Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ruth Padel at Length

Went to hear Ruth Padel read at a Poetry Association of Scotland event in the Scottish Poetry Library last night. She's an interesting writer--possessed of erudition, intellect and striking emotional intelligence--and an engaging reader.

The reading included a spellbinding performance of the long title poem from her latest collection, The Soho Leopard, from memory. It's rare to hear poets recite their work without looking at the page--AB Jackson is one of those rarities--even when it's short, let alone 175 lines. Interestingly, Padel read most of the short poems but performed from memory "The Soho Leopard" and another long poem, "Writing to Onegin", from a previous collection. Neither poem rhymes or has a particularly repetitive (and, therefore, easily memorisable) rhythm.

"The Soho Leopard" is also quite discursive, which is one of its glories. Having read it on the page, I had not expected to find it quite so accessible in performance as I did, but perhaps my previous exposure to it aided my appreciation of its architecture. Somebody obviously found it less engaging and took up Padel's (self-evidently genuine) invitation to tell her if we found it too difficult to follow. But I could have listened to it over again.

Monday, March 27, 2006

"For Broken or Worse" Now Posted

"For Broken or Worse", has been posted on Spring Tides. The sequence is about the consequences of anger and depression in a marriage and is written in the voice of the wife. Section V from the sequence, "A Perfect Drying Day", won last year's Amnesty competition.

The Spring Tides website is very nicely designed: not too fussy or flashy and easy to navigate but not too basic or at all amateurish.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"For Broken or Worse" on Spring Tides

My short sequence, "For Broken or Worse", will be published on the Spring Tides poetry group website in the next week. Look out for the link appearing under "Publications".

Ceilidh Culture Clubbing

Some of the Shore Poets, including me, might be reading at the festival club for this year's Ceilidh Culture Festival. Watch this space and the newly added "Readings" links for confirmation and details.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

StAnza 2006

For an overview of StAnza 2006, I can't better Susan Mansfield's piece mentioned below, not least because I got there only on the Saturday afternoon and left again on the Sunday before Andrew Motion's reading. But I always enjoy StAnza, whatever number of events I manage to attend. And I enjoy it as much for the contacts and conversations as for the poetry. Last year, bumping into Helena Nelson led to her publishing Tonguefire a few months later, which in turn led to my invitation to read at this year's festival. But that's another story.

The reading went very well indeed. The venue was small and atmospheric: an old undercroft with vaulted ceiling, bare stone walls and good acoustics. It was also almost full--always heartening for the reader. Audience appreciation abounded and kept coming, even into the beginning of the week. The best encouragement is when somebody who wasn't there says they heard I read well, which has happened several times. (And it being StAnza, you know the audience has some pretty quality acts against which measure you.)

I read a number of poems from Tonguefire--"Pedestrian", "Waiting for the Rains to Come", "Cardiac" and "Tonguefire Night"--followed by poems from the "Pilgrim" sequence (see this post) and three other new ones. Siriol Troup and Richard Price both read well. Richard is an excellent, quietly dramatic reader (if somewhat difficult to hear from several rows back at times, I'm told). Of the three poetries that were on offer at the reading, his is easily the most experimental and distinctive. Siriol's work is imaginative, often sharp and witty, and she comes across well in performance. The contrasts and balances made for a good reading.

Other pleasures of the weekend included catching up with various friends in the poetry world and meeting and hearing David Harsent, one of the main readers for Saturday night. The highlight of his reading was a superb extract from a new poem about tinnitus.

This year, StAnza included a pamphlet fair. My wife and I came away with a clutch of pamphlets, some by people we know, some by names unfamiliar to us. Here's hoping it becomes a regular feature of the festival.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I stumbled upon Surroundings, the blog of Rob A Mackenzie, whose fine pamphlet The Clown of Natural Sorrow is also published by HappenStance. I bumped into him a couple of times at StAnza and his write-up of the festival is here.

Mentioned in Dispatches

I'll write something more about StAnza when I've time and energy, but suffice to say for the moment that Susan Mansfield's write-up of the festival in today's Scotsman mentions my fellow Shore Poet Angela McSeveney and me:

StAnza 2006 was another success, full of poetic richness. Some spellbinding performances, notably from [Andrew] Motion, Tony Curtis and Sheenagh Pugh. Newer talents finding a voice in the Pamphlet Poets section notably included Andrew Philip, Andrew Forster and Angela McSeveney.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Tonguefire Night"

Tonguefire is the title of my first pamphlet of poems. Published in June 2005, it was the second pamphlet from Helena Nelson's HappenStance Press. (The first was Helena's own hilarious Unsuitable Poems.)

The image on the cover, which you can see to the left, was designed by Gillian Beaton.

The title poem, "Tonguefire Night", is an attempt to explore language, faith, Scottishness and maleness in six sections of slightly surreal, dreamlike narrative verse. To whet your appetite, here's the first part:

MacAdam rakes up the tongues
of men, women and a handful

of angels from where they’ve fallen
their coppers and golds layered

on his path, lawn, borders
and vegetable patch

he knows that if
he cowps them on the compost heap

they might in time reveal
his father’s speechgifted voice

he buys firelighters and matches
cheap beer and lifestyle magazines

smoke and crackle drift
over the garden wall

the scent of baking apples
mouthwaters from the kitchen:

If you liked that, you can buy the pamphlet from HappenStance here and read the rest of the poem.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gaun yersel, Dave!

My friend and collaborator, the painter David Martin, has recently won a major Scottish art prize: the Alastair Salvesen travel scholarship. You can the work for his most recent exhibition at his sketchblog along with poems I wrote to accompany it.

The Last Shall be on First and the First Shall be on Last: Next Reading

StAnza 2006 Poetry Festival
Sunday 19 March 11.30am Reading: Pamphlet Poets (£3.50/£2.00) (12.30)
St John’s Undercroft, South Street, St Andrews, Scotland

Richard Price, Siriol Troup & Andrew Philip
Three poets who have all published pamphlets as their work developed

The youngest of the Informationist group of poets, Richard Price has work in numerous chapbooks and journals. His critically acclaimed collection, Lucky Day (Carcanet, 2005) was shortlisted for the Forward First and Aldeburgh Prizes.

Siriol Troup’s first publication was the pamphlet Moss, winner of the Poetry Monthly Competition, while individual poems have won several top prizes. Her first full collection is Drowning up the Blue End (bluechrome, 2004).

Andrew Philip is the winner of the 2005 Amnesty International competition. His pamphlet, Tonguefire was published by HappenStance in 2005. Poems and translations have appeared in various magazines and anthologies.

What's New on Tonguefire