because it doesn’t stain. And it makes me very, very happy.

Branford, CT — Because it is home. And when I think of the sea, it is Branford’s coast. And when I think of woods, I think of the woooded trails I ran in High School. And when think of houses – I think of the houses I grew up in, the attics and basements where I became myself.

What to your ear and eye is the finest poem ever written?

That is a totally insane question. The finest poem ever written is probably something I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate if I saw it.

However, the first two poems I thought of – one right after the other – were:

EE Cummings – ‘Buffalo Bill’ — I love that “Jesus / he was a handsome man”, I love the shape, the space, the ‘onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat’


Ezra Pound’s ‘Station of the Metro’ – I really dislike most of Pound’s work but that brevity, that hint of of darkness, I like that.

But these are probably more influential than ‘finest poem ever written’. I think I object to the word ‘fine’. I don’t think I like ‘fine’ poetry. Boring people are ‘fine’. Your girlfriend, when she is angry with you, is ‘fine’. A pair of Cartier earrings are ‘fine’. Poetry should be more than fine.

What’s next for Ryan Van Winkle?

Let’s just get through this year, ok?

Jen HadfieldIt’s a treat to have our Poet of the Month Jen Hadfield dispensing some Sweet Old Etceteras behind the scenes with us, particularly after her lovely performance here at the SPL on 2 July. She sandwiched a fascinating discussion about language and home with Robyn and the assembled between readings from her work, beginning with the eponymous poem in Nigh-No-Place and ending on ‘Paternoster’, and all while perched atop a bar stool from the Waverley Bar. 

She lives in Shetland. Of her two books published by Bloodaxe, Almanacs was written in Shetland and the Western Isles in 2002 thanks to a bursary from the Scottish Arts Council, and it won an Eric Gregory Award in 2003. Nigh-No-Place, written in Canada and Shetland, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2007 and won the T S Eliot Prize for poetry in 2008. 

How is it with you now?

Trying to hang onto the good example of the lasses I was swimming with yesterday at Bannaminn Beach. It’s not as cold as you think, raised and set down by the waves. Beautiful bright water like laughing gas, jaggedy cliffs, and midget plaice scooting about in the shallows. 

Who or what got you writing?

Places usually, place-love…the here-and-now, as if the present tense is always an apprehension of loss. 

What I love…

Walking when the air’s the same temperature as my skin and feels like second skin, oversleeping and waking up in a pre-linguistic state, and so, writing; Owl, my slubby cat – a part of my identity…um…the surprise of a pipefish, fluttering barnacle; watching the garlic grow; my dear folk; trying to photograph hummingbirds. Singing lessons.  Taking on too much.

What I hate…

Taking on too much. Putting non-work before my dear folk. Cabbage-root fly, the buggers.  Being a fretter.

Where’s your native home?

In an ideal world, in the here-and-now, writing. Or in the kitchen of our Lil.  


Tell us more about your art.

Can I tell you more about my cat? Wee shouty fella when it comes foodtime, but so courteous that when once he growled at me by mistake, he came over all remorseful. Sort of oval shaped, in his famous furry grey pyjamas.

The art. Not art just now. I keep trying to paint, I don’t know why, I’m rubbish at it. What seems to come easy is making shapes in wire; or puppets out of broomhandles. The trick seems to be not to try. Whatever I make seems to tie in with the writing about homeplace.

The fancy dress theme is ‘Come as a Poem’. Which poem would you come as and how?

‘I Will Lend You Malcolm’ (W S Graham). In snow-goggles, hello and goodbye like someone who’s not spoken in a long time.

How many seas?

More than I’ll ever visit, unlike my sister…probably…

What’s your poetry for?

That would be the prescription to keep me in the here-and-now. Making me wonder where I am when I’m not writing.

Best impression of Owl?


Describe yourself as a bird; a cake; an item of clothing.

Um, a frumpy little snipe, brink of spring;  nakedness. Not in any salacious way; but clothes ARE perplexing. I’m not really a cake person. A suet-dumpling, or wishbone, I’d say.

What were you meant to do?

Just this, thanks to my very brave and generous family. 

Where to now?

To hang out the washing I think, and answer some emails.

Andrew Philip. Photo by Marc MarnieLadies and gentlemen, please put your virtual hands together for Andrew Philip. We’re delighted to provide the first platform and the first leg on his virtual book tour! Andrew’s first collection, The Ambulance Box, was published this year by Salt, and launched here at the SPL in March. Of his work, Michael Symmons Roberts said ‘A timely reminder of the range and power of the lyric. This is a powerful debut, and Andrew Philip is a significant new voice.’

Andrew was born in Aberdeen in 1975 and grew up near Falkirk. He lived in Berlin for a short spell in the 1990s before studying linguistics at Edinburgh University. He has published two poetry pamphlets with HappenStance Press—Tonguefire (2005) and Andrew Philip: A Sampler (2008)—was chosen as a Scottish Poetry Library “New Voice” in 2006, and starred as our Poet of the Month in March past.

Where did it all begin?

Two Ladybirds: “Tootles the Taxi” and the wonderful “Bedtime Rhymes”, both of which I’ve recently had cause to rediscover. Of course, the fact my mother put me to bed as a toddler with the afternoon play may also have exerted an influence.

All through school, creative writing was one of the tasks I enjoyed the most and was best at but it wasn’t until my sixth year of high school that poetry dug its teeth into me and refused to let go.

What is the weather like at your destination?

Winds light to variable.

Tell us a little of the Andrew Philip writing method

Long hand unless I’m on a shooglie train. A little black Moleskine — oh I do like those Moleskines — for first jottings, a chunky notebook for the serious rough drafting and a foolscap exercise book for when I want to see the overall shape better. Then on to the computer. Usually, there are further changes to the first print-outs.

Actually, there are two chunky notebooks on the go, alternated at roughly two-month intervals to give me distance from ideas. It’s a trick I stumbled on after I was away in Dublin for a month with the day job and rediscovered some rough drafts in a notebook I’d left at home.

There have been periods of outpouring, but mostly it’s hard won. The poems don’t generally end up looking like their initial drafts. If I’m lucky — and occasionally I am — the changes are fairly few. Nothing worth doing is effortless, but the effort extends across all the work you’ve ever done, not simply the individual poem.

Whose understudy are you?

I’m a student of many masters. Doing MacCaig in school broke the idea of free verse open to me. Hopkins and Eliot were early teachers after that, and I’m probably going to go back to Eliot again soon after watching that BBC documentary at the weekend. Donne is essential. Likewise Rilke and Celan. I learnt a lot from Michael Symmons Roberts about writing effective contemporary poetry out of a religious viewpoint, and I’m learning more about that from Gillian Allnutt.

Gael Turnbull has been great for expanding the possibilities; still a lot to learn from him. I didn’t appreciate what he was doing when I first encountered his work, but my eyes gradually opened so that, by the time I got to know him a little, I was ready for it.

Have you arrived at something yet?

Recently, I’ve managed to achieve sufficient Gaelic to begin to appreciate the sound world of the language’s poetry. It’s lamentable how few Scottish poets outside the Gaelic writers have any proper access to that. They don’t know what they’re missing. They don’t know what the Scottish education system has deprived them of. I always loved Meg Bateman’s poem ‘Aotromachd’ (‘Lightness’) in its English translation, but it’s even more amazing in Gaelic.

Andrew Philip


If you had to pick just one poem, the one that means the most to you, which would you pick?

I’d be paralysed. I can hardly choose a beverage without endless deliberation, so how could I manage this?

Okay, if you pushed me, at the moment, it would probably have to be ‘The Night’ by Henry Vaughan: “There is in God (some say) / A deep, but dazzling darkness”. There are other candidates, but that has acquired particular resonance in the past few years.

Your best gig?

The joint launch of The Ambulance Box and Rob A Mackenzie’s The Opposite of Cabbage here at the SPL really takes some beating. The audience is always well disposed towards you at a launch, but to have an above-capacity audience so well disposed to you makes for an incredible night!

Tonight I will be mostly wearing… what?

You’re asking me for fashion advice? I was once known to all and sundry as Andy Hat. I may yet return to that state of grace one day, but the winds around here intromit.

What song?

At the moment, I’m savouring Bruce Cockburn’s two-disc live album “Slice o Life”. Bruce has been part of my life for the best part of 20 years <gulp!> and, although some of his spark has dimmed a little in the past few, he’s still a mind-blowing guitarist and a passionate, intelligent singer-songwriter. His best recordings are just him and his guitar, as all this album is.

Please describe yourself as a poetic meter; a biscuit; a toy from your childhood.

I’d be the caesura — quiet but, hopefully, full of meaning.
Choco Leibniz Dark — good with a strong black coffee; not so good without.
Weebles — I’d like to think I’ve a similar resilience without the girth.

Who’d play you in a film of your life?

David Tennant. I’ve always harboured a desire to be Doctor Who and that would achieve it by proxy.

What did you expect?

I’m not entirely sure what I did expect, but I never expected to have such a handsome — if I do say so myself — book with one of the most dynamic publishers around. Nor to have people say such wonderful things about it as they have been. I’m truly grateful.

After all this time, what has the beach left to say to the tide?

Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

What is the next line in this sequence?

The virtual book tour continues next week at the Crafty Writer and carries on through a variety of stops, including a jaunt to Wales, two to the USA and one to Switzerland.  I’ve a bundle of readings this June: on Sunday 14th, you can take tea with various Linlithgow-based authors including me in the marquee at Linlithgow Rugby Club — all very civilised — and then catch me at the Jekyll & Hyde along with Zorras, Allan Crosbie and Katy-Evans Bush. On Saturday 20th, I’m reading at Word Power Bookshop with Matt Merritt, Rob A Mackenzie and James W Wood. Rob and I are also at the Lot and the Pleasance Cabaret Bar the same day as part of thePROJECT2. The month’s readings finish on the 29th at Lemon Monkey in Stoke Newington, London, with Rob and Katy again and the prominent dissident Chinese poet Yang Lian. After which a significant family event will be taking up plenty time. And if there’s any time and energy left after that, I have plans for an anthology of poetry from post-devolution Scotland.

Tour dates in full:

10 June – Our sweet old etcetera

17 June – The Crafty Writer

23 June – One Night Stanzas

26 June – Douglas Robertson

29 June – Dumbfoundry 

2 July – Boxologies 

8 July – Robert Peake 

15 July – Cadwallender 

22 July  – Poetry Hut 

29 July – Andrew Shields

The Ambulance Box (Salt)

Tim TurnbullHeading up only our second interview-in-residence, we give you Tim Turnbull. Pinched directly from the lovely Donut Press website, Tim was born in North Yorkshire in 1960 and lives in Scotland. He worked in forestry before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University in 2002.

He was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Bursary in 2004, and in January 2006 won the £10,000 Arts Foundation Performance Poetry Fellowship, the first of its kind in the UK. He has published two short collections, Work (Mews Press, 2001) and What was that? (Donut Press, 2004), and his first full collection, Stranded in Sub-Atomica (Donut Press), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Tim recently published es lebt!! (roughbooks, 2009), a selection of his poems in English and German translation.

Where have you come from?

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery, this afternoon, and a splendid place it is too. In the longer term, from Yorkshire via Sussex, Cumbria and Tottenham. Artistically, from writing shouty, bad tempered songs to slightly more sophisticated, though no less fractious, poetry. 

What books/music/influences got you into writing?

I’m reading the 1996 Canongate version of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger at the moment and am alarmed to find that the Picador edition I picked up in the eighties, (I had a girlfriend who was learning Norwegian), might have put ideas into my head. It’s a good job that you can never meet your younger self. I was always a big fan of Sparks, Ron Mael’s lyrics and of course his wonderful moustache.

Is it harder to write prose or poetry?

Prose, as I’m finding at the moment, because there’s more of it. You can’t obsess over a couple of hundred words for several weeks and count that as work. I’m working on a couple of prose things at the moment so come back to me on this one in about a year.

If there was a limit, what’s the one poem you’d carry with you, mentally or actually, and why?

I’m torn between The Ballad of Eskimo Nell and Paradise Lost. It’s a tough call.

Who’d play you in a film of your life?

James Stewart, the only actor gangling enough. In truth I’d like to be James Stewart. He’s my hero.

Describe yourself as a type of cheese; a city; a decade.

Wensleydale: creamy but a little sour; Ripon: no one can quite believe it is a city; the thirties: low, dishonest but with a matinee idol moustache. 

What’s the best gig you’ve ever done and why?

That’s probably the Arts Foundation’s Contenders gig at the Purcell Room, not for the money I won, the prestige or the venue but because, out in the darkness of the auditorium, I could hear Ian McMillan laughing.

If you had to attend a fancy dress party in which the theme was ‘come dressed as a poem’, which poem would you choose, and how would you dress it?

‘The Mask of Anarchy’ by Shelley. I’d come as Sidmouth, riding on a crocodile. It would be a stunning entrance but a health and safety nightmare.

What’s your favourite kind of donut?

I’m not in favour donuts on the whole, except in a blood sugar emergency when it would have to be strawberry jam.

Love isn’t…?

to be trifled with.

Exactly what is it you dig for?

Fire, victory and to get a fine tilth in the vegetable patch.

What CDs would be left in your collection if your car was broken into?

I don’t have a CD player in the car; I’m still on cassettes. I would hope they’d leave the mix-tape of 80s rockabilly with Restless’ version of the Pointer Sisters’ hit, Neutron Dance. It’s not available anywhere in any other format.

In your opinion, what happened to the art of the moustache?

It was brought into disrepute in the sixties and seventies by bohemians, gigolos and swingers. I noticed a few inappropriate Frenchified, nineteenth century efforts on Shoreditch Twits (as I think they’re called) when I was in London the other week. I think the youth should look to classic role models like Duke Ellington, David Niven and Clark Gable. Not enough thought goes into moustaches these days. I’m a great admirer of Brian Johnstone’s moustache, which he says was inspired by R. L. Stevenson.

You’re doing a launch here in the SPL. Tell us more…

We’re launching the new collection Caligula on Ice and Other Poems from Donut at the SPL along with my old mate Tim Wells new book Rougher Yet. The books arrived a couple of weeks ago and I was knocked out. Liam Relph, the designer, has done a knockout job on them. Folks should buy them for Liam’s work, never mind the poetry. Come and have a look on Thursday.

What’s next?

With the Caligula collection out of the way I’m determined to really get going with this bloody novel. It’s about a Goth band called Kunstlicht who live in my head, and monsters. I’m trying to make their music on the computer as well (from bits of chopped up Wagner and Symbolist poetry).  Then I’ve got Latitude festival this summer and Basel and Leipzig, so far, for the German book in the autumn.


We hope you’ll join us for Tim and Tim’s launch, here at the SPL on Thursday 21 May at 7pm…

Quizzing Roddy Lumsden

April 9, 2009


We’re delighted not only to have Roddy Lumsden as our poet of the month, but also as the first to step behind the scenes with us on Our Sweet Old Etc. He’s from St Andrews, studied at the University of Edinburgh and is now based in London. He has published five books of poetry – Yeah Yeah Yeah (Bloodaxe, 1997), The Book of Love (Bloodaxe, 2000), Roddy Lumsden is Dead (Wrecking Ball Press, 2001), Mischief Night: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2004) and Third Wish Wasted (Bloodaxe) just launched in March at StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival in his home town. He teaches at the Poetry School, is a freelance writer and editor, and a quiz maestro.

We lobbed a few Qs his way, and here are his delightful As.

What of your early years?

I’ll try and get this answer down to twenty words if you’ll allow me the one extra necessarily longer one ‘St Andrews’: ‘house; sea; Kinkell; aunts; Cupar; rowans; swimming; Woodburn; football; Langlands; birds; prog; stories; Scarborough; sausages; putting; brothers; quizzes; sand; drumming.

Is everything stolen?

No – I might be persuaded that everything is repeated or rediscovered, but sometimes poets like Chelsey Minnis and Jen Hadfield remind us that words can be put together in ways they have never, ever been before.

Does life spoil us with unfortunate combinations?

Yes, like older brothers who are into prog when you are a child. My poem which mentions this is about combinations of like with near-like, as opposed to the cancelling (or occasional doubling) effect of opposites meeting. All human combinations are dangerous and we need to flick the switch before we trigger the fortune.

What things shouldn’t you know?

…how much of ‘history’ is real because you never can…what people you don’t care about think of you…exactly when you need to be up in the morning…how the absolute magic of music works.

Would you mind revealing a curious brain-bending fact of your acquaintance?

Yes, the sitatunga is the only land mammal which regularly sleeps underwater. It’s an antelope which prefers to sleep in shallow swamp, with its nose peeping out for air, than risk being preyed upon by water-hating big cats during the night.

Also Roddy Lumsden

The fancy dress theme is ‘Come as a poem’ – what poem would you come as and how?

I’m sad to announce that I wouldn’t come – I’m really not a ‘letting my hair down’ sort, to my shame. I did fancy dress once about 25 years ago. I have a bit of an idea for coming as Robert Lowell‘s famous sonnet about Muffin the guinea pig, but am not sure if I should try and come as the creature or the cage.

You recently wrote 30 poems for napowrimo (30 poems in 30 days) 2009 in one day – is this a typical day’s work, and if not, what is?

I didn’t really of course – it was a mildly satirical comment on those who do this. Having said that, when I was finishing Third Wish Wasted last year, I cleared the decks workwise and spent the period between late June and early August only writing and revising poems, often from notes and fragments which had gathered over the past few years. I wrote nearly half the book in that five week period. I don’t have a typical day as a writer – I go with fits and starts. My teaching and editing work is much more structured and built into a routine, which I appreciate.

If there was a limit, what’s the one poem you’d carry with you, mentally or actually, and why?

Always a manifesto piece for me, the second poem of WS Graham‘s sequence ‘What Is the Language Using Us For?’

Do you think poetry is in rude health?

Artistically, yes. Commercially, no. As with all things in British life at the moment, I think there is far too much concentration (by publishers and the media) on a small number of often not very good poets. Our school curriculum favours poor poets with ‘social messages’. Plain fare poetry often gets rewarded by plain fare judges. I’m a big admirer of ‘elliptical / associative’ poetry from the US, though it has been suggested that this strain of poetry had peaked.

Describe yourself as: a metre of verse; a curry; a decade.

I’m a spondee – some say I can’t exist in English.
I’m a korma – mild and sweet but complex.
I’d like to be the 1950s in New York, but suspect I am the 1520s in mid-Fife.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

It would have to be Jack Black I think, though he might have to take voice lessons from Fat Boab.

If you weren’t Roddy Lumsden, doing what you do now, what and who would you be?

I’d like to be a singer. I’d guess that I might be a singer past the age of pop stardom but still highly regarded and engaged like Nick Cave or Jackie Leven.

What’s next?

Everything in my life right now is about this big Bloodaxe anthology I’m preparing called Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets. It’s out next Spring. I also have a pamphlet of poems due around then from tall-lighthouse, the small London press I work with, which is all about various ideas of resurrection and reincarnation.

Thursday evening…

March 19, 2009

Dispatch from the Byre Theatre again. In the bar. Kate Clanchy is chatting to me. Apparently the Mac becomes me. Kate says she can’t believe how beautiful the weather is. Rare indeed to see St Andrews somewhere between the haar and the harsh wind, basking. She’s about to read with Robert Crawford tonight. She has just revealed she plans to read all of Newborn. We wait with breath that is bated.

Today’s delights included the StAnza discussion on Homecoming, one of this year’s key themes. David Mach told stories of returning to Fife after years away, and Thomas A Clark cautioned against the sloganisation of the term Homecoming. Is it different from simply ‘coming home’, to familiar gates and armchairs and slippers? He thought so.

Ooh, Robert Crawford’s just arrived for his sound check. Behind me, Jim Carruth, Lorna Carruth, Colin Fraser, Colin Will, Sarah Broadhurst and Alan Gay are having wine and chat, Eleanor is deep in conversation to my right, and the foyer is beginning to crest with people. Later this evening, there’ll be the StAnza jazz and jam. What’s that? Poets jamming to jazz. Shall report back after that.

But first: pies were distributed by Brian. Our Robyn accepted happily. NB: this picture is not posed.This here is unbridied joy.

Robyn and Brian do three cheers for Stuart of Buckhaven's pies...

Robyn and Brian do three cheers for Stuart of Buckhaven's pies...