Thursday, 6 November 2008

Introducing the November 2008 Readers - 4. James W Wood

James W Wood is the author of The Theory of Everything (HappenStance, 2006) and Inextinguishable (Knucker Press, 2008). His long poem about modern Scotland, Song of Scotland, appears in the current issue of Poetry Review. Below is a small excerpt from it.

In the early hours of a new nation we look out
On a la-la-landscape bequeathed by those who said
They knew best, those from the West, whose God and Glasgow
Labour Party would provide. This their mess, this underperformance
Theirs, heirs now to an early death, corruption their
Disease. Ours now what they were. Left
with what? A nation? I’m no’ so sure. No nation without
Representation, but we’re the most over-represented
Non-Nation on Earth. One hundred and twenty-nine numpties sat
On the world’s most expensive wall. Look instead to the North
And East, where the black gold flows and the numbers know
The future lies, away from clich├ęs about poverty
And deep-fried pies, towards culture and prosperity
Born from hard work, not depravity. Take a trip then from the barren
Southern border up through brokerdom in the Lothians
And into Prince Billy’s saintly Kingdom, then on to that
Stem-cell science park once known for its journalism (I
mean Dundee) and on. And on. Into Western Europe’s
Most precious resource, under waves that used to teem
With fish but boil now with regulation: this is where
The money is. Where our future is. Socialism
And Scottish Equity,
.............. ..........what a load of shite:
.................................. ..............the country

That created capitalism, old Adam, couldn’t cut it
Ourselves and had to head, Tam in hand, southwards
For a generation.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Introducing the Novemver 2008 Readers - 3. Patricia Ace

Patricia Ace was born in Cleethorpes at the end of the Sixties of Welsh-West Indian parentage. Brought up in England, the Middle East and Canada, she studied English and Drama at the Universities of London and Glasgow before settling in rural Perthshire in 1993 to bring up a family. A stay-at-home Mum when her kids were small, she qualified as a yoga teacher in 2002 and currently teaches both yoga and creative writing to adults in the community and to young people in schools. Patricia Ace’s chapbook of poems, First Blood, is published by HappenStance Press. She won 3rd Prize in the Mslexia 2008 Women’s Poetry Competition. She has recently completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University for which she was awarded a Distinction. She lives in Crieff with her partner and two teenagers.

Ruby Turning Thirteen

She comes home from school smelling of rubbers
and Tippex and, faintly, of sweat.
She cradles her cat like a baby,
carries him around like a doll.
She slops milk into a glass, grabs a piece of bread.
She’s in a play about the seven deadly sins.
I’m this girl who’s dead full of herself – y’know, flirty…
I’m playing Lust.

She shoves a pink magazine in my face.
Who d’ you think is the fittest out of these guys?
She flicks the pages, playing it cool.
Her belt spells ROCK in silver studs.
Cookie Monster grins, ironically, from her t-shirt.
A guinea pig fidgets in the pocket of her hoody.
I study Shane and Jesse, Justin and Johnny.
He is soooo fit, she says. He’s got a six-pack. Look.

She pretends to be a dog, down on all fours,
tongue lolling out, hunting for hidden treats.
Good doggy I say, patting her head, playing the game.
(She wants a dog more than anything.)
She lies on my lap, pretends to be a baby.
Her braces knock against the lip of her sucky cup.
I’m not ready for a boyfriend yet, she tells me
I’m playing the field.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Introducing the November 2008 Readers - 2. A.B. Jackson

A. B. Jackson was raised by wolves in Lytham St Annes. An acrobatic child, he joined the Quaker Circus at 12 but retired early due to a hairline fracture of the arse. He has been smoking so long his lungs are the size of walnuts. His first book, Fire Stations, was published by Anvil Press in 2003. He lives in Glasgow, and will be leaving it like shot off a shovel as soon as the first opportunity arises.

The Christmas Pet

A blood-sport refugee
kicking its heels in sanctuary.
It was an impulse buy,

spurred on by the children
and the straw season.
Care required, minimum:

recommended food, anything,
make the den inviting,
give the gold nose-ring

a good polish.
It did not flourish;
I offered barley and mash

without success. It grew
lean and repetitive, slow,
lean and repetitive. Now,

having churned up the lawn,
it patrols
the small circle of indoors

scoring things with precise horns.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Introducing the November 2008 Readers - 1. Colin Will

Colin Will, Edinburgh-born poet and publisher, lives in Dunbar. His 4th poetry collection - Sushi and Chips - was published by Diehard in 2006. He chairs the Board of StAnza: Scotland's International Poetry Festival, and is webmaster for Poetry Scotland.

Sea dreams

Dead gull floats in the sea,
wings spread, head down.
For a moment I dream
it's alive, practising snorkelling,
peering down for unwary fish,
but it's just the waves
that make its feathers
rise and fall.

Tide slides up the slipway,
in little laps. Seaweed fronds
rise from the rocks, outspread
as incoming water lifts them.

It's all just... not going anywhere,
just... going; never arriving,
just... having been, a place
where time is liquid,
life and death
just... phases of the moon.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Introducing the October 2008 Readers - 3. Kei Miller

I haven’t received a poem yet from Kei Miller (if one arrives, I’ll certainly put it up here, but donating a poem isn’t obligatory), but here’s a link to one in the Cortland Review called First Book of Chronicles. Pretty good!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Introducing the October 2008 Readers - 2. Rob A. Mackenzie

I’m reading on Sunday, so here’s a poem – light verse, I suppose. It’s not in the forthcoming book and I doubt I’d send this to any magazine, so it may as well go here.

Credit Crunch

Economists agree a mousehole is a last resort,
but not without merit. Cheese is currency when money
has no object. It can’t buy even a crumb
of love and lacks the crunch of, for example, celery,
but comes freely available on kitchen floors.

What does it credit anyone to gain
a notional treasure, pay back
more than they’ve borrowed, and lose the lasting
tang of gorgonzola? A mousehole spans the bottom
rung on the cheese ladder. No interest so far.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Introducing the October Readers - 1. Hamish Whyte

The next readings at the Great Grog are on Sunday 12th October from 8pm. Here's the first of four introductions to the readers:

Hamish Whyte was born near Glasgow where he lived for many years before moving to Edinburgh in 2004. He is a poet, editor, translator and former librarian. His most recent poetry publication is Window on the Garden (essence/botanic press) and a new collection is due from Shoestring Press in December 2008. He runs Mariscat Press, publishing poetry, and has edited many anthologies of Scottish literature. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Scottish Literature, Glasgow University, and was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Writing Fellowship in 2007. Currently reviewing crime fiction for Scotland on Sunday.

Angel, Torridon

Hi there, says the biker girl
in the garden of the last house
in Alligin, as I trudge past
with my new haversack
and silly sun hat. She smiles:
long red hair, big in leathers.
From the seat up the hill
I look back and see her
still standing at the gate
the Harley against the wall.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Introducing the September 2008 Readers - 4. Michael Schmidt

Michael Schmidt was born in Mexico in 1949. He was educated at Harvard and Oxford and is now Professor of Poetry at the University of Glasgow, editorial director of Carcanet Press and general editor of PN Review. He has written novels, poetry and literary history, and is an anthologist. The Resurrection of the Body is his most recent collection (Smith/Doorstop 2006).

'His father was a baker . . .’
for A.G.G

His father was a baker, he the youngest son.
I understand they beat him, and they loved him.

His father was a baker in Oaxaca:
I understand his bakery was the best

And his three sons and all his daughters helped
As children with the baking and the pigs.

I can imagine chickens in their patio,
At Christmastime a wattled turkey-cock, a dog

Weathered like a wash-board, yellow-eyed,
That no one stroked, but ate the scraps of bread

And yapped to earn its keep. I understand
The family prospered though the father drank

And now the second brother follows suit.
I understand as well that love came

Early, bladed, and then went away
And came again in other forms, some foreign,

And took him by the heart away from home.
His father was a baker in Oaxaca

And here I smell the loaves that rose in ovens
Throughout a childhood not yet quite complete

And smell the fragrance of his jet-black hair,
Taste his sweet dialect that is mine too,

Until I understand I am to be a baker,
Up before dawn with trays and trays of dough

To feed him this day, next day and for ever --
Or for a time -- the honey-coloured loaves.

(from 'The Resurrection of the Body')

Other readers on Sunday 14th September:
Helena Nelson
Dorothy Baird
Charlotte Runcie

Friday, 5 September 2008

Introducing the September 2008 Readers - 3. Helena Nelson

Helena Nelson runs HappenStance Press in the small hours and at the weekends. By day she teaches Communication and English at Adam Smith College, Fife. She is both poet and critic. Her book-length collection is Starlight on Water, Rialto, 2003 and her more frivolous pamphlet is Unsuitable Poems, 2005, HappenStance.


Born in the dark
shimmering, pure,
it wakes you at dawn.
Everything else is dirty beside it—
the swings, the play-park, the shoddy gardens.

Cold in its beauty, its calculation,
work shines clean.
Driven honour, harder than love.
Begin, begin.

The other September readers are:
Michael Schmidt
Dorothy Baird
Charlotte Runcie

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Introducing the September 2008 Readers - 2. Charlotte Runcie

Charlotte Runcie has been writing poems for almost three years now, after having won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award in 2006. She went on to win first prize in the Oxford University Christopher Tower Poetry Awards, and has since had her work published in several magazines across Scotland and England. She co-founded and now edits an online poetry magazine, Pomegranate, for young writers, and her first poetry chapbook will be published by tall-lighthouse in 2009. She is 19 years old and lives in Edinburgh.


We gather acorns from the grass,
each seed as round as hours, discuss the time
and how it moves; we head for trees

and lope along the ridged nut rivulets of bark
which creak and twist, mechanical; and hardwood cogs
are whirring backwards, shedding laughter lines.

We cling to all these days like frost,
our tails curled around the time
and necks of trees, coiled and weightless –

you say you sense the winter, smell the cold.
This stream will split by evening; minnows
breathe again. This air would break our lungs

so I sleep along the length of you, dreaming sundials,
our bodies hushed. We weave a downy helix. Then,
at dawn – November chimes with harder light – you stir

once, again, again. We slot
into the seasons every year,
unconscious, soft as clockwork.

(first published in Read This magazine)

Other readers for September 2008:
Michael Schmidt
Helena Nelson
Dorothy Baird

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Introducing the September 2008 Readers - 1. Dorothy Baird

Dorothy Baird was born in Edinburgh but, after travelling and living abroad and in England for many years, came home to the city 19 years ago when the first of her three children was born. Her work has been widely published in magazines and anthologies and her first collection, Leaving the Nest, was published by Two Ravens Press last year. 4 of her poems were published in Two Ravens Press’s recent anthology, Cleave , which was Borders book of the month in June. She leads writing groups for adults and children, was Craigmillar's Writer in Residency this year and is also a Human Givens therapist.

Badger Watch

It wasn't so much the badgers
I'll remember, though their shadowy
forms caught my breath
as they rustled in the earth mounds

and nosed in twigs and bluebells - no,
it was rather the waiting,
the five of us, faithful
to the silence we'd agreed on,

crouched downwind, while night
eased itself among the trees
and sheep coughed in distant fields,
when we learned the language

of each other's face; how
in the sweeping dark
we dwindle to a beating heart,
and how in the long emptiness,

the sliver of hope still rises.

[published originally in Acumen and then in Leaving the Nest (Two Ravens Press)]

Other readers in September:

Michael Schmidt
Helena Nelson
Charlotte Runcie

Friday, 22 August 2008

September Poetry

Summer is over, as the rain-soaked streets of Edinburgh have testified for the past month but, on the bright side, it means that Poetry at the Great Grog will shortly begin a new session.

I’ll post a full programme for the next year soon. There are still a few (very few) spaces to fill, but I hope to sort that out this weekend.

The next reading is on Sunday September 14th from 8pm, and it’s a terrific line-up. The Great Grog is at 43 Rose Street, Edinburgh. Click on the names to find out more.

Michael Schmidt
Helena Nelson
Dorothy Baird
Charlotte Runcie

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Introducing the June 2008 Readers: 4. Kapka Kassabova

Kapka Kassabova was born in Bulgaria in the 1970s, and at the end of the Cold War her family emigrated first to Britain, then to New Zealand. After twelve years and several books in New Zealand, she moved to Edinburgh in 2005.

Her first poetry collection, All Roads Lead to the Sea, won a NZ Montana Award for best first poetry book. Her first novel, Reconnaissance, won a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Asia-Pacific, and she was twice named NZ Cathay Pacific travel writer of the year for her travel journalism. Two further poetry books are jointly published by Auckland University Press and Bloodaxe: Someone else’s life (2003) and Geography for the Lost (2007).

This year, she makes her UK prose debut with the darkly comic travel memoir Street Without a Name: childhood and other misadventures in Bulgaria (Portobello).

Ship Advancing in the Fog
(from Geography of the Lost)

I don't know why
the sound of the horn was near,
and yet the ocean was not.
Fog obscures the visible
and purifies sound,
which is to say: when nothing
is clear, something anticipates it.

I stood outside the door
and listened to a cargo ship approach,
forge its way past sleeping houses
and muffled street-lights,
and I was strangely calm -

as in a dream where nothing
surprises you, not giant waves
advancing from a personal afar,
nor giant ships. You are too small to run,
you stand transfixed by imminent disaster,
waiting for it to be too late,
waiting to be delivered.

Taster No. 1 - Mike Stocks
Taster No. 2 - Eleanor Livingstone
Taster No. 3 - Jim Carruth

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Introducing the June 2008 Readers: 3. Jim Carruth

Jim Carruth has been described as Scotland’s leading rural poet and activist. He was born in Johnstone in 1963 and grew up on his parents' dairy farm. After spending a period in Turkey he returned to live in Renfrewshire. He is the chair of St Mungo's Mirrorball, a network of Glasgow-based poets and is an outreach committee member for the StAnza poetry festival.

His first collection Bovine Pastoral was runner-up in the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award in 2004. This was followed by High Auchensale (Ludovic Press 2006) and Cowpit Yowe (Ludovic Press 2008).

He has also collaborated with lino-cut artist Barbara Robertson on the illustrated fable Baxter's old ram sang the blues.

The Moleman’s Apprentice

surfaced one Friday night
at the village hall
and asked her to dance,
leading the way
through the crowded floor,
parting couples
who closed in tight
behind them.
All evening she stared
into his small eyes
felt his first beard
soft furred
against her face,
but now that’s not
what she remembers
nor his dirty long nails,
his spade-like hands,
his proud boasting
that in a first week
measured in pelts
he had plucked the dead
from their dark;
instead it’s the incident
near the end,
when some joker
flicked a switch
cut the power,
his shudder and scream
as the night snapped shut.

Taster number 1 - Mike Stocks
Taster number 2 - Eleanor Livingstone

Friday, 23 May 2008

Introducing the June 2008 Readers: 2. Eleanor Livingstone

Eleanor Livingstone lives in Fife. She has been widely published in the UK, Ireland and the US, and some of her poems are presently being translated into Lithuanian.
Recent publications include her chapbook collection, The Last King of Fife (HappenStance, 2005) and, as editor, Skein of Geese (The Shed Press/StAnza, 2008) and Migraasje: Versions in Scots and Shetlandic (Stravaigers, 2008).
She is Artistic Director of StAnza: Scotland's Poetry Festival.

how to watch a seagull die

The parent birds must build a nest
on the brick cliffs of our chimney stack
three hundred yards from the promenade;
and the first we’ll know of it will be
when two pompoms of grey fluff
land on the half roof overlooked
by the photocopier and the fax machine.

And though the mother gull
will dive at us, squawking every time
she sees us dart from car to office door,
we’ll watch as spring warms into summer
and the fledglings sleep and peck and flap their way
into adulthood, growing sleek grey feathers,
discarding the fluff of their infant lives.

Eyeing us through the glass, impatiently they’ll pace
the five square yards of roof, measuring by hops
and runs and wingspans, readying for take-off.
Then some fine morning, we’ll arrive to find one
not asleep but huddled, less, trying again
and again to shake his fractious feathers
into place; and again. All day

while the fax machine bleeps
and the photocopier hums away
we’ll watch from our side of the window
one eye on the clock, knowing that at five
we'll pull down the blinds, switch off
the photocopier and leave the office,
avoiding the eye of the waiting mother bird.

- Originally published in Magma.

Taster No. 1 - Mike Stocks

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Introducing the June 2008 Readers: 1. Mike Stocks

Mike Stocks is an Edinburgh-based author. His novel White Man Falling won the Goss First Novel Award. His latest novel, an adventure-thriller called Down Deep written under the pen name Mike Croft, is just out. His book of sonnets Folly was published in 2006, while his translations of the sonnets of Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli were published in 2007. He is the editor of the poetry magazine, Anon.

A woman

Was I the only one who saw her cry?
She crossed me on the Mile, eyes raw and low,
went slowly grieving past the Netherbow,
a self-contained but sobbing passerby.

Everybody’s father has to die,
though whether hers had died I wouldn’t know;
and lovers love us deeply, till they go,
but who’s to say if hers had gone, or why?

More likely, as you say, her tears were
for smaller causes than the ones I state---
though I’m the one who saw the then of her,

and paused before I walked to where I went,
not knowing who she was nor what it meant,
and watched her disappear down Canongate.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

2008-2009 Programme

Here's an updated programme for the Great Grog poetry readings in Edinburgh from now until February 2009. All events start at 8pm. The address is 43 Rose Street (take the first left going up Hanover Street. The Great Grog is thirty yards along the road)

I've given links to the June 2008 poets: websites of Kapka Kassabova, Mike Stocks and Jim Carruth, and Eleanor Livingstone's HappenStance page. I hope to have bios and poems coming soon to this site.

Sunday 8th June, 2008
Kapka Kassabova
Mike Stocks
Eleanor Livingstone
Jim Carruth

Sunday 14th September, 2008
Michael Schmidt
Helena Nelson
Dorothy Baird
Charlotte Runcie

Sunday 12th October, 2008
Kei Miller
Hamish Whyte
Rob A. Mackenzie
Alice Howlett

Sunday 9th November, 2008
A.B. Jackson
Colin Will
Patricia Ace
James W. Wood

Sunday 8th February 2009
Tim Turnbull
Andrew Philip
Andrew Shields
Alan Gay

and coming after that (among others) - Claire Crowther, Kevin Cadwallender, Brian Johnstone, Ivy Alvarez, Julia Rampen etc.

And previously at the Great Grog:

Sunday 11th May, 2008
Alan Gillis
Sally Evans
Barbara Smith
Claire Askew

Sunday 13th April, 2008
Tom Pow
Joy Hendry
Margaret Christie
Elizabeth Gold

Sunday 10th February 2008
Cheryl Follon
Hazel Frew
Alexander Hutchison
Christie Williamson

Sunday 4th November 2007
Roddy Lumsden
AB Jackson
Andrew Philip
Rob A Mackenzie

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Report on the 11th May Event

I really enjoyed myself on Sunday evening. I’d met up with Barbara Smith earlier and we walked for miles around the city centre and the Royal Mile.

All four readers – Barbara Smith, Claire Askew, Sally Evans and Alan Gillis – were terrific. Another night of contrasts. Barbara read with an easy-going warmth and went down very well. Claire didn't show a trace of nerves if she had any and impressed everyone I spoke to. Sally read sections from her new long poem, 'The Bees', which involves bees, elephant-artists and hotdogs - a real feat of imagination. Alan Gillis served up sonic fireworks with an emotional core, poems that look outwards. He's a fantastic reader.

Some of the readers and audience migrated afterwards to The Standing Order in George Street until around 1.30am. It was about 2.30 before I got to bed, but there's no reason to regret any of it, despite my tiredness the next day.

Apprentice has blogged about the evening. Good to hear people enjoyed it.

Sally Evans reports on it as well.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Introducing the May 2008 Readers: 3. Sally Evans

Sally Evans lived in Edinburgh for many years where she developed Poetry Scotland broadsheet . Sally and Ian now live in Callander and continue to publish diehard poetry books. Sally's new book is a long poem, The Bees, and she is delighted to read from it in her old stamping ground, at the Great Grog .

Hares in Camp (from The Great North Road)

The dandelion clocks are closed.
A stir of wind will open them
and April showers will weigh them down
to wet flock, their pink hollow stems
oozing white stain like setting glue
that blackens children's hands.

Hares' bold paws bounce.
They are bound by spring
to race round acres in a ring,
to box and feint and frighten horses,
to impress their cousins, trump their mates
with poetry performances

we cannot emulate
as we lean on the wooden fence
beside our footpath, watching them
in their arena shared with gods
and Romans, this field still marked out
a playing-card game for their courses.

You can read another poem of Sally’s, That Moment, in Juliet Wilson’s Bolts of Silk blogzine.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Introducing the May 2008 Readers - 2. Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith lives in Louth, Ireland with her partner, dividing her time between raising six children, teaching Creative Writing and completing an MA in CW at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her debut collection, Kairos, was published in 2007 by Doghouse Books.

Famous Nude by Picasso

Today, I point two firm melons
at you. You latch on, voraciously,
..............Later, I let you begin,
fine-tuning looking for your
favourite signal coming through.

But then, wanton takes over,
turns us about, directs things awhile -
furious porphry almost wholly
out of grasp.

Then we go home
and have a nice cup of tea.

(First published nthposition, July 2004)

Monday, 28 April 2008

Introducing the May 2008 Readers: 1. Claire Askew

Here’s a brief bio and poem from Claire Askew, one of four poets reading at the Great Grog on Sunday May 11th.

Claire Askew’s work has appeared in Brittle Star, Pomegranate and the Glasgow Herald, and is forthcoming in the Edinburgh Review, Textualities and Snakeskin. She is the Editor in Chief of the 'Read This,' a magazine which encourages submissions from new and young writers. Claire was awarded the Grierson Verse Prize 2008 and the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry 2008, and was also joint-winner of the Sloan Prize for a short story in Lowland Scots.

Built in

I am still in here, despite the siege. Still here,
behind the maze of scaffolding and duckboards -
business almost as usual, though I daren't leave.

I watch the men through the drawn blind like TV,
as they paint over the rotting windowframes,
drink tea from flasks, sandblast, dig up pipes outside.

I keep the windows locked, just in case - paranoid,
I hide the jewellery box . On cold days, they slither
about on the slats, four floors up - a precarious ballet.

Some nights, I like to haul myself through
the wet window with a steaming cup, and sway
on the scaffold, scaring myself. I can choose -

to look out over the rainy slates, streetlights, the stretch
of council yards, or plunge. (Cobbles wink in the alley
below, its discarded mattress a festering fall-breaker.)

But it will be gone soon, this crows' nest, climbing-frame
for drunks, this cage. They will come in the morning,
wake me early, and pack it away, whistling.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Great Grog: May 2008 Line-Up

I had originally planned to bypass May at the Great Grog, skipping straight to the 8th June. However, there now will be a Great Grog gig in May!

The date will be Sunday 11th May from 8pm. And the programme is excellent so far:

Alan Gillis (his latest collection, 'Hawks and Doves', was nominated for this year's TS Eliot Prize)
Sally Evans (editor of Poetry Scotland and author of several collections, including her latest, "The Bees," just out)
Barbara Smith (debut collection, 'Kairos', was published by Doghouse Press last year)

There will be one other reader, still to be arranged. Looks good already though! More information e.g. bios, poems etc will arrive here over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Reviews and a New Date

Its been good to read blog reactions to the last gig at the Great Grog, particularly as they have been so positive. It was a superb evening and, if you missed it, you can read reports from Andrew Philip, Colin Will, and my inevitable fluff on Surroundings.

The next gig was going to be on Sunday 8th June, and that is still on. However, I can now reveal that there will be an extra date, on Sunday 11th May 2008! The line-up? Well, I’m still working on that, but I hope to have everything finalised very soon…

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Introducing the April 2008 Readers - 4. Joy Hendry

Joy Hendry edits Chapman - Scotland's Quality Literary Magazine and is also a poet, playwright, critic and broadcaster, appearing regularly particularly on radio and has given lectures on various cultural subjects all over the world. Over the years, she has become involved in many cultural movements - the campaign for a Scottish Parliament, the National Theatre, the Scots Language movement and generally agititates for anything she believes beneficial to Scotland and her cultural wellbeing.

For this compulsive activity and meddling, she was given an Honorary D Litt by Edinburgh University in 2005. Though her activities have recently been restricted due to chronic fatigue syndrome, which she has been fighting for 10 years, she is now anxious to get back much more into the public arena.

Waving and . . .
(PEN Conference, Dubrovnik, 1993)

What of poetry, of writers?
What of hopeful waving
from war-struck friends who hope so much of us?
In Dubrovnik of the shattered roofs
the fight remains.

We are there to listen,
and tell the world
by power of pen
the everyday tales of war.

Tinny transistors blare
like in every Scottish shop
for footabll cup finals.
But here the news
is not of goals, but new bombs
and victims
in Zadar.

We listen.
And everybody knows
the barbed frontiers of despair,
the black edge of drunkenness,
or abandonment, or hysteria,
or the access of conscience.
We listen. Maybe we will write,
or say, something?

In the midst of all this death
we hold hands, kissing, as if tenderness
were the only way to hold the world together.

And part,
as if, like the world,
we know nothing about how
to solve
this awful

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Sunday 13th April, 8pm

Designed by and © Ian McCaig, 2008.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Introducing the April 2008 Readers - 3. Margaret Christie

The third poet reading at the Great Grog Bar on 13th April is Margaret Christie. Her bio and poem is below:

Margaret Christie’s first collection, The Oboist’s Bedside Book, was published by HappenStance in 2007. Margaret lives in Edinburgh and is a member of Pomegranate Women’s Writing Group.


inside the grass, the hill

inside the bark, the tree

out of blackness, the tree
gives birth
to greenness

inside the grass, the hill

inside the sun, whiteness

inside the earth

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Introducing the April 2008 Readers - 2. Elizabeth Gold

Second up in this introduction to those reading at the Great Grog Bar on 13th April is Elizabeth Gold. Below is a brief bio and poem:

Elizabeth Gold is the author of Brief Intervals of Horrible Sanity, which was published by Penguin USA. Her poems have appeared in many American literary journals and her essays and reviews in papers ranging from The New York Times to The Glasgow Herald. She was born in New York City, and lives in Edinburgh.

Our food is as good, as music of Chopin.
-menu from Polish coffee shop

Mazurka, little fragment
of the dance, press
of the palm upon the waist,

a lock of hair slipped
in an envelope.
The food we serve is as good

as this. Can you hear it, or aren't you
listening? The doors pried
apart, crackle

of crinolines, all those girls
whispering as the music starts.
It’s got to go somewhere,

it can’t just vanish, leaving
no aftertaste. Say
this is a ballroom,

and the waiters like lovesick
swains are whirling round
the bigos, kielbasa,

borscht, blush dark as
violets. It’s in you now:
the first vibrato of

the piano, the curtsey,
the bow, shiver
of a bow upon the strings.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Introducing the April 2008 Readers: 1. Tom Pow

To whet your appetite for the next set of readings at the Great Grog on Sunday 13th April, I thought I’d ask the readers to contribute a brief bio and a representative poem for this site. I’ll post these at semi-regular intervals over the next few weeks.

First up is Tom Pow:

Tom Pow is the author of five full collections of poetry, the most
recent of which is Dear Alice – Narratives of Madness (Salt). In 2007 he
won a Creative Scotland Award. He teaches Creative Writing and
Storytelling at Glasgow University's Crichton Campus in Dumfries.


A man, believing himself to be dead,
stopped eating. The world became a plaything

of shadows. Spectres haunted him daily.
But Death, he discovered, was thin gruel –

there was no nourishment to be found there.
In for the long haul, he took to his bed.

Dying, however, remained active long after
he’d thought it disarmed. Nothing for it

but to soldier on till the cupboard
of memory was bare. A few of his friends

disguised themselves. They whitened
their faces then shrouded themselves

in loose fitting black gowns. They entered
his room, set up a table before him

and brought to it a spread of bread, meat,
cheese, chocolate and wine. They ate and drank

then replenished the feast. He stared at them
from out of the hollows of his fading eyes.

But why they asked him did he stay in bed?
Didn’t he realise dead people eat as much

as the living ever did? They helped him
up and they ate together through the night.

As dawn broke, they rejoiced at his rebirth –
the colour that flooded his cheeks; the energy

with which he cracked a chicken wing apart.
Yet they wondered, as they rose from the table,

how he’d lit the hunger in their bellies,
that drew them back to these leftover bones.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Photos on Facebook

I’ve added two photos of the 10th February event to the Poetry at the Great Grog Facebook page. At least everyone looks happy!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

2008 Programme

Here's a programme for the Great Grog poetry readings in Edinburgh from now until February 2009. The 'and one other' entries don't represent a vacant space. I'm just waiting for confirmation from a couple of people. Some brilliant evenings of live poetry lie ahead, as you can no doubt see. I'll give more information on the individual poets in due time, but you can google most of them.

I hope that some readers of this blog will make it along to these events. I'm always pleased to hear from people who would like to read, by the way - email me if you're interested. I'm going to form a small committee to make the decisions on who reads after February (other than those few who have already been booked of course).

I've given links to the April 2008 poets. Tom Pow's home web page, Joy Hendry's Chapman web page (she is editor of Chapman, Scotland's top literary magazine), Margaret Christie's chapbook at HappenStance Press, and an astonishing interview with Elizabeth Gold from 2003, following her brief experience of teaching in a high school.

Sunday 13th April, 2008
Tom Pow
Joy Hendry
Margaret Christie
Elizabeth Gold

Sunday 8th June, 2008
Kapka Kassabova
Mike Stocks
Eleanor Livingstone
Jim Carruth

Sunday 14th September, 2008
Michael Schmidt
Helena Nelson
Dorothy Baird
Charlotte Runcie

Sunday 12th October, 2008
Kei Miller
Hamish Whyte
Rob A. Mackenzie
Alice Howlett

Sunday 9th November, 2008
A.B. Jackson
Colin Will
Patricia Ace
James W. Wood

Sunday 8th February 2009
Tim Turnbull
Andrew Philip
Andrew Shields
(+ one other)


And previously at the Great Grog:

Sunday 10th February 2008
Cheryl Follon
Hazel Frew
Alexander Hutchison
Christie Williamson

Sunday 4th November 2007
Roddy Lumsden
AB Jackson
Andrew Philip
Rob A Mackenzie

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Report on 10 February Readings

After a beautiful sunny day in Edinburgh, the haar (sea-mist) fell over Edinburgh about 3.30pm on 10 February and immediately the temperature dropped, the air dampened, and the whole city was shrouded in cloud. The audience was smaller for the reading than I had hoped, but perhaps some people are still wandering about in the fog trying to find the bar, trying to find any bar.

It didn’t affect the readers who were all terrific. One good thing about them is their lack of ego. No one cared who went on first, last or in between, but the order they read in worked really well. They each write very different poems and are excellent readers. The result yesterday evening was predictably superb, but quality was the only predictable thing.

First was Cheryl Follon whose poems are packed full of sonic explosions and breathless rhythms – it’s hard to imagine a more dynamic start to a poetry reading. Second was Christie Williamson. I had met Christie a few times but had never heard him read and knew his work less than any of the others, but he was simply a revelation: funny, pointed, and well crafted poems, both in English and in Shetlandic dialect. Third was Hazel Frew. Hazel’s poems set a meditative tone, the diction precise and illuminating. Really strong work. Finally, Sandy Hutchison, whose range is as wide as any poet writing today, gave a reading that was witty, surprising and uncategorisable. He sang too, between poems.

So another cracking night at the Grog. Everyone I spoke to in the audience was blown away by the performances. The haar hasn’t yet lifted but for a few hours last night it was summer again.

Christie Williamson Poem

Christie Williamson read at the Great Grog Bar on February 10th. I’m very pleased to feature one of his poems, written in Shetland dialect, which was commended in the Wigtown Poetry Competition 2007. It’s a very good poem and I hope you enjoy it.

Some readers might feel immediately daunted by the dialect, but once you get going, it’s not too difficult, and well worth engaging with. Du = you, de/da = the, aa = all, laek = like, hit = it. Just to start you off.

I'd be interested in comments on how anyone unfamiliar with Shetlandic dialect (I guess that means most of us) found reading this poem.


Whit does du tink hit means
wi de faunsy wirds
an de slack smile,
been wi aabuidy
gyaan naewhaar
laek da mapmakker
draain da hert o Shanghai
gittin lost
atween Dim Sum
an fresh lychees;
laek da accoontant
blaain aa his credit
an losin his cheenge
atween livin free
an deein aald;
laek da merchant
grown fat
on shakkin his heid
wirkin aathin oot
keepin aathin in;
laek da kind voice
hearin ay hoo it’s wrang
seein ay hoo it’s richt
keepin ay oot a sicht;
laek da queek tongue
firin verbal bullets
at conceptual targets
troo a funnellin telescopic gless;
laek da ivy
feelin hit’s wye
ee step faurder itae da wid
ivvery day
no keenin whit threatens hit
ony whit keeps hit alive.

.......... - Christie Williamson, 2007

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Hutchison, Follon, Frew and Williamson on Feb. 10th

After the first reading last November starring Roddy Lumsden, AB Jackson, Andrew Philip, and myself, here’s a little advance notice the second poetry gig at the Great Grog Bar below.

A fantastic line-up of poets will entertain, provoke and conjure up all kinds of verbal magic in the Back Lounge of the Great Grog Bar in Rose Street, Edinburgh (walk up Hanover Street, turn left at Rose Street for 30 metres).

The readers will be (click on the names for links):

Alexander Hutchison
Cheryl Follon
Hazel Frew
Christie Williamson

I will be doing my MC thing, but not reading any poems.

Sunday 10 February 2008, 8pm
Donation of £2.50 (or more) would be appreciated (all money goes to the poets).

Alexander Hutchison

Following Carbon Atom (Link-light: 2006) Sandy Hutchison has just published Scales Dog - a new and selected - with Salt. He has done an interview with Andrew Duncan in Don't Start Me Talking: Interviews with Contempoorary Poets (also from Salt, 2007) and one reviewer comments: "Hutchison brings to the book a distinctive Scottishness which for me (with no Scottishness at all) has an especial richness of voice, reference, mischief".
The interview (and other work) can be read on the nifty website A B Jackson has designed at

Cheryl Follon

Cheryl's first book-length poetry collection All Your Talk was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004. Previous to that she published the pamphlet Tales from a Small Island with Duncan Glens' Akros Publications. She has won two Scottish Arts Council Writer's Bursaries and she spent the best part of 2004/2005 in New Orleans looking at southern folk songs and ballads.

Hazel Frew

Hazel’s pamphlet collection Clockwork Scorpion was published by Rack Press in 2006. Her debut full collection is due later this year from Shearsman Press (full bio in due course).

Christie Williamson

Christie spent his childhood in Yell in Shetland and now lives in Glasgow. He was runner up in the William Soutar Open Writing Prize 2006 and the Wigtown Poetry Competition 2007, and has been published in the New Shetlander, Shetland Life and Lallans as well as Shetland anthologies “The Pull of the Moon/Bicycle Dreams” and “North”. In 2007 he translated some of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry into Shetlandic for “Lorca’s Shadow”, a play based on Lorca’s life and work.