Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Poetry Map of Scotland, poem 135: Edinburgh

7 Jan

The Other Side of Festival City

Mention Pilton, Craigmillar or Wester Hailes,
Reaction in Morningside never fails;
They see us as people who are second best;
In their high culture we don’t pass the test.
We live in the outskirts no in the centre,
There’s places up toon we never would enter;
Opera, ballet or the Garden Party,
Are just for the rich and the arty farty.
We’re the other side of Festival City
That tourists don’t see and mare’s the pity;
Edinburgh’s fine with church and steeple,
But the heart o’ a city is in its people.
Glasgow kens this and always ‘smiles better’,
They’re no reserved or held in a fetter;
They go oot on a toon that belangs tae them
To have a good time and who’s to condemn?
Save stuff-shirts and big-wigs who frown on “a’ that”,
Whilst sipping their cocktails making meaningless chat.
But go to the Doocit, Hailes or White Hoose,
There you’ll see real folk oot on the loose.
Our lives are an art form here to behold,
No bits of stuff to be bought and sold.
Artists of vision find inspiration here
Where people give crack over whisky and beer.
Burns or MacDiarmid, you can take your choice;
Blake, Brecht, Neruda, especially James Joyce
All came to where life is full of emotion;
And you can come too, if you have the notion;
To be where art and life come together,
And no where the pompous gather to blether.

Colin Bartie

To view our map of Scotland in Poems as it grows, see https://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-map-revealed/ . For more information on this project, and on how to submit a poem, see https://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/mapping-scotland-in-poetry/.

All poems on our poetry map of Scotland and on the StAnza Blog are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet’s permission.

Poetry Map Poem 22: Edinburgh

7 Aug

Resurrection Men

In the midnight fog they loom large, the taste of them sulphurous on the tongue,
Like the blunt blade of an old lead spade.

Watch out for the winking yellow eye of their sleepy lanterns,
Watch out for the frosty kiss of their laboured breath on your icy window pane,
The graveyards have given up their dead, but still this pair hunger.

Two tall-hatted creatures of the smoky Edinburgh night,
Outdoing any limp English Boogie Man that Ealing Studios could dream up,
Nah, these two are the real McCoy,
Made in Scotland from girders,
In the premier league of deep-fried Mars Bars and Hi Pizza Pie,
Uniquely Scottish, and without even a hint of tartan,
Obsidian comedians of the dark who’ll slit your throat for a shilling and then buy you a drink with the change.

Butch & Sundance, Fred & Rosemary, Myra & Ian,
Synonymous names irrevocably linked with a deadly ampersand,
Canongate Doxies, Fleshmarket Foxies or Fingzies Poxies,
Dive bar harlots of Henry Jeckyll’s alter ego and the habitués of the fog-banked haunts of….
Burke & Hare.
Nah, no trite tourist-trap ghost bus here!


Edinburgh. City of bones.

Max Scratchmann

Previously performed on the Edinburgh Tour bus in November 2013 as part of the history festival.

To view our Map of Scotland in Poems as it grows, see https://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-map-revealed/ . For more information on this project, and on how to submit a poem, see https://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/mapping-scotland-in-poetry/.

All poems on our poetry map of Scotland and on the StAnza Blog are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet’s permission.

Poetry map poem 9: Edinburgh – Auld Reekie even …

22 Jul

Edinburgh, February, Night

We stampede through the Cowgate, nicotine
And tar oiling our breath, Auld Reekie’s ancient
Burn lingering, centuries on. In new lungs now,
Blackening fast: we smoke her in.
To Nicolson Street, a meeting of jeans and tights
Around the two am ATM under
Bright lights pupils wide, cash out, move on,
Cross streets without turning heads, the
Heads on the bus for Morningside turn
To see us running by, side-stepping
Sidewalks, trampling the dotting lines of streets,
Vein fire jetting us forward, jettisoning our
Days into the blank of night, the
Blight in our heads crashing out:
No route, just forward.

Joe moans outside Tesco’s,
Shutters closed, pounds on the window
Ah jist Let Me In, Ah jist wanna fag Let Me
Barnacled onto the shop.
We leave him on the tide,
Press into the heavy air, sirens somewhere,
Not here, we won’t hear them.
Princes Street’s a mess of neon and mannequins,
The homeless breathing clouds, it’s
Winter but we haven’t felt it,
We have gills for this kind of air, smoke it in.
Heat rises from us: we’re the animals
David Attenborough couldn’t explain,
In our pack, hunting maybe, gathering
Night in our pockets, eye sockets
Pounding now, heels pounding ground,
Let Me Let Me Let Me—

We summit Calton Hill, stop.
Arthur’s Seat looms,
Exhausted by dead fires.
The others slump onto the monuments as
I fumble my feet up, hit my knee
Hard on the half-erected Parthenon.
Scotland’s Folly.
Over the Firth the dawn dons her glittery robes,
Takes a drag of the new, shimmering sky.

We sigh, breathe her dewy scent into
Our singed lungs. Let her in.

Kathryn Ailes

Continuing our tour of Scotland in poems, we move on to Edinburgh with a flavour of the night life there.

To view our Map of Scotland in Poems as it grows, see https://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-map-revealed/. For more information on this project, and on how to submit a poem, see  https://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/mapping-scotland-in-poetry/.

All poems on our poetry map of Scotland and on the StAnza Blog are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet’s permission.

The view from the chair

16 Feb

Colin WillColin Will is a Scottish poet and publisher based in Dunbar, from where he runs Calder Wood Press. He was Chair of the StAnza Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2009, was reappointed as a trustee in 2013 then as Chair in February 2014. The most recent collection of his own poetry is ‘The Propriety of Weeding’ (Red Squirrel Press, 2012).

StAnza is a team effort. We are very fortunate to have Eleanor Livingstone as our Director, and she does an enormous amount of work to create and sustain each Festival, and to plan future ones. Those who attend the Festival regularly, as I have, will know that StAnza is also supported by a large group of volunteers who give their time and skills generously to be the public face of the Festival – on the ticket desk, at the venues and at other places in the town. They are the ones whose smiles welcome visitors, and who make the Festival such a warm and friendly one. You may also have seen the volunteers who staff the venues, and who bring visiting poets to and from venues. We could not put on the Festival without these resourceful and positive people.

Behind the scenes too there’s a large group of dedicated people who look after technical issues, finances, transport, accommodation, catering, ticketing, venues, publicity, communication and many other essential services. There are people who help with future programme planning, and others who have an overview of the governance and management of the organisation.

That’s where I come in. I first joined the Board of Trustees of StAnza back in 2004, having previously chaired the Scottish Poetry Library’s Board, and having been a senior manager in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. I was asked to chair the Board in 2006, and I served a three-year term, stepping down in 2009. Last year my successor, Angela Wrapson, had to step down for personal reasons, and I was asked to come back on the Board. As from February’s AGM, I now chair it again.

I’m looking forward to another term in office, and I hope to ensure that we are, as we have always been, strong and resilient in the face of change. Who could have foreseen last year’s closure of the Byre Theatre, for example? Director, Board and volunteers stepped up to the challenge magnificently, and last year’s Festival was delivered very successfully. It’s hard to predict what challenges we might have to face in future, but I’m confident we will rise to these challenges and overcome any difficulties that may occur in future.

And now I’m looking forward to this year’s Festival in keen anticipation. I’ve booked my accommodation and bought my tickets, thanks to our new ticketing partners, and I know I’m going to enjoy an enriching experience at the Festival. Some of poets are friends, others I haven’t met yet, but we’re alike in our love for, and commitment to, poetry. Come and join me.

Colin Will blogs as http://sunnydunny.wordpress.com/

Edinburgh and Glasgow Preview Events for StAnza 2014

22 Jan

Gerda StevensonFor those of you who like to hold it in your hands, to flick through poetry and take a spoonful of events with each cup of coffee, the StAnza brochure for 2014 is almost ready and will be available fresh from the printers at this year’s programme previews.

The first of these free public events takes place at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW on Wednesday 29th January at 6pm, and as ever we’re very grateful to the NLS for their support. There will be short readings from two of this year’s festival poets, Diana Hendry and Gerda Stevenson. All this, plus some music from Edinburgh’s own John Sampson, who will be accompanying Carol Ann Duffy at her events in March, and a round-up of some of the festival highlights. It promises to be a delightful hour of entertainment and if you’re in the Edinburgh area, be sure not to miss it. It’s a free event but please book a seat by calling 0131 623 3734 or via the NLS web page at http://www.nls.uk/events/booking.

The following week the StAnza Roadshow rolls into Glasgow. We’re thrilled that the Tell it slant poetry bookshop at 134 Renfrew Street, Glasgow G3 6ST will be hosting a preview event for us in collaboration with St Mungo’s Mirrorball, as part of an evening of poetry. The StAnza preview will take place on Thursday 6th February at 6.30pm lasting half an hour, with taster readings from some of the Glasgow poets on this year’s programme, Alexander Hutchison and Kathrine Sowerby, and some spoken word from Colin McGuire.

Then there’s the chance to take a short walk up Rose Street for Mirrorball’s Seamus Heaney celebration hosted by the Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Robyn Marsack. She will be in conversation with award winning novelist and short story writer Bernard MacLaverty on his personal reflections of the life of the Nobel Prize winning poet, including a reading of some of his own favourite pieces by the great man, starting at 7.30, Glasgow Art Club, 185 Bath Street, Glasgow.

‘I’m more interested in the edges of a place than the heart’: Harry Giles maps out a Scottish identity

25 Feb
Harry Giles at StAnza's Edinburgh Preview, January 2013/Chris Scott

Harry Giles at StAnza’s Edinburgh Preview, January 2013/Chris Scott

Harry Giles is a poet and performer, founder of the Edinburgh spoken word collective, Inky Fingers. Brought up in Orkney, he now is based in Edinburgh, but his mind is on many other places, as his guest blog reveals. He will be performing at StAnza’s lunchtime Poetry Cafe on 8 March.  One of StAnza’s themes this year is Legacy and Place

I’m thinking about what Scotland is more or less every day. There’s a referendum coming, after all. I’m trying to work out what the lines on the map mean, or might how we might be choosing to redefine them. I’m trying to work out if it matters more to me to be on this side of the line or that side of the line. For me, place (and the legacy of place) is all about borders.

I grew up in Orkney to English parents – the family moved when I was two years old – so I’ll always be an incomer to my own home. I’ve known no other home but Orkney, but the playground spent a decade reminding me that it still wasn’t really mine, and my voice continues to speak the same reminder. I grew up trying to work out which side of the border I stood on, or whether I could just ignore it. And Orkney, of course, is a strange part of Scotland to start with – sort of Scottish, sort of not, and definitely and justifiably sceptical of them down in Holyrood.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that when I came to put together my first book of poetry – a wee pamphlet called Visa Wedding from Stewed Rhubarb Press – that the poems started to congregate around the borders. I was trying to write my way through my identities, as many poets are. My tongue has grown more Scottish over the years, and my heart has too, though I’ve given a lot of both to America as well. Sometimes writing poetry is less about answering the question,“What do I want to say?” as it is about just asking “How do I speak?”

As I do, the pamphlet jumps between the English that colonised Scotland and the mongrel/magpie Scots that colonised Orkney. The poems’ places are spread between islands and cities in Scotland, England and America. The legacies of one place are written into poems about another. Most of the poems, in some way, are about a border crossing – a roadtrip, a mistranslation, sex, body piercing, the meeting of tongues.

Sometimes, when I read another poets’ nature poetry, or poetry about place, I’m astonished at how secure and assured the language can be. Poems where the writer wholly identifies with a place and gives themselves over to it. I love these poems, but I’m not sure I could ever write one – without one true home to be secure in, I’m not sure I can write unproblematically about anywhere at all.

I think I want to vote to change what the border of this country means. Anti-nationalist and anti-state, I use justifications like “regional governance” and “preserving the vestiges of welfare state socialism”, but I worry that it might be something more personal, more gut. I’d like to live somewhere more definite. I’d like to be able to place a cross in a box that says, definitively, who I am and where I stand. I feel like, to the good, I’m taking part in a huge series of national conversations about what this place is. And while I figure out where the cross goes, while I’m still hopping back and forth across borders, I’m glad that I get to write poems about it, too.

Check out Harry’s website and blog here

Photo by Chris Scott

StAnza launches its programme at the NLS

1 Feb

StAnza launched its programme on Wednesday in Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland. In attendance was our Festival Blogger, James Harding, who gives us his unique account below. The photographs are by Chris Scott, Edinburgh’s literary paparazzo. James and Chris will be providing more words and pictures on this blog during StAnza in March. 

Eleanor introduces...

Eleanor introduces…

‘I couldn’t describe StAnza dust with scientific precision, but it’s something to do with a room’s rumble when a StAnza event is about to start, something to do with the friendly greetings of audience members – between both old friends and new acquaintances. It’s a touch of anticipation in the air, the knowledge that something interesting is about to happen.

It surprised me that a room so far away from the festival’s home felt like a true StAnza event, but it did. Maybe it just feels that way because of the proximity of the library’s thousands of books? Maybe it was the steel woks, yoga mats and blue beards brought in by some of the audience? (True story.) Or perhaps it is simply NLS has a secret passageway to St Andrews? (Not a true story.)

Whatever the reason for the audience’s good mood, they were treated to a preview of the festival by poets Ron Butlin, Harry Giles and Rachel McCrum. Harry Giles was a student at St Andrews and a volunteer at StAnza a few moons ago, and Eleanor Livingstone, the festival’s director, commented that it was such a pleasure to have watched his career develop – and now to be able to invite him to attend StAnza as one of the readers.

By now many of you will have heard the sad news about the Byre theatre going into liquidation. The festival has been inundated with offers of support and messages of goodwill from poets, venues, partners, funders, volunteers and audience members alike. Angela Wrapson, chair of the StAnza board, singled out two parties in particular for their goodwill. The University of St Andrews for their immediate offer of help in finding new venues; and the staff of the Byre theatre, who, on hearing that the Byre was closing, came in to work specially to print off hundreds of tickets for StAnza so that all of the tickets booked so far can be honoured. (Stand by for details of the new bookings system.) It’s humbling, somewhat exciting, and not the least bit surprising that StAnza has the support of so many wonderful people.

Rachel McCrum

Rachel McCrum

And as Eleanor assured us this evening, the show will go on! “The ocean of goodwill and everyone’s determination to help us overcome this setback gives me confidence that this year’s festival is going to be sensational.” And it will be sensational, especially if Mark Doty, Robin Robertson, Liz Lochhead, George Szirtes, Paula Meehan and all the other poets attending this year have anything to do with it!

I think tonight’s launch proved that StAnza can sprinkle its magic anywhere it chooses. But tonight was just a tiny taster of the full-throttle celebration of poetry to come this March in St Andrews…

As the toaster of time prepares to trap the bagel of this blog post irretrievably in its toothy wires, so this blog post comes to and end. I am available for stalking on t’Interwebs, and look forward to seeing you all at #StAnza13 – offline or on.

P.S. Eleanor Livingstone has confirmed rumours that edible poetry will return to the festival this year, with the somewhat cryptic comment “This year we’ll make sure you can have your cake and eat it.” I’m not sure what exactly what this will entail (presumably poetic cakes of some sort) but it sounds very exciting! I will keep you informed of further developments on Twitter @empowermint.’

James Harding

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