Around the world in 80 poets? Well, not quite, but almost. The Edinburgh International Book Festival was launched yesterday in the splendid Central Hall, light streaming through its windows. The Central Hall was built in 1901 by the Methodist Church, which is apt, as a certain sense of mission guides this year’s EIBF. ‘Around the World’ is written on the cover of the brochure festival, and the EIBF is determined to widen the ‘parochial’ reading tastes of the average British reader this year. Authors from 55 countries have been invited to take part in the Festival, which runs from 15 to 31 August in Charlotte square, and we’re delighted that poetry is part of the mix.
As is the Scottish Poetry Library. We’re delighted to be involved in helping the EIBF bring poetry to Scotland from unfamiliar corners. For Innu Poetry from the Canadian Tundra (Sat 29, 11am), the EIBF has invited three poets from the Innu tribe of northern Canada: Josephine Bacon, Natasha Kanape Fontaine and Naomi Fontaine. They’ll be working on translations with three local poets: Anna Crowe, Rachel McCrum and JL Williams. The Innu poets return without the Scottish-based poets on Monday 31, 3.45pm.
The patron saint of the SPL Edwin Morgan was a keen translator and in that spirit, we’re holding a number of events that look at non-English language poetry. Poet and translator Juana Adcock and our own Learning Manager Georgi Gill lead a session on Poetic Translation with the Scottish Poetry Library (Thu 27, 5pm). Juana returns with Gerrie Fellows and David Kinloch, who have been working with the Slovakian poets Ján Gavura and Mária Ridzoňová Ferenčuhová, plus James Sutherland-Smith, a poet and translator who has lived in Slovakia for 30 years. They share the fruits of their mutual translations in a special event held on Thursday 20, 2.15pm. Our popular reading groups Nothing but the Poem has a session that focuses on Poetry in Translation (Fri 21, 11am).
We’ve already mentioned Edwin Morgan and the EIBF will mark the 5th anniversary of his death with a rehearsed reading of Morgan’s translation of Cyrano de Bergerac (Sun 16, 7.30pm). The EIBF will also be remembering a number of poetry greats this year. The Book Festival farewells Seamus Heaney two years after his death with a co-production with the Tron Theatre Company of Beowulf (Sat 22, 7.30pm). Staying on the subject of Irish poetry, the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth is marked by Celebrating Yeats (Sun 16, 11am). Poets Paula Meehan and Robert Crawford, plus Irish Ambassador to the UK, Dan Mulhall will discuss Yeats’s legacy. Robert Crawford returns to discuss TS Eliot, the subject of his new biography (Wed 26, 4pm). Edward Mendelson is joined by Alexander McCall Smith to talk about the work of WH Auden (Wed 19, 2pm). Prolong the Talk – Reimagining Philip Larkin (Sat 22, 2.15pm) features Helen Mort, Sam Riviere, Clare Pollard and more reworking the poems of Hull’s most famous librarian. Hopping countries, we travel to Russia, birthplace of Pushkin. SPL Director Robyn Marsack discusses Pushkin’s masterpiece Eugene Onegin (Thu 20, 11am). Although better known as a novelist, Iain Banks’s final book was a collection of his and Ken MacLeod’s poems. MacLeod comes to the EIBF to discuss that book and Banks in an event that will no doubt be as poignant as it is enlightening (Sun 23, 2.15pm).
Of course, in addition to the globetrotting, Scottish poetry has a strong presence at the EIBF. The Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy returns to the EIBF on Sunday 16, 8.15pm. David Kinloch has a new collection of poems inspired by the female characters of the Bible (Wed 19, 3.30pm). Last year at the EIBF, Niall Campbell won the Edwin Morgan Award for a poet under 30. This year he returns to read in an event alongside Blake Morrison (Sat 22, 7pm). Robin Robertson will be reading from his new Selected Poems (Sun 30, 10.15am). The Gaelic poets of WW1 are remembered in a new anthology, Cuimhneachan / Remembrance (Saturday 15, 4pm).
Don Paterson has a new collection 40 Sonnets that he’ll be showcasing at the EIBF (Thu 20, 7.15pm). In a feat of memory as well as of imagination and technical skill, J.O. Morgan will read At Maldon, his reimagining of the Anglo-Saxon classic (Sun 23, 7.30pm). A pair of former Edinburgh Makars, Ron Butlin and Valerie Gillies, take to the stage together (Thu 20, 12.15pm). The present Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca is joined by Catriona MacDonald to read – in keeping with the theme of poetry from around the world – their translation of 19th century Finnish epic The Kalevala (Sat 29, 7.30pm). And finally, the irrepressible National Poet of Scotland Liz Lochhead returns to the EIBF (Wed 26, 5pm).
From down south, the incredibly popular Kate Tempest performs at not one but two events at the EIBF, one in the company of her editor at Picador, Don Paterson (Tuesday 18, 8.15pm), and another solo (Wed 19, 8.15pm). If you like Tempest’s work, you’ll love George the Poet (Fri 21, 8.15pm), who like her is a recording artist, as likely to be heard on Radio 6 Music as Poetry Please. Sam Riviere comes up to read from his eye-catchingly titled collection Kim Kardashian’s Wedding alongside Sean Borodale (Sun 23, 8.45pm).
The EIBF welcomes from outside the UK Paul Durcan (Fri 21, 10.15am), the Irish poet whose new collection The Days of Surprise will no doubt be as funny, heart-breaking and brilliant as its predecessors. If you’ve never seen Durcan perform, do yourself a favour. From America, Mark Doty joins Naomi Shihab Nye (Sat 29, 7.15pm). The SPL is pleased to announce we’ll be holding a Nothing but the Poem reading group on Naomi Shihab Nye (Saturday 15, 11am). On Friday 21, 8.45pm, Wales's Jonathan Edwards reads with New Haven, Connecticut's Ryan Van Winkle – although Ryan’s been living in Scotland so long, surely we can claim him for ourselves?
Just room for two more poetry events. Comic Verse (Sat 22, 5.30pm) does what it says on the tin – it looks at what it is and has several performers of it on hand, including Elvis McGonagall and Kate Fox. And finally, perhaps the most intriguing poetry event of the entire EIBF this year, Voices in the Dark (Sat 22, 8.45pm) which sees poets Janette Ayachi, Andrew McMillan and more reading in a darkened theatre. Unlike the poets and audience at that event, you can’t now say you’re in the dark as to what poetry events there are to enjoy at this year’s EIBF.