Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Folk Festival Reading Update

A quick update: Jennifer Williams will now be reading with me at the Linlithgow Folk Festival gig. I'm also trying to organise some music for it, but that's not confirmed as yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Joining the Ranks of the Poetcast

I now have an entry on Poetcasting. Click here to go to the page and play or download MP3s of me reading "The Invention of Zero", "To Bake the Bread" and "Tonguefire Night" as well as my Scots translation of Rilke's "Der Panther". It's a long time since I heard myself reading my work, and I'm pretty pleased with the way it sounds. Hope you like it too, if you care to listen.

Recordings of a few more folk from the Arvon course will be added over the coming weeks, apparently. I'll keep an eye out and post when it happens. At the moment, the only other Lumb Banker to be found on the site is performance poet Mim Darlington. I particularly like her "English Lesson".

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Linlithgow Book Festival now has a website. Drop by and check it out. Note the additional event on the Sunday afternoon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lithgae Folk Festival Gig

Readers of this blog and Rob Mackenzie's might remember the reading that we did last year in Linlithgow as part of the Celebrate Linlithgow! arts festival. This year, I'm reading as part of the town's longest running festival: the Linlithgow Folk Festival. At the moment, it looks like I have the bill to myself, despite my best efforts to get others to share it with me. But watch this space. Here are the details:

Date: Friday 7 September 2007
Time: 8 pm
Venue: St John's Christian Centre, Bryerton House, 129 High Street, Linlithgow
Entry: Free but ticketed. Opportunity to donate on the door. Tickets available from Blast-off Books, Linlithgow

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Civil Note on the Press

Imagine my surprise, on flicking through this week's Guardian Review to find that the book of the week is not only a collection of poetry but a new book by Geoffrey Hill, A Treatise of Civil Power*. At last! The Guardian has been supportive of Hill for a while, but I don't remember the last time the Review gave that accolade to any volume of poetry. Nonetheless, I was disappointed to find no other poetry reviews in the paper. A ridiculous situation. After all, you wouldn't expect there to be no further fiction reviews if the book of the week was a novel.

*Strictly speaking, this isn't really a new book as far as I can gather, given that a volume of the same title was published by Clutag Press in 2005. Penguin's page for the book doesn't show the contents, so I can't ascertain whether the volumes are identical, although the titles mentioned in the review seem to indicate that they are at least substantially the same. The Clutag edition is now sold out; I wasn't quick enough on the mark to get a copy, but I think it was signifcantly dearer than the Penguin edition anyway!

At last: a note on Lumb Bank

Some kind of note on the Arvon course of a few weeks ago is certainly overdue. Matthew Hollis and Colette Bryce both gave useful and encouraging feedback and advice alongside interesting, stimulating workshop discussions and exercises. As the course was billed as being about working towards a collection, it is a tad irritating that they opted to hold the session on assembling a manuscript and approaching publishers on the Friday morning. Since I went to Lumb Bank to focus on forming a manuscript rather than to write new work, the course would have been even more beneficial for me if that session had been held earlier in the week. Nonetheless, it was invaluable. I mean, how often do you get to hear about that process from someone who knows it from both sides--poet and publisher--as Matthew does?

Still, it was a great week. The other participants were a lively, fascinating, varied bunch and I suspect several of us will keep in touch. Among them was Lorraine Mariner, whose wonderfully funny, warm and moving pamphlet Bye For Now was published by The Rialto in 2005. Lorraine, who has the privilege of working at the Poetry Library in London, is also shortlisted for this year's Forward prize for best single poem. Gaun yersel Lorraine!

The crew of the good ship Lumb Bank also contained Alex Pryce of Poetcasting note. Alex--the youngest*, cheekiest and sparkiest of us--recorded as many of us as would brook the microphone, so watch out for a familiar face appearing on Poetcasting some time in the reasonably near future.

Visiting reader for the course was Clare Shaw**, whose collection Straight Ahead is published by Bloodaxe. I hadn't heard or read her before the course. She's an energetic, engaging reader for all that her work covers some quite harrowing, intense ground.

Lumb Bank is also a beautiful place. It's set in a gorgeous heavily wooded valley which looks down towards Hebden Bridge. My paltry set of photos from the week might give you some impression of what it's like. There are more to be found on Lumb Bank's own Flickr photo stream.

Suffice to say it was an extremely useful and hugely enjoyable week. Recommended.

*The oldest had his 81st birthday during the week.

**The front page of this link is a garble of code at the moment but the rest is fine.

Order! Order!

I have it: a draft collection-length manuscript with an order I think works! Now to garner a few second opinions before I start seriously thinking about what to do with it. Rob Mackenzie and I will be swapping back on Monday, so I'm looking forward to reading his comments on my work.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Courting the Fringe Audience

I'm planning to take part in the Scottish Poetry Library's courtyard readings tomorrow, Monday and probably Tuesday. Like all open sessions, they can be extremely hit and miss but they're good fun and an interesting opportunity to read to an often entirely new audience. It'll be a good opportunity to plug Postscript as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Marvellous Madness Begins

It's August, there's a downpour a day and Edinburgh has brigadooned into the Radio 4 consciousness once again. Must be festival time. Of course, by "festival" I mean not only the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, the Edinburgh book fringe (which seems to be so unofficial this year that it lacks any separate publicity), the Edinburgh Art Festival and probably several other festivals I've heard nothing about yet.

I long ago abandoned hope of navigating the seven circles of the Fringe programme* and now tend to focus my attention on the Book Festival first, then the International Festival and the Film Festival with glances at Fringe reviews. However, my first taste of Edinburgh's 2007 festival vibe, courtesy of a tip-off from Rob A Mackenzie, was a chunk of Luke Wright's Poetry Party on Saturday night. I won't repeat what I said here and here about performance poetry. Not all the names on the bill were performance poets as such, but that was the overall style. I heard only a small selection of them: Joe Dunthorne, Tim Turnbull, Tim Wells and Martin Newell, as well as Luke Wright, who performed one piece in between each set. Tim T was the best for my money**--he's always entertaining. I'd expected Dunthorne's stuff to be more interesting than it was, but didn't know what to expect from the others.

Still, it was a great opportunity to chat with Rob and catch up with Roddy Lumsden and Andy Jackson, neither of whom I'd seen in ages. And I managed to make it to the pub for one drink with Rob, Roddy, Andy and co. The pub in question being the Meadows Bar***, there were faint shades of the student hours spent drinking with sundry student and grownup poets.

By sober contrast, I dipped into the Book Festival on Sunday morning for a reading by Nick Laird, launching his second collection, On Purpose, and Daljit Nagra. Despite costing £7.00 and starting at 10.15 am, it was as well attended as the poetry party. Nagra read first. Much of the work he read demands a good performance, which he certainly gave, but it also has a much more interesting linguistic texture, signficantly greater depth and a greater awareness of the literary tradition than the animal known as performance poetry. Laird is a more straightforward lyrical, literary poet, a voice emerging from the Northern Irish tradition in the line of Heaney and Muldoon. Some lovely writing. He had a nice line in self-depricating commentary on his own introductions to the poems. I'm looking forward to reading Nagra's and Laird's collections. I have Nagra's Look We Have Coming to Dover! and Laird's To A Fault on hold at the Scottish Poetry Library and bought On Purpose.

*Comedy, Music, Events, Comedy, Theatre, Visual Arts and Comedy.

**Not that any money was involved, as the event was free.
***Which served a watery pint of the usually marvellous Caledonian 80 with no head to speak of.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Brief Note on Wednesday

Wednesday's interview for the Scottish Book Trust mentoring scheme seemed to go well, but I'm not really one to read aright the entrails of a 40-minute chat with two strangers, so who knows what the outcome will be? Two SBT staff grilled me in the nicest manner possible about my "project", my expectations of being mentored and any impediments to my participation. I applied for a mentor to spur me on to finishing off a full collection of poetry, which is also why I went on last week's Arvon. There are only five places on this round of the programme, so I'll be extremely pleased with myself if I get one, but it feels like these opportunities are coming along at the right time. I don't know when I'll hear, as there were a few people who couldn't make Wednesday's interviews and no decisions will be made until after they've been grilled. Time to get those tenterhooks out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Back and Looking Forward

Just back home today from a few days with the in-laws either side of the course at Lumb Bank. A fine week, but more about that later. At the moment, I'm trying to apply my rather travel-weary mind to the fact that I have an interview for a place on the Scottish Book Trust's mentoring scheme tomorrow afternoon!

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