Edwin Morgan's funeral took place on Thursday in the grand setting of Glasgow University's Bute Hall. The large gathering of writers, politicians and people who loved the poet or his poetry heard readings of some of his best known works as well as formal tributes and less formal fond rememberings from some of those who knew him best. The music ranged from Classical to Jazz to the Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever - and we all joined the university choir to sing the last verse of A Man's a Man For a' That. Then there was Glenmorangie or tea with shortbread - a fine send-off indeed. And on Monday, the Edinburgh International Book Festival will finish with an Edwin Morgan Celebration event. This event is free but ticketed, and apparently now sold out.
The apocalyptic sounding rain on the roof of the tent did nothing to spoil last Saturday evening’s Poets’ Showcase at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The city itself, past and present, was a feature of the poetry. StAnza’s former Festival Director Brian Johnstone, recalled the Morningside of the Sixties and – ironically – the running of the last tram. Edinburgh’s Makar Ron Butlin charted the recent transformation of the old tenements into ‘glass and mirror palaces’. They were joined on stage by two vibrant new voices. Rob MacKenzie combined a strong sense of the absurd with subtle observations of Edinburgh street life in ‘White Noise’ and a sardonic, tourists’ coach-bound view in ‘Scotlands’. Jane McKie took us back to the country and the mysteries of the natural world, including farms, fighting hares and – something for the arachnophobes in the audience – the anatomy of spiders. All in all, a varied and evocative evening.
Everyone involved with StAnza was deeply saddened to hear of the death of the great poet Edwin Morgan. We have posted an appreciation on our website which outlines his life, career and his wonderful contribution to poetry and to literature in Scotland and abroad.
Don Paterson (photo credit Al Buntin)
First on the podium was John Stammers, whose literary reputation as a 'dandy and a metaphysical' makes him unique among contemporary poetic voices. But he pulled few punches with poems from his new, soul-scouring collection Interior Night. Images of love among musical instruments in 'Ondine' gave way to disturbing and yet darkly humorous narratives about drug addiction and an ode to a poster of the singer, Alison Goldfrapp, seen from a London Underground platform. Strong, satirical stuff.
Sinead Morrissey’s gentle delivery counterpointed the powerful content of her poems, taken from her collection Through the Square Window. Her work ranged through a found poem based on the contents page of a script of the York Mystery Plays to childhood memories of eating jugged hare, and the joys and fears of being a mother. Two of the most provocative images came from the title poem: one is a dream of the dead arriving to wash the windows of a mother’s house. The other comes from an experience of temporary paralysis on waking: ‘flat on my back with a cork/ in my mouth, bottle-stoppered, in fact,/like a herbalist’s cure for dropsy.’ Morrissey is adept at exploring the mysteries at the heart of everyday experiences.
For the rest of the festival poetry programme, including some StAnza poets, click here
Get your poetry fix at the EIBF this month. New director Nick Barley asked one of Scotland’s premier poets Don Paterson and the Scottish Poetry Library to advise on selections for the Poetry Programme and the line-up is stunning.
Four of the six poets shortlisted for this year’s Forward Prize are appearing: Seamus Heaney’s event is sold out but tickets for Jo Shapcott, Robin Robertson and Sinead Morrissey were still available a few days ago.
Kei Miller at StAnza 2010
And check out the festival’s innovative – and free – Unbound evenings at the Highland Park Spiegeltent, which will feature a poetry night on Thursday 19 August. Expect the unexpected…
If Fife is the festival kingdom, then this week it's the turn of Pittenweem Arts Festival which opened on Friday and runs until Sunday 15th August. Often referred to as Scotland's St Ives, with a wheen of resident artists and plenty of galleries, as well as a working harbour, Pittenweem is always worth a visit, especially during the annual festival. Almost 100 exhibitions are on offer, many squeezed into - or stretched out in - sheds, garages, quaint old converted fishermen's cottages, net lofts and outdoors in gardens and on the harbour. It was sunny enough today but there was a breeze off the Forth to keep things fresh, despite the crowds, and even if you're not likely to be purchasing the art, it's fun going in and out and around all the houses.
House converted for the duration into a gallery.
As well as the exhibitions, they have a programme of events, including on Thursday at 7.30pm, a Poetry Cafe night featuring Judith Taylor who took part at StAnza last year, and other poets from the North East of Scotland. Admission is £8.00 and tickets are available from the festival box office in Pittenweem. And on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 2.00pm, there's a Storytelling Cycle performed by StAnza's John J. Taylor, in association with Theatre Odyssey, in the atmospheric St Fillan's Cave.