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.

Our friends at the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust are celebrating Robert Louis Stevenson Day all day on Thursday 17 November. You can wear velvet, tweet using the hashtag #RLSday, read facts and quotes posted on @EdinCityofLit, read poetry quotations @ByLeavesWeLive, take part in events happening all day and brush up on Robert Louis Stevenson’s works at the authoritative website here. 

We asked our Assistant Librarian, Lizzie MacGregor, for some of her reflections on Robert Louis Stevenson’s work:

I recently read Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel Weir of Hermiston for the first time, and was absolutely enthralled by it – they didn’t call him ‘Tusitala’ (storyteller) for nothing.  Many critics believe that it would have been Stevenson’s best novel, had it been finished, and certainly in it he has excelled in manipulating settings and characters; the sense of impending doom becomes so real that I was quite relieved when the book comes to a sudden halt  (RLS died in the middle of chapter 9).

One of the pleasures of reading Stevenson is his masterly dialogue. When Lord Hermiston thunders from the judicial bench or from the head of his dining table you recoil from his harsh pronunciations, and when Kirsty starts on a tale of her redoubtable family’s misdeeds you feel you are sitting with her, in the Borders farmhouse, staring into the fire, all ears. And they are talking in Scots, of course.

Image: Collected Poems of RLSIf Stevenson was so adept at handling Scots in his dialogue, why does his poetry in Scots have the reputation for being weak? There is an interesting chapter in the book Scotland and the Lowland Tongue (published by Aberdeen University Press in 1983) called ‘An awkward squad: some Scots poets from Stevenson to Spence’ in which Kenneth Buthlay traces the uneasy development of the use of Scots in poetry from the second half of the 19th century, until the Scottish Renaissance got underway in the early years of the 20th. He thinks that Stevenson did not apply the same craftmanship to his poetry in Scots as to his English, and generally deems Stevenson to have considered his Scots versifying as being just that, talking of his ‘deprecating attitude towards what he writes as being, not poetry, not even respectable verse, but just crambo-clink: ‘I rhyme for fun’ ‘.

If there was a weakness, would it have stemmed from the fact that Stevenson might have felt awkward writing poetry in Scots, because of the risk of association with the post-Burns rhymsters of the Whistle-binkie school?  I have always felt, though, that Stevenson’s poetry in Scots, while maybe not quite having the sustained strength of, for example, the tales of Thrawn Janet or Tod Lapraik , is written with a deal of energy, and fun. ‘It’s rainin … / A maist unceeivil thing o’ God / In mid July …’  And did anyone but him ever capture Edinburgh’s weather so well? The ‘snell an’ scowtherin’ norther blaw’, the ‘blast an’ blaudin’ rain’ (with of course, the antidote: ‘let the winter weet oor cla’es – We’ll weet oor thrapples!).

Derrick McClure, in his book Language, Poetry and Nationhood (Tuckwell Press, 2000) talks of ‘the unmistakeable sense of physical energy which prevails in his poems’, and puts it down to a preponderance of Scots verbs – a ‘forceful lexicon’.

One thing’s for sure – 161 years after his birth, Tusitala still enchants.

#PoetsAtoZ update

November 16, 2011

We’re still on A! Here’s the requests today [you just had to rhyme -Ed.]:

Always remember: ‘There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.’ Fleur Adcock, from Things

You came back into the room/where you’ve been living/all along. You say:/What’s been going on/while I was away? – Margaret Atwood

Give me a word/ any word/ let it roll across your tongue/ like a dolly mixture. – Patience Agbabi

expecting the second feature / expecting the second coming / expecting the last post / expecting to be late – Kenneth Allott

Talk some, write some,/ keep some in the archives/ of the heart – John Agard

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!

Sorley MacLean

November 15, 2011

We’re looking forward to Polygon’s launch of Sorley MacLean’s Collected Poems, Caoir Gheal Leumraich / White Leaping Flame at the Library on Wednesday. The jacket image is so evocative – not the elder statesman of Gaelic poetry but the young man who knew that he was an ‘idealist democratic revolutionary’ when he was twelve. The photograph suggests vulnerability, eagerness and energy in equal measures.

I always thought that poets would ‘collect’ their own poems with great care and discrimination, whereas in fact some are quite cavalier, even careless. When Carcanet Press first proposed to publish a collected edition of Sorley Maclean’s poems in 1988, I saw him literally gather together old proofs and photocopies, convinced he’d managed to mislay some important poems along the way. Some of them have at last been recovered.

This new collection is a work of impeccable scholarship, edited by Christopher Whyte and Emma Dymock. It’s also a tribute of devotion to the poet who hauled Gaelic poetry into the twentieth century – albeit not single-handed – and assured its place in the great world of European poetry, in the company of Yeats and Blok and Valéry. It’s a fitting conclusion to this year of centenary celebrations.

~ Robyn

Highlights by Peggy

November 9, 2011

After almost four very happy years here at the Scottish Poetry Library at the communications and events helm, I (Peggy) am setting sail for pastures new. Well, sailing up the hill and joining the team at the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust. I’ve been tasked with picking a few highlights from those four years; Emily Dickinson’s ‘As if I asked a common Alms‘ comes to mind, so lovely, surprising and numerous have those highlights been. But – in no particular order –  here goes…

Flashmob for Burns:

Flashmob for Burns outside St Giles Cathedral, 1pm on Tuesday 25 January 2011. Man with harmonica sets the key. Photo by Chris Scott.

In which we are trying to think of something imaginative with which to toast Robert Burns, on Burns Night 2011. A flashmob flies to mind! The Let’s Get Lyrical campaign team come on board, Twitter goes wild with suggestions and we plump for ‘A Man’s a Man’ (‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is amusingly hard to sing…), to be sung en masse outside St Giles Cathedral on a mizzly Tuesday afternoon. A practise recording of me warbling ‘A Man’s a Man’ is snuck onto youtube. (A woman at a party would subsequently swear that we had met previously; we had not – she had seen this mortifying clip.) The press flock for interviews and photos. A 100 strong throng raise their voices in song, to the delighted surprise of passers by (warning: working at the SPL for 4 years will have anyone writing in rhyming couplets). Good times.

The Poetree:

The Poetree. Photo by Chris Scott

Regular readers of this blog will need no introduction to the ‘poetree’; irregular readers can acquaint themselves with this most delightful of stories by reading this. In short, it was a normal, quiet March morning when our librarian Julie Johnstone stumbled upon the wee tree, left for our attention on a table on the mezzanine with no clue to its provenance. Just a note:

It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)

You can, should you wish, listen to our Lilias and I havering about it on this audioboo from the Guardian’s Michael MacLeod. The mystery artist has continued to leave surprise sculptures at cultural venues around the city. There are 7 in total now. Needless to say it’s one of my favourite things to have happened and continues to warm the cockles months later on a damp November day. Dear Artist, I don’t want to know who you are but I hope you know how much joy your gift continues to bring.

Meeting Seamus Heaney:

As a Northern Irish person who loves poetry, I can’t overstate Seamus Heaney’s  place in my imagination. Picture then the unadulterated joy that accompanies this set of announcements: ‘Seamus Heaney is dropping into the library’ and: ‘Peggy, could you please meet him off the train.’ And so it was that I waited at Waverley (45 minutes early, just – y’know – in case); what would I call him? immediately dissolved as, seeing him alighting, I hollered ‘Seamus, what about ye?’ My mother had mentioned that I might want to tell him our family friend Harry McGoldrick had gone to primary school with him, but I omitted that, and was delighted that the conversation in the taxi turned naturally to accents, how I hadn’t lost mine, not a bit of it, that to tell my mother that I sounded as Larne as the day I had left. We picked apart the word ‘wheen’ in particular. Great word, wheen. Great man, Seamus Heaney.

Douglas Dunn on the Castle:

Douglas Dunn's words from 'Disenchantments' projected onto the Castle Rock. Photo by Chris Scott

As part of the Carry a Poem Campaign, in partnership with the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust in 2010, lines from Douglas Dunn’s poem ‘Disenchantments’, suggested by our Lilias, were projected onto Edinburgh’s Castle Rock on Valentine’s Eve. Need I say more? We phoned Douglas who couldn’t be there to see it in person; ‘how do I look?’ he said. We replied ‘You look fabulous.’

Twitter & Facebook:

When I arrived at the library almost 4 years ago, my job title was Communications Officer: I sat at the front desk and handled enquiries and book circulation matters, answered the phone, signed us up to Twitter and Facebook, and started this here blog. Though I subsequently took on events programming, and enjoyed it very much, one of the best things about working here at the library continued to be the good folk of Facebook and Twitter. All human life is there, both international and local, known and people we’ve yet to meet, ready to share their opinions and recommendations, to consider cakes and quatrains, music and metre, biscuits, ballads and banter. Edwin Morgan wrote: ‘Nothing is not giving messages’. I’d say nothing is not receiving them! I have met some very fine people among that constant stream of infotainment, and look forward to following @byleaveswelive and being a fan of our Facebook page and joining the conversation from the other side.

EdTeaUp food squircle quadriptych. By Flickr user Oolong aka Fergus Ray Murray featuring the cakes of @NemesisRepublic, our Lilias and @SPLShop

Other highlights include: John Hegley; punk band, Shields Up, performing in the library on a Saturday afternoon, as part of the Wee Jaunt. Jings!;  Poets for Haiti at the Queen’s Hall, and sampling the Poet Laureate’s sherry, otherwise know as the butt of sack! EdTeaUp, when we drank tea and ate cakes with friends from Twitter; many By Leaves We Live fairs over the years; ditto StAnza Poetry festivals; working with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and many other splendid partners; talking about the library in Brussels and Ullapool and Wigtown and Newcastle and other places too. Top podcast: who could forget the simulcast from WSPL Radio: Real Poetry Radio featuring their presenter Ryan “the Wolf” van Winkle interviewing Scottish folk music sensation Jed Milroy. I’m glad to have worked with everyone here, people past and present, with their great and individual passions for poetry, and of course all the cakes. It’s been a real pleasure doing business with you all and I hope our poetical paths will continue to cross!

Ruaraidh MacThòmais aig 90

November 1, 2011

Robyn reflects on making books, typography and Ruaraidh MacThòmais

The ratio of pleasure to anxiety in book-making varies considerably: in the case of Mar Chomharra: Ruaraidh MacThòmais aig 90 (Derick Thomson at 90: A Celebration) I think the ratio was 3:1, there being a slight anxiety as to whether it would be ready for 31 October. As it was proofed by the Gaelic scholar Ian Macdonald, and our own Jane Alexander caught a mistake in the English – ‘planning’ for ‘planing’ – unnoticed in the original edition, the normal anxiety over typos was very faint.

The pleasures are obvious: celebrating the work of a great poet; gathering in choices from – among others – Aonghas Macneacail and Liz Lochhead, and seeing the patchwork of pages turn into something elegant in the hands of designer Gerry Cambridge. A man of many talents – poet, photographer, naturalist, teacher, editor of The Dark Horse and typographer – Gerry chose ‘Tacitus’ as the title font and apparently it’s the first time this font has been used in Scotland. Another reason to buy this limited edition, bilingual pamphlet, as your introduction to or keepsake of the poetry of Derick Thomson.

The launch this week was hosted by Glasgow University’s Celtic and Gaelic department, where Prof Thomson was an authoritative presence for 28 years. He was also a founder of Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (the Gaelic Books Council), which published the pamphlet in association with the SPL. Younger Gaelic poets Peter Mackay and Niall O’Gallagher were among those paying tribute to Derick Thomson as a poet of Lewis and Glasgow; Niall indeed suggested that Thomson should be regarded as one of the trio of great writers about Glasgow, alongside Edwin Morgan and Alasdair Gray:

and if a Dante survives
he doesn’t have far to go
to find an Inferno;
but my Paradiso is lost
somewhere in Glasgow.

’s ma tha Dante fhathast ann
chan eil fad aige ri dhol
gus a lorg e Inferno;
ach tha mo Pharadiso-sa caillte
am badeigin an Glaschu.

from ‘Air Stràidean Ghlaschu (15)’ /‘On Glasgow Streets’ is from Smeur an Dòchais / Bramble of Hope  (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1991). Niall O’Gallagher chooses it in Mar Chomharra: Ruaraidh MacThòmais aig 90.