Yikes! It’s so long since I’ve posted here it almost feels like I’ve forgotten what to do. Anyway, here I am back again to let you know about what I’m up to this Edinburgh Festival.
On Thursday (14 August), I’ll be at Summerhall for the launch of the Irish Pages anthology, The Other Tongues: An Introduction to Writing in Irish, Scots Gaelic and Scots in Ulster and Scotland. I helped with the Scots for the book and provided an introduction on Scots writing in Scotland (as opposed to Ulster Scots). The event will be introduced by Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, and Robert McDowell, with further remarks by Murdo MacDonald, Chris Agee and me, followed by a brief reading from the book by Aonghas MacNeacail. The book is an extremely handsome volume and it should be a really good evening.
On Friday (15 August), I’ll be back at The Fruitmarket Gallery for another Six Poets reading. It is always an excellent evening’s poetry and, this year, I’ll be appearing alongside Chrissy Williams, AB Jackson and Simon Barraclough along with the other Fruitmarket stallwarts Isobel Dixon and Rob A Mackenzie. Isobel has taken on the mantle of blog promotion this year and the links take you to poems from the readers on her site. Click on the flyer to the left for more info.
I’m just back through the door from a practice with Stewart Veitch and Frank Glynn — a.k.a. Holm — for Tuesday’s Hidden Door performance. It’s the first time we have tried out what we are planning to do for the gig and we are all really excited about how well the music and poetry are working together — in fine balance and each at the service of the other. We can’t wait to present this new venture on Tuesday. Catch us at around 8:15 PM. Book your tickets here!
Hidden Door is back! This time, it’s a nine-day arts extravaganza featuring 40 bands, 70 artists, poetry, cinema, theatre and bars — yes bars plural — in the 24 disused vaults in Edinburgh’s Market St. It starts on Friday this week and runs until Saturday 5 April.
I’m excited to be appearing on Day 5, Tuesday 1 April, in a MacAdam collaboration with Holm. This set will be part of Words vs Music, an evening of poetry, spoken word and music divided into three movements across two vaults:
Movement 1 – Ethereal electronica from the Highlands-based Fiona Soe Paing and poet Jane McKie, with renowned projection artist Tracy Foster.
Movement 2 – Nuanced songwriting by Matt Norris and the Moon, a music and word collaboration by duo Holm and acclaimed poet Andrew Philip, climaxing with the incredible performers Mickey 9s.
Movement 3 – Poetry by Rob A Mackenzie juxtaposed with a rare performance of Steve Reich’s Different Trains by Viridian Quartet, building the tension before a full energy set by the Paraletic Universe Hip Hop collective, featuring DJ Sokol and Tragic Pro, plus Wolfhart, Mr P, and MC Dandy, and featuring “Drawings from the Underground”, a live projected drawing by Miss U Kam-Ling.
Trio Verso keep things real with their spoken word music-poetry in the Project Space, and Olof Ohlson’s sound installation will thread between all the performance spaces.
Holm and I will be onstage at 8:25, but don’t miss the rest of the evening, which will be fantastic. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Rob’s response to the Steve Reich, which he has blogged about a little bit here.
Get your tickets here or from the performers in person! There is an exclusive offer on all online ticket sales, finishing today. If you buy a ticket for Saturday 29th or Sunday 30th March, you receive a £5 ticket for any night between Monday 30th and Thursday 3rd April. You know you want to …
With Linlithgow Book Festival over for another year, my thoughts are turning to the next reading. I’m delighted and honoured to be reading at St Mungo’s Mirrorball on Thursday 21 November alongside the wonderful Michael Symmons Roberts, whose Drysalter deservedly won the Forward prize this year, and Alexandra Oliver. Readers of this blog will probably need no introduction to Michael’s work; I confess I’m unfamiliar with Alexandra’s, but part of the joy of readings is hearing a new voice.
I was last at the Mirrorball back in 2009 with The Ambulance Box, and that was a great night. It will be a pleasure to return. In fact, this will be my first trip to Glasgow with The North End of the Possible. The reading kicks off at 7 pm and is held at the Poetry Club in the Glasgow Art Club, 185 Bath Street, Glasgow. See you there!
In September this year, I was part of a peace and reconcilation pilgrimage to Flodden, which was the Northumbria Community‘s contribution to the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden.
We peace pilgrims took part in the service of solemn commemoration the day after the anniversary. My contribution to that included the following poem, which I delivered together with Paul Revill, who led the pilgrims from Durham. I meant to post it here a couple of months ago and never got round to it, but it seemed deeply appriopriate to Remembrance Day, so I offer it in that spirit now:
For the Brave and Craven of Both Nations
Come, cushie-doo whose kiss
will seal the lips of every wound:
hover over Branxton’s slopes
where height cries out to height:
unforge each billhook, broadsword, pike,
warhead, Kalashnikov and drone:
then breathe the colour back
into the forest flowers scorched
by the heat of the fray:
unfurl as a banner the shoots
within unnumbered grains of wheat
that mourn the ground where they fall:
create at long last, here
in this deep lamenting soil,
the final loss of loss—
that longed-for sorrowless field.
For the brave and craven … : the inscription on the Flodden memorial at Branxton is “For the brave of both nations”.
cushie doo (Scots): the wood pigeon; also, a term of endearment.
Branxton: the battle was actually fought outside the village of Branxton in Northumberland and was initially known as the battle of Branxton muir.
forest flowers: the famous lament “The Flooers o the Forest” was written in commemoration of the battle.
sorrowless field: Sorrowlessfield is a place in the Borders. It is said to be so named because it was the only farm in the area that did not lose someone at Flodden.
A busy but doubtless exhilarating day awaits me tomorrow at Linlithgow Book Festival 2013. In the morning, I’m running a poetry workshop as I have done for the part several years. It’s at the Mel Gray centre at the canal basin from 10.30 to 12.30 and there are still some tickets available.
In the afternoon, I’ll have the pleasure of seeing Renita Boyle in action when she brings her new book for pre-school and early primary-age children, Not A Cloud in the Sky, to LBF. Renita is on at 2pm in St John’s Church in Union Road.
In the evening, I will be reading at the Night in the Gutter event along with Doug Johnstone, Patricia Ace and Kona Macphee. Last year’s Gutter event was fantastic and we’re excited to bring you another hour of some of the best new writers in Scotland, accompanied once again by evocative music from Holm.
As if that wasn’t enough to bring you down to the Linlithgow Masonic hall tomorrow evening, I’m really excited about the open mic event that follows the Gutter reading. There are some really strong readers on the line-up and you’ll be guaranteed a tremendous night of prose and poetry. Music again from Holm just tops it off.
Of course, those are only a few of the delights on offer this weekend. We also have a slew of big names on the bill, so be sure to check out the full programme here.
Gracious, I’m almost getting to be an old hand at this online reading lark. I suppose twice counts something like “old hand” in the world of new technology, right? Anyway, it was a great pleasure to read with Isabel Galleymore, Chris McCabe and Paul Stephenson for the first of two special Transatlantic Poetry readings that Robert Peake is doing on the back of the special feature on British poetry he presented in issue 10 of Silk Road Review. Even if “with” feels slightly different to when you’re all sitting in a room together, there is still the same camaraderie. In fact, there may even be more of a camaraderie, given that we’re all pretty new to this approach of the “virtual poetry magazine”, as Paul called it.
Those of you who missed the reading — or those of you who didn’t but want to relive the experience — can see it here:
And you can, until Tuesday (15 October 2013), win a copy of the Silk Road issue we all read from. Details are in the video.
The second of these Silk Road readings is on Saturday. Details are here. There is a tremendous line-up of readers: Liz Berry, Fiona Benson, Mark Burnhope, Abi Curtis, Helen Ivory, Ira Lightman, Rob A. Mackenzie, and Esther Morgan. Not to be missed!