Scottish Poetry News: October 2019

In this month's round-up, National Poetry Day returns, one of the UK's greatest contemporary poets comes to Dundee, and Edinburgh gets a new book festival

Feature by Beth Cochrane | 27 Sep 2019
  • John Cooper Clarke

On 3 October, schools, libraries, literary organisations and anyone else you can imagine being interested in poetry will be hosting events to celebrate National Poetry Day. Having been set up in 1994 and grown more popular every year, the UK-wide celebration of poetry will focus on the theme of ‘Truth’ for 2019. To find out where you local NPD event is taking place, head to the official website and check the join-in page. Expect workshops, readings, and in some cases, sweet shops. Events will continue to be uploaded until the day itself, so, if you’re running your own celebration, don’t forget to submit your listing and get involved on the map.

Haddo Arts has produced yet another outstanding artistic programme for its Haddo Arts Festival, running 5-12 October. The festival is bringing local and international communities together for a programme of world-class musical performances, complete with a splash of poetry from Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay. Her event will take place on 8 October in Haddo House Library, Ellon. Beginning the evening will be a series of musical performances from Ruaraidh Williams and Jeremy Coleman, presenting a selection of pieces for cello and piano. The Makar is then set to give an hour’s reading, where the Haddo audience can likely expect her usual jovial wit, sharp humour, and, of course, sizzling poetics.

Bloodaxe Books have a particularly exciting month for new titles. With five collections launching on 24 October it’s hard to decide which to focus on. There’s Cuban poet Legna Rodríguez Iglesias’s A Little Body Are Many Parts, translated by Abigail Parry and Serafina Vick, which has been called everything from playful to intense to practically obscene. But there’s also Katrina Porteous’s Edge, which promises to be a fascinating read. Comprising of three poem sequences – Field, Sun and Edge – the work was commissioned for performance in Newcastle's Life Science Centre Planetarium, with accompanying computer music by Peter Zinovieff. Scientists at the forefront of space exploration have inspired Porteous, and her poetry translates the language of space into the unique beauty of poetry. Other titles out via Bloodaxe this month are Maitreyabandhu’s After Cézanne, Frank Ormsby’s The Rain Barrel, and White Ink Stains by Eleanor Brown.

Dundee has one of the UK’s greatest contemporary poets performing on 19 October at the Gardyne Theatre. Supported by Scottish spoken word artists Leyla Josephine and Rana Marathon, Dr John Cooper Clarke will be reading from his new book (and his first book of poetry in a fair while), The Luckiest Guy Alive. This is absolutely a gig not to be missed, and is certainly going to be a highlight of the month.

Also in Dundee, hosted by Dundee Rep Theatre and Glasgow’s Sonnet Youth, is thick skin, elastic heart. Taking place at the Rep on 21 October, the performance is billed as collective contemporary spoken word poetry from Millenial voices, apparently ‘as if Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood had been written in 2019 and filtered through Instagram’. Giving the ‘snowflakes’ back their voices for more than 280 characters, thick skin, elastic heart could be an insightful view into a much-misunderstood generation.

One of Edinburgh’s many fantastic independent bookshops, Golden Hare Books is hosting its first book festival this month (18-20 Oct). The shop has produced a huge programme, with many brilliant poetry events peppered throughout. A few examples include Speculative Books launching Elaine Gallagher’s debut collection, a panel discussion on the legacy of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, and Stewed Rhubarb and Speculative Books joining forces to deliver a workshop on demystifying the process of running your very own independent poetry publishing press.