Friday, December 22, 2006

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Draft Culture (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Executive has published its draft Culture (Scotland) Bill for consultation. This marks an important juncture for arts and culture policy in Scotland, but The Scotsman reports that James Boyle, the head of the Cultural Commission, which the Executive set up to draw up a vision for Scotland's cultural policy, is not at all happy with the draft bill. Likewise, The Herald's report and editorial will not make happy reading for those at Victoria Quay. Something of a contrast with the warm words on the Executive's own site.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Best Scottish Poems 2006

The Scottish Poetry Library's third annual online choice of Scottish poems published in the past 12 months or so--Best Scottish Poems 2006--went live on St Andrew's Day. As ever, it's a highly inpidual choice by this year's editor, Janice Galloway, as you can see if you compare it with the 2005 choice by Richard Price or the 2004 one by Hamish Whyte, who is represented in the 2006 gathering.

Galloway's gleanings include a poem a piece by Shore Poets Diana Hendry and Christine De Luca. Christine's poem is a moving but light elegy for Gael Turnbull, capturing so much of a very fine and sorely missed poet.

There's also a piece by Chloe Morrish, whom I met at the Responding to Rilke reading. It's a moving poem about her father and her younger brother, who died of a neurological disease aged 11. Poems about loss and grief are hard to do well, but this one quitely captures the mix of love, sadness, regret and happiness that such remembering entails.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Yesterday's opening of illuminate went well. Just about the right number of people came to make it feel busy without being crowded. The mulled wine, mince pies and lebkuchen went down a treat and everyone enjoyed the exhibts (some of the children who came particularly enjoyed standing in front of the video projector). Photographs were taken, so I'll have to see whether I can grab any of them to post here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Switching on the Lights

We spent most of today setting up the illuminate exhibition I plugged in the previous post. Tiring work, but it's looking good. There are still a couple of things to install before tomorrow's opening, but I think everyone involved is very pleased with how it looks and hangs together.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


This Christmas exhibition will include three poems of mine presented as a triptych. Readers of Tonguefire will be familiar with two of them--"His Wading Light" and "A Voice is Heard in Ramah"--but the third, which is called "Down Darkness Wide", is new and takes a different view of the story.

Interestingly, although the word triptych is usually applied to paintings, the first sense given in The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is "A set of three writing-tablets hinged or tied together." So it seems I'm taking it back to an earlier usage.

illuminate will also include, among other pieces: a video installation, paintings, stained glass work, a hanging photo-montage, a shadowbox/calligraphy installation and a sound recording of some of Douglas Briton's poems. You can view the details of where and when by clicking on the poster to the left.

If you pop by, post a comment on the blog and let me know what you thought of the show.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Next Reading: PAS in February

Wednesday 7th February 2007, 7.30pm, Scottish Poetry Library with Gerrie Fellows for the Poetry Association of Scotland. Entry: £3 (£2 concessions)

I'm very excited about this. I've been attending PAS readings since I was a student and have seen numerous fine poets read for the Association, so it's a privilege to be booked by them.

Last Shore Poets of the Year

There was a good crowd in Mai Thai--the new Shore Poets venue--on Sunday night to hear Alan Hill, Jim C Wilson and Matthew Hollis. The readers strained a little bit to make themselves heard at the back, so I think we'll might be using a small PA in future. Nonetheless, it was a good reading.
I particularly enjoyed hearing Matthew Hollis, as I've known him since we were students. When I pitched up at Edinburgh Uni as a fresher 11 (yikes!) years ago, I had the scantest knowledge of contemporary poetry. Matthew--who was in third year at the time, I think--was the president of the Edinburgh University Poetry Society. I learnt a huge amount from hearing leading contemporary poets read their work on the society's programme and from discussing my and other student writers' poems at regular informal workshops.
Sadly, the EUPS has been in abeyance for some time. All enthusiasm, energy and support now seem to be focused on the Uni's MSc in Creative Writing, which strikes me as unfair to any prospective writers outside that programme, especially but not only undergraduates. Neither Matthew nor I did English degrees, and there were plenty other student writers in departments other than English when we were at uni.
Matthew Hollis has gone on to make a name for himself, with a fine first collection from Bloodaxe entitled Ground Water. Last year, he held the Wordsworth Trust residency at Dove Cottage. On Sunday, he read a clutch of new poems, written during that residency. It's a while since I read Ground Water, but I detected a greater maturing, a deepening and enriching of his voice in the new poems. They seemed to display a greater confidence, perhaps a stronger sense of emotional light and shade--not that emotional light and shade are lacking in Ground Water. What was certainly new was the engagement with landscape, specifically the landscape of the Lakes. It looked like he had a fair amount, so I'm hoping he's not far off a second collection.

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