Friday, 26 February 2010

We've Moved

'Poetry at the...' has moved! The new url is Please go there for future news, poems and reflections, and update your bookmarks, feeds etc accordingly. All the posts here are already up there and new posts will be made only at the new site.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Valentine's Day Poetry LoveFest

When I saw that the next scheduled ‘Poetry at the...’ fell on Valentine’s Day, Sunday 14th February, I thought I might switch dates. Wouldn’t poetry lovers have love and romance on the brain that weekend, rather than poetry? But then I realised that poetry and love go together pretty well and that there was an opportunity for a Poetry LoveFest on that day.

So I emailed poets and asked them to write an original poem, each one based on a different verse from the Song of Songs, that great ancient love poem, now compiled somewhat enigmatically within the pages of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament.

So on 14th February from 7.45-9.45 at the GRV (Guthrie St, Edinburgh), come and hear 20-30 poets reading the poem they have written for the occasion. Bring your partner if you have one. The poems will all be on the theme of love, but that can include everything from romance, sticking together and first dates to endings, loss, and bitter memories. Excellent writers such as Kona Macphee, Alexander Hutchison, Kapka Kassabova, Andrew Philip, Kevin Cadwallender and many many more have got involved, so it should be an excellent evening. There will also be a few other surprises and...who knows? You may even find love. What else is poetry for?

(photo by Carla Nicora, used under a Creative Commons License).

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Introducing The November 2009 Readers - 2. Morgan Downie

Morgan Downie writes both short stories and poetry. He was shortlisted many times for the Scotland on Sunday and orange short story prizes but was always the bridesmaid never the bride. His poetry appears in various small but perfectly formed guises on the net and he’s been anthologised more times than he admits. He’s a visual artist and likes writing poetry about paintings. As such he’s a big supporter of the national galleries Inspired Get Writing! competition (and their words on canvas exhibit), which he’s actually managed to win this year. He’s got a pamphlet coming out next February and a Scottish-Romanian collaboration in the spring.

The following is one of Perth and Kinross’s poems for national poetry day

stolen time

to be in a
silent house
wrapped in
the spilled
midday warmth
of afternoon light
to open the
cover of a book
and let the
words fall gentle
on the eye
to lay back
in the comforting
drift of print
to be alone
and the mind
spreading out
to all horizons

Monday, 2 November 2009

Introducing The November 2009 Readers - 1. Tessa Ransford

Tessa Ransford is past president and committee member of Scottish PEN. She is an established poet, translator, literary editor and cultural activist on many fronts over the last thirty years, having also worked as founder and director of the Scottish Poetry Library. Tessa initiated the annual Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for publishers of pamphlet poetry in Scotland, with the attendant fairs and the Scottish Pamphlet Poetry online sales website. She has had Royal Literary Fund fellowships at the Centre for Human Ecology and Queen Margaret University. Tessa’s New and Selected Poems, Not Just Moonshine, has recently been published by Luath Press, Edinburgh

The Last Armistice Day of the Century
for William Geoffrey Walford, killed 4th November 1918 aged 22, after four years in the war

Who shall be your rememberer now my mother is dead,
she who adored you so briefly and yet for so long?
In ninety-six years she never forgot you and kept
your photograph beside her and within her head.

You were someone we knew and yet we never knew,
the almost-haloed one, the hero who died,
whose beauty emerges here and there in us
and yet the one we sensed we lacked and missed somehow.

I feel my mother’s pain as I did when as a child
I heard her describe the things you used to say and
how peace brought the worst news in the world:
too late the eleventh hour for her, when you were killed.

Now I am left alone as guardian of your presence.
When I am gone there will be none to maintain
our loss. Yet as my mother’s love is absorbed
in me, her sorrow will form a lasting inheritance.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Introducing The October 2009 Readers - 3. Eddie Gibbons

Eddie Gibbons is more Ryanair than Debonair. And he can prove it.

How It Will Be

You will think of her
less and less,
although you’ll think
no less of her.

These thoughts, though few,
remain the strongest.
What you lose
stays with you longest.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Introducing The October 2009 Readers - 2. Dave Coates

Dave Coates grew up in Belfast before moving to York for his English Lit undergrad, and has lived in Edinburgh for just over a year. He is part of the editing team for Read This Magazine, runs a poetry night at The Bowery aimed at new/emerging writers, and earlier this year had a chapbook published by The Forest called Cover Story. He blogs at The Not Brazilian Blog.


This is a cupcake, not a muffin,
muffins have no icing
– this has enough in

to make a grown man saccharine, or at least
a more excitable beast. This palm-spanning feast

of heavy cream, shortening, sugar and butter
and eggs and god-knows-what has me shudder-

ing across the line where words begin to falter,
where desire holds sway. The glisteny way the water-

lily-white frosting is bursting with the lush
insistence, here I am, its brush-

stroked largess and malleable lines
looming beyond its papery confines

and stippling, drippling from your skin-bare
wrists, enlarge your curlicue smile as you declare

here you are.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Introducing The October 2009 Readers - 1. Brian Johnstone

Brian Johnstone has published two poetry collections and two pamphlets; his second full collection The Book of Belongings was published by Arc in August 2009. His work has appeared throughout the UK, in America and in various European countries. His poems 'evoke...a sense of spiritual immanence in their slow still spaces' (Scottish Literary Journal); several have been translated into Catalan, Swedish, Slovakian & Lithuanian, and published in the respective countries. In 2009 Terra Incognita, a small collection of his poems in Italian translation, was published by L’Officina (Vicenza). Brian Johnstone is the poet member of Trio Verso, a collaboration with saxophonist Richard Ingham and bassist Louise Major, dedicated to presenting live poetry and improvised jazz-inflected soundscapes. He is co-founder and currently Festival Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival.


He'd tie them by their necks
with binder twine
his father slipped him from the shed,

watch mouse flesh stiffen, give up
what he knew of life
suspended from the fence: each skeleton

a minuscule perfection.
And later, with the rats,
whose worm-grooved tails a half-inch tack

fixed limp outside the byre,
he'd study transformation, till each
tined incisor grinned.

In growing up with vermin - weasels, stoats
and more - he'd learned them all
the hard way, strung up on a wire:

the thieves that flanked the killing ground
of Christ, the hoodie crow
they'd pinned spread-eagled on a rail

and planted in the margins of the yard.
There worms diced
meat and muscle for his robes,

the alpha and the omega,
each quill a black and feathered script,
his writing on the wall.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Introducing The September 2009 Readers - 3. Ivy Alvarez

Ivy Alvarez was born in the Philippines, grew up in Tasmania, Australia, and now lives in Cardiff, after spending time in Scotland and Ireland. She is currently writing her second collection with the help of grants from the Academi and Australia Council for the Arts. She blogs at Ivy Is Here and at dumbfoundry. Her first collection is Mortal (on Red Morning Press, 2006).

of gods & insects

a drift of wall dust. carcass husks, strung, juice
sucked. small wings beat slow — slower than breath. one
thing picks through the webs. another twitches
nervelessly, invoking death, who comes, swift
electricity to one's nakedness,
gathers the threads, clicks on the loom, shears off
what is not needed

Monday, 7 September 2009

Introducing The September 2009 Readers - 2. Brian McCabe

Brian McCabe grew up near Edinburgh and studied Philosophy and English Literature at Edinburgh University. He has been a full-time writer since 1980 and is currently editor of the Edinburgh Review.

He has held various writing fellowships, including the Novelist in Residence post at St. Andrew's University. He was the Scottish/Canadian Exchange Fellow from 1988-89, and more recently, has held Writer in Residence posts at Perth and Kinross Council and Edinburgh University. He won the Canongate Prize in 2000.

He has published several poetry collections, including One Atom to Another (1987), Body Parts (1999), and Zero (2009), along with three short story collections: The Lipstick Circus (1985); In a Dark Room with a Stranger (1993); and A Date with my Wife (2001), as well as a Selected Stories (2003). His novel, The Other McCoy, was published in 1990.

The Romans

Listen up. This is how
we're about to count from now on.

We got a one: I. We got a five: V.
We got a ten: X. We got a fifty: L.
We got a hundred: C. We got a a five hundred: D.
Also plus and we got a thousand: M.

That's it. That's all we need.
The fuck with dealing out letters
to two three four six seven eight nine,
eleven twelve thirteen etcetera.

Those motherfuckers can go eat shit.
The rule is: you add the little fish
if it comes after the big fish
because the big fish eats it, right?

When the little fish comes before
the big fish, you take it away -
on account of the big fish ain’t
ate it yet, okay? Any questions?

Whaddya mean howdya write
one hundred and sixty-four?
Am I talking to myself here?
CLXIV. Dumbfuck.

This means Tony the Scribe
only needs to know seven letters
to run any number we tell him.
Okay let's go eat Chinese.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Introducing The September 2009 Readers - 1. Joseph Harrison

Joseph Harrison was born in Richmond, Virginia, grew up in Virginia and Alabama, and studied at Yale and Johns Hopkins. His first book, Someone Else’s Name (Waywiser, 2003), was named as one of five poetry books of the year by The Washington Post and was a finalist for the Poets’ Prize. His second book, Identity Theft, was published by Waywiser in 2008. His poems have appeared in such anthologies as The Best American Poetry 1998, 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, The Library of America’s American Religious Poems, the Penguin Pocket Anthology of Poetry, and the Penguin Pocket Anthology of Literature, and in many journals. In 2005 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2009 he received a Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he serves as the Senior American Editor of the Waywiser Press.

The Last Book

Such things were treasured objects, long ago,
Bound in calf's leather, framed by marbled boards,
Arranged by code in capitals, prized hoards
Of variorum, quire, and folio.

But now, downloaded, Xeroxed, put on tape
To quicken the commute's redundant trip,
Whole oeuvres shrink onto a microchip
And, volume after volume, lose their shape.

Who'll be the very last human to hold
One of these curious relics in his hands,
And think of vanished rivers, vanished birds,

And wonder why, in distant times and lands,
We made such settings for the tales we told
And placed such binding value on our words?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Autumn 2009 Programme

I've just posted the programme of events for the autumn 2009. Hope it looks as exciting to you as it does to me. You'll notice that there are only three poets listed rather than the usual four. That just seems more manageable for the organisers.

I was wondering whether a short open-mic at the beginning of each event would be a good idea - about, say, up to four readers reading for three minutes each? We might discover new writers that way and could invite them back to do longer spots in future months. But I'd be interested to hear views on this.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Introducing the June 2009 Poets - 4. Allan Crosbie

Allan Crosbie lives in Edinburgh and teaches English in James Gillespie's High School. His first collection, Outswimming the Eruption, was published by The Rialto in 2006 and it was short-listed for the Aldeburgh Jerwood Prize for best first collection. He has been runner-up in the Arvon Competition and short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem. He is going to be a dad for the first time in September.

Below, from Allan, is a previously unpublished poem:


I hear the splash, the ripples, the slush of the overspill.
I hear the night come in the trees’ voices,
toast it silently with a sip of my margarita.
The board shudders its last breath and I scan
to where you flail like a bath-toy, oblivious
to everything until you surface with a gasp
that wets the empty glass in my hand where my lips’
red ghost has broken the brittle strip of salt.

When I think of drowning you, it’s not the image
of your frail arms slapping out that scares me,
but the future: Sunday afternoons with your brothers
round the barbecue, their grandchildren shrieking
in the pool which I won’t go near, and me
watching the coals grow grey beneath the meat.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Introducing the June 2009 Poets - 3. Katy Evans-Bush

Katy Evans-Bush was born in New York and has been living in London since she was 19. She writes reviews and essays as well as the literary blog Baroque in Hackney, and her first collection, Me and the Dead, is published by Salt. A pamphlet, Speculation and Conjecture, will be published by Rack Press in 2010.

A Crack in the Feeling

Broken in their box, quotidian eggs
— date-stamped, unusable. The omelette's off.

An ostrich-egg-in-dome, and plastic grass.
A dino egg, the raptors not drawn right.
These keepsakes can be lifted out of what
was meant to be (that bursting universe).
The robin, just a colour-sample (say
robin's-egg blue, a can of paint) : I never
see them lying cracked upon a path,
it seems too much to hope for now.
..........................................I like
your eggs arranged in circles on the ground
(the largest first, then smaller outer rings
like planets with unfledged inhabitants
whose language can't be spoken, round a sun
that spreads its light like yolk along the lawn),
duck-eggs, and seven empty pigeon shells
whose hatchlings hang arse-up along a wire.
The ceiling leans toward them like a sky
whose robin's-egg-blue arc has just one fault.
Before your outer galaxy I quail:
its compass points — ambition, comfort, luck,
a ghost, desire — are shifting on the chart.

O egging (over) of my pudding (proof
whereof is where? I ask
). My open mouth.
O germ, O ovoid calm, O heavy world.
My love my love.
....................This rubber egg : the shtick
a child would use, to beat the laughter out.

(from Me and the Dead)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Introducing the June 2009 Poets - 2. Zorras

Poet Sandra Alland and musician Y. Josephine formed Zorras in December 2007. They quickly became known for their unique bilingual mixture of storytelling, sound poetry, percussion, singing, guitar, megaphones and projected images. UK gigs include: Museum of London, Soho Theatre, Moor Music Festival, Aye Write! Festival, Muse-ic, Itsy Kabarett, Manifesto Politikal Kabaret, VoxBox, Club Welto, Cachín Cachán Cachunga and The Golden Hour. They’ll also play Spain’s Kuiperfest this June. Zorras have published two volumes of a hand-made poetry chapbook, Maricón, and have just finished recording their first CD, We Apologise For Any Inconvenience, to be released in the near future.

Here’s a video of Zorras performing 'Nest'.

I'd just add that I saw Zorras performing live a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it.