Untitled by lipar, under a Creative Commons licence
I’ve just completed my first fortnight as Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library – and what a joyous time it has been.
Bringing people and poems together is the task we’ve set ourselves at the SPL. Events are a great way of achieving that goal. They bring people into the library to enjoy poetry read aloud. They also encourage collaboration, whether it is between performers or organisations. I hope to report regularly on upcoming events and to fill you in on any events I go to at the SPL, around town – and beyond!
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the 10RED Reading at The Persevere Bar in Leith. Kevin Cadwallender, who has been running these events for Red Squirrel Press, had just come from doing a 10RED in Dundee the night before – I applaud his poetry stamina! I was moved by Joy Hendry’s incarnation of a characterful aunt, Colin Donati’s graceful and exacting word combinations, Brian Johnstone’s gorgeous poems conjuring the past, Sean Cartwright’s surreal musings and Camilla Chen’s funny, poignant and original images. I hope this night continues as it is a wonderful showcase for a variety of new work.
I was also fortunate to catch the Don Paterson reading hosted by Edinburgh University’s Literature Society. I’ve heard Paterson read aphorisms and from his book about Shakespeare’s sonnets, but never his poetry. It was a revelation. He read for 30 minutes, interweaving older poems with selections from a new collection of sonnets that he is working on. He made the observation that sonnets would likely have developed to have 13 rather than 14 lines, as 13 would allow them to more accurately correspond to the golden ratio, were it not for our superstition about that number. When asked who he writes for, he responded, ‘You’re writing for a better version of yourself’. He was humble and funny, read poems about urination, spoke of beta blockers and waking from naps in the grip of breath-stealing existential crises. Overall it was a tour-de-force from a poet who has thought carefully about the world, and found the perfect forms to convey his ideas. Which leads me onto another interesting remark he made – poets should feel neutral about forms, as they only become useful depending on what we want to fill them with.
Before I go, I want to flag up a very exciting event happening at the SPL on the 16th of May – Noc Literatury, also known as European Literature Night 2012. The event is produced by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, who tell me:
Held simultaneously in capital cities across the continent, European Literature Night is a great introduction to new writing talent from neighbouring countries. Although it’s been held in Europe for four years now, the Noc Literatury event at the SPL is the first to be held in the capital. Look out for short talks, flash fiction, a poetry cafe and a panel discussion. The event is free.
Among those appearing you’ll find Czech academic and journalist Jan Čulík, who is looking at the work of Emil Hakl; writer and broadcaster Peter Mackay who’s exploring contemporary Gaelic stories. Playwright Clare Duffy talks about ANA – a bilingual play she co-wrote with Pierre Yves Lemieux.
There will also be the opportunity to order a poem – from Romania, Slovenia and Spain – from our 'Poetry Cafe', part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s The Written World project. What could be better than to have stories from across Europe read aloud to you between the stacks and to dip into the wonderful books surrounding you?
This is just one of the unmissable events we shall be running at the SPL this year. Hope to see you here.
Jennifer Williams, Programme Manager
If you have thoughts about any of this or ideas for poetry events you would like to see, please email Jennifer at Jennifer.Williams@spl.org.uk.