His name is Ricoh…

March 24, 2009

Ricoh  is our new colleague. We’ve just had an intensive getting to know you session, and this guy has got some serious bells and whistles up his sleeve. He can do all the usual tasks and more – make brochures, offer six different kinds of stapling, store data to your computer from a photocopy, and he can turn scans into pdfs.

You may have guessed, Ricoh is our new photocopier. In the words of Tennyson, ring out the old, ring in the new. Here’s Ryan using Ricoh’s skills to prepare for tonight’s Nothing But the Poem session. Doesnt he look happy to have Ricoh on his side?



All SPL deckhands are back on board after a StAnza hiatus. When asked what banter had occurred in our absence, Lilias said just the usual – a ceilidh band arrived for an impromptu session which ended up in a 5am lock in, an epic car chase squealed down the close causing two minutes pandemonium and a pigeon flew in and recited Sorley MacLean’s Dàin do Eimhir agus Dàin Eile word perfect from start to finish.

Just another few days at the office then.

Splodcast meeting

March 17, 2009

Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone! We’ve just had a webtastic podcast meeting. Lilias (Reader Development Officer), Ryan (Reader in Residence and Podcast Content Forager), Colin Fraser (Podcast Producer) and I (Peggy, Communications Officer) ate Mini Eggs chcolate nest cakes (Ryan refused – ‘swimsuit weather is on the horizon’) and discussed the desired frequency of our podcasts (once a month), and what material Ryan has already accrued (lots).

To make a podcast, Ryan chats to folk and records it on our recording beetle (a cross between a fancy electric shaver and a thing from Star Trek) and he gives the material to Colin. Colin takes out the errs, hmns, sneezes and conversational asides, edits events to make them podcast fit and makes everything snap together like a well-done sum. Lilias puts it up on the website, and I attempt to let everyone know it’s there by shouting about it on Facebook and etc.

You can find our podcasts by visiting our Reading Room, which holds many podcast unrelated treasures. In our first, Ryan had excellent chat with Billy Liar about Robert Louis Stevenson, he recommended books by Sam Meekings and Sharon Olds, and read some Hart Crane.

As you perhaps saw in Happenings 2, our second podcast has just gone live. Called ‘Opening Lines’, you can read all about it here.

Back to the meeting. It was quite loud. We got distracted by news from the Golden Hour Tour of the North, to Applecross, Inverness, Dufftown and Aberdeen. I took this picture to try and capture the scene, but it looks a little posed. Probably because I was standing on a chair, exhorting everyone to look the way they’d look if they were at a meeting. I was hoping for something Titian-esque, but this was the best we could manage:

Colin, Lilias and Ryan try to look natural

Colin, Lilias and Ryan try to look natural

We hope you enjoy our podcasts, and that if you do, you’ll share the love with others who might. We want them to bring you into a lovely world of poetry and chat. Our next one will have interviews with hip young poet Claire Askew, Poetry Schmoetry‘s Ishbel McFarlane talking about her favourite Burns poems, and some sound snaps from a few of our events.

Next time, Our Sweet Old Etcetera will be coming live from StAnza! Well maybe not live Guardian-live-blog styley, but as live as we can manage. Hope you’ll tune in…

Get with the programmer

March 9, 2009

Our flash green out and about bags. Louis Vuitton eat your heart out.

Our flash green out and about bags. Bought from Bolton Council. Spray painted by Jane. Make and do, people! Louis Vuitton eat your heart out.

Lilias here. We’re putting together the events programme for April into July, and as usual I’m pleading for extensions on all sides. An extra week? A couple of days?  OK, would end of the day be all right? But despite a wee bit of hair-tearing and melodrama, putting the programme together is one of my favourite things. I get a little obsessive about it, interrupting Jane or Peggy or nearest victim to demand whether they think we should try to persuade X to come and read from her latest collection (what do you mean, you think travel from Alaska could be a problem?), or whether they can think of the ideal novelist to recall poetry about cockroaches for a special themed evening. Or worse, a tantalising prospect is dandled in front of us: there’s the option to invite Y, but we’d have to work out the travel, get round the fee question, and fit in with existing commitments on three continents in the same week.

Don’t think I’m alone in that, either – Fantasy Literature Programming is as much fun as Fantasy Football. More. This week, though, it really would help if I got my mind firmly onto the next stage, of definite dates, and checking start times and arrangements, and trying with Jane’s help to write descriptions of events which are irresistibly attractive and crystal clear and will fit in the available space – print costs, folks – so preferably no more than about 11 words.

Nobody ever has as much cash as they’d like for poetry programmes. Every time I think self-pityingly about how we’re on a shoestring, I end up talking to someone who’s working with half a shoestring. And also, as a literature friend often reminds me with an affectionate smack to the head, you don’t always need funding to make things happen, and sometimes you want it more to validate your ideas than to get things underway; to an extent, sometimes ingenuity and lateral thinking is more useful than a magic financial wand.

There’s no doubt that a bit of belt-tightening is necessary about the next programme – though honestly, we’re rarely guilty of extravagant behaviour at the best of times.  So it seems even more important that I try to make sure that any event that will cost more than usual has the best possible chance not only of looking interesting, but of actually making lots of people throng to the library. Yesterday I idly added up the likely cost of a pet event I’d been thinking about – the likely fee, accommodation, travel and so on – then divided it by 50 (the maximum number of people we can usually squeeze into the library for a reading).  Just one poet reading, and a full audience rather than a workshop-sized event. Even before taking into account the possible proportion of full-price and concession price tickets, the number made me howl and redo the sum in case the calculator was playing up. OK, we are subsidised with arts funding partly so that we don’t always have to play safe, and so that the events don’t have to make a profit or always break even, and very grateful I am for that too!  But that particular pet event is staying safely in my imagination for the near future.

Honestly? So far? John Burnside and Linda Gregerson. Jen Hadfield (yep, the T S Eliot prize one). Meg Bateman with poets from India, poetry of New Zealand and –  courtesy of Ryan and his Reel Iraq colleagues – Saadi Yousef, Sinan Antoon, Gulalal Nouri and Al Mozany…

Right;  Jane’s handed me a first proof. Got to go.

We had a surprise visitor to the SPL yesterday. Remember we blogged about picking poems, and I mentioned how delightful it had been to read
J O Morgan’s Natural Mechanical (CB Editions)? I picked these 20 lines for the Scotsman poem of the week and having seen it, J O Morgan paid a visit yesterday. We get visits from poets quite often, but always nice to meet a new one, and to know that our poem of the week is reaching folk.

Of course, the SPL is always this glamorous and rock n roll. This afternoon, for instance, was spent packaging up the Poetry Reader for dispatch to our far-flung outreach collections. We have 13 supplementary collections, from Orkney to Ullapool. They receive postcards and posters from us too – bringing people and poetry together hurrah!

This afternoon's work

This afternoon's work

An amazing find…

March 3, 2009

Oh we are very excited at SPL HQ! Lilias has just stumbled upon a wonderful book entitled The Faber Book of Useful Verse, edited by Simon Brett (Faber, 1981). Although we work here and are surrounded by this library of treasures all day, it’s lovely to find ourselves astounded.

Look at the joy on that face:

The Faber Book of Useful Verse; useful and happifying

Lilias with The Faber Book of Useful Verse; informative and happy-making

Its contents announce it Useful For: Those Contemplating Children; Latin; The Sciences; Miscellaneous Occasions and All Circumstances, to mention but few. We have been particularly entertained in the food category by ‘The Story of Augustus Who Would Not Have Any Soup’ translated anonymously from Heinrich Hoffman, and ‘A Curious Discourse that Passed between the Twenty-Five Letters at Dinner-Time’. Another, which Lilias left cunningly open upon my desk, entitled ‘Rather Too Good, Little Peggy’, ‘a true story’ by Adelaide O’Keeffe (1776 – 1885), pleased enormously. This whole book, from its poetic advice on how to cure hops and prepare them for sale to the rhymed mnemonic of the forty counties of England, is altogether rather too good.

This morning we took delivery of the biggest box I’ve ever seen. If you took the trouble to cut a door in it, a couple and their three children could have lived comfortably inside! Well, perhaps not. But it was so large it wouldn’t fit through the door. We stood around mystified: our new photocopier? A washing machine gone awry down Crichton’s Close? Once some of the outer swaddling had been dispensed, and it was manhandled safely in, we discovered it to contain special storage boxes for our Edwin Morgan Archive.

Meet Lisa, SPL’s Edwin Morgan archivist:

“H. Another complimentary – for your archives! E. 7-8-1985.” –  from Edwin Morgan to his friend Hamish Whyte inscribed in A Second Scottish Poetry Book and just one example of the range of materials that now make up the Edwin Morgan Archive which I am cataloguing at the SPL.

Books, of course, make up a majority of the items, which is unusual since an archive usually consists of unpublished materials. It’s the inscriptions however, by Morgan, and the accompanying correspondence that makes these published works unique. It’s far from  just a collection of poetry: it also comprises works of fiction from his personal library or works that he contributed to, including the Celebrity Cookbook to which he added a recipe for fish and chips!

The materials in this special collection also include journals, newspapers, audio and video files, posters, ephemera, and even Morgan’s desk and typewriter. I even get to sit at his desk and work but I think I will stick to using a computer and not his typewriter…

An admiring welcome for Edwin Morgan's Bluebird typewriter

An admiring welcome for Edwin Morgan's Bluebird typewriter from Lizzie, Julie and Jane

cupcake2We’re always sniffing about for new ways to shout about the Scottish Poetry Library and decided to plump for the blogosphere – a way to share all those links and pics and newsy nothings that occur in SPL land every day. We hope you’ll join us as we find our blogging shoes.

But important matters first: here’s a really nice sicilian lemon cup cake, the like of which Lilias and I had at tea time, perched artistically upon our latest Poetry Reader…