Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Skating on Poetry Loch

One of the things I love about Shore Poets is that the format of our events often produces rich and varied evenings of music and poetry. October's reading with James W Wood, Christine De Luca and the wonderful, quietly intense Gillian Allnutt was no exception (the only problem being that Allnutt's quiet reading voice didn't carry well in the Mai Thai acoustic).

The reading this Sunday just gone was another case in point, with Rachael Boast, Nancy Somerville and David Kinloch, plus music from Ben Young. I'd met Rachael Boast before, but didn't know her work, so it was a pleasure to encounter such accomplished writing at Shore Poets in the newcomer slot.

David Kinloch's set consisted entirely of new poems, displaying all his typical richness and imaginative verve. He's working on a sequence of poems about Scottish painters, from which he read, closing with a poem that entertainingly imagines a painterly wager as the source of the recent controversy over whether Raeburn really did paint The Rev. Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch.

David is one of the driving forces behind the Glasgow Poetry Society, otherwise known as Vital Synz, which enjoyed a hugely successful launch early this month (I wasn't able to be there, unfortunately). There's an interesting programme of events coming up next year.

As well as organising the Vital Synz events, the society is running a new competition: the Edwin Morgan international poetry competition. Unlike most competitions, this one has a college of three judges--and an extremely varied one at that--in Colette Bryce, Donny O'Rourke and Richard Price. Given the diversity of poetics represented there, it looks like they're aiming to make it a stylistically broad competition, appropriately enough for a competition celebrating the protean Mr Morgan.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Blues and the Reds

Dropped by a wee gathering tonight at The Tun, the first throw in an fresh attempt to establish a self-sustaining network of Christians in the arts, media, entertainment and new media in Edinburgh. My friends Paul Thomson and the painter David Martin are behind this endeavour, a network that aims to encompass the blues and the reds*, as Paul puts it, whereas previous attempts have focused very much on the blue end. No Dave tonight (huvnae seen ye for ages, mate), but Steve Cole of Artisan Initiatives was there. I came away hugely encouraged, feeling like many of the splits that characterise my life at the moment were at least momentarily fused into a unity.

*The theologically conservative and the theologically radical, for want of more precise terms.

In Denial?!

On last week's edition of The Verb, Paul Farley opined that "we" are "in denial about rhyme" because, when "we" rhyme, "we" use relative rhyme*.

If you've read my Reasoning Rhyme posts, it won't surprise you to learn that this is, in my opinion, utter tosh. Far from being a denial of rhyme, relative rhyme is a more linguistically subtle and complex form of rhyme, a realisation of the potentials inherent in the rhyme system but repressed by half-baked aesthetically conservative statements like Farely's.

Note too the insidious nature of the statement: Farley doesn't actually say we shouldn't use relative rhyme, just implies that twin rhyme* is real rhyme, boys and girls. And who is this "we" anyway? I presume it is the mainstream poetry-writing fraternity, Farley being a self-confessed guardian of the mainstream.

I have nothing against rhyming, whether twin or relative. Yes, I will confess to doing it myself sometimes, but only in the privacy of a poem. Moreover, I like some of Farley's work, even if I dislike anyone positioning themselves as mainstream or bust. However, ill-thought-out statements that creep towards closing down possibilities in poetry rather than opening them up really rile me. Okay, so it was radio and maybe it was off the cuff, but it sounded like something that had been bothering him for a while. Thankfully, he was paired in this discussion with Eleanor Rees, who spoke more sense.

There is always a danger that I might make daft statements like that myself, though obviously not such reactionary ones on rhyme. If I do, betake yourself to your local arms dealer and purchase a small surface-to-air missile with which to shoot me down.

*My terms, not his. See here for an explanation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This is a substantially revised version of an unpublished poem that one or two readers of this blog might have seen or have heard at a reading. I'll leave it here for comment for a few days before removing it.

[poem deleted]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rice at the Price of a Word

How many grains of rice are in an average bowl? Idle speculation, I know, but a pertinent question nonetheless when you're simultaneously donating rice to the UN World Food Programme and having fun expanding your vocabulary here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Radio Silence, Telephone Nightmares

Yes, it's a while since I posted anything! Apologies for the radio silence, but Linlithgow Book Festival, central heating replacement, certain Shore Poets business and putting together this guest blog entry for on writing poetry for Fiona Veitch Smith have occupied much time and energy. Several posts are brewing in my head. Meanwhile, here is some light entertainment (thanks to Penny Culliford for the video):

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