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!

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

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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

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Adjacent Pineapple

I had such a nice time reading at Colin Herd‘s new/old night Snack Revenge a couple weeks back (more details here), and really enjoyed meeting and hearing the forceful, crackling work of the poet Judith Goldman. Sadly, the marvellous Terese Svoboda wasn’t able to make it, but we had a full house in the room I used to attend classes in when I was doing the MLitt some years back. Colin has been a force for good in the Scottish poetry scene for years now, and I don’t know how he manages to keep so many balls in the air, but he is lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow (while commuting through from Edinburgh), running Snack Revenge, has just started this fabulous publication called Adjacent Pineapple and his new book came out and was delightfully shared at a triple book launch with impressive readings also from Daisy Lafarge and Sam Riviere at Rhubaba last Friday. I am filled with admiration! We had a really interesting conversation on the way home about the lack of SCOTTISH POETICS and whether there should be some work done to encourage this. I think, yes!

Have a read of my contribution to the first Adjacent Pineapple here.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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Drown Not Wee Blossom

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Happy Thursday! Here in Edinburgh we’re swimming through the streets thanks to this day of rain, but I’m appreciating it because someone was just telling me that in Ibiza there are no rivers anymore because there is no rainfall… is that true? Anyway, it makes me feel lucky to be in a place where there is still some rain pouring down, for the sake of the blossoms at least.

Also I feel lucky because there are very nice events to share with you, as well as a brand new Scottish Poetry Library podcast featuring After Economy. Have a listen here. Dear Colin accidentally says ‘Shearsmith’ rather than ‘Shearsman’… but he means Shearsman! Here is a link to the Edinburgh International Book Festival event I’m doing with Rachel Boast: River of Words and here is a link to the Live Poetry Lab live writing event, both of which I mention in the podcast. Please join us!

If you’re free tomorrow night, come to the gorgeous Golden Hare Books in my old hood, Stockbridge (Can Stockbridge be called a hood?  It seems incongruous. See: New Town Flaneur). I’m delighted to be kicking off their first ever Hear Hare Here: Poetry at Golden Hare Books event with Claire Askew and Theresa Muñoz, MCed by booksellers and poetry lovers Alice Tarbuck and Annie Rutherford.

I’m not sure if I will be there as my darling sis and nephew are visiting from America and I don’t know how much poetry I can make them sit through in one visit, but this sounds amazing so go along if you can: Chrissy Williams, Wayne Miller, Anthony Autumn and Ruthie Kennedy.

This looks beautiful too! Emilia Weber at Sad Press

And finally, for now, wet your whistle, fill your belly and tickle your imagination at: Four Simmer, A Night of Poetry and Flavour at Edinburgh Food Studio.

“This unique collaboration series between food & poetry will use flavour, scent, and colour in response to some of Scotland’s most distinct voices. A delicious evening which will touch all of your senses.

Hosted by Salitre award winning poet Ryan Van Winkle, ‘Simmer’ pairs four poets with dishes carefully selected & prepared to illuminate and echo their work. Readings will be from Emily Ballou, JL Williams, Ron Butlin, and Tom Pow.”

Tickets are going fast, so book here if this makes you hungry!

Stay dry or get wet, and have a beautiful weekend.