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.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Introducing the June 2009 Poets - 1. Andrew Philip

Andrew Philip was born in 1975. He has published two poetry pamphlets with HappenStance PressTonguefire (2005) and Andrew Philip – a Sampler (2008)—and was chosen as a Scottish Poetry Library “New Voice” in 2006. The Ambulance Box, his first book of poems, was published in March by Salt. Andrew’s work has also been included in the anthologies The Smoky Smirr o Rain, The Wallace Muse and, most recently, 5PX2: Five Italian Poets and Five Scottish Poets. He blogs at Tonguefire.

for Aidan Michael Philip

this is the arm that held you
this is the hand that cradled your cold feet

these are the ears that heard you
whimper and cough through your brush with light

this is the chest that warmed you
these are the eyes that caught your glimpse of life

this is the man you fathered —
his voided love, his writhen pride and grief

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Introducing the May 2009 Poets - 4. Robert Crawford

Poet and critic Robert Crawford was born in Belshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1959. He works as Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St Andrews. He won an Eric Gregory award in 1988 and was one of 20 poets selected for the Poetry Society's 'New Generation Poets' promotion in 1994. He has twice won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, and four of his collections have been Poetry Book Society Recommendations. His latest collection is Full Volume (2008), which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize

I searched the Internet for Robert Crawford poems to link to from here and found only one (other than those published illegally, which I won’t draw attention to). But here’s Local from Poetry Daily, also found in Full Volume.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Introducing the May 2009 Readers - 3. Julia Rampen

Julia Rampen comes from Edinburgh and is currently studying history at Cambridge University. However, she prefers writing poetry to writing essays. Julia was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2005 and 2006, a prizewinner in the Christopher Tower competition and currently is involved in the organization of a poetry event for Cambridge University's Festival of Ideas next autumn.

My Grandmother’s House

My grandmother’s house rises
with the dawn. The sun drips
cinnamon through elderly glass,
embracing flowers flung
up vases, like birds;
rouses a fire that burns junk
into jewels.

The kitchen carries passengers,
my grandmother at its helm:
iced luncheons, rumours of suburbs
advancing in immaculate platoons,
plates like fragile moons
throwing tantrums in the sink.
Upstairs, ancestors nap
between pages of imperial
scrapbooks, or in the parlour,
quiet as a brittle pool, a second
preserved for fifty years.

Its brick walls blush by sunset,
mask themselves in languid dusks
like a chrysalis. Through fly eyed
windows, I watch summer evenings
replay again and again, as heat
begins to thin. Knowing
I only have to creep downstairs
and open a door
to let the bulldozers in.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Introducing the May 2009 Readers - 2. JL Williams

JL Williams was born in New Jersey and studied at Wellesley College with the poet Frank Bidart and on the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her poetry has been published in journals including Aesthetica, The Red Wheelbarrow, Cutting Teeth, Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry Wales and coming up in Fulcrum and Stand. She is one of the founding members of SHIFT and is on the editorial boards of VAIR Poetry magazine and of Brown Williams Journal.


His wet skin, his five dark horses, his antelope horns, his long thighs, his lips.

There is a bruise above his breast beneath which beats the bronze drum of Tantalus.

Married to the daughter of a river-god how
could he ever hold her, body rushing through fingers...
himself neither one thing nor... always just out of...

In Argos they stroke his bones, he whose soul is that of a man's, whose body
is that of a god's, resides where his mother made him deep
in the bowels of the earth where rubies and diamonds propagate.

Shaman, he fed his son to the earth and the earth
in her sorrow ate him and thus he must be buried and must
we all be buried, become like jewels, become bounty.

- (originally published in The Wolf, Issue 19, December 2008)

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Introducing the May 2009 Readers - 1. Gerry McGrath

Below is Gerry McGrath’s bio and a poem:

Grew up in Helensburgh and went to Strathclyde Uni to study mod langs. Graduated there 1985. Thereafter much of consequence! Research student, Floor-sander, TEFL teacher, bar worker. Post-grad student of Russian language. Jordanhill, for my sins. Seven long years as dominie terminated by illness. Co-winner (with David Kinloch) of 2004 Robert Louis Stevenson memorial award. Spent two fabulous months at Grez where first book completed (2005). Awarded Scottish Writer's bursary (2007) to write book of poems on theme of silence. Live in West Kilbride with my lovely wife Kate and two sons Liam and Owen, walking on the beach between nappies.


There’s this poem that begins
with a vase, four stems standing
in water translucent as the flesh
of grapes. It speaks of mothers
lifting stones, forking over wrack,
searching the pelts of bees for signs
of their departed sons, and ends abruptly,
with a surprise dividend, a crash
of old glass, some coins, goodbyes,
a promise.

(from A to B © Carcanet Press 2008, used with author's permission)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Introducing the April 2009 Readers - 4. Kevin Cadwallender

Kevin Cadwallender lives in Edinburgh. He was shortlisted for a Sony Award for his BBC Radio 4 programme 'Voyages'. His selected poems Dances with Vowels (Smokestack Books) was published Feb 2009. He runs 'Voxbox' a poetry venue in Edinburgh (with Anita Govan), is Scottish Editor for Red Squirrel Press and co-editor of 'Vair' magazine. Visit for unpublished poetry. Books include Baz Poems (Rebel Inc), Public (Iron), Baz Uber Alles (Dogeater ) and Colouring in Guernica (Red Squirrel).

Brideshead 61 Revisited

God said to Evelyn write me a book
Something set in an England
With some upper class fucks
Eve said ‘When?’
God said, ‘Now!’
You can do what you like but the next time
You see me coming you better run.
Eve says where do you want this plot undone
God says out at Brideshead 61.

Well Kingsley Amis had some muddy prose
Loathed Dylan Thomas in his Anglo-welsh pose
They both drank hard, they both slept around
They both ended up under the ground.
Kingsley said write it quickly Eve, cos I gotta run
Dylan just pointed with a syllabic gun, said Kingsley
You’ll be out written by your own dear son.
Evelyn just smiled cos he had Auberon
Sniping the aristocracy out at Brideshead 61.

Well Jerome K Jerome put three men in a boat
Said I think P.G. Wodehouse is gonna be king
Don’t answer the phone Jeeves and quickly bring
Me a cool white spritzer at the sixty first ring.
And Jeeves said Sir, I think this can be easily done
I’ll phone the supplier at Brideshead 61.

Now E.M. Forster on the second night
Wrote to vex George Orwell with untenable delight
As Evelyn pulled at Dali’s facial fluff
Attempting to confirm surrealism was more than a bluff
Pablo said, ‘No’
Sal never spoke
Evelyn just satirised
And married the Pope.
God said we can get your marriage to run
Just write me that book , Brideshead 61.

Now the Royal Horse Guards needed another cap
Randolph Churchill said I know just the chap
So he wrote the book at the end of the war
And said I never wrote this kind of thing before
But yes I believe it can be very easily done
Just squeeze the rural trigger on Thomas Hardy’s gun
And drop the whole shebang down at Brideshead 61.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Introducing the April 2009 Readers - 3. Nigel McLoughlin

Nigel McLoughlin is an award winning Ulster poet. He is the author of four collections of poetry, the latest of which is Dissonances (Bluechrome 2007). His New and Selected Poems will be published by Templar Poetry in August 2009. He is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire.


The light changes. It
flashes the road to sepia
in the mirror. A backward glance

at the kids shows they’re sleeping
and an old man pushes a bike.
The light changes it

to a skeleton of black lines,
changes him to a black line
in the mirror. The backward glance

of sunlight off the road glares
the whole picture into a monochrome
the light changes. It

changes the old man, bends him
into his grandfather, a picture-postcard
in the mirror; a backward glance

a hundred years ago. Nothing changes.
Time fragments like a flash and gleam
in the mirror. A backward glance.
The light changes it.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Introducing the April 2009 Readers - 2. Ryan Van Winkle

Ryan Van Winkle is currently the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City Libraries. He runs a monthly “Literary Cabaret” called The Golden Hour and is an Editor at Forest Publications. He lives in Edinburgh but was born and spent most of his life in America. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, Northwords Now, and (soon) The American Poetry Review.


A week ago I spilled
a can of gasoline onto the dirt
floor of the barn.

A gallon or so soaked into the earth.
Since then, I’ve had headaches,
can’t catch my balance.

And I can still smell the gas
from more than 20 yards away.
It reminds me of hitching west

and this ride I hooked
in the back of a truck
the color of rust.

When I shook the driver’s hand he smiled.
His teeth looked like a caterpillar,
and I knew I was beat.

The guy kept all these rags back there,
soaked in gasoline. It was warm
and I fell asleep in a cocoon of reek.

When I came to, it was almost time
to get out. I could feel caterpillars on me,
thought I was going to suffocate.

......He said the free ride was over, it was only a matter of time,
............and I didn’t wish to be out west,
......didn’t care to sit in any more cars with strangers
............and talk about the pace or weather back east.

I tried to lose the smell in a stream,
thought I sent it upriver, away
like father, the attic, his ties.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Introducing the April 2009 Readers - 1. Claire Crowther

Claire Crowther worked till recently as a director of communications. She has just completed a PhD in contemporary poetry. Her first collection, Stretch of Closures, was shortlisted for the Jerwood/Aldeburgh Prize for Best First Collection and her second collection, The Clockwork Gift, has just appeared from Shearsman.

Lost Child

Scrape the ditch that fits Hob's Moat
to Hatchford Brook. Look through oak roots,

the horse field, uphill to Elmdon.
Is she hiding behind that sky-blue Lexus?

Shout towards the airport. Planes rise
and fall as if ground were a shaking blanket.

Up there, the air hostesses smile.
Inflate your own life jacket first.

The small original airport building stands
apart, a mother at a school gate.

Pearl was playing quietly alone.
My ear is like a shell the wind swept.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Introducing the March 2009 Readers - 4. Alexander Hutchison

Alexander Hutchison published Scales Dog (Salt: Cambridge) in 2007. This followed Carbon Atom (Link-light: Glasgow, 2006). "Epistle from Pevkos," included there, and dedicated to Gael Turnbull, has just been re-issued as a pamphlet. Born in Buckie, Hutchison lives in Glasgow and still does a bit of kick-about on Sundays.

Wine-Gum Green Cardigan, Tweedy Skirt

Just one of three women asleep
across from/adjacent to me on
a train that’s headed north.

This nearest a terrier with chin
tucked in above the checked
and neatly laundered shirt.

Awake, she snaps: the trolley
man already found that out before
she got her little boost of pinot noir
(with half-a-dozen softened dates).

Now, asleep, her pinched nose
her pearl-decked lobes, her silver
pepper and salted hair swept up
in a top-knot bun declare, if not
wealth, privilege, and temper
temporarily under wraps.

She’s been to Kew; she reads
the weekend Times. She knows
her mind. Can nip (I said before).

Watch out she doesn’t lock
her little teeth around your
finger tips or rip the flesh in
strips off anywhere else.

[Printed first in A Festschift for Duncan Glen at Seventy Five,
eds. Tom Hubbard and Philip Pacey, Craigarter Press, 2008]

Monday, 2 March 2009

Introducing the March 2009 Readers - 3. Colin Donati

Colin Donati is a poet and musician living in Edinburgh. His main collection to date is Rock is Water, or a History of the Theories of Rain (Kettillonia, 2003). As a poet he has also collaborated with artist Pauline Burbidge for the book Tweed Rivers (Luath/Platform 2005) and with composer Robin Mason on the Benchtours musical theatre production Yellow House (debut performance, Brunton Theatre, 2007). In 2007 he received major SAC support to complete a translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment into Scots, and in December 2008 a poster of his Scots translation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was presented to the First Minister by Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary. He is currently preparing a collection of poetry for Sand/Red Squirrel Press.

Predictable Experience

I am like that sad animal the gibbon in the zoo
dipping its fingers in its own sex and sniffing them
lain over a bale on its back, flat amongst tyres in its box,
lit by white bulbs on a drizzly day and gazed at
from behind thick plate glass in the crowded walk-way
by the smooth-faced murmurous-tongued cousins there
who pass in file hour upon hour and who I do my utmost
to pretend are harmless -

with my straw, two ramps, some rope and a hatch to the outdoors,
I am like it, yes - and why? Is it because I'm not sure
that I care for my numen and I'm lonely and I make
shadow-shows that show my own kind terrorised
by sixty-foot gorillas or voracious escaped dinosaurs
and my highest dream is to lie with a partner
in the stink or our own bed? Can this be true?
Can this really be true? Can the mind heed
no higher goal?

The mind protests its shabby hopes against better visions
through establishment of sure connections such as
we are not animals when we engage in sex -
our experience altogether more elevated and unique
than anything the gibbon undergoes with mates -
I have a salary, can drive a car, understand
the layout of a supermarket, answer phones

- from ROCK IS WATER or A History of the Theories of Rain, and

Friday, 27 February 2009

Introducing the March 2009 Readers - 2. Paula Jennings

Paula Jennings’s poems have been published in literary magazines, national newspapers, and anthologies. They have been carved in stone by Gillian Forbes (Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, 2004), translated into Polish as part of a poetry exchange with Krakow libraries, and broadcast on Radio Scotland.

Paula received Scottish Arts Council Writers' Bursaries in 1999 and 2002, a Hawthornden Writing Fellowship in 2003, and was a featured poet at StAnza Poetry Festival in 2005.

She promotes poetry writing in groups and as an individual mentor. She also works creatively with people who have dementia, sometimes making collaborative poems.

Poetry collections:
Singing Lucifer, Onlywomen Press (2002/2007)
From the Body of the Green Girl, HappenStance Press (2008)

Easter in Acharn

A winter hare wrong-footed
on the piebald hill, white fur shrill
in the shadow of the buzzard’s cross.
the bird tenses on air,
gathers grace for the steep fall.

Darkness is still tight inside
the paired black buds of ash
but all along this path
flickers of quartz signal resurrection.
Down beside the waterfall, a cave
screams open and Christ knows
this is harder than Gethsemane,

this programmed stumble
into light, these rainbows
hung like bunting on the tired hills.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Introducing the March 2009 Readers - 1. Nalini Paul

Nalini Paul’s poetry and fiction have been published widely in the UK, and in the US. She was born in India, grew up in Vancouver and has been living in Scotland since 1994. She is currently working on a collection of poetry inspired by nature and migration, and is writing a novel based on her family history, for which she received a Scottish Arts Council grant. Nalini has worked collaboratively with artists in Glasgow and Biggar, where she was writer-in-residence at the Ruby Orange Gallery (2005-6). Her collaborative book, Leaf Fall, Seeing by Touch, was published by Grimalkin Press in 2006.

Bird Dreaming

The poor cormorant, limping, can’t sing.
Anyway, its wings weren’t made for water.

Who would have thought
that a black bird without grace
could stir the river’s pity?

When it dreams it lets the breeze in,
wings opened loosely like a limp toy
on a draw string.

Then it skirts the surface:
of legs, claws and wings.

Darkness echoes in near-flight
as it hides its guttural croaking call.

When it lands, silence replies,
returning nothing.

But a bird dream is a word dream
when a cormorant fails to sing.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Introducing the February 2009 Readers - 4. Tim Turnbull

Tim Turnbull is equally well known as a poet on the page and in performance.
Here’s his biography.

And here’s a poem, Stranded in Sub-Atomica, from his collection of the same name, which was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2006.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

URGENT - Change of Venue for 8th February

I've had to move the readings on Sunday 8th February from the Great Grog Bar to a café-style hall in St Cuthbert's Church. It's at 5 Lothian Road, just behind the big St John's Episcopal Church on the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road.

It's a 'Bring Your Own Bottle' venue (I've been told that alcoholic drinks are fine). I'll bring along plastic glasses, a corkscrew and a bottle-opener.

The reason is because Scotland are playing Wales at rugby on Sunday and every bar in Rose Street will be packed with drunk, noisy rugby fans. I don't follow rugby and only found out when the manager of the Great grog phoned me to let me know. Trying to hold a poetry reading in a bar with competition from hundreds of rugby fans through a thin wall would be a fruitless exercise. The hall in St Cuthbert's looks good and I'm sure it's the best solution.

To say the last few hours have been stressful is an understatement. I am normally calm under pressure, but I now feel exhausted from the stress! However, at least things now seem to have been resolved and I'm looking forward to some great readings on Sunday evening.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Date Swap

Those of you with sharp eyes will have noted that Andrew Philip and Julia Rampen have swapped reading dates. Julia is now on in May and Andy will read in June. Incidentally, the order the names come in these lists doesn't necessarily bear any relationship to the order people will read on the night. Sometimes, that decision is easy. There's a obvious order that makes sense. However, on other occasions, it can be difficult and I have to think quite hard about it.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Introducing the February 2009 Readers - 3. Alan Gay

Alan Gay studied Political Science and was formerly an Educational Advisor. He now lectures in Navigation and Meteorology and spends his summers with his wife Jancis sailing their yacht. His poetry is well placed in competitions, magazines and anthologies. His most recent poetry pamphlet is The Boy Who Came Ashore (Dreadful Night Press, 2006). He has twice been runner-up in the National Galleries of Scotland poetry competition. He lives with his family in East Lothian.

Gale Warning

Each oar-thrust spread arrowheads
that kept Gunsgreen House in line
with a crowd of gulls over the town cowp.

Behind the grunt of timbers,
bump of oars, we used the dying drum-roll
of combers on sand to judge distance off

then paused to drop our lines
poised on a copper dome made molten
by ripples thrown by the boat’s yaw.

All round the fleet swung metronome masts
in a calm that floated bird down.
Gulls swirled above our heads

leaking amber through corona-edged wings
feathers fine as lashes.
Again and again they dived across the sun,

shadows criss-crossing the deck
urgent, as if to warn us
to heed the signs:

the heel of a hand on the horizon
fingers reaching out
to crush the sun.

from The Boy Who Came Ashore, Dreadful Night Press, 2006

Monday, 26 January 2009

Introducing the February 2009 Readers: 2. Andrew Shields

Andrew Shields was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1964, and raised in Michigan, Ohio, California, and England. His poems have appeared in many journals, as well as in the chapbook Cabinet d'Amateur (Cologne: Darling Publications, 2005). The most recent appearance of his translations in book form is Tussi Research, by the German poet Dieter M. Gräf (Green Integer, 2008). He lives with his wife and three children in Basel, Switzerland, where he teaches at the University of Basel. His blog is, and his band Human Shields is at this MySpace page.

September Rain

for Dieter M. Gräf

Past autobahn construction sites,

of traffic. Past television

atop Hessian hills. Past

soaring between sudden

kestrels hovering over

flocks of starlings

into roadside trees. Past a freshly

field of crows. Through the

of spray from asphalt. Through

of rain from overpasses. Past

starting and landing over the

of Frankfurt. Everything standing, even

medieval castles perched

on the passing bluffs.

by a car from Cologne — how the cathedral

and withstood the air

The rain

soon we'll be home, safe as

— 16-17 September 2001

(from Andrew's chapbook collection, Cabinet d'Amateur)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Introducing the February 2009 Readers: 1. Jane McKie

Jane McKie, originally from Sussex, now lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She has had poems published in Island magazine, New Writing Scotland, The Red Wheelbarrow, Other Poetry and Pennine Platform, and her first collection, Morocco Rococo (Cinnamon Press), won the 'first book' category of the Sundial/Scottish Arts Council Book Awards 2008. She runs Knucker Press, a small press dedicated to pairing writers and artists.

The poem below was published in Smiths Knoll 43, and will appear in Jane’s forthcoming collection from Polygon:

Flat Raft

Pulled across the Adur
one swallocky day
on a flat raft, cows

were restless,
mother’s long skirts curled
against her wet legs,

and all the children sat
at the end nearest
the animal reek,

elders up-wind.
It was a squashed day when
mud was water, water mud

and blood ran slowly in the veins.
All the talk and noise couldn’t
blot the buzz of the river

swollen with summer,
dying of it, from one boy.
He held the tiller of a modern

ship in his hand, sailed into
another age, just from wishing
the air be a mite thinner.