There’s a delicious collection of minds and hearts – David Greig (new Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre!), Zinnie Harris, Tiffany Jenkins, Dominic Hinde and Chrissy Barnacle – all on stage at the Traverse tomorrow night for the newest instalment of Two Minute Manifesto – and me doing a poem or two. Do join us!
And on the subject of recent publications, here is a link to an article I wrote for The Bottle Imp about The Unconveyable in poetry. Also you can find out more about StAnza’s collaboration with the Bridging the Continental Divide project for the translation of neo-Latin Scottish poetry, in which Scottish poets were commissioned to produce their own versions of poems from David McOmish’s translations into English, here and a chapbook is due out soon.
So delighted to have a couple of poems in the beautiful new online journal The Compass. Have a look here, and be sure to check out the rest of what they’ve been up to – it’s a wealth of poetry.
It’s been a busy few months! Check out the links for some text, reviews and recordings.
Recording of Our Real Red Selves book launch at Golden Hare Bookshop here.
The Process of Being piece that Catherine Street and I performed at the Cooper Gallery in Dundee, here.
Review of the Hidden Door 2015 Unforeseen event Catherine Street and I were involved in, here.
Video from Neu Reekie at the Fruitmarket Gallery in celebration of artist Jim Lambie, here.
Me reading in a women’s loo in the University Library in Göttingen as part of the Poetry Flashmob event! First time for everything…
Just back from poetry festivals in Turkey and Berlin, but the fun doesn’t stop there! Here are some upcoming events taking place in Edinburgh over the next couple of months… hope to see you. Click on each listing for more details.
(c) Jan Gavura
Also super excited to be performing at CAESURA 32 at Summerhall tomorrow night. It was meant to be a JL Williams performance with a little OPUL but it seems to have evolved, to my delight, into a much more integrated set. Anyway, much music and poetry will be had by all. Also performing will be Emilia Weber, Tom Betteridge and Legion of Swine.
Hope to see you there! All details here.
A couple of exciting events coming up including an OPUL gig at Click Clack Club on Tuesday 30 June at Henry’s at 7pm, see more details here.
Thanks to Stewart Ennis of Vagabond Voices for recording and editing this interview in preparation for the launch of Our Real Red Selves (available to pre-order here: Our Real Red Selves). The book will be launching on 4 June at the CCA in Glasgow (CCA launch details here) and in Edinburgh in early July (details coming soon).
Join us if you can, tickets are available here. It’s such a treat to be part of this!
PRESENTED BY PLAYWRIGHTS’ STUDIO, SCOTLAND AS PART OF TALKFEST AT THE TRON
Directed by Peter Arnott
A rehearsed reading of a brand new play with professional actors including Moyo Akandé, Paul Cunningham, George Docherty and Janette Foggo.
Peter Arnott and a team of actors will encounter two new plays in a live experiment. During the day, the director and actors’ immediate first response to the unseen texts as they unfold will be used to find each play’s strengths and weaknesses. Peter will then compile extracts from both plays to be presented on the same night, bringing the audience into this close encounter with new writing.
Closing Time written by Kevin P. Gilday
Pirlie Wee Horses written by JL Williams
Directed by Peter Arnott
Best Scottish Poems 2014 is out now!
You can read and listen to all the poems here.
It’s a real honour to have been included in this selection by this year’s editor Roderick Watson.
It’s really a pleasure to be reading at two events at Aye Write! this year. The first will be on 18 April at 6pm. It’s the pre-launch for ‘Triptych: Our Real Red Selves’ out with Vagabond Voices, with myself, Harry Giles and Marion McCready. This new series is inspired by the beautiful Penguin Modern Poets books that were published in the late 1960s and 70s, and this first Triptych will feature my war poems collection ‘The History of Fire’, Harry’s ‘Drone’ poems and Marion’s poems about childbirth – plenty of passion and hope, fire and blood, humour and wonderment!
Excited to be chairing this event tomorrow – do come along if you’re interested in hearing about publishing from the editor’s mouth and performing from the poet’s mouth.
Publishing and Performing Your Poetry
This seminar will explore the different ways in which poets can reach an audience, and will overview the best approach to take when submitting work to publishers; the panel will include Maurice Riordan (Editor at Poetry Review), Neil Astley (Editor at Bloodaxe Books), and Rachel McCrum (Poet, Performer, Promoter, and one half of Rally and Broad). Chaired by Jennifer Williams, Programme Manager at Scottish Poetry Library.
Date and time: Tuesday 31st March 2015 (6.30 – 8.30pm).
Venue: CCA, Glasgow
Featured poet this month on Read Raw, a lovely website that showcases poets and authors. Have a look here: Read Raw
It’s not very often one gets to meet one of one’s poetry heroes, let alone sit and have a chat with them, in public, but it’s happening! And in fact it’s already sold out. Alice Notley has been a source of inspiration for years. I think I might go black and blue from pinchIng myself. Thank you StAnza!
I was very happy to be included in this collection of poetry and stories written in response to the beautiful work of Christopher Orr in The Beguiled Eye (15 November 2014 – 14 February 2015), an exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh. Do catch it if you can, it’s really worth seeing in person. You might like to have a read of the work here: Only the Mountain.
Just out: The newest edition of CORDITE POETRY REVIEW which includes the Poetry Chapbook
I’m very honoured to be one of them, and in such excellent company!
I feel so happy when I watch this film by Wee Dog Media documenting our SYMPOETRY: SPL Poetry Symposium last November. Hope you enjoy it too!
On 17 February, at the CCA in Glasgow, I will be reading some of my poems and talking about what it’s like to be a poet at this event for the Scottish Writers’ Centre, which is a fabulous organisation that supports writers!
Please do join us if you’re in the Wild West that evening, and take a look at the rest of their exciting programme.
Tuesday 17th February 2015; 7pm to 8.30pm,
CCA Club Room, Glasgow:
“The Writer’s Life” with JL Williams
JL Williams has found publication in journals such as Poetry Wales, The Wolf, Edinburgh Review, Magma, Fulcrum, and Stand. Her poetry has been translated into Greek, French, Spanish, and Dutch, and she has translated poetry from Spanish and Greek.
Jennifer’s poems have been featured in the New Writing Scotland 30 anthology and in the SPL’sBest Scottish Poems 2011 and 2013 anthologies. She is particularly interested in cross-form work, and has collaborated with artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Jennifer was awarded a grant from the Scottish Arts Council for a poetry collaboration entitled Chiaroscuro Pentimenti, and the Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary from the Scottish Arts Trust.
In September 2009, she journeyed to the Aeolian Isles to write a collection inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, entitled Condition of Fire (published by Shearsman Books in 2011). Jennifer’s second collection,Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), explores the idea of home and where we come from. She plays in the band Opul, and is Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library.
Tickets: £6 (£3 for concessions). Free to SWC members.
I had the pleasure of attending the Med-Chi Burns Supper on Friday. I was there to deliver a ‘Reply to the Toast to the Lassies’ that I hope would make my Wellesley College compatriots proud.
The Tools of the Trade anthology is mentioned; I couldn’t resist as I was speaking to a room full of doctors!
Here is the recording, if you’d like a listen:
What fun it was to perform at the special Jim Lambie Neu Reekie event at the Fruitmarket Gallery last year. Here is a video with evidence of the sparkle!
Reading at Henderson’s Cafe this Thursday, 15th January, 10.30 -11.30 am with Annie Pia and Alexander Hutchison. See you there if you can make it… lovely delights to eat and drink, as always.
94 Hanover Street
It has been wonderful working with the very talented artist Rose Strang on these collaborations. Her paintings are so full of light and mystery, it’s a delight to respond to them poetically. I recorded the poems and she then made these lovely films. You can see more of Rose’s work, and find out how to purchase her gorgeous paintings, here. Hope you enjoy!
It is a great honour (and surprise!) to have been added to the Saltire Society’s Most Outstanding Woman of Scotland nomination list, which includes Mary Queen of Scots! You can see the list and learn more about each woman by clicking on their name here.
So pleased to be reading alongside two fabulous poets next week at the CCA in Glasgow. Do join us if you’re free.
Date Thursday 30th October 2014 – 7:00pm
CCA Clubroom, 350 Sauciehall Street
£5 on the door, SMM members free,
Paul Farley was born in Liverpool in 1965 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art. He has published four books with Picador: The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award and a Forward Prize in 1998); The Ice Age (winner of the 2002 Whitbread Poetry Prize, and a Poetry Book Society Choice); and Tramp in Flames, which was short-listed for the International Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007 and the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2009 he received the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a Travelling Scholarship from the Society of Authors. As a broadcaster he has written and presented many arts, feature and documentary programmes for BBC radio and television, including Radio 4’s The Echo Chamber. His most recent collection is The Dark Film, which was a Poetry Book Society Choice in 2012, and in 2013 he was awarded a Cholmondeley Prize. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and his Selected Poems appeared in 2014.
Brian Johnstone is a poet whose work has appeared throughout Scotland, in the UK, America and internationally. He has published six collections, most recently The Book of Belongings (2009) and Dry Stone Work (2014), both Arc Publications. His poems have been translated into over ten languages; in 2009 Terra Incognita, a chapbook in Italian translation, was published by L’Officina (Vicenza). In 2014 his work will appear on The Poetry Archive website. A founder and former Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, he has appeared at numerous international poetry festivals, from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK.
JL Williams was born in New Jersey and studied at Wellesley College and on the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. In September 2009 she journeyed to the Aeolian Isles to write a collection inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Condition of Fire (Shearsman Books, 2011). Her second collection, Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), explores the idea of home and where we come from and has just been nominated for 2014 Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year Award. JL Williams performs in the band Opul and is Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library.
At the Scottish Poetry Library we’ve been experimenting with the possibility of making short film interviews with poets. Hopefully this is the first of many. Interview and film by Julie Johnstone, in the beautiful Dunbar Close Garden across the street from the SPL. A Scottish Poetry Library Light Rhymes Production 2014.
Another piece of marvellous news just came along. I have been accepted onto the 2014/2015 Jerwood Opera Writing Programme. For a long time now I have been working with amazing composers and musicians such as James Iremonger to explore how poetry and music can combine to produce new creations, and this feels like the next (huge) step. Exciting!
The Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at Aldeburgh Music is designed for composers, writers and directors who have little or no experience of writing or creating opera, and who want to widen their horizons and equip themselves to create contemporary work combining music, theatre and text. Artists can be at any stage of their career. Aldeburgh Music, with its unique, inspiring environment and its growing programme of professional development for musicians and composers, has an unparalleled history of creating new opera.
2014-15 Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Course participants announced
Aldeburgh Music and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation are delighted to announce the participants for the Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Course 2014 – 2015.
In March 2014, Aldeburgh Music invited applications for the next Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Course from composers, writers and directors who have little or no experience of creating opera and who want to widen their horizons and equip themselves to create contemporary work combining music, theatre and text.
The course will take place at Aldeburgh Music on the Suffolk coast and will be led by composer David Sawer and theatre and opera director and designer Stewart Laing.
From over 100 applications submitted, the following artists have been selected to take part:
Josh Armstrong (director)
Finn Beames (director/writer)
Santa Bušs (composer)
Pamela Carter (playwright)
Leyli Daryoush (writer)
Petter Ekman (composer)
Samantha Fernando (composer)
Nic Green (director/performer/artist)
Max Hoehn (writer/director)
Edmund Hunt (composer)
Jesse Jones (composer)
Sarah Lewis (composer)
Lliam Paterson (composer)
Naomi Pinnock (composer)
Richard Scott (writer/poet)
Daniel Solon (playwright)
Andrew Thomas (composer)
Shiori Usui (composer)
JL (Jennifer) Williams (poet/playwright)
The selected artists will travel to Aldeburgh for three residential courses, which will take place in November 2014, March 2015 and September 2015.
The Jerwood Opera Writing Programme was launched in 2007 followed by a second installment in 2010/11. Forty participants made up of composers, writers, and directors have been given a grounding in writing new opera through a mixture of practical workshops, contributions from teachers including Giorgio Battistelli, Harrison Birtwistle, Alison Chitty, Lavinia Greenlaw, Stephen Plaice, Stephen Langridge, David Sawer and Jonathan Dove amongst others.
Following on from this, Jerwood Opera Writing Fellowships were offered, giving a unique opportunity for composers and their collaborators to receive tailor-made support for writing a new opera. Four Fellowships were awarded in 2009, giving support to composers and their collaborators during the creation of a new work.
I’m thrilled to be reading at Neu! Reekie! A Salute to the Jim Lambie Generation, on Sunday 19 October, 7.30pm at Fruitmarket Gallery. There are many delightful treats in store.
Thank you, Rodney Relax, for capturing some of my reading at nick-e melville’s 5 Minute Max event at Main Point Books in August, 2014. It was hot, packed out, and packed with extraordinary readings by fabulous poets — all of 5 minutes or less!
Just came across this recording done for the Edinburgh City of Literature ‘enlighten‘ project a couple years ago… funny to realise that I was writing about the life of stones even then (inspired in this case by James Hutton) and then went on to write more on this subject in Locust and Marlin, thanks to Gaston Bachelard.
Interview about the project here.
Listen to and read the poem here.
An anthology of New Scottish Poetry — Be The First To Like This — is launching this Thursday, 25 September, at the Scottish Poetry Library. All anthologists are saddled with the difficult task of making a selection from what is usually a wealth of creativity and talent, however what has delighted me about what I’ve seen of this anthology is that rather than making a tiny selection and big claims about who will be famous in the future, it is doing its best to represent a cross-section of the exciting poetic work going on in Scotland today. I hope that it will have the effect of getting people interested in the entirety of the rich and eclectic range of poetry being produced in Scotland today.
You can read more about it in the lovely article that came out in this Sunday’s Herald here.
You can learn more about Be The First To Like This and order your copy here.
Hix Eros is a marvellous publication, much welcomed and recommended. I believe that a healthy creative culture must go hand in hand with a healthy constructively critical culture, and publications such as Hix Eros are making this a reality. Also, Issue #5, I’m honoured to say, has a totally gorgeous review of Locust and Marlin in it by the very talented and thoughtful Greg Thomas. Do download it (and all the Hix Eri) and have a read. You should be able to find links to all the issues here.
Exciting event coming up in Glasgow next week — Sound and Light : More fusion and fission with music and spoken word. JL Williams & James Iremonger; Mairi Lafferty & Lila Matsumoto; Tim Cooper & Sam Tongue; Alexander Hutchison & Special Guests.
Wednesday, 3 September, 8pm, Glasgow City Halls.
More info here.
Tickets available here.
We’ll be performing a new piece called ‘Walk to the River’, which might include James playing on his new frame drum!
A Little Light: Can Poetry Make A Difference?
I’ve been so disheartened lately… every time I look at the news I read a list of apocalyptic catastrophes. It’s hard, in the midst of all these reports of wars, murders, violence, disease, hunger and sorrow to feel that it’s okay to go through one’s day as if everything is fine. Yet it’s also very hard to know what one can do to make a real difference.
I am a big believer in non-violent action, but even knowing how to make protest effective and positive can be difficult. I remember hearing the poet Séamas Cain speak in Edinburgh years ago, and he described a protest in America where an entire square had filled with protesters, signs, shouts — all to protest against a particular government building/department — which, it turned out, was closed that day! He used this example to talk about the huge amount of well-meaning energy that can be wasted in ineffective protest. And even though protest can be a fantastic way to bring attention to an issue, it can cause its own problems when it stimulates even more bad feeling and extremism rather than actually helping anyone or sorting anything out. As heart-broken as I have been about what has been going on in Palestine and Israel lately, and as desperate as I have been to try to do something to help, I have also been saddened by seeing aggression on all sides. There is a particularly unsettling brand of aggression that I’ve noticed (on top of the general explosion of violence), that is generated not directly by war-mongers but by people longing for peace and justice who are, in their anger and desperation, pointing fingers, banning and making accusations, often in ways that seem to add to rather than solve problems.
This morning James, my partner, and I were talking about the terrible murder of James Foley and the flurry of debate it has stimulated around Twitter and social media, and over free speech versus censorship. It made me think again of Cain’s words, and of something that I have believed in for a long time but realised I probably haven’t written about before, or not for a while — and that maybe this is the time to do so.
I’m not really one for looking at the world through a lens of good and evil. It seems reductive. My own experience has shown me that most people I know, myself included, are capable of a vast array of behaviours under the wide range of stresses applied to us in response to our actions in the world. Arguing that some people (countries, religious, ways of thinking) are bad/wrong/evil and that some are the opposite sets up barriers and engenders untruths. I’d much rather think that we all have good in us, the potential for good actions and the desire, ultimately, to be happy and find some sort of peace. In fact, I think that seeking out — in ourselves and in the people and world around us — peace, peacefulness, is one of the most effective ways to change the world.
Some might say that writing poetry, reading poetry, speaking poetry… is a waste of time, a dalliance — certainly in the face of real hunger, violence, poverty and war. Holding any sort of art-making up against someone who is working on the front lines to bring people food, medicine and shelter is to compare two very different types of activity, and I am grateful every day for those in war-torn countries, in any country, in any government and society who are giving of their life and time on this earth to help others in such tangible, and often physically risky, ways.
However, I believe that making art, writing and creating is very much not a waste. I think it can help both the maker and the audience (viewer, listener, reader) enjoy, think, stop. And that stopping, even for a moment — stopping the rush and tumble and flux of life, is invaluable, and is a worthwhile protest. And much like meditation and mindfulness, can change not only the world but — as science is proving — the actual body and mind.
I had the opportunity to work at the recent 2nd Edinburgh International Culture Summit at the Scottish Parliament — and one extraordinary artist there — Ea Sola — asked just that, so simple and so powerful — what happens if we stop?
Art, of course, can also anger and enrage — but I’d like to think that it’s the sort of anger that is grounded in the artist’s attempt to challenge the perceiver of the work, to stimulate them, to shake them from their normal way of being or point of view, and that if the perceiver can find a way to explore their response they can achieve valuable realisations.
I know many wonderful people make regular, thought-provoking posts on social media, and I decided this morning that I will try to post a tweet every day that is a line from a poem — something that is exquisite, that makes me think, that shines a little light on an aspect of experience. I’ll use #alittlelight, and I invite you to join me in spreading some moments beauty and stillness over the internet and into the world. Post a line when you think of it, when one strikes you as magnificent or every day, and add #alittle light. You might even like to write your own poem or line of poetry to share.
My first Peace Tweet will be a quote from Ezra Pound’s Canto CXVI… “a little light, like a rushlight / to lead back to splendour”. Pound himself is an example of a poet whose personal politics were more than a little questionable, but whose work is undeniably — in my humble opinion at least — shining. I can’t accept Pound’s personal politics, but I can’t dismiss the fact that there must have been beauty in him, as I believe there is in all people.
PS… You might like to have a look at this interesting post which I just came across on The Pangrammaticon, also thinking about Pound, editing, philosophy and stopping or standing still.
I enjoyed this sold out Edinburgh International Book Festival Nothing but The Poem session so much — especially hearing the participants take turns reading out all 90 haiku that make up the grand sequence “90 Instant Messages to Tom Moore” in Paul Muldoon’s collection Horse Latitudes. I’m not sure we got to the bottom of it all, but we did have a great conversation about whether there are other ways to explore poetry than in pursuit of straight-up, in your face ‘meaning’, such as how it makes you feel, what images the poems paint in your mind, and what sparks and connections the words, images and sounds trigger in your chemical brain. We talked about whether it’s possible to become more comfortable with the unknown via poetry. And about whether you can approach a poem the way you would view a piece of abstract art. And plenty more! Thanks to Paul Muldoon for his gorgeous poems that made us think and thanks to the participants for their generosity of spirit, curiosity and beautiful readings.
It was fabulous to be part of the 12-Hour Jamming Symposium recently, so many fabulous artists and thinkers involved. Here is our performance, but please do have a look at the website for more information and to see more videos from the day: STUDIO JAMMING
I will be reading, with the fabulous artist Catherine Street and other great folks, at the Here, Right Now event this weekend as part of the Edinburgh College of Art Masters Festival 2014, all details below. Hope to see you there!
Edinburgh College of Art Masters Festival 2014
Degree Show and Events
Find out more about the Masters Festival: www.eca.ed.ac.uk/degreeshow
Masters Festival 2014
Here, Right Now: Art Writing Readings more details here
Saturday 23 August, 2.00pm
Readings by Edinburgh-based artists and writers presenting new work. In collaboration with Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee. Book free tickets: www.edin.ac/1oWyctw
It was so much fun to host our most recent Transatlantic Poetry Broadcast featuring Lucie Brock-Broido and John Burnside. You can watch it HERE.
Jess and I reading our new collaborative poem ‘Tenderbox’ inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story ‘The Tinder-Box‘.
Some other wonderful nights coming up that I’ll be reading at with fabulous poets in July…
7 July Tricolour: The monthly night at National Library of Scotland showcasing three different poetry and spoken word talents. Three different voices, three different styles, three different takes on life. This month we are joined by J A Sutherland, JL Williams, and Carly Brown.
Auld Enemies: 7 locales : over 40 poets : a national tour of Scotland & brand new innovative poetic collaborations : a Scottish Enemies project
10 July Auld Enemies Glasgow, McChuills
Ross Sutherland & Ryan Van Winkle / Billy Letford & Colin Herd / nick-e melville & SJ Fowler
plus Thomas Betteridge & Neil Davidson / Elspeth Murray & JL Williams
Katy Hastie / Antony Autumn & Calum Rodger / Iyad Hayatleh, Graeme Smith & more
Colin Herd & Iain Morrison / Billy Letford & Ryan Van Winkle / SJ Fowler & Ross Sutherland
nick-e melville & Jane Goldman / Dave Coates & Rachel McCrum / JL Williams & Elspeth Murray / Luke Allan & Graeme Smith / Karen Veitch & Mike Saunders / Ed Smith & Thomas MacColl / Rob McKenzie & more
Time Breaks the Heart, my poem in the Best Scottish Poems 2013 Anthology is Poem of the Moment on the SPL home page today… fun!
I’m super excited about being part of the Click Clack Club on 22 May, with the amazing MacGillivray. Hope to see you there!
I was chopping onions last night and the tears were flowing. Poetry has similar powers, and not just for men-folk! New post on the SPL blog about the recently published anthology: Poems that Make Grown Men Cry.