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Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

Turkmen Poet Ak Welsapar Visits the Library

Ak Welsapar at the Glasgow Art Club
Ak Welsapar at the Glasgow Art Club

What a magical time we had yesterday with the Turkmen poet Ak Welsapar, who had journeyed from London where he was recently taking part in Poetry Parnassus, a gathering of poets from countries around the world.

A man of great bravery and character, as well as a passionate and eloquent poet, Ak has lived in exile in Sweden for nearly 20 years. He was persecuted for speaking out in Turkmenistan in the name of the environment that was being devastated, and for the women and children whose lives were being threatened by the conditions in which they were forced to work. Ak is both a poet and prose writer, and has been recognised in many countries and languages for his literary achievements. 

With Rose France, a poet and short story writer herself, as our gifted interpreter, Sarah Stewart – Written World Project Manager – and I travelled with Ak to Glasgow, where he gave a presentation and reading to a gathering of poets at the Glasgow Art Club.  Poet Jim Carruth invited poets, St Mungo’s Mirrorball members and Clydebuilt mentees to the event, and we were especially moved by Ak’s beautiful reading of poems in his own, very sonorous, Turkmen language.  We were also delighted to hear a sample of traditional Turkmen music played from Ak’s laptop. 

This is just one of many events that have been on offer recently.  There was the launch of Aonghas MacNeacail’s book Laughing at the Clock - New and Selected Poems, dèanamh gàire ris a’ chloc - dàin ùra agus thaghte, out with Polygon and celebration of his 70th birthday; the Northern Poetry Workshop Anthology launch; Simon Jackson’s poetry collection and album launch; our first and very successful SPL Poetry Workshop at Hemma; and a reading and conversation with Polish author and poet Jacek Dehnel, in collaboration with Interaktywny Salon Piszących w Szkocji .

Neu! Reekie! was so much fun and Liz Lochhead was such a star, as usual.  I was one of a number of poets reading at 10RED at the Persevere on Wednesday and this special Independence Day event saw poets reading the work of a favourite American poet, while Colin Will shared some Norman MacCaig poems laced with references to America and Scotland, and the visiting Canadian poet Bruce Rice read some of his own stunning poetry.  Tonight, if you’re at a loose end and still feeling the need for a few fireworks, come along to the reading at Looking Glass Books, where I’ll be reading poems about America with two other poets: one American living here, Benjamin Morris, and one Scot living in America, Fiona Wilson.

We had a gorgeous time listening to the live music that was brought to us by the Edinburgh International Festival’s Love in a Library project, and have been extremely saddened to hear that the wonderful musical director and pianist who played in that event, Sam Hutchings, has since passed away.  We send our sincere condolences to his friends and family. 

Many thanks to all those who have helped to make these amazing events possible.  I’m waiting for the first proofs of our autumn programme, and am excited by the prospect of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and so many tantalising literary events yet to come this summer.

Jennifer Williams, Programme Manager