Scottish Poetry News: June 2019

June brings a poetry prize, highly anticipated releases and a look at some of the regular poetry events happening across the country

Feature by Beth Cochrane | 24 May 2019
  • Jura Unbound 2014: Listings Books

The first week in June is your final week to enter the Wigtown Poetry Prize. There are five categories to enter, with the main prize offering a huge £1500 for first place and £200 to a runner up. For those of you who write in Scots or in Scots Gaelic there are additional prizes tailored specially to your work. These take the form of the Wigtown Scots Prize and the Wigtown Scottish Gaelic Prize, both with a cash prize of £500. Perhaps the most exciting of the five categories, though, is the brand new Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize.

Poets are asked to submit 8-12 of their best poems (with a limit of 12 pages) for the chance to win 30 copies of their pamphlet with its text set by The Dark Horse’s very own Gerry Cambridge. The deadline for the prizes, including the Dumfries & Galloway Fresh Voice Award, is 7 June, with winners announced in Wigtown in the autumn. So why not give judges John Burnside, Gerda Stevenson and Kevin MacNeil some standout summer reading and submit before the deadline passes.

A few months ago Iona Lee performed an incredible set at Smeaton House in East Linton alongside the powerhouse poet, Hannah Lavery. The event is a new feature in East Lothian’s calendar, and one that we’d encourage poetry fans to make the trip for. Smeaton House is a beautiful venue, with the poetry readings taking place in the cafe-meets-art gallery. Wine and nibbles were available, and the evening passed in cosy intimacy. Smeaton’s next poetry reading, hosted by Jacqueline Whymark, will be taking place on Friday 7 June at 7.30pm – the perfect way to relax after submitting your poems to Wigtown. Scotland’s National Slam Champion, Dr Calum Rodger, will be performing a feature set and poets are welcome to take a five minute open mic slot on the night.

Although technically released in May, Janette Ayachi’s debut collection, Hand Over Mouth Music, is launching in the Scottish Poetry Library on Thursday 20 June. Published by Liverpool University Press, Ayachi’s first full collection has been much anticipated after her widely admired first two pamphlets, Pauses at Zebra Crossings (2012) and A Choir of Ghosts (2013). The launch event will not only feature a reading from Ayachi, but also from the popular and talented poets Annie Brechin and Rob A. MacKenzie. This is a great opportunity to not only buy a copy of Hand Over Mouth Music, but also hear three wonderful poets read fresh, new work.

There are so many poetry events happening across Scotland that it’s often difficult to choose. There’s Poetry at Inn Deep (hosted every Tuesday) continuing as a firm favourite in the Glasgow calendar. There’s open mic night Inky Fingers on the first Tuesday of the month in Edinburgh’s Lighthouse Books. There’s Speculative Books running Poetry at The Parlour (Glasgow) every Sunday night. There’s a whole explosive poetry scene in Aberdeen that many of us Central Belt-ists have yet to explore (check out the Poetry and Spoken Word Facebook page for more on this).

But standing out in the event calendar this month is the William Fuller Poetry Reading on 13 June in Typewronger Books, Edinburgh. Fuller is a poet from Chicago who’s had many books published, most recently Magic Comma Natural, a pamphlet published in 2018 by Crater Press. He’ll be joined by some of the most exciting and experimental poets writing in Scotland at the moment: Andrew Spragg, Zein Sa’dedin, Daisy Lafarge, Oli Hazzard and Joe Luna. This is sure to be something a bit different than many events in the poetry calendar, and one I’m incredibly excited to see.