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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.

Andrew’s Story: ‘The Land of Nod’ Saturday, 6 February 2010

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The poem I carry with me is The Land of Nod, by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s ostensibly a child’s poem, of course, and I’ve read it to my own daughter. Its lines about the land ‘up the mountain-sides of dreams’ being full of ‘many frightening sights abroad’ and ‘curious music’ took on a new resonance when I read that RLS finished this poem and the others which make up A Child’s Garden of Verses in Bournemouth, coughing up blood and suffering from an eye infection that made it painful for him to be anywhere other than in the half-dark.

A scary place indeed – especially when you consider that, the year after, he was to dream most of the plot of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde there whilst being treated for his illness, apparently with cocaine…

The Land of Nod

From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do —
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

Alena & Mark’s story: ‘Where Go the Boats?’ Monday, 18 January 2010

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Having both passed their 90th birthdays, Alena and Mark Fraser recently collected a booklet of poems as a gift to their family and friends: “The theme of our booklet is simply serendipity and the passing years – gems which have appealed to us from time to time. Often we remember how particular pieces were found. How could we forget the voice of Albert, Duke of York, faced with unexpected responsibility as George VI and coping with his still troublesome stammer in his Christmas broadcast of 1939: “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year”? (This is from‘God Knows’, a poem by Louise Haskins.) Our mothers read to their children, especially from R. L. S. and A. A. Milne – but why should the Water of Leith at Colinton have been remembered from childhood by Stevenson as dark brown? Was there effluent from James Gillespie’s snuff mill just upstream from the Manse garden? Or was it simply that hill burns are apt to turn peaty after rain?”

Alena and Mark Fraser have long been members of the Scottish Poetry Library.

BIOGRAPHY – ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON Wednesday, 6 January 2010

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Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, into a family of lighthouse engineers. Despite making an attempt at studying engineering, and then studying and qualifying as a lawyer, by the time he was in his early twenties it was apparent to Stevenson, and eventually to his parents, that his calling was to be a writer. The ill-health that had dogged him from his earliest childhood had provided him with the space and time in which his imagination could flourish.

Although his travels in search of a climate conducive to better health kept him away from Scotland, much of the fiction he was developing in the 1880s reflected his deep interest in his native land.  While most famous for his novels, Stevenson was also a poet, best known for A Child’s Garden of Verses.  He also wrote much lyric poetry, and a range of lively verse in Scots. It was in his poetry that Stevenson most effectively expressed the pain of his separation from Scotland.

Find out more about Robert Louis Stevenson through the Scottish Poetry Library’s Poets A-Z.