Scottish Poetry News: September 2019

Ease into early autumn with Wigtown, Lighthouse Books and One Weekend in Stirling

Feature by Beth Cochrane | 03 Sep 2019
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It’s another September and another Wigtown Book Festival – Scotland’s second largest literary festival in the calendar. Celebrating its twenty-first birthday, the Wigtown Book Festival has an astonishing programme of multimedia arts lined up, including film, theatre, literary talks and, of course, poetry readings. The festival runs from 27 Sep-6 Oct, but let’s just have a brief look at some of the poetry highlights from week one.

Aileen Ballantyne, a former Wigtown Poetry prize-winner, will be launching her first full collection, Taking Flight, on Saturday 28 September. The debut, coming out with Luath, includes a sequence of poems centred on the Lockerbie bombing, exploring conversations with local residents and others affected by the attack. With Ballantyne on at the early time of 12pm, there’s still plenty of afternoon left for more poetry. And you’re in luck, as at 1.30pm Scotland’s current star-poet is scheduled to wow audiences with her words. Nadine Aisha Jassat, who’s continuing a whirlwind tour of the UK’s finest literary events, will be reading from and discussing her debut collection, Let Me Tell You This.

And for something a little different, join Spring Fling and Wigtown Book Festival’s artist in residence Ken Cockburn for his event with The Bookshop Band on Sunday 29 September, 7.30pm. Cockburn has been thinking and writing about birds throughout his residency; what space do they occupy in our modern lives? How do they inhabit the landscape, where are they to be found in the 21st century world? Alongside the presentation of his thoughts and poetry, The Bookshop Band will intersperse the evening with their own selection of bird and other wildlife-inspired music.

In the same weekend, in Edinburgh, Lighthouse Books will be hosting the double poetry launch of Jennifer Lee Tsai and Jay G Ying, joined by the soon-to-be published by BOAAT Press, Alycia Piromohamed. Tsai, who has previously been featured in Bloodaxe’s Ten: Poets of the New Generation, will be launching Kismet (published by Oxford Brookes University). The collection is said to be a work of hope and renewal, transcending the suffering of the individual through reclaiming personal experience. Accompanying Tsai’s reading will be Ying, whose pamphlet Wedding Beasts is also launching. As not only a poet but also fiction writer, critic and translator, his work has been published in an incredible array of journals such as The White Review, Ambit and The Poetry Review. This isn’t an event to be missed, with all three poets on the rise to becoming firm favourites in the Scottish poetry landscape.

No prizes for guessing where this next festival takes place, but One Weekend in Stirling will be happening once again from 19-22 September. Last year the festival hosted 18 events across the weekend, not only including spoken word but also music, art, drama and storytelling. This year, on Friday 20 September, contributing event Wham, Slam, Thank you Ma’am! will take place in The Settle In. Entry is free and you can simply drop its organisers, The Write Angle, a message on Facebook should you wish to compete.

Slightly different from announcing the usual launches and events, but a short reminder that Gutter magazine will be accepting poetry submissions for Issue 21. Submissions close on 16 September, giving you a few weeks to brush up on some old poems or possibly write some new material. With a maximum of five poems of 120 lines or less, there’s plenty of scope to get creative and try something a bit different with your work.