Friday, February 27, 2009

A Short Piece for a Short Season (and more)

"Wandelvakanties Dicht bij Huis", one of the poems from The Ambulance Box, has just appeared today as part of the short season of other poets Jane Holland is running at the moment on her Raw Light blog. I've updated the sidebar with links to it and several other poems, including one in the wonderful this collection project.

Incidentally, Jane has just become a commissioning editor at Salt. It's part of an exciting development down there, with Ian Gregson also taking the lead in developing Salt's Welsh list. Keep watching that space carefully!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Triple Decker

The Month of Book Launches is nearly upon me! First up is a triple launch: myself, fellow Scottish Salter Rob A Mackenzie and performance poet Robin Cairns. An eclectic mix, hosted by St Mungo's Mirrorball in Glasgow. If you're in the vicinity, come along. The reading is free, and there will be books to buy. Here are the details from the Mirrorball site:

St Mungo’s Mirrorball - Thursday 5th March 7.00

Poetry Club, Glasgow School of Art – 167 Renfrew Street Free

The next St Mungo’s Mirrorball event will be a triple book launch involving 3 very different voices on the poetry scene today

Rob A. Mackenzie lives in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter. His pamphlet collection, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in December 2005. His poems and reviews appear regularly in literary magazines. He blogs at Surroundings ( and organises the Poetry at the Great Grog reading series ( in Edinburgh. His first full collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, is published by Salt on 1st March 2009.

Andrew Philip was born in Aberdeen in 1975 and grew up near Falkirk. He lived in Berlin for a short spell in the 1990s before studying linguistics at Edinburgh University. He has published two poetry pamphlets with HappenStance Press—Tonguefire (2005) and Andrew Philip: A Sampler (2008)—and was chosen as a Scottish Poetry Library “New Voice” in 2006. The Ambulance Box, published this year by Salt, is his first book of poems.

Robin Cairns is a performance poet. Having written plays, music and journalism he turned to verse by chance on millenium night in Manchester Airport. He performs across Scotland on a regular basis, at poetry nights, slams, comedy clubs, ceilidhs (lots of ceilidhs) after-dinner engagements, in schools, in libraries, rock festivals, and arts festivals, what have you got? He has had work published in various collections, including "Skein Of Geese" (the book resulting from the gathering at the Stanza poetry festival of 100 poets) and "Glasgow Tales" published by Endpapers. ”Last Man with Sky” is his first collection.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Front Page News

Just spotted that Rob A Mackenzie's The Opposite of Cabbage and my collection The Ambulance Box are both now on the front page of the Salt website. Rob is beneath Keats, and I'm under Vincent De Souza.

Rob also has his first review, at the blog of Tony Williams, whose collection is due out from Salt in the summer.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Heart of Arts Policy

I've just discovered that Michael Russell, the Scottish minister with responsibility for culture, held a meeting with artists yesterday at the Traverse Theatre. This is important stuff for anyone involved or interested in Scotland's cultural life. There's a short video about the event here; it includes reactions to the meeting from Ron Butlin and Margaret Bennett. You can (and should) listen to a podcast of the whole thing here and make up your own mind. Having done so, this artist is encouraged about the current direction of arts policy.

If you don't have time to listen, there is a very good report of the event in The Herald, peppered with quotations from Russell's opening speech and his answers to the audience's questions. The Scotsman, on the other hand, will tell you very little about what he said. It focuses on the constitutional issues raised by the nature of the Scottish block grant, which Russell mentioned once or twice. It won't be hard make your mind up about that difference.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Letters from Our Editor"

For sound advice on the publishing world and some exquisite prose, check out Chris Hamilton-Emery's "Letters from Our Editor" stream on the Salt Office Life blog.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Big, Bold and in the Sidebar

It's fairly pointless to say this, as it's blindingly obvious, but I've added the cover image for The Ambulance Box to the sidebar.

Apparently, the collection is also one of several Salt books to feature in a back-page ad in the latest issue of the LRB!* I haven't seen it yet as Linlithgow shops don't stock it, but I'll be eagerly seeking out a copy when I'm next in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Speaking of Salt books, check out the "short season of other poets" Jane Holland is running on Raw Light. There are two already: Katy Evans-Bush and the estimable Mr Mackenzie. Jane is being secretive about who'll be appearing in the coming days. Keep your eyes peeled!

*Is it strictly "in" if it's on the back page? I can't make up my mind.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why 17?

Those of you who've followed this blog for a while and anyone who has read the information on the Salt website about The Ambulance Box will know that our first child died very shortly after birth. SANDS Lothians, the Lothians arm of the stillbirth and neonatal death society, was an enormous support to us as we began to work through the grief, pain and anger in the months afterwards. (Indeed, we made some very good friends in a couple we met through the organisation.)

UK SANDS runs the Why 17? campaign, highlighting the incidence of stillbirth and neonatal death in the country. I've just added a Why 17? banner to the sidebar. Click it and it should take you to the Why 17? site. Here's an explanation of the campaign from the site:

17 babies die every day in the UK, the tragic victims of stillbirth or neonatal death, a statistic that is repeated every single day across the country.

This shocking figure, the loss of 6,500 babies every year, is something the public is not generally aware of. Most people think stillbirths don’t happen today, yet stillbirth in the UK is 10 times more common than cot death.

At Sands, stillbirth and neonatal death charity, we feel that this level of baby loss is totally unacceptable which is why we have launched the Why17? campaign to raise awareness of this devastating loss and to ask the question:

“Why are 17 babies a day dying and what can be done to halt this national tragedy?”

Please follow the links to find out more about the aims of our campaign and the vital research that is needed to try and drive down this shocking level of baby loss.

Please consider supporting this campaign and contributing to efforts to save others from the terrible pain of losing a child.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's here! (or The Latest Instalment of "Did I mention it has my name on it?")

I was jealous that Rob Mackenzie had got his books yesterday, so I just had to get up early this morning and zip down to the postal depot to pick up my author copies of The Ambulance Box, which the postman had failed to leave in our designated "safe place" yesterday. I wasn't quite banging on the door begging to be let in, but I was there only a few minutes after they turned the key. Don't know whether the postal worker who handed the package over to me had any inkling of what it was, but she can't have failed to see my grin as broad as the Firth of Forth as I skipped out the building.

The photo shows our kitchen table, scissors and the books; it doesn't show the euphoria, as the subject was several centimetres in the air at the time. Seriously, though, it is a truly wonderful feeling. And a lovely book, if I do say so myself. Those dark green endpapers are just gorgeous! The cover looks every bit as good in real life as it does on a computer screen, if not better. Just to hold it in my hands sends me, honest it does.

Rob and I met up at lunchtime to swap books. His is every bit as fine, as you can see. It was a fitting way to celebrate, especially given that, as you'll read if you trawl through the virtual cupboard under the stair, we met up in the same cafe to swap the manuscripts of what became these collections about a year and a half ago. I don't think we could have anticipated that we'd end up with the same publisher, same publication date and a joint launch, but I'm absolutely delighted it has turned out that way.

Both books are available now from Salt's online shop. They can also be pre-ordered on and will soon be available in all good bookshops.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Date Change at the Great Grog

If you've dropped by the Poetry at the Great Grog blog recently, you'll have seen that Julia Rampen and I have swapped slots, which means I'll now be reading on 14 June instead of in May. I'm thoroughly looking forward to reading with fellow Salt poet and literary blogger extraordinaire, Katy Evans-Bush, author of that rather fine collection, Me and the Dead; fellow former Shore Poet, Allan Crosbie, whose poetry I've long admired and ought to be better known; and Ivy Alvarez, whose work I must confess to still not knowing.

Do go along in May and hear Julia, along with Robert Crawford, Brian Johnsonte and Jennifer Williams -- another cracking line-up!

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