Photo credit: The Giant Vermin / flickr

We have been sifting through a mass of applications for the position of SPL Communications Manager: arriving at a shortlist was difficult. There are many talented people out there, but even they haven’t grasped some essentials in making an application. We thought it might be useful to offer a few pointers.


  • try to restrict your covering letter to 1 or 2 pages and your CV to 2 pages
  • show an understanding of the organisation’s aims and ethos
  • connect your skills with its needs
  • communicate a sense of your personality: lots of people claim to be competent, calm and team-players – what makes you stand out?


  • repeat in the covering letter all the information in your CV
  • give the impression of a cut-and-paste application e.g. leaving in the name of another organisation to which you’ve applied
  • start off with your birth date and/or marital status – not relevant or required these days
  • make spelling mistakes, especially when claiming that attention to detail is your strength!

Thank you to everyone who applied, though. We appreciate your interest!


Gods, Heroes and Foxes

December 7, 2011

Robyn reflects on Ted Hughes, and Kay on Christopher Logue, who died on 2 December. 

The only time I heard Ted Hughes read was at Westminster Abbey in 1985, when the stone honouring sixteen poets of the First World War was unveiled. He had an incredibly powerful presence – I could have listened to him read all day. It was the year he became Poet Laureate, and he wrote to his old friend Terence McCaughey: ‘What is most strange of all is the role I now play in the rusty locked-up heart of the Anglo-Saxon common man woman and child. Very peculiar.’ Now it’s his turn to be honoured, with the stone unveiled yesterday, adjacent to that of T.S. Eliot, his publisher. Hughes’s stone is inscribed with lovely lines from his poem ‘That Morning’:  ‘So we found the end of our journey / So we stood alive in the river of light / Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.’

Liz Lochhead has recently been down to Mytholmroyd, Hughes’s birthplace, to judge the poetry competition run by the Elmet Trust. I asked her what her favourite Hughes poem is, and she plumped for ‘The Thought Fox’, that vivid evocation of the animal and the arrival of a poem. Hughes himself remarked that ‘occasionally I could enjoy the beautiful experience of breaking though a sound barrier and floating at a speed beyond sound, effortless; that happened in the little poem Thought Fox.’


  Saying these things Patroclus died.

And as his soul went through the sand

Hector withdrew his spear and said:


It was the right poetic encounter at the right time. As a third-year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, with an embryonic dissertation title on a post-it note (‘MYTH & POSSIBLY RETELLINGS?’), I put out a plea: what am I missing? A friend on the other side of the pond responded with the passage above, from Christopher Logue’s War Music, presented without comment. And she was right.

To say War Music blew the cobwebs away is an understatement: it was more vivid than any action sequence on film, with moments that couldn’t have been more different from my standard diet of nineteenth-century books about books. In one case ‘APOLLO!’  fills the spread of two pages , to be followed by ‘Who had been patient with you, / Struck.’ The god’s strike is after the turn of the page and in standard type size: a tiny gesture from a massive presence, and a perfect illustration of the positions of gods and men in Logue’s version of Homer’s epic.

Everything, including the short introduction, bore reading again and again. Like my friend, I went on to press it on others with urgency and to read the subsequent additions: Kings (1991), The Husbands (1995), All Day Permanent Red (2004) and Cold Calls (2005). Its stamp on my mind is indelible.


All power to the poets, whose work never dies.


Communications Manager

November 18, 2011


The Scottish Poetry Library is a dynamic organisation, a unique national resource and advocate for poetry. We are expanding our team over the next few months, and are initially looking for a Communications Manager to start in January. This will be a full-time post, based at the SPL in Edinburgh, working with the team to enhance the SPL’s profile and to bring people and poetry together.


  • to develop and manage the SPL’s communications strategy
  • to ensure that our social media maintains and expands its high profile: managing the blog, communicating via Twitter, Facebook and Flickr
  • to manage the website – maintenance, creation of content, commissioning
  • to manage communications generally: with press, radio, television, other organisations
  • to manage communications with our audience specifically e.g. a weekly email
  • to assist in marketing the events programme
  • to assist with the creation of regular podcasts
  • to edit the Poetry Reader twice a year
  • to act as liaison for and diary assistant to the Makar, Liz Lochhead
  • to communicate the Makar’s activities to the general public and stakeholders

Essential skills

  • A graduate with a wide knowledge of and enthusiasm for poetry
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Time-management skills, and an ability to work under pressure
  • Ability to take the initiative as well as work collaboratively
  • Significant experience in social media and communications
  • Attention to detail


  • £20,000 per annum starting salary


 See the attached background information for a general description of the SPL’s work:  SPL background for CM post

If you wish to proceed with an application, please send your CV with an accompanying letter, setting out your reasons for applying for this post and drawing attention to particularly relevant qualifications.

Please let us know where you found out about this post.

Referees’ names should be included but references will only be taken up in the event of your being selected for the post.

Applications should be addressed to:

Dr Robyn Marsack, Director, Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DT

and emailed to:

The closing date is midnight 4 December 2011.

We expect to interview short-listed candidates on 12 December.

Catching up…

December 13, 2010

After a quiet, snowy week, it has occurred to us that we have failed to be suitably excited about our new, shiny Christmas present to the shop.

We were very excited when it arrived. So excited that we mistook it for one of our own staff.

However, it was not an extra Peggy. It was, in fact, our new turning, spinning, small items presentation stand.

Its minimalistic beauty can't be fully appreciated until you see its wider context.

Silliness mostly aside, and getting into the spirit of the festive season, we have some gift packages to take away for £15, containing:

Ten Seasons

co-published with Luath Press
ed: Gerry Loose
Photographs: Morven Gregor

Through the Letterbox

published by Renaissance Press
Haikus by George Bruce, illustrated by Elizabeth Blackadder, collected and edited by Lucina Prestige

Poet Prints

21 new portraits of Scottish writers, including Douglas Dunn, Andrew Greig and Jackie Kay. Postcards collected into one volume- perfect for sending individually or giving as a gift whole.
Edited by Ken Cockburn and Colin Cavers.

Also included is one of our specially designed leaf cards with red envelope.

Individually, these items would cost up to £20, but as a gift pack, you can get the lot for only £15. Perfect for giving to friends and family or keeping for your own holiday reading. We think they’re rather pretty as well:

Our online shop, found here, has a selection of items we have for sale. However, we have much more on our shelves- if you can’t make it to the library before Christmas, please do give us a call on 0131 557 2876 or email us at


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.

A very poetic thank you!

October 29, 2010

Via our ‘Lost for Words’ service, Lizzie recently received an enquiry: the enquirer’s husband had but a few half-remembered lines from ‘distant youth’; could Lizzie fathom the rest?  She sprang into action, the poem being ‘The Train to Glasgow’ by Wilma Horsbrugh, a longer poem published on its own as a children’s book, as well as being included in several anthologies.

We were delighted today when Lizzie received a thank you poem, written in the style of the rediscovered ‘The Train to Glasgow’, and doubly pleased to have Mr Miles’ permission to reprint it here.

This is a thank-you to Lizzie MacGregor,
That very kind lady who sent me the letter,
A poem from childhood a tale of a train
And the guard and some hens and that Donald MacBrain.

Now many years later recite I still can,
As far as young Donald’s hauled into the van,
But what happened next I just could not recall,
And no one I asked knew this poem at all.

Now things have moved on since those dim, distant days,
Our world of computers provides us with ways,
So, the whole of the poem’s come back in my life,
With thanks to you Lizzie and Jacquie my wife!

Penned by Peter Michael Miles – 29th October 2010

During the Edinburgh International Book Festival, an international delegation came to Edinburgh under the auspices of the British Council ‘Bookcase’ programme. The group comprised cultural practitioners from all over the world; festival directors, programmers, writers, facilitators and, as well as a packed daily programme of book festival events, they took time to lunch in several literary institutions across the city. We were delighted to co-host a lunch here at the library in collaboration with our close neighbours, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, on Saturday 21 August.

Our Robyn and Donald Smith, director of the Storytelling Centre, both gave welcomes and explanations to our international visitors about our respective organisations, programmes and activities, and as a result of mentioning our love of all things social media, Canan Marasligil, Project Manager of the Benelux Region for the British Council invited me (Peggy) to Brussels to talk to the Benelux Innovators group about how we engage with audiences using social media channels. I went just last week to take part in a meeting in the wonderful Bozar on the broader topic of ‘engaging with audiences’ (a topic close to the hearts of programmers and communications people everywhere!) and spoke alongside Sophie Hayles, from the Whitechapel Gallery in London and Duncan Speakman – artist, theatre maker and creator of subtlemob.

Sophie was really interesting on the particular concerns of drawing local audiences to your space, pertinent to the Whitechapel Gallery in light of its original didactic and site-specific mission to ‘bring great art to the people of the East End of London’, and on international partnerships. Duncan meanwhile explained how he has used the concept of a subtlemob to bring audiences into a shared, public experience using music and dialogue to ‘make films without cameras’. I talked about all of you, our loyal readers, who read our blog and share our tweets and like our Facebook stuff, you who make communicating poetry such a pleasurable dialogue, and hardly like work at all. We projected images of the Scottish Poetry Library, inside and out, for all the Benelux network to see: for that moment, and in continued dialogue, the Scottish Poetry Library spreads its work to Brussels, the Netherlands and Luxembourg!

It’s excellent to be a part of this network, and I’m very grateful to Canan and the British Council for the invitation; it was invaluable to meet others from the sector outside of Scotland who are engaging with their audiences and each other about how to communicate – and listen – effectively.  Staying on for the remainder of the weekend, I had a fabulous time exploring Brussels. I particularly enjoyed visiting the exhibitions and cinematek at Bozar, the music in St Gery, the superb English language bookshop on Wolfengracht (which has a great poetry selection!) and felt it would’ve been culturally remiss not to sample the local fare… I’ll leave the moules, beers, waffles and chocolates for another time…