Wanna be Clydebuilt?

May 18, 2010

Today is the start of the recruitment for this year’s Clydebuilt poetry Apprenticeship Scheme run by St Mungo’s Mirrorball and Glasgow City Council.

This is a scheme which provides free mentoring from an experienced poet for 4 aspiring poets looking to bring out their first full collection. The scheme is now in its fourth year and has a growing reputation. Poets “graduating” from the programme have gone to be showcased in national poetry festivals, read on Radio 3 and won a number of prizes.

All the entry details are attached and the closing date for entries is Friday 25th June.

To be eligible to be an apprentice you cannot be involved in any other writing course or receiving any other structured writing support as of September 2010 and you should not yet have brought out a full length poetry collection.

If you are interested in applying to be one of the four apprentices what we would like from you is the following:

  • Full contact details
  • A brief biography of your writing career to date
  • 5 poems as typical examples of your work
  • A statement of your short term and long term poetry goals
  • An outline of what you hope to achieve from the support over the next 12 months
  • A clear indication of the time commitment you are able to give both in terms of writing and attendance at the tutorial programme

Then send the submission to Clydebuilt – The Verse Apprenticeship Scheme, Heathfield, Horsewood Road, Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire PA11 3AU or e-mail it to jim@carruth.freeserve.co.uk | St Mungo’s Mirrorball website

I am getting on. My table now
Shuffles its papers out of reach
With last year’s letters going yellow
From looking out of the window.

‘Untidy Dreadful Table’, W S Graham

Today we were delighted to take delivery of the table of which Graham writes in the above poem. It is resident in the little retail corner of the SPL, for now adorned with Portraits of Poets (photographs by Christopher Barker, edited by Sebastian Barker, Carcanet, 1986) open at Graham’s page bearing the above poem. The table has been gifted to us by Sylvia Thompson, a close friend of W S Graham’s; we are very grateful to have it. It is delightful – robust, rectangular and quite low, pocked with cigarette burns. We are told it sat beside the window.

Owen Sheers

January 20, 2010

Last night we got the inside track on what it was like to host the hugely popular Poet’s Guide to Britain programmes, part of last year’s BBC Poetry Season, from poet and novelist Owen Sheers.

In case you didn’t catch the programmes – and some of last night’s audience hadn’t – there were six in total, each taking an element of landscape and looking at that through the prism of just one poem. Thus, London and city life were explored via Wordsworth’s ‘ ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’; villages and towns with Lynette Roberts‘ ‘Poem from Llanybri’; islands with George Mackay Brown’s wonderful ‘Hamnavoe’ (‘My father passed with his penny letters/ Through closes opening and shutting like legends’); woods and forests using Louis MacNeice‘s ‘Woods’; coast and sea with Arnold’s haunting ‘Dover Beach‘ and mountains and moorlands with Sylvia Plath‘s ‘Wuthering Heights’.

We watched the opening sequence of the ‘Hamnavoe’ episode, then Owen spoke to our Robyn about how the series came about, how he chose those six poems, and the many more that have subsequently been collected in a companion anthology, A Poet’s Guide to Britain (Penguin) (there are still a few of these left to purchase in the library if you want to get your grubby mitts upon one). Robyn was especially interested in how his selection criteria was defined by the private lives of the poets  –  would people have tuned in in such numbers to find out more about a poet who had gone about their poetic business without drama or controversy, without having lived in interesting times? The immediate and tangible benefit of the programmes was dwelt upon – sales of George Mackay Brown books soared a whopping 800% on Amazon, and we certainly experienced a surge of interest here in the SPL – was this part of the plan or happy side-effect? She wondered if Owen felt poetry lent itself well to a visual medium. The audience wondered if the BBC will make another series.

We can tell you that the episodes are soon to be released on DVD, and the afore-mentioned book is out and available here and in bookshops near you. We’ll be featuring fragments of this event in an upcoming podcast, as well as a quick chinwag snatched by Ryan –  in ten short minutes, he somehow unearthed that Owen was one of the masterminds behind C4 The Big Breakfast‘s regular feature ‘Streaky Bacon‘ – in which, according to Wiki, “Richard Bacon would get a member of the public out of their house to ‘streak’ along their street wearing nothing but bacon-covered underwear in order to win a large supply of bacon from their local butcher.” As you do. An evening both entertaining and informative, it was particularly gratifying to see Lynette Roberts’ and George Mackay Brown books being borrowed straight away, to sell a few of Owen’s books and to have people rushing to the stacks – bringing people and poetry together: yes sir.

Back in August, as clouds came and went over the Sound of Jura, a group of poets were focusing their thoughts and translation energies on Robert Burns and on the fall of the Wall: the 250th anniversary of the birth of one, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the other. We called the workshop – under the auspices of Literature Across Frontiers and the SPL – ‘Revolutionary Europe’. That title meant very different things to poets from Germany, Romania and Poland, and to us in Scotland. One of the many wonderful works that came out of the pressure-cooker at Crear, where the poets simmered for a week, was a poem by Michael Augustin that began with memories of children playing round the wall: no longer cowboys and Indians but defectors and police. And Scots provided just the right register for its mix of bleakness and humour, in the capable hands of Donny O’Rourke. So we’re marking that very significant anniversary today by featuring Michael’s poem (in the original German) and Donny’s translation on our site, and plan to follow it with more of the excellent poems from that very fruitful workshop – some of you may have heard them read at Crear itself or at the Book Festival in Edinburgh. The SPL is a window on the world as well as a window on  Scotland: these workshops show how we keep that window open, and the breeze blows both ways.

SH's signature in our guest bookIn a week that has featured balmy autumnal weather; the launch of our Carry a Poem website (remember gang: poems are for every day, not just for funerals!)  and the invitation to tell us which poems you carry with you; not one but several notably super tea time treats, with particular reference to M&S deeply chocolatey mini rolls and Moomin biscuits from Finland; the launch of Lesley Harrison’s One Bird Flying (Mariscat) on Monday evening, and the resumption of the School of Poets writing workshoppers on Tuesday, it was a massive pleasure to have a visit from Nobel Laureate, and ‘one quarter of the SPL’s honorary presidency’, Seamus Heaney on Wednesday. He popped by en route from Newcastle back to Dublin, to join us for a wheen of canapés and a toast to the friends and supporters of the SPL these past 25 years. It was a magnificent evening, and he, a magnificent, charming man.

Forward thinking

July 23, 2009

Forward cover 2009The Forward Prize shortlists have been announced, after ‘a record number of submissions’. The £10,000 Best Collection category  is a who’s who of contemporary poetry titans: Don Paterson for his yet to-be-published Rain; Peter Porter for his 18th collection, Better Than God; Glyn Maxwell for his ninth collection Hide Now; Christopher Reid for A Scattering, the first book published by Arete Magazine edited by Craig Raine; Hugo Williams for his autobiographical West End Final and Sharon Olds for One Secret Thing.

In the Best First Collection category are: Wordsworth Trust’s Poet in Residence Emma Jones for The Striped WorldSiân Hughes, a postgraduate student at Warwick who is nominated for The Missing; Swansea-born Meirion Jordan for Moonrise; Lorraine Mariner, who works at the Southbank Centre’s Poetry Library, for Furniture; JO Morgan for Natural Mechanical, a book-length poem charting the self-education of Iain “Rocky” Rockcliffe as he truants from his school on Skye; and Meghan O’Rourke for Halflife.

The prize for best single poem will be contested by Paul Farley for ‘Moles’; Michael Longley for ‘Visiting Stanley Kunitz’; Robin Robertson for ‘At Roane Road’; Elizabeth Speller for ‘Finistere’; George Szirtes for ‘Song’; and CK Williams for ‘Either/Or’.

Many of the shortlisted will be appearing in Edinburgh this festival: at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 23 August at 7pm, Sharon Olds; Don Paterson, reading alongside John Burnside, will be there on Sunday 29 August at 2.30pm; Peter Porter and Hugo Williams are reading with CK Stead on Saturday 22 August at 10.15am; Emma Jones is reading there with Gillian Clarke and Lorna Crozier on Monday 24 August at 10.15am; Robin Robertson with Michael Symmons Roberts on Sunday 23 August at 4.30pm. J O Morgan will read from Natural Mechanical and discuss book binding at the West Port Book Festival on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 August. Emma Jones is conducting a residential weekend course in Cumbria with Jacob Polley in November.

New writers?

July 22, 2009

SBT logoWe’re very happy to flag this up on behalf of our pals up the road at the Scottish Book Trust: the New Writers Awards (formerly the Scottish Arts Council New Writers Bursaries) will provide eight  unpublished writers with financial support to enable them to concentrate on their work, as well as providing professional guidance to move towards publication. This includes all you new poets out there!

Recipients will receive a cash award of £2,000, and, in addition, Scottish Book Trust will provide tailored professional development support, e.g. mentoring or professional development planning, or an advice session with a publisher/agent. Scottish Book Trust will also provide networking opportunities with publishers/agents. New Writers will be given three months to work on their material before moving forward with professional development support.

Tell me more!