The Edinburgh International Book Festival is now under way and there is plenty for poetry lovers to enjoy. If you’re quick, you can get along to sample today’s showcase of new poets while later in the month there’s a chance to see Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay, Robin Robertson and Luke Wright, who have all appeared at StAnza to great acclaim. Also not to be missed is a reading by the great US poet Kay Ryan, David Campbell’s story of traveller Duncan Williamson, the launch of the new Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize, Andrew Greig’s retelling of a border ballad, ‘Fair Helen’ and the poems and music of the Egyptian revolution.
Details for some of the events are below. Click here for the full line up of poetry events and to book tickets.
Miriam Gamble, Sam Riviere & Jo L Walton
21st Century Poetry
Wednesday 14 August 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
Dear World & Everyone In It is a new anthology announcing the best young voices of British poetry. Stylistically innovative, thematically challenging, always creative and often surprising, it’s a unique collection presenting the work of 60 poets. Editor Nathan Hamilton presents a selection of the work in this event: Sam Riviere with his debut 81 Austerities, Jo L Walton and Miriam Gamble.
Jackie Kay’s new poems about asylum seekers in Glasgow point up the importance of artistic and cultural contributions to political life. In this event Kay discusses her work with her filmmaker son Matthew Kay. He recently took a British football team to Palestine, where poetry is also a vital part of the culture of resistance, and today he shows an extract from the extraordinary documentary he made.
Plath Before Hughes Friday 16 August 5:00pm - 6:00pm ScottishPower Studio Theatre £10.00, £8.00
Before she met Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath had lived a complex, creative and disturbing life. Following her death in 1963, Hughes was the guardian and literary executor of her work and was, in effect, responsible for how she has been perceived by generations. Andrew Wilson explores the woman before the haunting poetry and sensational relationship that so greatly changed our cultural landscape.
Michael Pedersen & Luke Wright
Poems Like Pointing Fingers
Friday 16 August 8:30pm - 9:30pm
Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
A new breed of poets is storming the spoken word scene and entertaining a generation for which Big Brother is a reality TV show as well as an Orwellian literary invention. Michael Pedersen, co-organiser of Edinburgh live poetry night Neu! Reekie! reads from Play with Me, while Essex-born Luke Wright, whose 5-star performances have wowed Fringe-goers, performs from his joyful new tome, Mondeo Man.
I Steer Towards Catastrophe / Then Write About it
Sunday 18 August 10:15am - 11:15am
The Guardian Spiegeltent
Hill of Doors is Robin Robertson’s sixth poetry collection and his most powerfully assured yet. In its verse, he dives deep into the complexities of the human condition and then rains depth charges down upon himself. Robertson splices the sensitive and the brutish; mixes the mythical with the real; and in the process he confirms that he’s a superstar of Scottish poetry. Free coffee, courtesy of Prestige Scotland
LAUNCH OF A NEW PRIZE FOR POETS IN SCOTLAND: THE EDWIN MORGAN TRUST EVENT
Sunday 18 August
6:45pm - 7:45pm
Three years after his death in 2010, Edwin Morgan’s memory burns brightly. In accordance with Morgan’s wishes, a major new prize for Scottish poets is announced at the Book Festival to build upon the previous poetry competition run in Morgan’s name. In this event chaired by Liz Lochhead, previous winners – Jen Hadfield, Paul Batchelor and Jane McKie – read their work and discuss the challenges of putting together a first collection.
Former US Poet Laureate
Sunday 18 August 5:00pm - 6:00pm ScottishPower Studio Theatre £10.00, £8.00
Kay Ryan is widely regarded as one of America’s great living poets. Her book The Best of It: New and Selected Poems won her the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, and she was the US Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. However, despite the plaudits, Ryan is no creature of the establishment: she once said ‘it’s poetry’s uselessness that excites me.’ She joins us to read some of her work.
David Campbell & Linda Williamson
Reigniting a Traveller’s Tale
Monday 19 August 3:30pm - 4:30pm
David Campbell’s subject is Duncan Williamson, born in a Loch Fyne tent in 1928, surrounded by storytellers and musicians. A Traveller in Two Worlds tells of Williamson’s remarkable life (he had two wives, ten children and wrote many stories) and the attempts to get his work about the traveller community to a wider public. Campbell is joined by Linda, Williamson’s second wife and an ardent activist in keeping his memory and writings alive.
Reimagining Border Ballads
Saturday 24 August
8:30pm - 9:30pm
ScottishPower Studio Theatre
Stirling-born writer and poet Andrew Greig returns with a new publication inspired by the history and landscape of Scotland. Fair Helen is a retelling of a 16th century Border Ballad, ‘Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea’. Inspired by the tradition of sung narrative ballads, Greig is joined by acclaimed musician Rachel Newton, who performs several songs and provides fiddle accompaniment to Greig’s reading from his new novel.
Poetry from the Egyptian Revolution
Poems and Music in Tahrir Square Sunday 25 August 8:30pm - 9:30pm ScottishPower Studio Theatre £10.00, £8.00
At the heart of the Egyptian revolution were the events in Tahrir Square. During the riots, Amin Haddad wrote poetry which the protestors spoke or sang together for moral support. Haddad joins us from Cairo with members of the revolutionary band, Eskenderella, whose musical rendering of Haddad’s poems gave support to the protestors. They reprise – in a rare European appearance – the verse that was the immediate response to the uprising.