Saturday, September 30, 2006

Vital Sparks: Radio 3

What would life be without it? Radio 3 is the cut and polished diamond of radio in Britain. I love it for the breadth of its music programming. I love it for the fact it presents whole works by default, unlike the bargain basement Classic FM. I love it for the regular new drama, even if I don't always hear it. I love it for the intelligence of its general arts and culture review, Night Waves--head and shoulders above Radio 4's Front Row. I love it for the verve and invention of its new-writing programme The Verb (you must listen to tonight's edition online for Andrei Kurkov's short story). And, as this joyously inventive, hilarous, informative feature from the Between the Ears slot shows, it's been all this and more for 60 years.
Happy birthday, Radio 3!

Essential Reading

island magazine, published by Julie Johnstone's Essence Press is a beautifully produced, hand-bound biannual publication concentrating on poetry concerned with nature. I don't like to use the term "nature poetry" lest it conveys something twee, which island is not. Julie describes it as "new writing inspired by nature and exploring our place within the natural world".
Other distinguishing features of island are the space given to the poems on the page and the work by contributing visual artists. Taken together, the poetry, layout and artwork make for a unique periodical with distinctive, unshowy aesthetic.
I've just had work published in the new issue, sight-lines, which is devoted to monostiches and concentrates on the horizon and shore line. My piece is a sequence of monostiches entitled "Sketchbook of a Trip to the Hebrides". The other poets are Jane Hirshfield, Cralan Kelder, Bob Arnold, Robin Fulton, Matt Martin and Jonathan Greene; the issue's artwork is by Pat Law.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Voices: Dumfries: Correction

The New Voices event in Dumfries I'm appearing at is not at Lochthorn Library, but the University of Glasgow Crichton Campus, which is to the south of Dumfries. Details are therefore as follows:
New Voices
Andrew Philip

with Helena Nelson of Happenstance Press
How do you set about building your profile as a new poet – getting your work read, published, heard? Poet and publisher Helena Nelson will show you the ropes and help you develop a ‘writer’s CV’.

Andrew Philip’s pamphlet Tonguefire was published by Happenstance last year, and he’s one of our New Voices for 2006. The workshop is followed by a short reading of Andrew’s work and first-hand discussion of how he got started.
Monday 13 November, 1.30pm-4pm, Free
University of Glasgow Crichton Campus, Dumfries
Advance booking essential – contact Andrew Forster on 01387 253383 or email

Monday, September 25, 2006

The New Season Kicks Off

No, I've not undergone a road-to-Pittodrie conversion to the Church of Two Halves; the season I'm talking about is the Shore Poets autumn programme, which got off to a superb start last night with Jackie Kay, Christine De Luca, Mandy Maxwell and music from the Linties.
Mandy Maxwell is a graduate of the creative writing programme at Glasgow Uni. Her sharp, tight writing is very much grounded and rooted in Glasgow and she's a good performer. I think last night was her first proper gig in Edinburgh, although she read at the Shore Poets open night back in April. I've no doubt more will be heard from her in future.
Christine De Luca needs no introduction to anyone familiar with Shore Poets. With Shetlandic and English at her disposal, she has a dinstinctive, lyrical voice. Christine read beautifully from her latest book, Parallel Worlds, and new work.
The last time I heard Jackie Kay was at the end of my first year at uni--that's 11 (gulp!) years ago. She's a fantastic reader: warm, engaging, entertaining and endearing. For some reason--I suppose it must be lack of acquaintance with her recent work, to my shame--I was surprised at the amount of Scots in the work she read. Surprised, but delighted: it contributes to a rich and broad voice. Her set consisted of poems from Life Mask, new poems and one short story (cheat!). She read a couple of pieces that she described as children's poems; they lacked none of the sophistication and beauty of her adult work.
The Linties, of course, I have heard before and knew they'd be perfect for a Shore Poets evening, although I can take no credit for booking them for last night. They provided us with a mix of bawdy, bonnie and blythe songs in varying degrees of Scots and English, hugely entertaining and beautifully sung with great harmonies. Bands like the Linties show how much vigour and verve there is in traditional music in Scotland without the paraphernalia of popdom. Not that I'm at all averse to the mixing of traditional and other music forms either.
You can read the Linties' comments on the evening here at their blog. You can keep abreast of their gigs here.
I've also blogged a bit about the evening over at The Skraich.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Voices: Reading in Glasgow and Dumfries

One of the most exciting things to have happened to me on the writing front this year was my being asked to do a couple of events with the Scottish Poetry Library under its New Voices banner. Details of both are below.
New Voices promotes poets who have published one collection so far. Usually, a New Voice will do one reading in Edinburgh and one elsewhere in Scotland. However, as the vast majority of the readings I've done have been in Edinburgh, both of mine will be outside the capital: namely, in Glasgow and Dumfries. I'm particularly excited about performing in Dumfries, as it'll be the furthest west I've gone to read so far. The Glasgow reading will be only my second appearance there.
The events will also be ununsual in that they'll be a combination of a workshop on building a profile from Helena Nelson, who published Tonguefire, and a reading from me. Here are the details, fresh from the Scottish Poetry Library events listings:

New Voices
Andrew Philip
with Helena Nelson of Happenstance Press
How do you set about building your profile as a new poet – getting your work read, published, heard? Poet and publisher Helena Nelson will show you the ropes and help you develop a ‘writer’s CV’.

Andrew Philip’s pamphlet Tonguefire was published by Happenstance last year, and he’s one of our New Voices for 2006. The workshop is followed by a short reading of Andrew’s work and first-hand discussion of how he got started.

Thursday 2 November, 6.30pm, Free
Level 5, Mitchell Library
Advance booking essential – call 0141 287 2999 to reserve a place
Monday 13 November, 1.30pm-4pm, Free
Lochthorn Library, Dumfries
Advance booking essential – contact Andrew Forster on 01387 253383 or email
This season's other New Voice is Cheryl Follon; previous participants include Jen Hadfield and Tim Turnbull.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Celebrate Linlithgow: Poetry and Jazz

My next reading will be at the Poetry and Jazz event on the Celebrate Linlithgow! arts festival. The reading is at 8pm on Friday 27 October in Bryerton House. Tickets are free and can be reserved by calling 01506 517031. The other main reader is Douglas Briton, who writes in a kind of Wendy Cope-ish vein. There will also be a semi-open set of other local readers.
The full festival programme is available here. There's quite a variety of stuff on, including a couple of other poetry events.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Linlithgow Book Festival

The inaugural Linlithgow Book Festival took place today. I managed to get along to three of the events: the opening talk, the poetry workshop and the closing reading.
In the first event, Lithgae resident John Fowler talked on the subject of his book Mr Hill's Big Picture, namely, David Octavius Hill and his huge painting of the the Disruption of 1843. The Disruption, a significant event in Scottish history, occurred when the evangelical party in the Church of Scotland walked out of the Kirk's annual general assembly and formed the Free Church of Scotland. Hill, a Free Kirk supporter, determined to paint the event. It was suggested to him that he could speed up his work by using photography--then a new process--to capture likenesses of the people involved instead of sketching them. This led to his collaboration with Robert Adamson and to their pioneering photographic work, which includes famous portraits of Newhaven fisherfolk, as well as landscapes, architectural pictures and city views, including photographs of Linlithgow.
I first heard of Hill's Disruption painting and his partnership with Adamson in "Camera Obscura", the long poem that closes Robin Robertson's first collection, A Painted Field. To hear more about them and see slides of the painting was an enlightening and absorbing experience. Fowler, in engaging style, drew us into details of the painting and the stories surrounding those depicted in it. It's not the greatest piece of potraiture, but it is fascinating. And, as the first painting to use photography--and possibly (though this theory is untested and unproven) elements of collage--in its composition, it has an interesting and significant place in art history. The book should be worth reading.
I didn't go to the session on the history of the UDA, but I kind of wished I had, as it was referred to several times in Bashabi Fraser's poetry workshop. She seemed to assume that everybody had been at that event, which was a bit of a fault, but the workshop was relaxed and productive. I got a draft of a decent poem out of it, and other participants produced promising stuff. The session was held in a wonderful Georgian room in Cross House, the halls of St Michael's Parish Church. The carpet and curtains were criminal, but the plasterwork on the ceiling was really quite fine.
Unfortunately, the workshop ran simultaneously to a talk by Allan Massie on history and historical fiction, which I'm told was very good. Apparently, he was discussing the impossibility of getting at the truth about history and the falsification of history by historical fiction. I also missed the ballad singing that followed in the bar, but I got to the final event of the day: a reading by Iain Banks (to be confused with Iain M Banks, who is the same writer wearing a sci-fi hat). He read from his next mainstream literary novel, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, which will be published in March. I'd never heard him read before and am not, I must confess, deeply familiar with his work. He's a very lively reader and speaker, gesticulating with abandon and rollocking about his seat, and talks at such a rate and ramble when answering questions that it's sometimes hard to follow what he's saying. However, it all made for a hugely entertaining event.
The organisers must deem the first Linlithgow Book Festival a success. Despite less than aggressive publicity, the audiences were of a respectible size. And that so close to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I suspect that, with better advertising in and furth of the burgh, audience figures at subsequent festivals could grow significantly. May Linlithgow Book Festival go from strength to strength!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A to Z

I've just been added to the Poets' A to Z on the Scottish Poetry Library website. There's a short biographical note, a couple of links, a "books I love" feature and a poem--"Man With a Dove on his Head"--from Tonguefire. There's also a link to the SPL's holdings of my work. You can see my page here, but I'll add it to the links on the blog as well.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Scottish National Diction

The British Council Scotland website has some pages with new Scottish poetry. It's a good selection of poets, if a short one: John Burnside, Matthew Fitt, Ann Frater, Rody Gorman, Alan Jamieson and Jackie Kay. There are poems in Scots, English and Gaelic. Matthew Fitt's "Scottish National Diction" is a smashing poem with more than a hint of Eddie Morgan about it. There's a fantastic Gaelic response, "Errata", from Rody Gorman (the site calls it a translation, but it's not at all). Have a peek at Burnside in Shetlandic! Truly fanstastic, this trilingualism business.
(This is a translation of a post from The Skraich.)

The Skraich

I've decided to start a blog in Scots as well as this one. You can find it here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Linlithgow: Festival Toun

I've just discovered that Linlithgow is about to give birth to a book festival. Over the three years I've lived here, I've often thought the town could easily house a small-scale literary festival. It already has a folk festival, and Celebrate Linlithgow!, a broader arts festival, is to take place for the first time this October. The inaugural book festival is a one-day series of events to take place a fortnight today. You can find the programme here. It's pretty good for such a fledgling event.

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