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.

 

Ithakas

This is a piece I was asked to write for the Poetry Reader when I was leaving the Scottish Poetry Library, and then due to various complications it wasn’t able to be published there, so I thought it would be nice to include here.

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Ithakas

Toward the end of my interview for the job of Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library, when trying to explain what I would attempt to achieve if given the job, I spoke of the books on the shelves being silent bodies that needed the voices of living poets to animate them. I’ve always loved libraries and their anonymous quietude, the stealth of tucked away reading between the stacks and the writer’s voice in one’s own mind, however I’ve learned just as much from the great light that a live reader shines on a poem.

I hope I have succeeded since then in my dream of filling the Library with these life-giving voices. It certainly has been a poet’s dream job, and I’ve learned so much and had so many extraordinary experiences in this role. Now that I am moving on to a new opportunity working as Projects and Engagement Coordinator for the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh, I want to pass on my enormous gratitude to all the poets who have been so generous with their time and creative energy, to the many partners from around the world who have offered their support and enabled us to expand our offerings, to the incredible audiences who came from near and far to attend events week in and week out, to the writers who filled poetry and translation workshops with their bravery and brilliance, to the readers who complete the circle for every writer and to my extraordinary colleagues and all the volunteers who made it possible to do this work.

I learned so much over the years, and I remember how worrying it was when a few events in my first season had small audiences. It took the grind of hard experience to learn how to sculpt the programme to satisfy the needs of the Library, our audiences, our partners and our funders, but quickly, and with the help especially of our brilliant communications manager, Colin Waters, we began to attract more folk and I was able to really explore what excites me about programming; stimulating the creation of new work, encouraging collaboration and communication, and bringing voices, minds and hearts from afar to connect with voices, minds and hearts from right here.

I could cite so many examples of events and projects that I loved being part of at the library, but some that spring to mind include:

The My Life in Poetry and Perfume event featuring the magnificent writer and perfume expert Alex Musgrave at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in the lush surrounds of the Victorian Palm House. Soaring glass walls and massive green leaves embraced us as we heard Alex’s choice of 10 poems to accompany 10 perfumes, each of which was available to be sampled. We also had live music, sparkling wine and a biologist-curated display of plants used in perfume creation.

The many festivals I have visited and had the honour to be part of, including Edinburgh International Book Festival as a chair of many unforgettable readings and more recently in the role of poet as a contributor to the Scottish-Canadian Innu poetry exchange project, the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival as official festival blogger and StAnza – Scotland’s Poetry Festival as a poet and in conversation with one of my greatest poetry heroes, Alice Notley.

Big projects like Walking With Poets which saw us situate poets in four botanic gardens in Scotland to work with local communities and the Written Image project in partnership with Edinburgh Printmakers where we partnered 40 poets with 40 printmakers and hosted an exhibition and reading of the gorgeous work produced through these collaborations.

Workshops and podcasts that have allowed me to work intimately with poets, which I find very fulfilling and inspiring both as a poet and as a facilitator.

The award-winning The Library Is Open! Drag Queen Poems event, that began when I heard the poet Iain Morrison reading an exquisite poem about drag queens and asked him if he’d thought about a more extensive performance project on this subject. We concocted a plan that became a ground-breaking multimedia event featuring Iain and Jean-François Krebs (also known as Wanda Isadora de Fourrure).

International festivals and projects via partners such as Literature Across Frontiers, Literary Europe Live and the British Council that have brought me to places as far flung as Montreal, Riga, St Petersburg and Moscow, Malta, Barcelona, Berlin and The Hague.

It is difficult leaving families and places one loves. I left America to come to Scotland, and leaving the Library feels a little like leaving home. It was so amazing for me as a poet to be in a literary centre, to host and interview poets from around the world and to be reminded every day that people do love poetry, but I will be just down the street in my new role where I will be carry with me so much that I have learned about sharing a love for creativity and learning. I hope to still have plenty of time to concentrate on my own literary career, and am excited to share with you the news that I have a new collection scheduled to be published by Shearsman Books in Spring 2017, and I have written the libretto for an opera that will debut in London in Spring 2017 (for more details and to book tickets, please see www.theoperastory.com).

In parting, I’d like to repeat my thanks, and to encourage you, as your heart wishes, to continue to read poetry, write poetry, and to support the Scottish Poetry Library and all the vital literary and arts institutions that work to encourage communication and empathy between human beings, both much needed in our world. I will leave you with a few lines of poetry from another of my favourite poets, C. P. Cavafy, who knew much of longing, and journeys, and how to observe the richness of a dreaming life:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

from Ithaka by C. P. Cavafy, translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

 

Otata, The Temples and The Three Cities

I have been lucky to have been travelling quite a bit lately – I am actually writing this from the Dostoevsky Library in Moscow where, thanks to the British Council and the Edwin Morgan Trust, I am facilitating a translation workshop between three Scottish poets and three Russian poets. 

This trip follows close on the heels of a journey to Malta to attend (as an observer) the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival 2016.  It is a wonderful festival where writers are brought together from all around the Mediterranean and beyond, and spend a week translating one another’s poetry.  They then present their poems and the new translations in an extraordinary fort by the sea.  I was invited on a tour of the city which included ancient Stone Age temples, a typical Matlese village and Vittoriosa, one of the fortifified Three Cities.   Inspired by the words of our brilliant tour guide, John Neville Ebejer, I wrote a short sequence of haiku that has just been published on John Martone’s blog Otata, along with a collection of brilliant work from UK poets including John Phillips, David Miller, Erica Van Horn, Simon Cutts, Thomas A. Clark, Alec Finlay, Lila Matsumoto, Malcolm Ritchie, Julie Johnstone, Gerry Loose and Ian Storr, which you can see here

 Hope you enjoy!

CLICK CLACK: A little poetry and music…

Kick off the festival season with a little music, more music, and poetry and music. OPUL (the marvellous James Iremonger and me) will be playing some new pieces, showcased thus far only in distant and beautiful Montreal at the Le 17e Festival de la poésie de Montréal. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Snibbo yet but I did see Combo Combo once and was very impressed… can’t wait to hear their funky, soulful tunes again. Hope to see you there!CCC72 Flyer

 

If a Leaf Falls Press at Good Press

Very excited to be reading at this on 6 August:

If a Leaf Falls Press at Good Press

Saturday
6th August 2016
3-6pm

With readings by…

Maria Fusco reading Notes on Comic Face

nick-e melville reading slippage/pigsclap twice

Sam Riviere reading Cont. and Preferences

Mike Saunders reading george clooney will always be handsome: towards a phenomonology of George Clooney

JL Williams reading House of the Tragic Poet

New pamphlets by Crispin Best, nick-e melville, Maria Fusco and Erik Stinson will be available in limited quantities, and the long out of print If a Leaf Falls Press back catalogue will be available to browse.

http://samriviere.com/index.php?/together/if-a-leaf-falls-press/

New Poems, New Places

New blog about the recent trip to the Festival de la poésie de Montréal up on the SPL website today:

Canadian Dreaming

and a couple of recent publications:

Dangerous Emotions as part of the magnificent Dangerous Women Project,

and poems in

Far Off Places

and

The Reader

Huge thanks to the editors and publishers who have made these possible!

 

Poetry, poetry and more poetry!

So much has been happening lately that I have not had time to share.  I will include some links in this post to recent events and excitements.

I had this article about borders, passports and writers working abroad in politically-complicated countries published in The Bottle Imp, a wonderful online journal that exists to promote and support the teaching and study of Scottish literature and language.

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Reading at Drawn & Quarterly Bookshop, Montreal

I’m just back from a trip to Montreal to read and perform at the fabulous 17e Festival de la poésie de Montréal.  Here is a blog that came out just before the festival and my own travel blog for the SPL website here.

I have a poem in the lovely anthology Edinburgh Unsung, which you can read here.  The full anthology is here, and you can read more about the project here.

You can take a look here at a blog about the Literary Europe Live platform that the SPL is now part of and me in the video doing a couple of haiku answers for the camera:

Kosmopolis. LAF Meeting from CCCB on Vimeo.

And I found some videos from the wonderful Canadian Innu Poetry Exchange that I was a part of last year at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  You can hear us talking a little about the project here:

and watch the whole event here:

 

Hope you enjoy this wee update and that your own projects are proliferating.

 

 

Best Scottish Poems 2014

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.  

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SYMPOETRY on film

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!

“The Writer’s Life” with JL Williams

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

Jennifer Williams

JL Williams has found publication in journals such as Poetry Wales, The WolfEdinburgh 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.

See http://www.jlwilliamspoetry.co.uk.

Tickets: £6 (£3 for concessions). Free to SWC members.

Burns and Feminism

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:

A Poet in the Garden

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.

The Written Image on Summerhall TV

An interview from a while back about our SPL and Edinburgh Printmakers collaboration project The Written Image.

Jennifer Williams : The Written Image from arts-news on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

Interview at the SPL

Jonas, a very nice journalism student from Belgium, came to the library yesterday to interview me about my work here.  The interview is now all in Dutch, but thought I would share it in case you have language skills or a handy online translator.  You can read it here.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Post about writing Love Poetry on the SPL blog, with giant pink candy heart wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day.

The Original Love Poem

 

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Gerry Loose EIBF Walking With Poets Interview

imageGerry Loose EIBF Walking With Poets Interview

This is an interview I did for Summerhall TV with the poet Gerry Loose, one of our SPL Walking With Poets residents.  He talks about the event we did at Edinburgh International Book Festival in which he discussed three of his favourite nature poems, and the history of Scottish nature poetry… all in 55 minutes!  Watch here.

Kay Ryan SPL Podcast

Kay Ryan SPL Podcast

It was an honour and a joy to spend time with US poet Kay Ryan when she was over for the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  She is so beautiful, brilliant and funny, and I felt that listening to her was like sitting at the feet of a guru whose every insight made little spangles of enlightenment dazzle in my mind.  I hope you enjoy if you have some time to listen to our conversation.  Listen here.

Terry Deary and Moray Council Make Me Sad

It makes me so sad to read of ignorance like this and like this.  I went to school.  I even got to read poetry in school, and it was wonderful.  But it was in my local public library where I first remember falling in love with a book of poetry; taking it home, cherishing the words, marvelling at the beauty contained within those pages which even as a child I had access to… to my delight and with an engendering of empowerment.  And that generosity, the library’s generosity, the library’s existence, contributed to a lifetime of reading, writing, buying books, working in the arts, working, as I do now, in a very special library — the Scottish Poetry Library, whose holdings and activities bring poetry and joy to more than thousands of people around the world… who then go on to invest even more of themselves, and often their money, into poetry and literature.  The number of times I’ve heard people say that they’re taking a look at a book in the library which they’ll then go on to purchase if they love it in order to have it in their own personal collection… the number of events we host in which poets are celebrated and their books are purchased… to say that libraries don’t contribute not only to the encouragement of the very act of reading but also to the act of the financial support of writers is ludicrous.  The Scottish Poetry Library, like most other libraries, couldn’t exist without public funding, and what a loss it would be if it ever ceased to exist.  What a loss it is to think of the children in Moray not having a place to go where they can discover the power and poignancy of words for themselves.  What a loss it is to think of a community without support for its artists, its theatre makers, its writers, its poets and the people who would like to experience the beauty of what these makers create.  I have yet to meet an artist or writer who doesn’t feel burdened by the need to make a living, to submit their time and creativity to the hungry maw of the commercial world in which we live, and it is through funding, and the occasional gift of patronage in its various guises, that many artists and writers find a tiny oasis in which to breathe, think, make.  Shame on those who seem to think we live in a world where there is no more poverty, where everyone can afford to buy a book, where everyone is fit and able to participate in the marketplace.  Shame on those who think a poet could make enough money to live on by selling their books (though wouldn’t it be nice!).  Shame on those who would rather see an artist submit to market forces than be offered the gift of freedom to create.  My first book, Condition of Fire, was written thanks to an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary that allowed me to go to an extraordinary place and take the time to be and see and experience and taste and feel and write, and write, which I would not otherwise have been able to afford to do.  I’d like to think that was a worthwhile use of that money.  I’d like to think that the many kind people who have bought my book think it was a worthwhile use of that money, and also the people who take my book out of the library.  I do think that the arts, at least in the world we’re living in, need public support — politically, physically, financially.  Yes, we’ve all been to that performance or read that poem written on a funded residency that didn’t do it for us, or seen that example of public art that didn’t add to the beauty of its surrounds.  But haven’t we, most of us, also seen something that’s taken our breath away, heard music that’s made us weep, read a book that’s made us remember a lost moment of joy… in a library, in a theatre that’s been publicly-funded, in a concert hall that couldn’t exist without the help of an arts council.  And finally, to say that because libraries are old means they’re now useless is also mind-boggling, and another sad reflection of our culture which doesn’t seem to value age in any of its forms, especially in its older people; one of our greatest resources… the beautiful, wrinkled, aged, storied wise who so often are overlooked rather than celebrated and learned from.  And it’s worth the investment of looking after them, and of spending time with them, and of talking to them about the poems they love… a conversation you could probably have for free.

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Marie Howe SPL Podcast

My newest podcast is up on the SPL website.  It’s a conversation with the amazing American poet Marie Howe.  Listen here.

SPL Interview by Colin Waters with Ryan Van Winkle and JL Williams

New podcast up on the SPL website: SPL Interview by Colin Waters with Ryan Van Winkle and JL Williams.

Best Scottish Poems 2011

Special Note: This poem will be featured on the front page of the Scottish Poetry Library website on 7th of June… Have a read that day if you wish.

This year’s Scottish Poetry Library Anthology Best Scottish Poems 2011, edited by the marvellous Roddy Lumsden, is now out. I feel so privileged to have a poem from Condition of Fire alongside such amazing offerings from other poets.

Martin O'Donnell's Boat