Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Adès on Beauty

I like this comment on beauty from composer Thomas Adès (from an article in the Telegraph on his recent piece about the creation):

"Why would anyone be ashamed of beauty? It's a very 20th-century idea that you might be. Thankfully that's gone."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Four Hour Festival

I have a slot on the West Port Book Festival's "Four Hour Festival" event. No time confirmed as yet, but I'll post when it is. You can find the full programme here.

Culinary Gems in Kintyre

No apologies for the silence over the past fortnight or so, as I've quite enjoyed the wee break. We returned a week ago from seven days in Caradale on the Kintyre peninsula and life has been quite busy since. The weather in Kintyre was very mixed, but the scenery was (as the photos below show) fabulous:

Don't you just love the light in this one?

And there was some great food. If you find yourself in the area, drop by the tearoom at the Caradale Network Centre. Everything is freshly made on the premises (apart from the vanilla ice cream but, as there are three other flavours, that's no loss) and delicious. Reasonably priced, too.

Further north, at Skipness, is the Seafood Cabin. The weather was dismal on the morning we were there, so a bowl of moules marineres sounded like a good idea. It wasn't: it was a fantastic idea. Best mussels I've tasted in ages. My only regret was that we didn't make it back to try out the other fare on the menu.

All in all, it was a relaxing week. I managed to read Ciaran Carson's wonderful For All We Know and Hazel Frew's collection Seahorses as well as get stuck into a selection of Van Gogh's letters I've had on my shelf for ages. Now the madness of August is staring us in the face, and I'm counting the pennies to work out how much I can see.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Knucker Launch

Jane McKie's Knucker Press launches what looks like an interesting new pamphlet tonight: Way Out by Victoria Macrae. Here's what the press's website has to say about it:

In early 2008 Victoria Macrae spent 65 days, 19 hours and 37 minutes as an in-patient in Ward 6 of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. During this period the view from her window became very important to her: "I needed to see the outside world and connect somehow to the outdoors. I began noticing the way the light hit the architecture at different times of the day; the way the windows opposite would move in the gales and reflect sunlight temporarily into my room. The effects of the changing sky and weather, and the importance of finding beauty in something that would not be seen as traditionally beautiful, was an important part of my recovery". She created a unique visual record of that time with the camera on her mobile phone. 'Way Out' is a beautiful and affecting folded concertina pamphlet with a selection of Victoria's full colour photos and word poems.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to the launch, but I'll definitely be keeping my eye on the Knucker publications.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Fest on the Block

As yesterday's Sunday Herald reports, Edinburgh has a new book festival this year in addition to the established Edinburgh International Book Festival. It's called the West Port Book Festival, and it's all free! You can find out more here. The programme doesn't launch until 11th July, so I can't tell you any more, but from what the Sunday Herald could reveal, it sounds like a good line-up.

This isn't the first time there's been an alternative event to the EIBF. The Edinburgh Book Fringe ran a couple of years, focusing intentionally on Scottish authors who didn't get (much of) a look-in on the festival in Charlotte Square, but those were paying events. The Thirsty Lunch was something more similar to the West Port venture, but I've seen no sign of that continuing this year. Perhaps the West Port festival will stick around a bit longer. I certainly like the idea of holding the events in second-hand book shops.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Artist on a Quest Again

Time once again to highlight the blog of my good friend and sometime collaborator, the painter David Martin. Two years ago, he embarked on an epic tour of the middle east to gather material for his Salvesen award exhibition, following the trail of Hermes Trismegistus. His blog of that adventure proved him to be a distinctive and entertaining writer as well as a fine artist.

Dave is on his travels once again. This year, he's wandering through Ethiopia and Eritrea. As with the previous occasion, his blog is proving to be fascinating, lively reading. Photos and sketches are already appearing.

This is one of my favourite shots so far. I love the way he's just playing table football out the open with a bunch of guys as if he was in the side room of some Edinburgh pub.

Dave also has a new website. Check out his work if you don't already know it. If you do, reacquaint yourself.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Against the Football

Shore Poets on Sunday went head to head with the Euro 2008 finals. That, coupled with the start of the holidays, might well have had something to do with the somewhat reduced numbers. I have to say, it was a cracker of an evening.

The new poet, Simon Pomery, was one of the best we've had for a while. He wasn't the most relaxed in his introductions but, once he got into the poems themselves, he read well. And there were some really strong poems in his set. There's some of his work here. He read "Jeremiah" and several poems from his "Divina Lux" series, but not the ones you can view online. Simon has a pamphlet coming out with Tall Lighthouse in the autumn, if I remember rightly; worth looking out for.

Roddy Lumsden is behind the Tall Lighthouse pamphlets, which provides a link between Simon and the Shore poet for the evening: Angela McSeveney, with whom Roddy overlapped at Edinburgh University. Angela read with her usual skill and aplomb from Slaughtering Beetroot, her fine new Mariscat pamphlet. She's currently poet of the month on the Scottish Poetry Library website.

Richard Price, the main reader, read from his first two books as well as new work. Richard is a fabulous, mesmerising reader. His work is always fascinating, stimulating and strangely beautiful. You can hear him on PoetCasting and the Archive of the Now and I recommend you take a listen. Better still, buy Lucky Day, Greenfields and/or some of his pamphlets.

Interestingly, Richard has been writing a lot of rhyming poetry recently. Although this takes him away from the spare modernism of earlier work to a certain extent, a Richard Price poem in ballad form is still unlike anything else you'll read or hear. Nonetheless, there's an extremely strong song element to these poems, so it's no surprise he's been writing song lyrics too. In fact, her read one song; you'd be hard pushed to distinguish it formally or stylistically from some of the recent poems. And I mean that as a compliment.

That gives us a kind of link to Sunday's music. Stewart Hanratty was excellent, with powerful, jazz-tinged songwriting and guitar playing. After his song about hats, it was inevitable that Angela should read her poem on the same subject. You'll just have to buy the pamphlet to read it, though!

Sunday's event was my last as a Shore poet. I've stepped down from the group after, I think six years, owing partly to a busier family life. It has been great fun to be part of Shore Poets, but it's time to concentrate my energies elsewhere. I still plan to be around the readings, so this won't be the last SP gig report you'll read here. I went out on a high, though: I won the famous Shore Poets lemon cake.

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