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Words Worth – Poets for Haiti Monday, 1 March 2010

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Many thanks to all those who came along to the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh last night and made our Poets for Haiti night a very special one indeed. We have raised thousands of pounds for an excellent cause (we’re still counting exactly how much), and completed the month-long Carry a Poem campaign in style.

Led by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, 19 of the UK’s finest poets took to the stage to read an array of poignent, political and simply entertaining verse, supported by an appreciative crowd.

More about the night to follow…

Poetry Pocketcards – In Detail Monday, 22 February 2010

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The 20 different poetry pocketcards we produced have proved very popular – we set 50,000 of them free across town so people could instantly begin to Carry a Poem, if they didn’t already. Which is your favourite?

Carol Ann Duffy is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and in May 2009 was appointed Poet Laureate – both the first woman and the first Scot to hold the post.  She has won a series of major awards, including the T S Eliot prize for Rapture, the Whitbread Poetry Award for Mean Time and a Scottish Arts Council Award for Standing Female Nude.

Primarily a poet, Diana also writes short stories and is the author of many children’s books. She’s worked as a journalist, English teacher and a tutor at the University of Bristol, University of the West of England and the Open University. She has tutored many creative writing courses for the Arvon Foundation and for a year was writer-in-residence at Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary. She is a member of Shore Poets, and is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow based at Edinburgh University. She writes the occasional book review for The Spectator.

As a poet, Alan Spence has made zestful use of haiku in Glasgow Zen, Seasons of the Heart and Clear Light. He uses the haiku form to explore the essential paradox of life, discovering timelessness in cycles of changes, immanence in the finite, simplicity in the intricate. He has received many awards for his writing. Alan Spence is based in Edinburgh where he and his wife run the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre, and he is Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, where he is also artistic director of the annual WORD Festival.  His new book, coming out in May, is called Morning Glory. It’s a collection of haiku and tanka, with illustrations by Elizabeth Blackadder, and it’s published by Renaissance Press.Alec is an artist, poet & publisher. Born in Scotland in 1966, he now lives in the North-East of England, in Byker (Newcastle upon Tyne). He is currently artist in residence at NaREC the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Blyth), and working on commissions for Milton Keynes Gallery, Kielder Partnership and Bluecoat Gallery (Liverpool). He has worked on collaborative poetry and art projects with children, including WORDWOOD, Mesostic Laboratorium, Mesostic Curriculum and nine colours.


Susie Maguire is a former actor, comedy performer and TV presenter, who now writes fiction. She is deviser and editor of Little Black Dress, an anthology of short stories by women on the theme of the ubiquitous and iconic frock, published March 2006. Her own stories are published in two collections: Furthermore and The Short Hello. Her poetry collection How To Hug is available from Mariscat Press or via www.scottish-pamphlet-poetry.com.

Susie Maguire and Edinburgh author Vivian French have together created poetry pin badges, available from The Edinburgh Bookshop or by direct request.Jackie Kay was born and brought up in Scotland. She has published five collections of poetry for adults, all published by Bloodaxe – The Adoption Papers (winner of a Forward Prize, a Saltire Award and a Scottish Arts Council Book Award), Other Lovers (which won the Somerset Maugham Award), Off Colour, shortlisted for the 1999 TS Eliot Award, Life Mask (2005) and Darling: New and Selected Poems (2007). Her first novel, Trumpet (Picador, 1998), won the Guardian Fiction Prize, a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and The Authors’ Club First Novel Award. She has written for the stage and television and worked with composer Mark Anthony Turnage.

Douglas Dunn was born in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, in 1942. In 1991 he was appointed Professor in the School of English at the University of St Andrews. He has won a Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and has twice been awarded prizes by the Scottish Arts Council. In 1981 he was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for St Kilda’s Parliament. In 1986 he was overall winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for his collection Elegies.

Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh is a Gaelic poet based in Scotland.

John Hegley was born in 1953 in Newington Green, and moved to Luton at an early age. He has worked with two children’s theatre groups, ‘Interaction’ and ‘Soapbox’, and began his highly successful career at the notoriously tough comedy store in 1980. His first notable media exposure was the John Peel sessions (Radio One), with songs about spectacles and the misery of human existence. In 2000, John received an honorary Arts Doctorate from Luton University and had his most notable live engagement in a women’s prison, Medellin, Columbia. John’s latest collections are The Sound of Paint Drying (Methuen 2003), Uncut Confetti (Methuen 2006) and The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet (Donut Press 2009).

Jenny Joseph was born in Birmingham, and studied English literature at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, before becoming a journalist. She was awarded the 1986 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for her fiction work Persepone, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Her best known poem, Warning, was written in 1961 and included in her 1974 collection Rose In the Afternoon and the The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse.

Read on – more poets and pocketcards >>>

Poetry Lights Up Edinburgh Castle Monday, 15 February 2010

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“Look to the living, love them, and hold on” will be projected onto the north face of Castle Rock from dusk on St Valentine’s Day to celebrate the importance of love in all its forms.  The line is from ‘Disenchantments’, a poem by the award-winning Scottish poet, Douglas Dunn.

The projection took place until 11.00pm on Sunday 14th February.

Poetry Projections in Edinburgh

Ali Bowden, Director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said “We are delighted that Historic Scotland is supporting the Carry A Poem campaign, and joining us in bringing poetry to Edinburgh Castle, the iconic cultural image of Scotland’s Capital City.  This one-off projection joins 5 other poems shining throughout the city – 2 onto the City Chambers, the new extension of the Usher Hall, the National Library of Scotland and at the Foot of Leith Walk – all of which can be enjoyed until March.”

Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs, said “Edinburgh Castle is a fitting choice to be one of the key focal points of this innovative campaign, which celebrates Edinburgh’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. As a city and as a country we are extremely proud of this and by celebrating it in this way I hope that it provides local people and visitors alike with a powerful and memorable symbol of our diverse and renowned literary heritage.”

The Poet

Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said “Douglas Dunn’s lines are so appropriate: they say that love endures, like the Castle rock which they’ll illuminate for a night.”

Douglas Dunn commented “I’m really chuffed – it’s like having my name in lights above a theatre – and what a theatre!  I’m so pleased to be involved.”

Douglas Dunn was born in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, in 1942. In 1991 he was appointed Profess

or in the School of English at the University of St Andrews. He has won a Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and has twice been awarded prizes by the Scottish Arts Council. In 1981 he was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for St Kilda’s Parliament. In January 1986 he was overall winner of the 1985 Whitbread Book of the Year Award for his collection ‘Elegies.’

Carry a Poem Campaign

Jenny Dawe, Leader of City of Edinburgh Council said “There can be few cities in the world as romantic or inspiring as Edinburgh, and what better focal point for this St Valentine’s Day poetry projection than our iconic Castle? Carry a Poem is proving to be a hugely thought-provoking campaign in this City of Literature, demonstrating the power of words to move, amuse and console us.”

Poetry Lights Up Edinburgh Thursday, 11 February 2010

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As part of the February 2010 citywide reading campaign – Carry a Poem – locations in Edinburgh are ‘carrying a poem’ in the City of Literature: The National Library, Leith Walk, the Royal Mile, the City Chambers (Cockburn Street) and the Usher Hall. For one night only, Edinburgh Castle also lit up.

The National Library of Scotland

So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,

And the moon be still as bright.

Lord Byron

Lord Byron – or George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron if you want to get a little formal – was born in 1788, schooled in Aberdeen, and was a major Romantic poet. He wore a lot of frilly shirts and wrote great love poems. His mum was Scottish so we’re claiming him as one of ours…The National Library of Scotland has some of his letters and artefacts in their John Murray Archive and the lines projected are from the poem ‘So, we’ll go no more a roving’. You can visit the archive on

line here http://www.nls.uk/jma or nip down to George IV Bridge to see the exhibition yourself and have a cuppa in their excellent cafe.

The Royal Mile – (on the pavement, near City Chambers entrance archways)

Keeping and forgetting time,
my pulse to your pulse, rhythm and rhyme

Gael Turnbull

Gael Turnbull was born in Edinburgh in 1928 and worked on what he termed kinetic poems; texts for installation in which the movement of the reader and/or of the text became part of the reading experience. He also used to busk on the Royal Mile which is why we’ve projected his poem there. This poem was written specially for the Scottish Poetry Library, and if you want to read more of his work, hunt down the collection There Are Words by Shearsman Books. http://www.spl.org.uk

The City Chambers – (back of City Chambers building, Cockburn Street)

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Robert Burns

You probably already know everything you need to about Robert Burns and these lines which are taken from the poem ‘A Man’s a Man for a’ That’, but did you know he came to Edinburgh in 1787 and you can go for a walk in his footsteps – you can visit the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature for a virtual tour.

The Usher Hall

Our lives, and every day and hour,
One symphony appear:
One road, one garden – every flower
And every bramble dear.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson is an Edinburgh-lad, born in 1850 in 8 Howard Place, in the New Town. He’s perhaps best known as the author of the now world-famous book Treasure Island, but he wrote many books and was also a poet. Although troubled by illness his whole life, he was a traveller and true bon viveur. These lines are from one of the short poems in Songs of Travel. www.robert-louis-stevenson.org

Leith Walk

James Hoggs’ ‘Love is Like a Dizziness’ is projected at the Foot of the Walk.

Susie’s Story: ‘The Python’ Friday, 5 February 2010

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This is how I’m currently carrying a poem…

I’ve always got the last 6 lines of this lingering somewhere in my mind, and they leap to the front of it when I hear anyone say ‘I had a…’ – whatever.

I had a dog, once – I had an uncle, who – I had a friend, when I was young –

Just those three initial words take me to Hilaire Belloc’s cautionary tale of The Python. Mr Belloc is well named, because his ryhmes for children are Hilarious, and splendidly politically-uncorrect (children are eaten by lions, flattened by slammed doors, expire from overdoses of string, etc).

I’m pretty much on the snake’s side, in this poem/story. One ought not to keep reptiles as pets, really; though if I were offered a family of chameleons for re-homing, I might find myself severely tempted to break that rule…

Susie Maguire is a former actor, comedy performer and TV presenter, who now writes fiction. She is deviser and editor of Little Black Dress, an anthology of short stories by women on the theme of the ubiquitous and iconic frock, published March 2006. Her own stories are published in two collections: ‘Furthermore’ and ‘The Short Hello‘, and her poetry collection How To Hug is available ffrom Mariscat Press.