land of black mountains

it seems like ages ago now but just a few weeks ago i was on a mountaintop in the north of Montenegro! (where is that, one person asked me… i know, i know, i had to look it up). well it is here, just start at Rome, cross Italy and drift across the Adriatic Sea

what a remarkably beautiful country!

IMG_1554
Montenegro

i flew into Dubrovnik, and was picked up to my surprise by the glamorous Montenegrin poet Tanja Bakić who had kindly come all the way from her home in the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica to meet me

40600244_706600763025292_6152268045650755584_o

the six-hour drive to Bijelo Polje, where the Evenings of Ratkovic Poetry Festival would be taking place, was a dream of white canyons laced by glittering turquoise rivers, steep emerald mountain slopes, oncoming cars and motorcycles racing round tight bends at high speed

so many brilliant poets, and the mountains, the haystacks, the rivers, the mountains!!!

Festival Programme

cheapest wine and cigarettes since, last time you could smoke inside since, waiters in white shirts black trousers, the town square, the fountains, the men in the river, the wild cats, the rottweiler in the cage, the chicken by the river, the cow with the bell round her neck on top of the mountain in the meadow of wildflowers, the muddy path, the Turkish coffee, the almonds and walnuts, the REAL HAYSTACKS, the heat, the frightening cemetery, the ancient churches, the peeling frescoes, the orthodox boy holding the medieval bible that no one could look at but believers, the library on the mountaintop, the cabbage salad, the old-fashioned music, the wedding in the hotel, the mountains, the mountains

41402254_10160802422750511_2946522653692788736_n

when I left I had a couple of nights in Dubrovnik before flying home, unbelievable white polished city out of time and dreams and the island of Lokrum with its rocky beaches trawled by peacocks, crumbling monastery, white paths to paradise, giant aloe and curse and memory and hunger and thunder over sea

IMG_1770

run little heart up the straightest path

Many thanks to the Edwin Morgan Trust and the Society of Authors whose support helped to make this trip possible.

i can call it a notebook

sunny sunny afternoon in October and he comes in saying ‘it’s so nice and shiny’

i was perusing the website of the lovely Lucy Cash recently and discovered that she seems to have called her blog page ‘notebook’, i love this idea and am going to borrow it, i hope she doesn’t mind

something about thinking of this page as a notebook rather than a blog is so freeing in terms of content and form (esp capitalisation, apparently — what a relief!) and it is my own page so i should be able to use it in the way that best serves creativity and communication my way

yesterday was National Poetry Day, i always feel a little torn (isn’t every day poetry day etc), but hey i won’t complain about celebrations… my very talented friend maddy wrote an NPD post (notebook entry/review/thought smatter) of which you might like to partake… her posts are generally wonderful and she’s awfully good on fashion too

also her mum, the marvellous Robyn Marsack, has launched her own website, isn’t it gorgeous?

so much to see and read and love and share and frill and scent and dance and do!

 

IMG_1915.JPG
shiny shiny bottles in autumn sunshine at Jupiter Artland: Rivers by Tania Kovats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

StAnza Workshop: Between Worlds

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with curators at MUSA, the Museum of the University of St Andrews, to lead a writing workshop for this year’s StAnza Poetry Festival on writing between worlds, in response to ritual masks and portraits in the collection. A brilliant group of writers gathered and we explored art, poetry, the self in myriad cultures (and the hidden self) and more. You can read all about it here.

writers at StAnza writing workshop
Poets moving between worlds.

In other news, I am busy trying to decide if this is spring. I have seen cherry trees in flower. I wildly purchased two pairs of summer shoes a few weeks back when we had a day or two of temperature that rose above 15 degrees, but now I am wondering if that was premature… as May dawns and I am still donning my winter coat every morning. And hat. And gloves. Still, my sister is getting married this June so we will be heading to New Jersey, New York and Vermont in what does not feel like TOO long now, and I sure hope it will be sunny. HOT and sunny.

cherry tree in blossom
Spring?

For my sanity, I have been avoiding the real news, which does not seem like real news. It becomes especially fun to drop in every once in a while as the novelty makes it appear even more special. Like, Kanye said WHAT? Ah, back to poetry and the LRB, that noble publication, a subscription to which a kind friend has just gifted me. At least in the LRB, the grumbling is beautifully-composed and goes on for many crisp pages that make a sort of intelligent sigh when you turn the page. Now that my kind bosses have allowed me to compress my hours and I have every Friday (every Friday!) all to myself for writing, this becomes the kind of sophisticated temptation I have to push against. Write Jennifer, write!

Music, Poetry and Creative Learning

The Festival of Creative Learning is just about to kick off and we are bouncing with excitement as we have over 130 extraordinary events taking place across the University. I will be going to a witchcraft spell zine creating workshop, AI film screenings, an introduction to contemporary circus, an event exploring the refugee crisis through legislative theatre, a jewellery and anatomy event where we will be making body part-shaped jewels and much more!

In the midst of all this, James and I – aka OPUL – will be performing at Click Clack on Thursday evening, so join us if you’re in the mood for some poetry & music and cool jazz.

clickclack

We are also preparing for a special event as part of this project: TIMESCAPES Edinburgh. OPUL will be contributing poetry & music to Looking for Lucey: Celebrating the work of filmmaker Eric Lucey on 15 March at the Roxy Art House. Booking details will be available soon.

 

 

Creative Conversations

I’m so pleased to be joining Colin Herd for the Creative Conversations event at the University Chapel at the University of Glasgow tomorrow (Monday 22 January). Colin has been such a supportive and brilliant friend, poet, editor and curator for many years and someone I enjoy talking with about poetry and the world, so it will be a real pleasure to chat with him. Also having done my MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow, it is always wonderful to return there and remember those halcyon days! Meet the students! See what’s new and old on Byres Road!

Please join us – you can bring your lunch. I’ve also heard that it can be chilly so wrap up warm.

Creative Conversations

‌Monday 22 January
1 – 2 PM University Chapel
Free & Open to the Public

media_306203_en

EIBF Live Poetry Lab

I had such fun at the Edinburgh International Book Festival today, writing in a tent on George Square for three hours as part of the Live Poetry Lab. A number of nice folks dropped in to share their festival memories with me, and we had intriguing conversations about the history and politics of the festivals in Edinburgh, and about culture and writing generally.

Colin Herd and Jane McKie produced incredible texts on Monday and Tuesday, and Peter Mackay and Ryan Van Winkle are still to come. It felt quite exposed, writing in this way… the work is very much a sketch rather than a finished product, and not what one would normally share with the wider public. It was a remarkably fruitful and productive creative constraint, however, and certainly has produced a mass of work that I will mine and edit into more polished poems. I hope the exercise serves as inspiration for other writers who might be stuck or feeling as if they don’t have much time to write. Give yourself a set amount of time: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 3 hours… and see where the pen/pencil/keyboard takes you!

Many thanks to dear Ioannis Kalkounos, EIBF Programme Manager (and excellent poet himself!), for organising this project, to EIBF for hosting it and to everyone who has contributed memories. You can continue to read the work from the Lab here and tweet your own festival memories to #LivePoetryLab.

Also thanks to Rachael Boast… I so enjoyed reading with her at EIBF last Tuesday, and to Marjorie Lotfi Gill and Claire Urquhart and all the folks working on the brilliant Open Book project for the chance to read to the remarkable women’s group from the Maryhill Integration Network and to have my poems translated and read out in Arabic by Saffanna who took my breath away. It’s been a fantastic Book Festival thus far, and so much more to come!

Also if you’re in town on Saturday night and love poetry, come along to this: Second Space Poetry.

JLWEIBF

August in Edinburgh

It’s August in Edinburgh! There’s so much that is marvellous on offer, how can one choose? I’m already mourning my missing of the PJ Harvey gig, which I hear was life changing. Still to come: a few readings which it would be brilliant to see you at…

67dac432

I have the pleasure of reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with Rachael Boast on Tuesday 15 August at 3.30pm. Book your tickets here.

RB&JL

The week starting Monday 21 August I’m part of the EIBF Live Poetry Lab residencies. My day is Wednesday 23 August but there are great poets on tap all week. Come along to watch us writing live and/or to contribute to our texts, tweet in contributions and festival memories to #LivePoetryLab and watch our collaborative writing come into being live online. More details and information about how you can contribute here and here.

I will also be reading on a stupendous bill at Second Space Poetry at the Safari Lounge starting at 8pm sharp on Saturday 26 August. More details here.

I’m planning to attend the Atlantic Drift launch party, which looks great and will feature readings by Andrea Brady, Sean Bonney & Sophie Collins.

I’ll be checking out the exhibitions at Talbot Rice Gallery and the Edinburgh Art Festival.

We’ve got tickets for Verdi’s Macbeth, plenty of events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival including Michael Longley and Rachel McCrum & Miriam Nash, Daphne Loads in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas talking about recipes and gender quality, Theatre Re and hopefully much more — recommendations are most welcome. Have a beautiful August, and for those of you in Edinburgh… happy Festivals!

Macbeth-meets_the_witches