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Scottish Poetry Library Podcast Number 3!

March 30, 2009

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Ishbel McFarlane reads Burns' "To A Mouse"!

Listen here:

The third of our hip, techno-savvy podcasts is up and streaming at the SPL website, and features recent visitors and events hosted by the library, including the aptly-dubbed Noisy Day. There’s clips of acoustic punk Billy Liar, freelance folk adventurer Chandra, Pavel, who recorded Burns in Czech for us, also Robert Crawford and Douglas Dunn discussing the release of a new anthology Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, even more Claire Askew, editor of Read This Magazine, discusses Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and we have Ishbel McFarlane reciting Burns’ ode, “To A Mouse“. All for your enjoyment: Listen here.

Interview on BBC Scotland Book Cafe – 16 Feb, 2009

BBC Radio Scotland invited me to appear on The Book Cafe on Monday 16 February. I spoke to host, Chris Dolan, about poetry and my job as Reader in Residence. I’ll also got a chance to share some of my favorite poems with Sam Kelly and the writer Denise Mina who wrote the Garnethill books as well as Hellblazer for Vertigo. I tried to match poems to people’s reading, music and film tastes.

For those wondering what poems I recommended:

Chris Dolan: New Heart by Federico Garcia Lorca & Grief by Matthew Dickman

Sam Kelly: Succubus by Tim Turnbull & Burial by Momcilo Nastasijevic

Denise Mina: The Gun by Vicki Feaver & Cuckoo Corn by Paul Muldoon

Let me know what you think of my choices and if you’d like me to suggest a poem for you!


April 6th – Golden Hour Tour Fundraiser!

March 25, 2009

ghfundraiserOn Monday, April 6th The Bowery (2 Roxburgh Place), in association with Forest Publications, is hosting a special non-Wednesday edition Golden Hour to raise funds for the Golden Hour European Tour! The more we raise, the further we can take our literary cabaret into the continent, so come along, get a free copy of Stolen Stories, and enjoy Edinburgh’s awesomest literary hoedown. It is a reading. It is a gig. It is a party.

Only £4 on the door, includes a free copy of Stolen Stories, the latest release from Forest Publications!

But who is performing? These people are performing:

Words:

Ericka Duffy – hot new prose from her hot new chapbook called Succubus!

Jason Morton – stories that can eat bricks.

Ryan Van Winkle – little poems and long stories from the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library.

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Jane Flett – seamstress of most fetching stories.

bottlesMusic:

Billy Liar – Acoustic + infectious punk.

Faith Nicholson – spellbinding noises get eaten by bears.

Jed Milroy – singer songwriter and hunter finally back from the Woods.

Withered Hand – intense, eccentric, bitter-sweet and very wry original songs.

plus, surprises on the night for your delectation…

£4 on the door, includes a free copy of Stolen Stories, the latest release from Forest Publications!

The shenanigans start at 8pm! All proceeds help pay for ferries, petrol and sustenance for our upcoming European tour, and every penny will help us take the Golden Hour from Cambridge – Amsterdam – Berlin – Paris – London. So come along to The Bowery!

Northwords Now #10

March 24, 2009

issue10http://www.northwordsnow.co.uk/index.html

Nothwords Now has posted my poems Everybody Always Talking About Jesus and Retrieving the Dead in issue 10. It features other great poems by Sally Evans and Hugh McMillan.

* Browse the current issue online or download the whole thing here.

Nothing But The Poem – An All-Male Revue

March 23, 2009

Our Nothing But The Poem session at The Forest was, oddly, all male – a striking contrast to the session I’d recently run during a retired ladies’ lunch at St Columba’s Church in Edinburgh. At that session, I was the lucky winner of pink and turquoise bath salts – which just goes to show how fluid and flexible these workshops are.

Anyway, we began with a poem from the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa which I thought would be a gentle opener:

There was a moment

Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa

There was a moment
When you let
Settle on my sleeve
(More a movement
Of fatigue, I believe,
Than any thought)
Your hand. And drew it
Away. Did I
Feel it, or not?

Don’t know. But remember
And still feel
A kind of memory,
Firm, corporeal,
At the place where you laid
The hand, which offered
Meaning – a kind of,
Uncomprehended –
But so softly…
All nothing, I know.
There are, though,
On a road of the kind
Life is, things – plenty –
Uncomprehended.

Do I know whether,
As I felt your hand
Settle into place
Upon my sleeve
And a little, a little,
In my heart,
There was not a new
Rhythm in space?

As though you,
Without meaning to,
Had touched me
Inside, to say
A kind of mystery,
Sudden, ethereal,
And not known
That it had been.

So the breeze
In the boughs says
Without knowing
An imprecise
Joyful thing.

———————–
Fernando Pessoa from ‘Fernando Pessoa: Selected Poems’ English translation by Jonathan Griffin

We started off briefly discussing the choppy way it is written – the way the poem seems to resist flow, the way that first sentence feels awkward as marbles in the mouth. But, it was generally felt that Pessoa was in control of this – the form and rhythm mirroring a kind of uncertainty in the narrator who, himself, is uncertain of what that hand on his sleeve means. Certainly Pessoa feels the ephemeral mystery of love boiling in him but, from the beginning, he undercuts this emotion with flat-out doubt. “(More a movement / Of fatigue, I believe, / Than any thought)” he says in the only bracketed lines. Of course, this is not parenthetical information, it is essential. We’ve all been in the moment Pessoa has presented – we’ve choked on that unknowing, that uncomprehending. Which, we felt, was the poem’s point. Yet, the narrator optimistically steers himself towards taking joy from the moment, even if the moment was “imprecise” at best.

Next we looked at an Elizabeth Bishop poem, one I liked for the way builds and for its more-or-less unsentimental yet empathetic look at a mental hospital.

Visits to St. Elizabethsbishop

[1950]

This is the house of Bedlam.

This is the man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the time

of the tragic man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch

telling the time

of the talkative man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a sailor

wearing the watch

that tells the time

of the honored man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the roadstead all of board

reached by the sailor

wearing the watch

that tells the time

of the old, brave man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls of the ward,

the winds and clouds of the sea of board

sailed by the sailor

wearing the watch

that tells the time

of the cranky man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat

that dances weeping down the ward

over the creaking sea of board

beyond the sailor

winding his watch

that tells the time

of the cruel man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a world of books gone flat.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat

that dances weeping down the ward

over the creaking sea of board

of the batty sailor

that winds his watch

that tells the time

of the busy man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a boy that pats the floor

to see if the world is there, is flat,

for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat

that dances weeping down the ward

waltzing the length of a weaving board

by the silent sailor

that hears his watch

that ticks the time

of the tedious man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls and the door

that shut on a boy that pats the floor

to feel if the world is there and flat.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat

that dances joyfully down the ward

into the parting seas of board

past the staring sailor

that shakes his watch

that tells the time

of the poet, the man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the soldier home from the war.

These are the years and the walls and the door

that shut on a boy that pats the floor

to see if the world is round or flat.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat

that dances carefully down the ward,

walking the plank of a coffin board

with the crazy sailor

that shows his watch

that tells the time

of the wretched man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

Elizabeth Bishop from The Complete Poems, 1927 – 1979

I was surprised to find that this was the least favourite of the group. We talked about how well-structured it was and how it did feel like visiting Bedlam, how the images and beats were interesting, fresh and even seductive. However, while admired, there were some hang-ups. Such as – who is the man, is it the same man or a different man, is each stanza a separate visit (they each feel like separate visits) and why do the same things happen each visit? Generally, however, we did come around to the idea that as the narrator visited Bedlam she gradually got to know more about the patients who were stuck, perhaps, in their own past. The dancing widowed jew, the staring sailor, the tedious man, and lastly, the soldier were all in the same physical space, having gone mad, but previously having their individual lives and wives and watches and that go along with those things. We felt, Bishop’s poem requires one to wonder what has brought them all there, what connects them and has kept them apart from the world.

Next we looked at a Harry Smart poem which I choose because I can almost feel Summer in my bones.

Summer Evening

It’s time to stand by the window

And be a fine man.

There is, after all, the quiet hour

Before the dances

And the bars begin to be noisy.

The birds’ late calling

Louder than the far road’s noise

Is broken, often,

By a soft hush, loud whispering;

No-one is alone.

The solitary lie bears repeating.

The time is grey doves.

It’s time to stand by the window

Holding an airgun,

Seeking the grey doves in twilight.

Harry Smart published in Pierrot by Faber and Faber, 1991

I’ve been well into Smart since Mr. Nick (Holdstock) recommended him to me a few months ago so I was pleased to bring one of his poems to a session. We all liked the control and pace of this one and found some of those short lines like, “No-one is alone” and “Holding an airgun” to be quite startling. There is definitely a tension in here, a sadness, a desire for both silence and not-silence. Now, keeping in mind we’d all met on a Saturday afternoon (and were all guys), the group eventually talked itself into a little narrative about a man who is going to go out and head to “the dances”, have some beers, maybe try to pull a few “birds”. (You see where this is going?). So, watching birds out a window becomes like watching TV on a Saturday night before going out. Instead, you never get around to going out, maybe

you feel a bit bad about it, you get the airgun, shoot some “birds”, or lay on the couch and do something else instead. I can’t help but wonder what the retired ladies of St. St Columba’s Church would have thought of this one.

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Next Session

24 March: Scottish Poetry Library – 6.30pm

Alexander Hutchison on John Davies’ ‘Orchestra’

March 20, 2009

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Alexander Hutchison, whose book Scales Dog is available from Salt, comments on the Elizabethan love poet John Davies and an excerpt from his poem ‘Orchestra‘. Read it here.

New Scottish Poetry Library Podcast!

March 17, 2009

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Check out my new SPL podcast! Featuring Edinburgh poet and musician JL Williams from Laertes, Why Are You Crying? Canadian spoken word artist Myra Davies with a new track from the Berlin-based Moabit Label. You can listen or download the podcast for FREE here, and take a visit to the poetry library website.

Nothing But The Poem – A Free Workshop

March 16, 2009

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What:

* We read a poem
* We discuss the poem
* Only the poem we’ve read.
* No Jargon
* No experience needed
* Nothing to fear
* Nothing but the poem.

A relaxed and informal way to meet and discuss a poem. Moderated by Ryan van Winkle.

Where:

The Forest, 3 Bristo Place, Edinburgh

When:

2pm. Sat. 21 March

How Much:

FREE FREE FREE FREE

There’s a little sample of what a NBTP session is like here: http://ryanvanwinkle.com/nothing-but-the-poem-a-roundup/

THE GOLDEN HOUR — March 18th 2009. 8pm. Free.

March 12, 2009

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This month’s Golden Hour is proud to feature a selection of the the most exquisite musicians and the finest verbal alchemists.

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Robin Grey avec ukelele


WHEN: Wednesday March 18th, 8pm
COST: FREE
ALCOHOL: BYOB, but pay your corkage

Readings:
Rosie Etherington – Prose and poetry from beyond the fold.

Lawrie Clapton – A savage youth, a beautiful new voice, a ruiner of many fine parties.

Robin J. Thompson – Killer on the Road.
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Ericka Duffy – releasing her new chapbook, The Succubus!

Music:
Billy Liar – Acoustic infectious punk. Billy Liar back on his home turf! Lucky us.

Robin Grey – He colours in his songs about love and life with guitar, banjo, ukulele, mandolin, piano, double bass, organ, percussion toys, and any other instruments he can afford.

John Langan —  Insanely enjoyable, charismatic and eclectic   singer-songwriter whose style is rooted in traditional Celtic music. A joyful and relentless spectacle.

Poems in Read This Magazine!

March 9, 2009

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This month’s edition of Read This Magazine features my poems Falling No’s 18, 39 and 266 in the print edition, and We Could Sing Along With the Band on the website. Read This is free to take home from the Forest Café, Analogue Books on Victoria Street, Word Power Book Shop and the Blind Poet pub on West Nicolson Street, and you can order individual copies/subscriptions online from the Read This Store.
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