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For the Brave and Craven of All Nations

A wreath laid by the Flodden memorial on the anniversary of the battle.

A wreath laid by the Flodden memorial on the anniversary of the battle.

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.

#LinLitGo: A Weekend of Delights Awaits


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.

#TApoetry Silk Road Reading 1


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!

#TApoetry Takes to the Silk Road


I have been rather preoccupied lately with the latest course that I am tutoring for the Poetry School online and have also been kept out of further mischief by an exceedingly busy period at the day job, hence the paucity of posts in this neck of the virtual woods. However, I’m swiftly sticking my nose out of my poetic and parliamentary burrow to let you know that I’ll be reading as part of a Silk Road Transatlantic Poetry hangout on air tomorrow (Sunday, 13 October) at 8 PM UK time. Full details are available here. Hope to see some of you there.

Of Independent, Mind


I missed it until alerted through Facebook today but, yesterday, The North End of the Possible was reviewed in The Independent alongside Helen Mort’s debut collection, Jean Sprackland’s new book and books by Christopher Meredith and Tara Bergin plus a Salt pamphlet by Edward Mackay. The comment on my book is brief but favourable. I particularly like the bit about its being a book “to be revelled in long after the thrillers have fallen apart”, but what pleases me most is that this is the first review of my work in any of the broadsheets (unless there have been others I’ve missed). Along with the review in The List in April, this means the book is getting noticed more widely than The Ambulance Box, which is very gratifying indeed.

Six Poets: Isobel Dixon

Photo by Jo Kearney

Photo by Jo Kearney

In the last of our posts for the Six Poets at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Isobel Dixon pays tribute to Syd Barrett:

Astronomy Sonnetry

“This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,” whispered the Rat, as if in a trance.
‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ from The Wind in the Willows

Rickenbacker, Farfisa, Fender —
planetary incantation, sinister
slide guitar. Zippo your mirrored Esquire’s
strings till they singe the air. Variable stars,
you’re burning up the UFO; the Roundhouse roars
in borrowed dream-time. Enter brassy Mars;
Pan leads the interstellar entourage,
tells Saturn that Miranda is a dream.
A saucerful of tunes captures the moon’s
transitions. Neptune, Jupiter, shine on
and their midsummer groupies crowd and swoon,
but wake to realise that Pluto’s gone.
The spokes of the galaxy whirr and gleam.
The lost son of Otter wheels home again.

from The Tempest Prognosticator (Salt, 2011)


TEMPEST PROGNOSTICATOR, THE - front coverIsobel Dixon’s collections The Tempest Prognosticator and A Fold in the Map are published by Salt. Her work is featured in Birdbook I, and Psycho Poetica (published by Sidekick Books), Penguin’s Poems for Love and Salt’s Best of British Poetry 2011. She co-wrote and performed in The Debris Field (published by Sidekick Books).

Six Poets: Richard Price

Photograph copyright the British Library

Photograph copyright the British Library

Richard Price, the fourth of our Six Poets at the Fruitmarket Gallery, turns our gaze towards the heavens:

The Mutual Satellite Assurance Company Limited

A double-planet system –
the Earth and the Moon.

maybe stability.

And maybe the moon – you know –
an equal – once.

Sisters – (a little big-sister,
a big little-sister) –

rough couplets,
two haloes of pressure,

mutual, unequal –
the solidarity of interference.

(Their desire to hold.
Their desire to hold back.)

from Small World (Carcanet)


Richard Price’s poetry collections include Lucky Day, Rays and Small World. He also writes fiction, as R. J. Price, most recently The Island, about a father and daughter who steal a car on a Particularly Bad Day.