Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I read Michael Hofmann’s Selected Poems last year and was as astonished by it as I have been by any recent poetry book. So I’ve been reading the individual collections – last night, Acrimony, and it’s still marvellous.

The sheer dynamism of his descriptions blows me away. No still lives here. Take this stanza from Nighthawks:

I met a dim acquaintance, a man with the manner
of a laughing-gas victim, rich, frightened, and jovial.
Why doesn’t everyone wear pink, he squeaked.
Only a couple of blocks are safe in his world.

The energy is partly in the descriptions themselves, partly in the movement from one line to another, including those that aren’t enjambed.

And from Between Bed and Wastepaper Basket:

All things tend toward the yellow of unlove,
the tawny, moulting carpet where I am commemorated
by tea- and coffee- stains, by the round holes of furniture –
too much of it, and too long in the same place.

The “yellow of unlove” – what a great phrase! The tragic use of “commemorated”, the way a common detail such as furniture marks can become, without strain, a metaphor for the human condition.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fisches Nachtgesang

The internet can lead you into strange but worthwhile places you might otherwise never have known, as evidenced by my travels a few days ago. It began innocently at Very Like a Whale, which led me to click on the link to the discussion on a Christian Morgenstern concrete poem at the Harriet blog, which led to the slightly dated sound of ’Nein!’ by Fisches Nachtgesang, as flagged up in the comments box by Don Share, which nevertheless led me to investigate further and find this footage below. I’d go to see them if they came anywhere near Edinburgh (they are from Finland), partly because they seem to have a sense of humour as well as being (obviously) excellent musicians. It's certainly not your average musical experience!

Friday, March 27, 2009

StAnza 2009 - Dangerous Poems

I enjoyed the Open Mic and thought having it in the Byre Theatre Bar was a good move. There was a much bigger crowd than normal and a huge range of poets took part. Of course, at all open mics there are poems which appeal and poems which don’t, but everyone gets a round of applause and the atmosphere is upbeat. No one tried to read a twenty-five minute eulogy in rhyming couplets to a long dead grandfather either. People kept to time and listened when others were reading. And Jim Carruth was, as ever, an excellent MC.

I ran into loads of people at StAnza and don’t intend to list them, but it was great to see people I don’t see all that often.

I missed several events I would like to have attended on account of not being able to turn up until the Friday evening: the tall-lighthouse Pilot readings, for one, and the debate on young Scottish poets – although I heard an extract from this by podcast (day 3). Like Claire Askew, I was astonished by a comment from one member of the panel that new Scottish poets for the last few years hadn’t been writing “dangerous” enough material. Where was the equivalent of Eliot today? he asked. Well, where is the equivalent of Eliot ever! I wondered which Scottish poets he had been reading (or not reading) to make a comment like that. And what is “dangerous” anyway? Are the likes of Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery or August Kleinzahler “dangerous”? Or for that matter, Don Paterson, Jackie Kay, Robert Crawford, Kathleen Jamie, Douglas Dunn – are they “dangerous”? Or more “dangerous” than the current crop of emerging Scottish poets?

But then I decided that it was either just a throwaway comment without any real reflection behind it, or the kind of vague thing people say on panels just to get people foaming at the mouth, a wind-up.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

At Sunny Dunny

An interesting discussion brewing over at Colin Will’s blog on pamphlet publication, on why some people advise against it, and how best to develop new poets in Scotland.

StAnza 2009 - 'In Person' And 'Out Of His Head'

I went to the Saturday evening screening of the In Person highlights. It’s a book and DVD produced by Bloodaxe featuring the work of 30 poets. The DVD has over 6 hours of footage, but the big screen version lasts about an hour. Most of the poets are featured reading their work in their own homes. Neil Astley introduced the movie and gave us a few anecdotes on the process of filming.

I liked the big screen. I’m less sure I’d watch the DVD for any length of time in my home although I suppose I could watch a poem or two whenever I felt like it. The main impact on me was in remembering the range of poets Bloodaxe publishes from throughout the UK and all over the world. I loved some of the poems and appreciated the eclecticism. I wonder whether poets reading over short films interpreting their work (or poems interpreting contemporary silent shorts) might be an intriguing, although no doubt more expensive, use of the DVD format for the future.

From cinema to theatre: on the Sunday afternoon, I watched Kenneth Price’s one-man play, Out of his Head, on the life of W.S. Graham. For the first few minutes, I thought it was going to be overacted and annoying, but then I settled into it. In fact, it was very well done and gave an interesting overview of Graham’s life. It featured several poems, read theatrically – interesting, as it’s rare to see poems being read like that in real life, which is no doubt a good thing. However, this worked in the context of the play where the poems were woven into the biographical content.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

StAnza 2009 - The Poets' Market

The Poets’ Market was held downstairs in the town hall this year and there seemed to be far more people milling about than on any similar events I can remember from previous years. The room was on the small side, but at least it was jammed full at various points throughout the afternoon. And people were buying books, chapbooks and magazines. Good to see!

I was co-staffing half a table with Andrew Philip, which carried our books and those of Alexander Hutchison - three quarters of Salt’s Scottish-based poetry contingent (Tom Pow was unable to get to StAnza this year). It was definitely worth doing, both for the books we sold and for the chance to meet lots of people. On the other half of our table were James and Marianne Robertson from Kettillonia Press, which has produced some brilliant poetry chapbooks in the last few years. They also seemed to be doing good business.

Also behind stalls were Magma magazine, HappenStance Press, Claire Askew, and a whole load of other people, some of whom I didn’t realise were there until other people mentioned them afterwards. It was busy and I didn’t get near some of the tables.

Andy P and I looked after our stall in shifts and during my break, I headed for the Criterion Bar where I met AB Jackson for a pint. Roddy Lumsden soon appeared. The rugby was on. There were screens all over the bar and most people (including Hugh McMillan) were watching it, so we were conspicuous for paying the screens no attention. The rugby was going badly and the atmosphere became subdued. I left Roddy and ABJ to return to my post at the Poets’ Market. For probably the first time ever, I had been outselling Andy P, but by the time I’d returned from the pub, he’d caught up with me. He is a bookselling machine!

It was a good event and, despite the space being too small, a real improvement on previous attempts.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

StAnza 2009 - Readings

I got to quite a few readings at StAnza. My two favourite ones were Roddy Lumsden’s launch of Third Wish Wasted and the showcase of two Italian poets, Elisa Biagini and Bianca Tarozzi.

I had to buy Roddy’s book for a second time after somehow losing it the week before. Now that I’ve bought it again, I’m expecting the first copy to turn up, but it hasn't so far. Anyway, it was a good reading and the book is very interesting, packed full of surprising imagery which requires the reader’s close attention, signified immediately by the opening lines of the first poem (‘The Young’):

You bastards! It’s all sherbet, and folly
makes you laugh like mules…

So not exactly prosy little stories with a faint twist towards the end then!

The Italian poets didn’t fit that model either. Elisa Biagini described her poetic influences as Celan and …oh, someone else, I forget… She writes mainly sparse, short poems, as you can see from the link above. I bought a DVD featuring some of her work, which I’ve yet to see. Bianca Tarozzi is one of those poets who are able to alter normal perception of a scene in the space of a few lines. She said her translators had translated her shorter poems, but that she mainly wrote long ones, which were better in any case. She had quite a sense of humour and came over to me as a formidable character with a twinkle in her eye. Her book, Gli Oggetti della Memoria/Objects of Memory contains her poems on photographs by Nijole Kurdika, which are also printed in the book.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Quick Advert

I plan to order more hardback copies of The Opposite of Cabbage from Salt to sell at readings etc. I only have six copies in my house at the moment. If anyone from the UK wants to order a signed copy, drop me an email at mackenzie_ra [AT] yahoo.co.uk (without the spaces). The cost will be the cover price (£12.99) with free postage.

Click on the book cover image on the right-hand sidebar for details, a sample poem, a .pdf section of the book etc

StAnza 2009 - The Masterclasses

I got back from the StAnza International Poetry Festival 2009 last night. I’ll try to give a flavour of the festival in several posts, but at the outset I’ll say that I very much enjoyed myself. I heard some excellent poetry and had a good time in between and after.

I’ll start with the masterclasses. I went to two – the first led by New Zealand poet, Bill Manhire, and the second by Scottish poet, Douglas Dunn.

A masterclass is essentially a workshop led by a famous poet. Before the festival, anyone can submit a poem and six are chosen. The audience is given a handout containing the six poems. The leader goes through the poems one by one. Both audience and poet can chip in with reactions, ideas, praise and critical comment.

It’s easy to have a fixed idea of how these should operate. My feeling, after attending both, is that the success of a good masterclass doesn’t depend on a particular approach or style. Bill Manhire was quite ‘hands off’ but asked questions to encourage poets and audience to probe the strong and weak areas of the poems. Douglas Dunn was more ready to offer suggestions and direct constructive criticism. However, both approaches worked and gave rise to interesting discussions between the poet and audience.

My two favourite poems over the two workshops were from Marion McCready, aka sorlil, and from an American writer, Matthew Hotham: both mysterious, well written pieces.

One thing I noticed was this: some of the poets seemed very ready to note critical remarks and consider them. With other poets, there was an immediate defensiveness, a resistance to consider change. In fact, it seemed to me that the stronger the poem, the more ready the author was to consider change! Authors tended to dismiss suggestions for revision on the very poems which were less finished and needed the most work. That’s a generalisation but, I think, not altogether off the mark.

It’s hard to understand the reasons for this. Sometimes authors were reluctant to change because altering the poem would have involved leaving out details emotionally important to them, whether people, images, ideas, or events. Obviously, it’s important not to kill off the emotional heart of a poem through revision. However, the emotional epicentre of a poem isn’t always where the writer thinks it is. What moves the writer isn’t always what moves the reader. I felt many of the biographical details could have been preserved as prose in the writers’ journals and the impact of the poems would have been stronger without them. Maybe that’s the key step to take after achieving a basic acquisition of poetic craft. Most writers write themselves into their poems, directly or indirectly. Good writers, in revision, are able to see when it’s better to remove themselves.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Princess of Cleves

French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has ignited controversy due to his views on classic proto-novel, The Princess of Cleves.

Sarkozy says that he suffered by being made to read it at school. He also says that:

A sadist or an idiot - you decide - included questions about La Princesse de Clèves in an exam for people applying for public sector jobs." He puffed that it would be "a spectacle" to see low-level staff talk about the difficult work published in 1678.”

Criticism of literature is now common both from the right and left. The nominal UK Left use words like ‘elitist’ to describe literature. They have more important things on their minds such as conjuring up slogans like ‘Education! Education! Education!’ (Tony Blair) – have they given much thought to education since then? Doesn’t seem so. The Right see literature as an irrelevance. If it doesn’t sell well, doesn’t create wealth and shore up the economy, what possible use can it be? Apparently Boris Johnson thinks about poetry while he’s driving on motorways (must avoid him if I ever spot him behind a wheel) or hanging over the edge of a cliff in sub-zero temperatures, but not at most other times. I wonder what the last contemporary poetry collection he bought was.

Anyway, back to France and Sarkozy. The French public have reacted by buying the book. Apparently, this week the Paris Book Fair sold out of badges saying "I'm reading La Princesse de Clèves."

What we need is for Gordon Brown to declare that poetry gives him a headache. We need Virgin Media to set an exam for staff requiring them to read the complete oeuvre of Geoffrey Hill and talk about it under controlled conditions before being eligible for employment. That should create a fair amount of outrage. We need all political parties to quiz prospective candidates on their knowledge of the Barque Press list and only choose those who score 0/100. We need bank staff, particularly those eligible for multi-million pound pensions, to sound off about how being forced to read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in school has ruined their lives.

Everyone will be reading poetry in protest. It will be the ultimate resistance.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Well Wrought Urn

I picked up a 1947 book of criticism from a Charity Shop called The Well Wrought Urn by Cleanth Brooks the other day. I enjoyed his essay on Robert Herrick’s (1591–1674) poem, Corinna’s Going a-Maying, in which Brooks asks ‘What does poetry communicate?’

Many people complain that modern poetry doesn’t communicate in the same way as older poems did. Herrick’s poem, they claim, says that we should “enjoy youth before youth fades.” There’s a clear message being communicated by the poem, as opposed to the fuzzy ambiguities of much modern work. Brooks simply examines Herrick’s poem and exposes its subtleties. He shows how wrong it is to reduce such a poem to a neat summary as there’s so much else going on – the shifts between Christianity and Paganism, the double-edged emergence of the pagan ethic within a predominantly Christian system, the way Corinna (and other humans) seem subject to the claims of nature, the metaphors of dew and rain and what they communicate about humanity, the questions asked by the invitation to Corinna to accept the joys of the May season which are then described (dismissed?) as “the harmless follie of the time,” the poem's tone which seems at times to be playful and other times deadly serious etc. The more you look at the poem, the more strands you find, and the less you can conveniently summarise what it communicates.

Brooks concludes:

“What does this poem communicate? If we are content with the answer that the poem says that we should enjoy youth before youth fades, and if we are willing to write off everything else in the poem as ‘decoration,’ then we can properly censure [modern poets such as] Eliot or Auden or Tate for not making poems so easily tagged. But in that case we are not interested in poetry; we are interested in tags.”

Book Prices And Sales

The price of my book at Amazon keeps fluctuating. It’s now £8.57 after being £12.99 yesterday. I’m not sure why that happens. And look at those (currently) eleven new copies with marketplace sellers – discarded review and promo copies? A few of them are based in the USA. Strange, but strange only because I don’t really know how these things work.

Book sales in Europe are up, despite the recession. Seems strange also, but apparently the same thing has happened during previous recessions here.

The Invention Of Zero

My fifteen days of fame are now up and Andrew Philip has taken over on the front page of the Scottish Poetry Library site where we are joint poets-of-the-month. You can read his poem, The Invention of Zero, there. My page still exists among the A-Z Poets Listings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gutter Magazine

Just spotted this: Gutter Magazine - a new print magazine for fiction and poetry from writers born or living in Scotland. One of the editors is Colin Begg and the journal will be published by Freight. This sounds like it will be a good thing if it can get enough subscriptions and top-quality submissions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

StAnza 2009 - My Plans

I can’t get to the StAnza International Poetry Festival until Friday evening, but I’m staying through Sunday and looking forward to it immensely. It’s a fantastic festival. Here’s what I plan on seeing, although I might not manage to it all:

Friday Evening:
Reading: Simon Armitage and Bill Manhire
Open Mic

Masterclass: Bill Manhire
Poetry Cabaret Reading: Roddy Lumsden
Book Fair (there will be a table with books, I hope, from myself, Andy Philip and Sandy Hutchison – maybe Tom Pow too, I’ll have to check with him)
Reading: Jay Parini and Jenny Bornholdt
The StAnza slam (I had considered entering, but haven’t had time to learn enough stuff off by heart)

Masterclass: Douglas Dunn
Reading: Translated Poets, Italy: Bianca Tarozzi and Elisa Biagini
Performance: Out of his Head (drama on W.S. Graham)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Wish Missing

I mentioned Roddy Lumsden’s Third Wish Wasted collection the other day, mainly to do with the cover, and since then I’ve read the first 20 pages or so. I’ve really being enjoying it so far. I also read this profile of Roddy in the Scotsman newspaper, of which more soon (particularly on the “However, Lumsden is concerned at the dearth of emerging Scottish poets…” bit!).

Today I had planned to read more of the book, but…it’s gone, disappeared. I can’t find it anywhere. I had been reading it in a café on Saturday, but I’m sure I didn’t leave it there. Could it have fallen out my bag without me knowing? Could my daughter have taken it to read to her dolls (a game of hers) and then hidden it in her room somewhere? Could I have absent-mindedly shoved it into the bread-bin? I hope it turns up soon.

I can't complain too much. At a charity shop I picked up Frank O'Hara's Selected Poems for £1.50 and Robert Lowell's Life Studies - a first printing, 1959 American edition, for 99p.

Anyway, I now move to the next book on my list – DA Powell’s ‘Chronic’ and Colin Donati’s 2002 pamphlet ‘Rock is Water’ – his new stuff, by the way, is terrific, if his reading at the Great Grog last week is anything to go by.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shetlandic Evening, Glasgow

Brilliant evening yesterday in Glasgow’s Mitchell theatre - a Shetlandic Evening organised by the Aye Write! festival and Vital Synz. In the video above, you can listen to Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, whose unique interpretations of traditional Shetlandic tunes were simply mesmerising. It's great in the video, but even better in real time. I'm not even a huge fan of folk music, but these people were really, really good. Afterwards in the Bon Accord Bar, I caught sight of Rihanna in concert (with the sound down) on the bar’s TV and reflected, not for the first time, that far greater talent is found in people like Chris and Catriona than in the identikit pop stars delivered for the MTV screens. Also, that good poetry has worth in itself, no matter how unpopular it is compared with a Danielle Steele romance or a Gordon Ramsey celebrity cookbook, in the same way that a brilliantly-played violin and harp have real worth in themselves, no matter whether they shift millions fewer CDs than Rihanna. Stuff the popularisers and dumb-downers: let’s make art, people!

I could say the same of the poets – unique, individual voices, every one of them. Jen Hadfield, following her T.S. Eliot Prize win, is the best known of them, and she read an excellent set. However, both Alan Jamieson, widely regarded in Scotland as one of the finest poets in the UK (he writes more poems in Shetlandic than English), and Christie Williamson, among the best of the younger Scottish poets, gave terrific readings. A really memorable night.

Report: Poetry at the Great Grog, March 2009

A belated report on last weekend’s readings at the Great Grog Bar! The four poets gave terrific performances, all very different from one another. Nalini Paul’s poems centred around landscape and travel – haunting, reflective and compelling material. Colin Donati’s are playful, musical, and nearly always hit the mark. He has an entirely distinctive voice. With Paula Jennings, you immediately know you’re listening to poetry. I really enjoyed the poems she’d ‘translated’ from languages she didn’t know, simply by guessing the words (of course, the resulting poems in English bore no relation to the originals’ meaning). Alexander Hutchison also exhibits playfulness, originality and musicality in his poems, and a highly inventive use of language. I’ve already mentioned his book, Scales Dog, many times on this blog – only because it’s so good.

So great stuff all round.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Launch Report: 'The Opposite of Cabbage' & 'The Ambulance Box'

The launch of The Opposite of Cabbage and The Ambulance Box couldn’t have gone any better. I had considered writing about it yesterday, but had little time or energy after a late night and early rise.

In any case, reports were already up at the SPL blog (great photo too!) and at Colin Will’s Sunny Dunny. This morning, Andrew Philip managed to upload something about it, notes toward a further post, including his setlist and another photo.

All the seats filled rapidly in the Scottish Poetry Library mezzanine where we were reading. In fact, there wasn’t enough standing-room and some people had to sit on the stairs. Apparently, there was initial concern that the mezzanine floor might collapse under the weight of people (seriously), but it was declared safe to go ahead. We were stunned at this as I’d had several call-offs from people who had wanted to be there and I'd wondered if the place was going to be half-empty. So, once again, a thousand thank yous to everyone who made the effort to come along. I noticed that several of Andy’s friends also bought my book, for which I’m also very appreciative.

Andy kicked off this time (I’d done the honours in Glasgow last week) and read a terrific set. His poems are ingenious, way above average fare. Those directly concerning the death of his son, Aidan, after hours of life, are always going to be the ones that have immediate impact, especially on anyone who hasn’t heard them before. But his range is wide. The more indirect poems and the subtle humour, sound, rhythm and language present in his work are every bit as much worth noting. I do hope the book gets the attention it deserves throughout the UK and beyond.

I read straight afterwards. My set-list:

1. The Preacher’s Ear
2. The Deconstruction Industry
3. Advice from the Lion-Tamer to the Poetry Critic
4. Everyone Will Go Crazy
5. Berlusconi and the National Grid
6. Hospital
7. How New York You Are

It was a really enjoyable evening. We signed books afterwards and then some of us, including Andy, members of his and his wife’s family, and Katy Evans-Bush, who had come all the way from London, went to the wonderful Empires, a Turkish café where we ate the most fantastic meze and chatted with Osnam. I’m not sure whether he was waiter, manager or owner – or all three combined – but he was a very nice guy. I’ll be back there for sure!

I finished off the evening over a glass of wine with Katy and got to bed around 1am, but I woke early. Too much excitement buzzing around in my head. The next day consisted of working, seeing Katy off on the train, answering emails and messages, and (especially) trying to stay awake.

Tonight I’m going through to Glasgow to see poets Jen Hadfield, Christie Williamson, and Alan Jamieson, and two musicians, Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, at a Shetland Evening - 7.30pm, the Mitchell Theatre. Should be really good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Anon Podcast

If you haven’t heard enough from Andrew Philip and myself recently (I say that very tongue-in-cheek, almost apologetically!), you might consider heading over to the website of Anon magazine. Andy and I are interviewed in the second Anon podcast and, as you can read at the site:

“They discuss their relationship to blogging, how they first got into publishing their poetry, their musings on the current state of poetry in Scotland and you'll get the opportunity to hear them both reading from their new collections, which are available from Salt Publishing.”

You can also download the first podcast with sonneteer poet, novelist and former editor of Anon, Mike Stocks, which is really good stuff.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Launch Of 'The Ambulance Box' And 'The Opposite Of Cabbage'

I’m almost set for The Scottish Poetry Library on Wednesday evening (from 7pm-8.30pm) when Andrew Philip and I will be launching our collections in Edinburgh – respectively The Ambulance Box and The Opposite of Cabbage.

I’ve still to decide on which poems to read from a shortlist I drew up the other day. I have to work out exactly what time I need our babysitter to turn up. Andy and I need to decide who’s buying the crisps and who the juice (the wine is already taken care of). Also, how many copies of the book should I cart along? I don’t want to run out. Equally, I don’t want to be carrying a ton-weight home. Should I practice a new signature specially for the occasion, or will the old scrawl be sufficient? Which scarf should I wear? Should I bring a cabbage as a decorative backdrop? Or would some other vegetable be more in keeping with the occasion.

For anyone reading this within several hundred miles of Edinburgh – it’s free entry, free wine, free snacks, and there’s no guest list, no bouncers and no dress code. Come along and, if you buy the books (or even if you don’t), we will be incredibly appreciative.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tonight At The Great Grog

Tonight at 8pm, it’s Poetry at the Great Grog again – four fantastic poets: Alexander Hutchison, Nalini Paul, Paula Jennings and Colin Donati. After the morning’s snow, the sun is out and the rooftops have already lost their white dusting. I’m really looking forward to this evening.

A Reading And A Blog

You can now read Andrew Philip’s report on the Glasgow Mirrorball reading we gave last Thursday.

Also, the Scottish Poetry Library now has a blog, Our sweet old etcetera. Plenty of interesting reading in there.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lions In My Own Garden

I think this was Prefab Sprout’s first single. Certainly, it was the first one I was aware of. It’s a terrific song. Prefab Sprout should have been more successful than they were, but that’s so often the case with inspired but off-kilter art that it hardly bears saying.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Live At St Mungo's Mirrorball, March 2009

It was a very enjoyable evening yesterday at the St Mungo’s Mirrorball reading in Glasgow. I travelled from Edinburgh by bus, which was delayed in a traffic jam for some unknown reason while it bypassed Glasgow’s east end. It gave me a chance to read halfway through Claire Crowther’s new collection, The Clockwork Gift. It’s not poetry that’s easy to sum up after a single read (let alone just half the book), but it’s striking and distinctive stuff, and I now know what a ‘thike’ is. Well, sort of. Not the kind of thing you can even know from a Google search. Only from this book!

It was a varied programme at the Mirrorball, three very different poets, but the audience (barely an empty seat) seemed to enjoy everyone and were happy to switch mood with each reading. I went on first and read from The Opposite of Cabbage for the first time. It all went well. Robin Cairns was next and combined his comic verse (unlike many poets who write light verse, Robin can actually make an audience laugh) with a couple of more serious pieces. Andrew Philip read from The Ambulance Box - a varied set in itself, from the wit of ‘The Meisure o a Nation’ to the more emotive poems concerning the death of his son, ‘Lullaby’ being the stand-out yesterday evening.

On the bus home, I ran into Father L. who was heading back to Edinburgh after celebrating his 43rd year as a parish priest. He is something of a raconteur, with a fascinating life, one of these guys who gives the priesthood a good name.

Anyway, a gig report wouldn’t be complete without a set-list:

1. The Preacher’s Ear
2. While the Moonies are Taking Over Uruguay
3. Berlusconi and the National Grid
4. Nuclear Submarines
5. Plastic Cork
6. Scotland
7. Scotlands
8. White Noise
9. Married Life in the Nineties

Thursday, March 05, 2009

World Book Day 2009

I should mention that it’s World Book Day, an initiative that seems primarily aimed at children. I guess that’s where to start, but children won’t read books if adults don’t encourage them by reading themselves.

So buy a book today. Better still, buy a poetry book!
Recently published poetry collections on my ‘to read’ pile:

D.A. Powell – Chronic (Graywolf)
Claire Crowther –The Clockwork Gift (Shearsman)
Antony Rowland – The Land of Green Ginger (Salt)
Roddy Lumsden – Third Wish Wasted (Bloodaxe)

The last of these features a sleeping snow-fox in mid-air on the cover. When I bought it, at Waterstones, the shop assistant told me she loved the cover and started showing it to other people in the queue! There was a short discussion on how the image had been captured – was it photoshop trickery? That’s my guess.

St Mungo's Mirrorball And Edinbugh Trams

I’ve been mulling over what to read tonight at St Mungo’s Mirrorball in Glasgow (7pm, free, details at the link for anyone in the vicinity). I doubt many people, if anyone, will attend both this and also at the Edinburgh launch next week, so I could read the same set at both events. However, that would be boring for me, so I’m trying to choose a good spread of poems that offer variety. Also continuity. And entertainment. And provocation. And so on…

I was reading Colin Will’s reflections on Edinburgh, which currently resembles a giant building site. Not only in the city centre but all over. You can’t go any distance without encountering roadworks, temporary traffic-lights etc. It’s a terrible eyesore, horrendously noisy, and makes travel in the city a miserable experience. You’ve got to feel sorry for the tourists who have come to visit one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and instead they find themselves in a dust-filled nightmare. As Colin suggests, there’s a suspicion that it’s all a complete waste of time and money. I have a poem about it in my book, titled ‘The Deconstruction Industry’, which I’ll certainly read in Edinburgh next week.

4th Taster for March 2009

I’ve just posted a bio and poem from Alexander Hutchison to the ‘Poetry at the Great Grog’ site. He’ll be reading this Sunday 8th March from 8pm at the Great Grog Bar, 43 Rose Street. It’s such a great line-up, and I hope plenty of people come along.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Third Taster for 8th March 2009

At the ‘Poetry at the Great Grog’ site, you can check out Colin Donati’s bio and poem. Excellent stuff, I think. Colin will be reading on Sunday 8th March from 8pm (Great Grog Bar, 43 Rose Street, Edinburgh) along with Alexander Hutchison, Paula Jennings and Nalini Paul.

Letters From Our Editor

It’s possible that some people may not yet have looked at Chris Hamilton-Emery’s hilarious Letters from our Editor series, featuring spoofed correspondence between various poet-submitters and editor, Albert D. Sump – I say ‘spoofed’, but much of it is apparently based on reality. The mind boggles!

e.g. "Hey Man,

You think you’re smart. I’m gonna cut you up, Bud. I’ll spread this everywhere you jackass. You don’t know nothing. You publish shit. I think I’ll die of boredom. I think everyone in Canada would love to know about you. You don’t understand nothing. You fake. You’re just fake, a total fake. Faker. Fake ass. I’ll write to everyone you publish on Facebook and let them know what you’re like. You’re totally dead. I’ll give you one chance right just read this poem and you’ll get it or I will do this, man. I mean it..."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Launches Live and Virtual

Looks like a busy couple of weeks, as far as live poetry goes. On this Thursday, 5th March from 7pm, I’m reading at St Mungo’s Mirrorball in Glasgow along with Andrew Philip and Robin Cairns. This will be the first reading that Andy and I will have done, new books in hand. You can currently read a poem from each book at Andy’s blog. Robin Cairns is a humorous performance poet – on this YouTube video, you can see him in action. Robin is also launching a new book. To say the least, it’s an eclectic programme. We each have very different styles of writing (and reading!), but audiences tend to appreciate variety as long as each component part does its thing well. Should be good!

On Sunday 8th from 8pm, it’s Poetry at the Great Grog with Alexander Hutchison, Paula Jennings, Colin Donati and Nalini Paul.

Then, on Wednesday 11th March from 7pm, Andy and I officially launch our books at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. It’s an open event and we’ll be sharing out the wine with all-comers. As well as wine, there will be crisps and poetry and book-signings and, no doubt, a great party atmosphere.

Finally, on the 20th March, I’m looking forward to the virtual launch of Jee Leong Koh’s ‘Equal to the Earth’. I’m interested in the book itself, which I definitely buy, but also in how it all works. A virtual launch – such a great idea! I might try to have a virtual launch myself if it seems technologically possible for me, as I know plenty of people who won’t be able to make the Scottish dates. I’ll investigate…