Last year we joined forces with the Edinburgh International Science Festival to hear from Paul Murdin and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell on the anthology Dark Matter: poems of space, and we’re delighted to be tag-teaming again this year for two events, happening this week!

Sophie Cooke & Russell Jones at the Genomics Poetry Competition prize-giving at the Scottish Poetry Library in January 2011 © Chris Scott

Our first event is a Genomics Poetry Party: we invite you to join us on Wednesday 13 April (tomorrow) at 6.30pm, when Sophie Cooke and Russell Jones, both prize-winners in the Genomics Poetry Competition, will read their winning poems and some others; judge, and poet, Kona Macphee, and novelist and poet Tracey S Rosenberg will join us too. It promises to be a fascinating evening and we’re really looking forward to it! If you can’t make it, our latest podcast features Sophie and Russell, talking about why they are drawn to science fiction as a literary form among other things, and the podcast before that stars Tracey and science fiction writer Ken MacLeod. All in the name of science!

On this day Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he took off

Nothing is not giving messages - Edwin Morgan. Vinyl lettering, part of our Bawr Stretter! exhibition celebrating the opening of the Edwin Morgan Archive in 2009

aboard a Soviet Vostok capsule on April 12, 1961 and completed nearly a full orbit of the Earth over 108 minutes. It seems specially apt then that our Lilias, in preparation for the second of our two events with this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival, has been riffling through anthologies of poems of space and science. She’s unearthed lines such as ‘Time sped and slowed. The constellations shifted/ bringing us messages in particles of dust and light’ (from ‘A Dream of Constellations’ by Deryn Rees-Jones, which, in Poems of Dark Matter, is transposed into Morse code, in honour of the astronomers who sent Morse code out into space for whoever was there to receive them). If you’d like to delve into discussion about poems of science, then join Lilias for our Nothing But the… Science Fiction Poetry on Thursday 14 April here at the library at 6pm.

Meanwhile, our friends up the hill at the Scottish Storytelling Centre have thrown themselves into the science festival with great gusto, and they’ve got something for everyone! Why is Snot Green? How Does the Weather Work? Murderous Maths! These are just some of the … delights in store!


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.

If you get plugged into this week’s podcast, in which Ryan chats to storyteller Judy Paterson, you’ll find out that the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is in full swing. Running from Friday 22 – Sunday 31 October, the theme for this year’s annual celebration of traditional and contemporary storytelling is Eastern Routes: Authentic Voices.

Bringing together world-class storytellers, academics and educators from Sweden, Norway India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan with some of Scotland’s finest wordsmiths in a 10-day celebration of ancient and contemporary oral traditions from East and West, we’re particularly excited to be involved here at the Scottish Poetry Library, with three events happening in our bookish glasshouse.

TONIGHT! We have great pleasure in welcoming Alan Spence and Mio Shapley; novelist and haiku poet Alan will discuss the allure of the Japanese aesthetic in art and literature, followed by an enticing sample of the pleasures of the tea ceremony with Japanese storyteller Mio Shapley.

On Thursday evening (28th), we’ll learn more about the Road North, a project by poet Ken Cockburn and artist and collaborator Alec Finlay. ‘Ten years ago, living by The Meadows with their gean blossom walks, I dreamt up a project, to take Bashō’s Oku-no-Hosomichi as a routemaster for Scotland, traveling as he and Sora had, from the capital, Edina for Edo, on the road north to the Western Isles. And now it’s begun.’ Come for the story, stay for the whisky…

And on Saturday 30th, we’ll be joined by poet and indefatigable traveller W N Herbert, who has walked the Wall and followed the Silk Road and is currently working with eminent Chinese poet, Yang Lian, on a book of translations from contemporary Chinese poetry. This promises to be an illuminating hour in the company of a consummate storyteller and inventive poet.

There are loads of events happening at the Scottish Storytelling Centre – another award-winning creation of Malcolm Fraser Architects – further up the Royal Mile; follow this link to download the whole festival programme in pdf.

Our latest podcast went live. It features Literary Editor for the Scotland on Sunday, author and cultural commentator Stuart Kelly chatting with our Ryan. They discuss the poet John Berryman and muse upon the current state of modern poetry, its future, the purpose of the critic and chew the literary cud.



The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry shortlist has been announced:

Jackie Kay for Maw Broon Monologues (performed at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow). A full-length performance combining rhythmic verse, music and theatre.

Dannie Abse for New Selected Poems 1949-2009: Anniversary Collection (published by Hutchinson 2009). A celebration of the 60th anniversary of Dannie Abse’s first collection After Every Green Thing.

Paul Farley for Field Recordings: BBC Poems (1998-2008) (published by Donut Press 2009). This work brings together Farley’s broadcast poetry for the BBC over a ten-year period.

John Glenday for Grain (published by Picador 2009). Fourteen years in the making Grain is at times delicately lyrical and at times playful or surreal.

Alice Oswald for Weeds and Wild Flowers (published by Faber and Faber 2009). This is a magical meeting of the visionary poems of Alice Oswald and the darkly beautiful etchings of Jessica Greenman.

Chris Agee for Next To Nothing (published by Salt Publishing 2009). Next to Nothing records the years following the death of a beloved child in 2001.

Andrew Motion for The Cinder Path (published by Faber and Faber 2009). Motion’s collection offers a spectrum of lyrics, love poems and elegies all exploring how people cope with threats to and in the world around them.

The winner will be announced at a prize giving ceremony in London on the 30 March. The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life. Members of the Poetry Society or the Poetry Book Society are invited to nominate a living UK poet, working in any form, who has made the most exciting contribution to poetry in the past 12 months. The £5,000 prize has been donated by Carol Ann Duffy, funded from the annual honorarium which the Poet Laureate traditionally receives from H M the Queen.

Ryan sits down with Edinburgh’s Makar (poet laureate) Ron Butlin during a recent visit to a slightly noisier than usual Library (apologies for the melody of the office stapler going like the clappers in the background) and discusses where his poems come from, the differences between writing poetry and prose, and what it’s like to write for musicians – of the popular and operatic variety. We also get the chance to hear a few poems from Ron and listen to an excerpt from the short opera ‘The Voice Inside’ by composer Lyell Cresswell for which Ron wrote the libretto.

Or better yet, subscribe using iTunes or RSS feed! It’s completely free…

“I was struck by the great sadness of this landscape” – Mark O. Goodwin

Fresh podcast with which to nourish your ears!  Subscribe with iTunes or subscribe using RSS – you’ll thank us! Means you can be ahead of the pack when our podcasts go live… If you can’t get your head around that, you can use the rudimentary player on our hosting page.

Ryan managed to squeeze in a goodly few chats during his recent trip with our Lilias to northern climes and this episode, the second in our ‘Highland Trilogy’, features a fascinating conversation with Gaelic poet Maoilios Caimbeul and English poet Mark O Goodwin. Their recent collection, The Two Sides of the Pass (Two Ravens Press, 2009), is a conversation in poems across two languages and the landscape of the Isle of Skye. Presented by Ryan van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser. Incidental music by Ewen Maclean.

Well, definitely Hamish, but only sort of Doris Lessing… In this week’s podcast, Ryan speaks to Hamish MacDonald, director of Moniack Mhor, recorded during a recent foray to Skye and Inverness. There’s also a wonderfully haunting track by Sheila K Cameron entitled ‘Last Night I Dreamed About Doris Lessing’. Why not pop on some cans and have a listen? Someone over on Twitter said listening to our podcasts was like having his brain licked. And we know he meant that in a fabulous way…

Get it while it’s hot! Ryan and Robyn took part in a discussion about home as part of the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Storytelling Festival – Robyn was born and bred in New Zealand and Ryan in Connecticut in the U.S. – and they got together to talk about the poems they’ve carried with them overseas. It was so enthusiastically received that podcast producer Colin decided we should stage a reprisal one afternoon in the library. And we did, and here it is. Also on here, a specially commissioned, fabulous reinterpretation of Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’, by Toby Mottershead and the Black Diamond Express. I don’t know about you, but my ma (and apparently Ryan’s too) used to read this to us every single Christmas eve. What a treat. Of course, Black Diamond Express have conjured up quite a different rendition to the one to which I’m accustomed… A personal sadness to find out that Moore doesn’t look like Santa Claus, as I’d always secretly hoped.

Kapka speaks

December 11, 2009

This week’s podcast is out and golly it’s a good ‘un. In it, Ryan reveals the poetry books he’ll be buying for folk (hope his family weren’t listening…) and speaks about the ones he’s particularly enjoyed this year. Then he badgers SPL staff to do the same. Enter Kapka Kassabova, fabulously outspoken ‘cultural mongrel’ who now resides in Edinburgh having come via Bulgaria, New Zealand, France and Germany. She speaks about the value of poetry, how long it takes for a poem to gestate and her feelings about landscape poetry, to name just a few topics…

Ladies and gentlemens, our podcast is out! Plug in and kick back as Ryan talks to Francis Bickmore, senior editor at Canongate Books, and Toby Mottershead of Edinburgh band Black Diamond Express about Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘. Their discussion covers Nick Cave, Iron Maiden, what we expect from literature and how poetry can fit neatly into a busy schedule, among other things. It also features the track ‘Jack’ by Black Diamond Express.

The above picture was taken by Flickr user Ottoman56 and we are grateful to use it under a Creative Commons license. It features wedding guests. See what we did?