Category Archives: Readings & Talks

Spring Shoots – Readings in April & May

After a long hibernation, the days are getting longer and several events in the diary are getting closer.

B&J approach Rasaay

First up is a launch event for Out of Books, with Alec Finlay, on Thursday 11 April at 6.30pm, at the Scottish Poetry Library, and a second event as part of the Boswell Book Festival at Auchinleck, Ayrshire, on Sunday 19 May. Out of Books is collaborative project inspired by Boswell and Johnson’s 1773 journey across the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Taking their texts as their guides, we’ll set out to revisit particular landscapes and recover particular views. Over the summer and along the route we will host a series of events inspired by their antecedents’ famous journey, with further events in and around Inverness, on the Isles of Skye, Coll and Mull, and in Inveraray.

snapdragon11-1

Barrie ‘Caseroom’ Tullett is visiting Edinburgh for the Fruitmarket Gallery Book Fair on Saturday 20 April. I’ll do a stint on the table as well, and read something from Snapdragon about 12.30.

Arne Rautenberg

Arne Rautenberg is visiting Scotland later in the month, and we’re doing two readings together – at the Goethe Institut in Glasgow on Tuesday 23 April at 6.30pm, and at the Edinburgh Bookshop the following day at 7.30pm (this is the Facebook page about it).

cherry blossom 2

In May, I’m leading two poetry walks in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12, both at 2.00pm. Content still to be decided, but certainly some Chinese classics, haiku, maybe Burns in rural-floral mode, something from The Road North

Apollo shadows

And finally, a reading with Pierre Joris and Lila Matsumoto at Little Sparta on Sunday 26 May at 5.00pm, linked to the University of Glasgow’s Assembling Identities conference. Tickets are available here.

Perhaps the snow will have melted from the Pentlands by then.

Snowy Pentlands, April

ink

ink will be launched at 7pm on Tuesday 22 November at The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DF. The book will be for sale at the special price of £18.00. Dr. Anette Hagan from the National Library of Scotland will speak about book inscriptions, and Pfaelzer Wein (red and white wine from the Palatinate region of Germany) will be served. ink is a beautiful new artist book, featuring full-colour images of the prize-winning sculptural work ink by ~in the fields, and specially written texts by myself – poems, circle poems, ‘Reflections on the writing of marginalia’, and a hidden alphabet poem offering twenty-six imaginary shades of blue. In addition, the contributors present their ‘blueographies’. ~ in the fields are artists Nicole Heidtke and Stefan Baumberger. In 2010 they won the Berlin University of the Arts Award for Interdisciplinary Art and Science for their sculptural work ink. Their visual art practice draws on archival material, environmental topics and ephemeral artefacts, such as lost forms of cinema. ink was developed from inscriptions found in five printed books from five centuries – a Bible, a copy of the Arabian Nights, a songbook, and books about natural history and botany. ink consists of five colourless clear glass bulbs – each partly filled with blue ink. When the visitor approaches, the bulbs begin to rotate, causing a layer of ink to coat the inside surface. Through the ink, illuminated handwritten inscriptions become visible on a spinning armature, thanks to the phenomenon of persistence of vision. The inscriptions are given to the visitor individually. The visitor’s presence initiates the offering of the inscription once again.

Details 208 x 198 mm Hard covers 52 pages Full colour French folds Edition: 500 Publisher: Abertay University Press, July 2011 ISBN 978 1 899796 25 0 Recommended Retail Price: £24.95 If you would like to receive more information about the book, please write to me, or to studio@in-the-fields.org

The Road North: a matsuri festival


This May, join Alec and Ken Cockburn for a matsuri festival at the Hidden Gardens, Glasgow. For the past year Alec and Ken have been travelling through Scotland, guided by the Japanese poet Basho. On Sunday 15th May, their year-long journey will come to an end, and to celebrate they have invited some of the people they met along the way to join them for an informal afternoon in the gardens. There will be performances of poetry and song, paper wishes to tie, and teas from Japan and China served by the gardens’ cultural cookery group. The performances are scheduled for 3pm.

The Hidden Gardens, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE

You can follow Alec and Ken’s journey on their blog, and there’s an e-invitation for you here.

Edinburgh Old Town Walking Tour – 6 Feb

After a morning of drizzle, it was fair at lunchtime, but the weather closed in atmospherically as we walked, all the shades of grey you could ever wish for.

Tweeddale Court, with its publishing connections past and present (Oliver & Boyd, Canongate, The List), and the former home of the Scottish Poetry Library, was very still, bolted doors and no sign of life. As I read my poem ‘Courtyard Reading’, about the open festival events the SPL used to run there, I felt like I was raising a few ghosts. From Jeffrey St the Old Royal High School, mentioned in Robert Garioch’s ‘Embro to the Ploy’, was invisible through the fog.

After a children’s rhyme in the spacious Chessel’s Court, and a tragic ballad in the vennel at John Street, we paid homage to Robert Fergusson at the Canongate Kirk. His sculpted image strides energetically downhill, while his gravestone bears a verse written by his great admirer Robert Burns.

Ken reading by the statue of Robert Fergusson on the Canongate

Sadly Dunbar’s Close was locked, but we were able to glimpse the ornamental hedges through the gate.

We were lucky to have on the tour the poet Angus Reid, who read his sonnet about the Scottish parliament building, and the shapes that pattern its exterior. Inexplicable to many, they are to Reid a clear emblem of democracy:

not the fingers not even the palm but
the power of the right hand the hammer
the sign of assent the vote the demos

(That last word means in Greek ‘the people’, and is where the word ‘democracy’ comes from, government by the people.)

We concluded in Crichton’s Close at the new home of the Scottish Poetry Library, with another sonnet, by Iain Crichton Smith, part of which is inscribed in the fabric of the building: ‘this house, this poem… this fresh hypothesis’.

Outside the Scottish Poetry Library

I’ll be running another poetry tour on 27th February – email events@cityofliterature.com to book.
These events are part of the Carry a Poem programme.

The Syllabary

Norm

So what’s the norm in this neck of the woods?
Greetings and leave-takings for example,
pats, dabs, cheek-kisses, handshakes, embraces,
toasts, tips, quips, queues, curses, table manners,
neckwear, nightwear, refusals, condiments,
punctuality and superstitions,
the etiquette of stimulants, when not
to use the informal second person,
what’s for breakfast, shop-talk, the latitude
or lack thereof accorded foreigners.

Peter McCarey launched v.3 of his ongoing opus The Syllabary at the Scottish Poetry Library on Saturday 10 October. An ongoing, accumulative sequence of short poems each based on a single phoneme (consonant+vowel+consonant), you can read and hear an ever-varying selection of the poems here and also here (I think the latter is the newer site). Peter reckons he has about 2000 poems to write to complete it, but he’s also now initiated a parallel project, inviting other poets each to write one poem and again aiming for that 2000 (or so) mark.
I was allocated ‘Norm’, and read my poem on the night – I just now realise the symmetry of it, 10 lines each of 10 syllables on 10th October. Also reading were Richard Price, Angus Reid, Eleanor Livingstone, Alan Riach and Sandy Hutchison.