A – Z requests

November 15, 2011

On twitter and facebook, we said:

Feeling in an A-Z sort of mood here today: tweet us the name of a poet beginning with A and we’ll seek out a line from their work for you 🙂

And you did! 

Here’s the responses from today:

For @bunnethustler on twitter:

For love must be spoken, not whispered, that it may be/ seen and heard. It must be without camouflage,/ conspicuous, noisy – Yehuda Amichai

For on twitter:

I finally wrote down the words/ that for so long I dared not say – Anna Akhmatova, 1910

For many, many people on twitter:

It was late, late in the evening,/The lovers they were gone;/The clocks had ceased their chiming,/And the deep river ran on – Auden

For @idea15webdesign on twitter:

No one knows / my lonely heart / when we’re apart. – Maya Angelou

For on twitter:

Now they are no longer/ any trouble to each other/ he can turn things over, get down to that list/of things that never happened – Armitage

For Helen Addy on facebook:

 ‘Souls are divorced many times. They exist as discarded fragments – a name left behind, / an unfashionable scarf, / nail parings. / They are so light without us.’  – Moniza Alvi from ‘Without Us’ in Souls, 2002

Pending requests:

Atwood, Agard, John Ash, John Ashbery, AA Milne (“I reckon we file him under M… but could make an exception later maybe :)”), Dafydd ap Gwilym (“Had a look and we do have some by him (but we file under G – is that wrong?)”), Anderson, Anonymous, Apollinaire as in Guillaume Apollinaire, Adcock, Arnold.

Keep them coming in!

A Christmas present suggestion, or maybe forward to a friend who likes to have new ideas and fresh resolutions lined up for January.  You heard it here first: in response to feedback (I do read those forms, you see), we’re planning an extended ‘Getting Into Poetry’ introductory course. Same approach as the 2-session version – we just want people to feel fired up and confident about reading poetry for pleasure – but taking more time about it so we can look at more poems, etc. We’ll have a whole new extra session on some of the poetry that crosses into visual art, courtesy of our Librarian, Julie, using some toothsome examples from the SPL’s special collections. Give me a shout if you want to know a bit more – or feel free to forward to a friend who might be interested and ask them to contact me, lfraser@spl.org.uk to book or investigate.

Getting Into Poetry – the new, 4-session version, starting 22 January

4 weekly Saturday morning  1.5 hour sessions

£65 full price /£50 conc & SPL Friends

Friendly and encouraging ‘absolute beginners’ course on reading poetry for pleasure * Explore rhyme and form * go beyond the printed page * discover new poetry with expert advice * develop your reading strengths * pick up a ‘toolkit’ of technical terms * get a personal plan of what to read next *


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 reception@spl.org.uk.

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.

I saw an article about potential Christmas best-sellers over the weekend (hard to think of this in July: no one in my family is allowed to mention the December word until 1 November at the earliest). One poet was a contender, of course, because a new collection from Seamus Heaney is always an event. Among the autobiographies they didn’t mention Mark Twain’s, although the first volume of his unexpurgated story is appearing this winter, and sounds as entertaining as anything produced this century.  “I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value,” Twain writes. “However, let it go,” he adds. “It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.”

Incidentally, when he was invited to an official White House dinner during Grover Cleveland’s presidency, he went, but was warned by his wife not to wear his winter galoshes. At the White House, he asked the first lady, Frances Cleveland, to sign a card on which was written “He didn’t.”

I wonder what he talked to Cleveland about – I know that they were deeply opposed on one issue at least: Cleveland said: ‘  Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote’, while Mark Twain said (in 1901): ‘I should like to see the time come when women shall help to make the laws. I should like to see that whiplash, the ballot, in the hands of women.’ Rather more pithily put than William McGonagall managed: his heart was in the right place but his pen…

But the time is not far distant, I most earnestly trust,
When women will have a parliamentary vote,
And many of them, I hope, will wear a better petticoat.

And I hope that God will aid them in this enterprise,
And enable them to obtain the parliamentary Franchise;
And rally together, and make a bold stand,
And demand the parliamentary Franchise throughout Scotland.

~ Robyn

Lisa’s been reading Cold Comfort Farm, and we had a little chortle about this exchange between Elfine and Flora:

Elfine progressed. Her charming nature and Flora’s wise advice met and mingled naturally. Only over poetry was there a little struggle. Flora warned Elfine that she must write no more poetry if she wanted to marry into the county.
‘I thought poetry was enough,’ said Elfine, wistfully. ‘I mean, I thought poetry was so beautiful that if you met someone you loved, and you told them you wrote poetry, that would be enough to make them love you, too.’
‘On the contrary,’ said Flora, firmly, ‘most young men are alarmed on hearing that a young woman writes poetry. Combined with an ill-groomed head of hair and an eccentric style of dress, such an admission is almost fatal.’
‘I shall write it secretly, and publish it when I am fifty,’ said Elfine, rebelliously.
Flora coldly raised her eyebrows, and decided that she would return to the attack when Elfine had had her hair cut and seen her beautiful new dress…

– page 137, Penguin, first published 1932

A week or so ago, our colleagues up the road at the Scottish Book Trust unveiled their plans for summer reading. Now we enjoy a good list, and we also love a good book, so the natural next step was to compile our own…

Lizzie (Assistant Librarian)
It would be so nice to really read some poetry slowly rather than just hunting through it … I could start with any of Iain Crichton Smith’s …

Shoring up some time for Dark Matter: poems of space as I didn’t get time to take it in when it first came out

Anna of all the Russias: the life of Anna Akhmatova by Elaine Feinstein.

And as a break from poetry (yes, really!): Lustrum, the second in Robert Harris’s trilogy about Cicero

Julie (Librarian)

Art and Text from Black Dog Publishing – I got this for my birthday – full of images of work by artists using text.

I’ve just finished Sarah Bakewell’s biography of Montaigne so I’m now going to work my way through his The Complete Essays.

At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig is in my summer pile.

I’m interested in sound and silence at the moment, so have a pile of books on those subjects, including Listening by Jean-Luc Nancy

I’m planning to catch up with a couple of Bloodaxe lecture titles – Silent Letters of the Alphabet by Ruth Padel, and Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise: Three Generative Energies of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield

Poetry I’m thinking of:

The Best of It:  Selected Poems by Kay Ryan has caught my eye and is my must-buy read (the cover and design is gorgeous)

And  then I’m planning to spend some time really getting to know the work WS Merwin, Charles Reznikoff, Lorine Niedecker, WS Graham

And dip again into some constant favourites, such as Thomas A Clark, Robert Creeley, John Burnside, Alice Oswald

And I really want to spend lots of time exploring http://www.ubuweb.com/ – a fantastic source of visual, sound and experimental poetry and other artforms

I’m not really reading novels that often any more but I do like Scandinavian crime now and then. I’m thinking of starting the influential Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö from the 1960s.

Robyn (Director)

Orlando Figes: Natasha’s Dance: a cultural history of Russia

Bill Manhire: The Victims of Lightning [poems]

Lorrie Moore: A Gate at the Stairs

Kay Ryan:  The Best of It: new and selected poems

Into The Deep Street: Seven Modern French Poets 1938-2008, translated by Jennie Feldman, Stephen Romer

Laura (intern)

Bill Bryson – At Home,  A Short History of Private Life

Carol Ann Duffy – Love Poems

Curtis Sittenfeld – American Wife

John Carlin – Invictus

J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings

George R. R. Martin – A Feast for Crows ( Book 4 of a Song of Ice and Fire)

Jules Watson – The Swan Maiden

Lisa (intern)

Just now I need to finish a huge biography of George I by Ragnhild Hatton. I expect my summer will feature some David Roberts murder mysteries, as Amazon recommended him for me, and some Mary Stewart. I also intend to read The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey, and maybe some more Alys Clare, I just finished one of hers and loved it… can you spot a strong crime and suspense theme? Other than that I will stroll down to my local library and take home anything that looks promising.

Peggy (Communications Officer and Events Programmer)

I am currently entertaining a torrid obsession with the work of novelist Richard Yates, which has recently been heightened by a wonderful gift of the titles I didn’t have. Having just read Disturbing the Peace, and currently on A Good School, the ones left to read (sadly few) are A Special Providence, Liars in Love and Cold Spring Harbor.

In order to delay the pain of finishing the above too quickly, I intend to finally tackle some of the bedside books that have been piling up of late. I’ll be dipping into Alex Ross’s tome The Rest is Noise, an epic sweep of the story of 20th-century music, and Dennis O’Driscoll’s Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney, a more manageable tome now it’s in paperback.

There’ll have to be a bit of Paul Muldoon: in preparation for our summer exhibiton Plan B, Muldoon’s poems interpreted through the photography of Norman McBeath, I think now’s the time for his The End of the Poem: Oxford Lectures. I’m also dying to finally read Robin Robertson’s The Wrecking Light and Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs.

What are you reading?

We’ve been exchanging experiences of learning poems by heart, prompted by Alison Flood’s Guardian post on the subject.

Robyn: On the train this morning I was reading an interview with Christopher Ricks, literary critic and current Oxford Professor of Poetry. He said that  ‘after lunch every day when I was an undergraduate, I used to sit for half an hour and memorise things’.  Ricks declares that ‘Everybody ought to be able to speak from memory the whole of “The Voice”…’ by Thomas Hardy (a wonderful poem – if you don’t know it, please look it up), but admits that he himself ‘can’t do the whole of it’ and interestingly relates this to ‘the thing which is contentious in Hardy, the dear awkwardness’. He goes on to say that ‘it’s not true of all the good poets that their lines are easy to memorise’: fluency and rhyme assist memory, but of course predictable rhythm doesn’t mean great poetry – although it doesn’t rule it out, either.

I know I ought to use my train journeys to memorise poems, as good mental exercise and as an insurance against my worst nightmare: being stuck on public transport with nothing to read.

Lilias: Several people have kindly been compiling lists of the poems they think older people will have learned or read at school, which is incredibly helpful – I have Lizzie’s pile of great school poetry readers by the desk to try and find poems that will spark memory in people in carehomes who are beginning to forget other things.

When it comes to memorizing, Burns seems to be the one that all age groups memorized, and still learn via the Burns Federation Recitation Competition.  Though I’ve been trying to memorise ‘Prayer’ – I use it often enough you’d think I would have it engraved on my mind! – and it’s difficult to get the rusty machinery into action but I’m triumphant when I get another line down.  Oh dear – use it or lose it. (Molesworth trying to memorise poems is pretty much what I sound like..)

I _can_ do you a cheery rendition of Houseman’s ‘Into my heart an air that kills’. I think.”

Peggy: I have almost all of Robert Service’s ‘Cremation of Sam Magee’, (but am still put to shame by my 83 year old grandmother, who has it, and others, all by memory), can reel off bits of Edward Lear and still suffer flashbacks of G.K. Chesterton’s ‘The Donkey‘ (force-learned at primary school for recitation in front of our headmaster, age 7), but not much more.

Which ones would you recommend Lilias read with the folk she visits in care homes? What poems do have by heart? And which ones do you intend to learn?

Our Robyn edited  the ‘Best New Zealand Poems 2009‘ – ‘mitigating the withdrawal symptoms I’d begun to experience after reading so much poetry for the anthology I edited last year with Andrew Johnston, Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets (Carcanet Press, 2009) – and selected, among others, a poem by Gregory O’Brien about the racehorse Dylan Thomas – ‘Dylan Thomas (B.2003), Coolmore Stud,  New South Wales’.

The poem has since been emboidered onto a fine horse blanket by Noel McKenna (pictured) and will be worn by a racehorse later this month at Noel’s exhibition opening in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney. Unfortunately it won’t be Dylan Thomas wearing the poem on this forthcoming occasion. D. T. is presently busy at stud in Ireland and won’t be back in Australia until September. So a similar horse, of some eighteen hands in height, will be wearing the custom-built blanket.

Poetry in motion? The smart money is moving…


February 4, 2010

A midweek missive to apologise for the relative silence of the past few days – we’ve been manically carrying poems in aid of our Carry a Poem campaign. As you know we launched on Monday, we had group reading sessions on Monday and Tuesday eves, and we’ve just dispatched some folk with their very own handmade ways of carrying poems (on which more tomorrow!). Our projections went live across Edinburgh and the stories and photos of how and why you carry your poems keep piling in.

In the midst of this, John Hegley stepped up to the mark as our Poet of the Month (or ‘Feb deb’, as he said…), and our latest podcast featuring John Glenday and singer-songwriter Kim Edgar went live.

We’re also in at a great stage of a mega-exciting project, which we’ll tell you all about next week. But for now, get frabjous. It’s going to be _amazing_…

We were wondering whether Scottish poets would continue to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry at roughly ten year intervals? It’s true that only 4 years elapsed between Norman MacCaig, the first Scottish poet to receive one, and Sorley MacLean in 1990, then it was awarded to Edwin Morgan in 2000, and Don Paterson on the cusp of 2010…

The Gold Medal for Poetry was instituted by George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield. The honour is awarded for excellence in poetry for either a body of work or an outstanding poetry collection published during the year of the award. The medal itself is a rather gorgeous object (we’ve seen EM’s), designed by Edmund Dulac, and shows Truth emerging from her well and holding in her right hand the divine flame of inspiration. Write on, Don!

~ Robyn