Monday, September 22, 2008

Success for Rob

Fantastic news: my friend, fellow HappenStancer and fine poetry blogger Rob A Mackenzie has had his manuscript accepted by Salt to be published some time next year. The book (provisionally entitled The Opposite of Cabbage after a line in one of the poems--can't accuse him of having a dull title!), is really strong and will make a great addition to that list. It'll be a must for anyone interested in lively, intelligent, distinctive contemporary poetry, and I'm so pleased we'll have our first collections out from the same press in the same year. Well done and many congratulations to Rob!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Duncan Glen 1933-2008

I was saddened to hear yesterday that the poet, publisher, critic, designer and typographer Duncan Glen had died. He was not someone I knew well, although I did meet him once or twice. My contact with him came through the Scottish Poetry Library, with which he was closely involved. Indeed, he designed many SPL publications, including the first gathering of poems I ever worked on, Variations on a new song: Poems from the Holyrood Poetry Link Scheme. He was the founder of Akros Publications and the magazine Zed2O, which is celebrated in WN Herbert's poem "Talking Water Blues". Duncan was a significant force in Scottish and Scots language letters and will be sorely missed. Colin Will, who knew him well, and Rob Mackenzie have both posted tributes. There is a full biography of Duncan on the Akros web pages.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Readings Galore!

October is shaping up to be a busy month. Not only is there the HappenStance reading at St Mungos Mirrorball in Glasgow on Thursday the 2nd, but I'll be reading for InkLight, a student creative writing society at St Andrews University on Monday the 20th. The venue for the latter isn't confirmed yet, so more details when I know them. I'll also be reading at the Golden Hour at Edinburgh's Forest Cafe on Wednesday the 22nd.

Coming hard on the heels of those readings, I'm leading the poetry workshop and hosting the open mike at Linlithgow Book Festival on 1st November. Hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Step Closer to Reality

Another significant moment here: first proofs arrived in my inbox from Chris at Salt! I spotted them on my webmail while I was still at work and it's a wonder none of my colleagues asked why the mile-wide grin and slight strut down the scuffed wooden walkway at the centre of the office. But then, we official reporters can all get pretty caught up in the hectic rhythm of a plenary day, so it's not that much of a wonder, I suppose.

That's The Ambulance Box an important step closer to becoming a reality. I know how my weekend will be taken up. Never has proof reading seemed such an enticing proposition.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Horizon Comes Into View!

The first issue of the new Salt webzine Horizon Review, edited by Jane Holland, is now online. It includes one poem of mine, "On Your Arrival", as well as two poems by Rob Mackenzie, and work by Katy Evans-Bush, George Szirtes and Alison Brackenbury to name only a few. There are also fiction, reviews and comment. In short, a lot to explore, and much more pleasingly presented than some webzines. Exciting to be in at the beginning of something, even if only in a modest way.

One Night Stanzas

Just last week, I came across Claire Askew's new blog, One Night Stanzas, designed to guide young or inexperienced writers through some of the thornier thickets of life as a poet. It's a useful site with lots of good advice (and stylish photographs!) worth a look even for those of us with a modicum of experience under our belts. For instance, in her post on beating writer's block, Claire makes this interesting recommendation, which I hope she doesn't mind me quoting in full (if she does, I'll reduce it to the title):

Read poetry you don’t like.
I got this one from a former creative writing tutor, and funnily enough, it works. Everyone has a poet they really, really hate – often one whose work they’ve been forced to analyse in school. Who’s yours? Maybe you have a few? And probably the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling creatively challenged is look at the poetry of someone whose very name gets you foaming at the mouth with loathing. Well, try it. Drag out Wordsworth’s Daffodils or Keats’ Grecian Urn or whatever your least-favourite poem happens to be, and read it over once again. This time, ask yourself: why do I hate this poem? Is it because it’s actually a bad poem, or is there another reason? Do I hate it because I don’t fully understand it? Because I associate it with something negative? Or is it just not to my taste? Think about what puts this particular poet on your personal blacklist… and then do the opposite. Try to find good bits in the poem – is there a particular line that stands out from the rest? Does the basic idea of the poem appeal to you? Has the poet used any unusual words or created an interesting metaphor? Analyse the poem fairly – and from a personal point of view (none of this textbook-style, “what are the hidden meanings?” stuff). Once you’ve worked out why you can’t stand this poet – or once you’ve realised that actually, maybe they’re not a total imbecile – you can start to think about your own work. Write the antithesis of a Wordsworth poem, or try putting yourself in Keats’ shoes and writing in his style. Reading your most hated author really can inspire you, honest. Try it!

Ingenious and generous!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reginald Shepherd, 1963-2008

In common with many in the poetry blogosphere, I was shocked and sadened to read that the American poet, critic and blogger Reginald Shepherd died this week, aged only 45. The news came to me through Ron Silliman's blog, which is fitting, as it was a link from a post of his that first took me to Shepherd's blog.

Shepherd blogged with clarity, warmth and intelligence, always at length. The post of his that first alerted me to the quality of his reflection was his superb post On Difficulty in Poetry: a revision. Not the grinding, pointless, tiresome polemic about "accessibility" vs "difficulty" one often hears, just real thinking and insight.

I can't improve on or add to the tributes to him by other bloggers, some of whom knew him other than through this peculiar, wonderful, infuriating medium, to which he brought a great deal of sanity. Read them, but be sure to read his writing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Adventures in Scottish Cuisine

The Scottish Parliament's canteen, following triumphs such as "Cumbernauld sausage" (I kid you not, though I was off at the time so I didn't see it myself), "Scotch broth soup" (stock, barley and tautology) and "cous-cous tabouleh" (I was under the impression it could either be cous-cous or tabouleh, people) is today offering "haggis broth". Sadly, I won't be sampling this delicacy (which can be detected at 50 paces, apparently) as I have my own lunch with me. I'm one to talk, though: my lunch is Ryvitas and sardines.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Draft Poem: Watergaw

This is the second of my projected series of poems in English but whose titles are Scots weather terms. I'll leave it up for a week at the most.

[Poem deleted 18/09/08]

The astute among you will have noticed that the titles of this and the previous draft poem ("Onding") are both words that appear in MacDiarmid's poem "The Watergaw". The MacDiarmid link is not wholly unintentional although, if the sequence continues, it won't be confined to words from that poem.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


this is the arm that held you
this is the hand that cradled your cold feet

these are the ears that heard you
whimper and cough throughout your brush with light

this is the chest that warmed you
these are the eyes that caught your glimpse of life

this is the man you fathered—
his voided love, his writhen pride and grief

(This poem appears in Andrew Philip: A Sampler and will also be in The Ambulance Box.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Great Grog Date Changed

The date for my Great Grog reading has changed. In view of the fact that The Ambulance Box is due out in March, I'll now be reading on Sunday 10th May 2009 alongside Robert Crawford, Brian Johnstone (co-founder of Shore Poets as well as co-founder and director of StAnza) and one other poet to be confirmed. I'm excited to be part of that line-up. Brian's next collection is due to be published by Arc in April. I heard him read from it in August and am looking forward to seeing the book. Crawford is one of Scotland's leading poets and an excellent reader. It should be a good evening.

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