Scottish Poetry News: May 2019

Spring means the beginning of festival season, plus a host of exciting new publications - we round up the best literary and spoken word events taking place across Scotland

Feature by Beth Cochrane | 29 Apr 2019
  • Jenny Lindsay

Literature and arts festival BIG LIT is back on 1-5 May for its ninth year. Taking place in multiple venues in Dumfries and Galloway venues include its main hub, as well as Kirkcudbright Galleries, The Bakehouse, and several other locations in the area. With five days of film, installations and exhibitions, puppets, song, music and much more, poetry is just one of many exciting facets to the festival. For starters, Gavin and Claire Phillips will be hosting Your Green Lines, at The Mill on the Fleet (3-4 May). Part community installation and part poetic experiment, take a pencil made from coppiced hazel (£1 per pencil, but these aren’t your average IKEAs) and be inspired by the single word marked on its wood. Write down your environmental worries, thoughts or short poems and hang then on the Phillips’ Poet-trees. BIG LIT will host other poets' events including Brian Johnstone and DJ John Cavanagh (2 May), and award-winning poet Henry Bell discussing his book, John Maclean: Hero of Red Clydeside, on 3 May, 10.30-11.30am.

Further festive activities are taking part in Dunbar, East Lothian, with CoastWord on 24-26 May. There’s plenty of poetry cracking on over the weekend, whether you fancy a workshop with CoastWord’s poet-in-residence Marjorie Lotfi Gill or an enchanting performance by JL Williams at Saturday night’s Gutter magazine takeover. A particular highlight of the weekend is Glasgow based Kevin P. Gilday’s Suffering from Scottishness at Dunmuir Hotel (25 May, 5.30pm). A comedy about the absurdity of life in Scotland, character Joe McDaid embarks on a journey which may or may not include audience participation. Gilday’s an excellent poet, though, so let’s hope that wins us round.

Stewed Rhubarb’s editor and designer, James T. Harding, will be hosting his much anticipated Typography for Poets workshop in the Scottish Poetry Library on 18 May, 1.15-3.45pm. A half-day introduction to typography, Harding will be leading poets on the typographical journey toward having a print-ready poem. The workshop will touch on the poetics of the page, too, with a slight foray into the world of concrete and visual poetry.

It’s hard to get away from Stewed Rhubarb at the moment (not that we want to), with the relatively newly launched press continuing to publish some of Scotland’s finest talent. Latest in their catalogue is Jenny Lindsay’s second collection, This Script. The collection, complete with an absolutely stunning cover, will be launching in The Bongo Club on 17 May alongside performers such as Jen McGregor and Josephine Sillars and The Manic Pixie Dreams.

On 30 May, Picador Poetry will be releasing Canadian poet, Karen Solie’s fifth collection, The Caiplie Caves. The collection examines the very nature of crisis; pulling self-delusion apart from belief and belief apart from knowledge, and, in the end, how we can find courage to move forward. The Caiplie Caves’ central figure, St Ethernan, is a seventh-century Irish missionary (sent to Scotland) who retreated to the caves of the Fife coast in order to decide whether to establish a priory on the Isle of May or pursue a life of solitude. Worth a read for its unique blurb, I’d say.

Also on 30 May Carcanet will be releasing yet another publication (what a year it’s having!), with Zohar Atkins’ first collection, Nineveh. Carol Rumens says of the book, ‘How very refreshing to plunge into a collection which re-thinks historical Jewish religion and culture with such subversive, witty originality. 'Revelatory' is not too strong a word.' A modern and merry collection of humour, mystical theophany and much more, scholar and rabbi Atkins’s poems have appeared in The Glasgow Review of Books, PN Review, and Blackbox Manifold amongst others.