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Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

The SPL Spring 2018 events programme

A packed house for our God Damn Debut Slam, January 2018
A packed house for our God Damn Debut Slam, January 2018

The nip in the air might not seem particularly spring-like to you; nevertheless, the SPL boldly brings you news of our Spring 2018 programme of events. And, my goodness, what a programme. We’re proud to present a bill stuffed with established names (Jackie Kay, Sean O’Brien, Michael Longley, John Burnside) and fresh talent; of centenary tributes to great Scots; of workshops, reading groups, and the downright quirky.

We continue our commitment to bringing you the biggest names in contemporary poetry. Both poets who’ve won the T.S Eliot Prize and Forward Poetry Award for the same collection, John Burnside and Sean O’Brien will read at the SPL. On April 26, 7pm, John Burnside brings us an evening of poetry and insight. In addition to reading his own work, he will give a talk inspired by Auden’s line about how ‘poetry makes nothing happen’; Burnside argues poetry is in fact an essential part of being human, never more necessary than in an era when ‘a crazy king is sitting in the palace and the waters are rising all around us’. Tickets cost £12 (£10 concessions) and can be bought online here. We’re also excited to welcome, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s Visiting Writers Series, Sean O’Brien, who will read from his new collection Europa (Picador). After the reading, there will be chance to ask Sean about his poetry, with the Q and A chaired by poet and novelist Claire Askew. O’Brien reads at the SPL on 27 March, 7pm, and the event is free and open to all (order your tickets here).

On February 1, 7pm (£7) one of the SPL’s honorary presidents, Michael Longley, will be reading at St Mungo’s Mirrorball at the CCA in Glasgow, alongside Ciara MacLaverty and Rishi Dastidar. Caroline Bird will come to the SPL on Thursday, 7 June, (£12 or £10 concessions – buy here) to read from her latest collection, In These Days of Prohibition (Carcanet) poems tackling mental health and addiction with humour and insight.

Of course, we support new voices too, which is why in January we’re hosting The God Damn Debut Slam, which will take place on the second Friday each month. Edinburgh's most exciting, fast-paced and unpredictable regular poetry slam, it will be the best place to see new work from fresh voices alongside veterans of Edinburgh's music and spoken word scene. Our first God Damn Debut Slam was a sell-out, so get yourself down to our second one on Friday, 9 February, 6.30pm, with tickets a snip at £4 (available on the door). Want more detail on The GDDS? Look no further than this blog.

And while we’re discussing fresh talent, we’re holding a double Tapsalteerie pamphlet launch on Wednesday, 9 May, 7pm, ‘Light and Shade: Sarah Stewart and Russell Jones’. Entry is free but ticketed (click here).

From songwriter Kirsty Law, author Kirsty Logan and harpist Esther Swift, we have a dark new production, Lord Fox (Thursday, 31 May, 7pm - £12 / £10 concessions: buy tickets here). Inspired by the traditional tale of seduction, curiosity, violence and revenge, this show is a contemporary reimagining which combines storytelling, original song and contemporary composition.

We've events to mark the centenaries of two great Scottish poets. ‘Language is Where the People Are’: W.S Graham at 100’ brings together a great cast of poets – Jackie Kay, Alan Gillis, Nuala Watt, with more to be confirmed – to pay tribute to a poet somewhat overlooked in his lifetime. Graham has a special connection with the Scottish Poetry Library as we have possession of the desk he wrote at, the ‘Untidy Dreadful Table’ of his poem of that name. Rosalind Mudaliar, Graham's daughter and literary executor, will be in attendance to donate Graham's chair to the SPL. ‘Language is Where the People Are: W.S Graham at 100’ takes place on Thursday, 14 June, with tickets £12 (£10 concessions) and available to purchase online here.

We celebrate Muriel Spark as a poet, rather than as a novelist, on Thursday, February 22, 7pm, with a conversation about Spark between journalist Alan Taylor and poet Elaine Feinstein. Tickets are on sale now, priced £10 (£8 concessions - buy your tickets online here). In the event’s first half, Feinstein and Taylor will have a conversation about Spark and her memoir Curriculum Vitae; after a short break, the event will resume with Feinstein reading her own poetry. It promises to be a great evening remembering Spark’s life and her poetry.

The SPL also reaffirms its dedication to promoting Scottish women poets, both living and dead. Luath Press and the Scottish Poetry Library are proud to present the launch of Quines in the Frame: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland by Gerda Stevenson. The poetry collection charts the part played by the remarkable women of Scotland in our nation’s history and culture. This event takes place on Thursday, 8 March, 6.30pm, and is free but ticketed (click here). And on Friday, 23 February, at ‘Lost Poets of Scotland: Wikipedia Editathon’, Sara Thomas, Wikimedian in Residence at The Scottish Library & Information Council, leads a full day of training and content creation at the Scottish Poetry Library. This Wikipedia editathon will create and cultivate existing articles relating to forgotten female poets of Scotland using the resources available at the Scottish Poetry Library. Reserve a place here, but be quick; tickets are going fast for this one.

Red Squirrel Press invites you to join us for the launch of Elizabeth Rimmer’s third full-length poetry collection, Haggards, in another great FREE event on Saturday, 10 February, 1pm (click here to reserve a ticket). We host another launch, this time with Luath, on Thursday, 29 March, 6.30pm (free but ticketed: reserve here), for Ken Cockburn’s new collection Floating the Weeds.

Now, did someone mention Wikipedia a moment ago? On Friday, 16 February, Poetry As F*ck stage the world’s first ever Wikipedia Slam (tickets are £5, available here). What is a Wikipedia Slam. Er, best you take a look at the event description here. It’s poetry, but not as you know – as is Men With Coconuts: Slamprov on Saturday, 12 May, 7pm (£8 or £6 concessions – buy here). Men With Coconuts are an award-winning improvisational comedy troupe hailing from Edinburgh. ‘Slamprov’ is a blistering mix of poetry and improvisational comedy. Scotland's finest poets and storytellers join forces with Scotland's leading improv comedians for a show like no other!

All this talk of slams, reminds me: for those who are looking to hone their skills onstage, we’re holding a workshop on Saturday, 17 February (£25 per head: reserve a place here), ‘Improvisation & Performance for Poets’. ‘Have your self-critical instincts ever inhibited you from writing?’ the organisers ask. ‘Have you ever stood on a stage and felt unsure about how to introduce yourself and your work?’ The workshop, which takes all day, is built around relaxed group activities, improvisation exercises, and writing games, and is led by improv and poetry facilitators Will Naameh (UK Improv Champion 2017) and Colin Bramwell.

On Wednesday, May 16, between 11am and 3pm, in partnership with Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, we’re hosting ‘A Good Death’ Poetry Café. It’s an informal café style event in which folk can gather to discuss what a good death means to them, with poetry readings, and tea and cake provided. It’s free but ticketed, so you know what to do (click here).

Like your poetry al fresco? Join poet Yvonne Reddick on Saturday, 9 June, 12.30pm (£8 or £6 concessions: available here) for a hike through Holyrood Park and up Arthur’s Seat. We’ll read poems by writers known for their love of walking and enjoy poetry with a link to the local area.

Finally, we are re-christening our popular reading groups session. Previously known as Nothing but the Poem, we now have Easy Morning Poems. Easy Morning Poems reading group sessions take one poet and looks at a clutch of his or her poems. It's suitable for people who both know the poet under discussion well or know nothing, but would like to. The sessions are relaxed, comfortable and an excellent way to start the weekend. Please note: the poets won’t be there in person, only through their words. What’s more, our reading groups are now FREE!

The Easy Morning Poem line-up for spring is:

Feb 24   Muriel Spark (reserve tickets here)
Mar 17  Sean O’Brien (reserve tickets here)
Apr 21   John Burnside (reserve tickets here)
May 19  Caroline Bird (reserve tickets here)
Jun 9      W S Graham (reserve tickets here)
Jun 23    Yvonne Reddick (reserve tickets here)

Keep watching the SPL website and social media for further announcements of events taking place in the Library during 2018.

Category: events