Poetry Map *Global for #StAnza21*: poem no. 388

Tuesday 23 March 2021, 11:47

Grianclach – Sun Stone
Midwinter solstice at Newgrange, Ireland 2020 

Old bones sleep in frost,
waiting for the turn,
the clockwork
tick-tock-tilt of the earth. 

Stone cold sunbathed,
a dagger of light
prying open winter
a precious chink. 

Letting in that sharp edge
of hope, a lilt
swelling the womb. 

Beat of wings
against the heart’s windowpane.
Fleeting breath, a promise,
air and warmth,
voices unfiltered. 

To reach out,
to touch and not draw back
like the beam
tracing the dusty floor. 

Gerry Stewart

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

A ‘visit’ from the Edinburgh Literary Salon

Friday 19 March 2021, 14:07

Our final guest editors, the Edinburgh Literary Salon share some of their highlights of the festival -- many of which you can enjoy in our Events Archive until 31 March!

When we, at the Edinburgh Literary Salon, took tentative steps into staging our monthly meetings (usually held in an upstairs room in a central Edinburgh bar) online, we didn’t realise what a task it would be. Choosing the best ‘virtual’ platform, attracting an audience, and being au fait enough with technology to cope with glitches: this was the very definition of ‘learning curve.’

StAnza was the last arts festival we attended in 2020 before the world locked down. It gave them a year to prepare for the possibility of holding online events in 2021. Audiences have got the hang of ‘zooming’ and given what we’ve all been though, people make allowances if things are silky-smooth.

Yet it must be said that StAnza has been ahead of this curve for some time, providing online content, finding ways of reaching out across the globe, and with ever-creative presentations. There’s something about poetry that allows, or even encourages innovation. There’s also something about the ethos of StAnza that embraces equality, diversity and inclusion. This year’s festival was destined to be different, but no less exciting and embracing than usual.

Our first delve into the programme was the YouTube channel where there was more than just a tease for the week to come. Besides the early rounds of the Poetry Slam, there were several amusing videos of StAnza volunteers pointing out that we’re spared the trek to St Andrews, dodging the rain while darting between events, and awkward conversations in the queues for the loos. All the same, that sense of excitement (and slightly silly humour) was there; a bitter-sweet reminder that we would miss the special ‘atmosphere’ the place brings to StAnza.

But as Jackie Kay once said, StAnza is a place called poetry. Poetry, in all its richness and variety, was on display in the Festival Launch Extravaganza. This was more-than just a taster of what was to come – it was a feast. We saw Courtney Conrad, Guest Poet at our January Salon (courtesy of StAnza) and another friend of the Literary Salon, Russell Jones – both had events we would want to drop into.

We were reminded of online exhibitions, plus illustrated poetry, music, and how translation and international elements are key to StAnza. Parallels, contrasts, and connections exist, and even though we’re in lockdown (“Bugger,” said Jane Longhurst from the 40th Parallel in Tasmania!) we are nonetheless a ‘virtual poetry community.’ Most important is that much is still available online to enjoy for the rest of March – we will certainly be re-visiting the virtual riches of 2021.

Another advantage of StAnza online is the option to dip into events during the working day, at breakfast, morning break, lunch-hour, or tea. On Monday lunchtime Marina Kazakova gave a fascinating talk on ‘symphonic poetry’, exploring the link between music, poetry, and film. At Meet the Artists on Wednesday we were treated to a diversity of tongues from our own isles, connecting the languages of Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Although internet connectivity provided challenges for some participants, this zoom-conversation led by Peter Mackay/Padraig MacAoidh fell together very well.

Poetry Centre Stage events often showcase contrasting poets and styles. On Wednesday, Polish poet Adam Zagajewski gave a no-frills reading that put his poetry in the spotlight. Conversely, Edinburgh’s Russell Jones pulled out all the stops, divulging poetry’s relation and place in sci-fi, and through comics, and illustration – all making this a varied and vibrant presentation. As Russell said, crossing genres seemed to fit with this year’s theme of crossing borders, finding new ways of reaching audiences.

Sticking with Edinburgh poets, while being transported to the Fife Coastal Path (and sometimes, beyond), the Thursday lunchtime Poetry Walk was led by Helen Boden. While locked down ‘beyond Edinburgh’ in her Pentlands home, Helen put together a selection of words and pictures that certainly whetted the walkers appetite for post-restriction days.

Earlier that morning, the Past & Present event was given by poets well-known to Edinburgh. Rob A Mackenzie’s deadpan performance of his own poetry hides an often wicked humour, and his presentation of the work of Miroslav Holub contained these elements, as well as a fascinating insight into a poet who deftly combined science, language, and darkly comic twists.

Helena Nelson’s contrasting delivery nevertheless demonstrated the importance of ‘light’ humour in poetry, shown through the (sometimes overlooked) verse of Ruth Pitter. With a glint in her eye, Helena kept us waiting right til the end before reciting Pitter’s cheeky poem, 'The Rude Potato'. One to re-watch before the end of March.

Friday Night ended our week at StAnza with Risk a Verse, the open-mic which not only ran very smoothly, ably hosted by Samuel Tongue, but featured some of our own December 2020 open-mic participants. While Zoom doesn’t quite hold the atmosphere of such an event (silent applause takes some getting used to) it was a lovely way to spend an evening tucked up on the sofa with a glass of wine, with still a whole weekend of events left to enjoy.

We’d like to thank Eleanor and Annie for their support of the Edinburgh Literary Salon. Our next meeting, on the 30th of March, features poetry, and storytelling, and as always is free to attend.



Categories: News

Scottish BAME Writers Network

Thursday 18 March 2021, 18:32

Our Guest Editors, the Scottish BAME Writers Network, flag up some of the highlights of their programme.

The Scottish BAME Writers Network (SBWN) is an advocacy group that aims to connect Scottish BAME writers with the wider literary sector in Scotland.

Andrés Ordorica reading into a microphoneSBWN was co-founded by Alycia Pirmohamed and Jay G Ying in 2018, who were joined by Andrés Nicolás Ordorica and Jeda Pearl Lewis in 2019, and by Dean Atta and Bhavika Govil in 2020. Alycia, Jay and Jeda appeared at StAnza 2020 and Andrés and Nat Raha, another SBWN member, are on this year’s StAnza programme.

SBWN is made up of writers, poets, publishers, editors, journalists, booksellers, bibliophiles, and is open to anyone seeking community with other Black and POC creatives living and from Scotland. Partners include Scottish PEN, Literature Alliance Scotland, National Library of Scotland, and Books from Scotland to name a few.

Poetry and performance

Poetry and performance are vital components of much of SBWN’s programming. Below are just some of the few programmes we have led on which give a flavour of the diversity of our writers.

SBWN Spoken Word Night

In mid-February, we hosted our first public reading of 2021. SBWN Spoken Word Night was curated and hosted by Courtney Stoddart as part of a two-month long poetry and performance development programme. The performers included Nasim Rebecca Asl, Sabrina Latif, Clementine E. Burnley, Wendy Law, Kamala Santos, Bee Asha and Andrew ‘Ace’ Bamusi. The event is still available to watch on YouTube.

2020 Mixtape

For those interested in poetry, we also recommend exploring our ‘2020 Mixtape: Writers of Colour Audio Anthology’, which launched in late 2020 to celebrate the work produced within the Writers of Colour Writing Group, led by Hannah Lavery. This audio anthology was the second anthology produced by the network.

This group began in February 2019 as a monthly writers group for Black writers and writers of colour. During 2020 Hannah ran it online weekly as a response to global events, including the Covid-19 pandemic and heightened awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement.


For those interested in reading more work by members of our community, you can purchase ‘Ceremony’ published by Tapsalteerie Press. Produced in 2019, this anthology of poetry and prose is the result of many in-person workshops where writers of colour met to develop their craft as a community.

Our programming

Due to Covid-19, SBWN has pivoted all of our programming online. This includes workshops, masterclasses, and live events. In addition to writer development opportunities, we also manage an ongoing blog series. Guest bloggers are invited to pitch ideas three times a year to feature on our dynamic blog which shares experiences, thoughts, and musings about a writer’s life in Scotland.


In celebration of LGBT History Month 2021, we commissioned Sanjay Lago, Mae Diansangu, Etzali Hernández, Sarya Wu, and Clementine E Burnley to share reflections on their personal histories and experiences as part of the LGBTQ+ community. The result is a stunning array of poetry, song, and experimental essays. These reflections are offered as both text and audio pieces which can be accessed here on our blog.


SBWN hosts numerous online writing workshops throughout the year. Recent workshops explored ‘Decolonizing Style’ by Jessie Widner and writing diverse characters with empathy by Kritika Narula. We will announce our spring and summer programming in mid to late March.

Community groups

During Black History Month 2020, we launched the Scottish Black Writers Group, facilitated by writer Dean Atta in association with Scottish PEN. It is a monthly meetup open to writers across the UK and Ireland who are Black/from the African diaspora, including people of mixed heritage.

Scottish Black Writers Group is a space to meet, chat, network and talk about the writing life. Writers both published and unpublished are welcome to join the group. The next meeting will feature Patrice Lawrence in conversation with the group on March 18th – booking information can be found here

You can find out more information about our programming by exploring our website or by signing up to our monthly newsletter.

You can connect with the Scottish BAME Writers Network via our website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or by signing up to our newsletter.

Categories: News

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 387

Thursday 18 March 2021, 17:44

Lewis Chessmen

Geama Toiseachaidh

Margaret, the Adroit, weeps
Over the slaughtered Walrus King
and pays homage by spellbinding
her warriors
they put to sea, but flounder
to rest for centuries
on Camas Uig beach
A cow finds them

Geama Meachan

Battles rage
Carved in Norway or Iceland?
British Museum v. Museum of Scotland?
Struggle won by the “Museum of the World”
and lent back to a defeated nation
as “Ambassadors of Scotland”

Geama Deireadh

In a foostie drawer in an Edinburgh home
Beserker is found, wild eyed, biting his shield,
bought for a quid,
sold for a million
sleekit and deceitful
he conceals Check,
threatens a Kingdom
by lying to a Queen

Siobhan Walsh

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

DURA @StAnza21: Making it New

Sunday 14 March 2021, 12:06

StAnza’s Saturday events started off with an energetic discussion on the Breakfast at the Poetry Café live webcast. Before attending any of the events, I had hoped to have a fully immersive experience, and I was in no way let down. Panellists Lisa Kelly, Kate Tough, and Greg Thomas started a conversation with the host Eleanor Livingstone about the meaning of ‘Make it New’. With the chance to hear individual poetry readings, and the panellists’ opinions on the current age and consumerism – it was a conversation I felt lucky to be involved in. The ‘Make it New’ topic is extremely relevant to life in lockdown, and gave a whole new perception to the way life has changed since the pandemic. It’s not every day that you get to hear poets read their own work, comment on society, and bring a new insight to the somewhat stale subject of the pandemic.

Next up in the Poetry Café, was Courtney Conrad’s recorded poetry readings. Her focus was on poetry including black, queer, Christian, migrant, womxn identities. Conrad would introduce us to her work ‘What is fi Mama a fi Everybody’ and ‘Girlish’ – the gift of hearing these intimate poems read aloud by their creator was not unnoticed. After each reading, Conrad would give further context to the piece: where she wrote it, what she was thinking, how her mindset has changed now, and what she wishes we take away from it. She urged her readers to live their lives for themselves, no one else, because she believes that to be a disservice. To hear Conrad’s wisdom and reassuring affirmations throughout her poetry reading was an unforgettable moment for me.

The importance of affirmations, and having a safe, creative space was later touched on at Poets at Home with Malika Booker. Booker, through a pre-recorded video, shared her living space and where she writes. She shared where she sits, where she naps, and where she gets inspired. I think everyone in lockdown at the moment is having particular difficulty being inspired, maybe struggling to sleep, or even to sit still! Seeing a member of the writing community in her workspace, giving her tips and tricks to feeling calm and improving her health in order to excel in her writing was tremendously comforting.

Reaching out to others is important now more than ever, and so when I called up the ‘Dial-a-poem’ phone numbers to hear a pre-recorded poem, followed by a live call and poetry reading, I was moved. StAnza’s ‘hotline for poetry’ felt like a warm hand reaching out in a time of challenging isolation. I got through to Katie Hale, who after pleasant conversation, told me a poem about her first kiss; she read ‘In the yellow library where in 2004 I had my first kiss’.

Later that night, I joined Rachel Long, for ‘Poetry at Bedtime: Between the Covers’. Through a voice recording, Long read her poetry aloud from her bed, to me in mine. While Rachel Long’s poetry was pre-recorded it felt very present – a perfect end to the day.

Conversation is an art which we have all managed to keep alive over lockdown, despite the many struggles. The art of flourishing community spirit, and healthy conversation is something I felt in abundance at StAnza’s Festival this Saturday.  

Mhari Aitchison

Categories: News

Poetry, Cake, Wine and Old Friends

Saturday 13 March 2021, 23:29

Before this, back then when we knew of only one normal and knew little, yet feared a lot we gathered in St Andrews. It was early Spring. We always gathered then in St Andrews. It was StAnza.

Poetry pilgrims drawn there willingly to be inspired, converted, confirmed and have our perceptions challenged, our ideas assured and our hearts set alight by our common bond – a love of poetry, our cherished craft which would and will endure.

I had my normal wonderful few days. I did all the normal StAnza things. I immersed myself in familiar poets, I dipped a toe into new voices and without thought enjoyed my normal StAnza, drank too much coffee, ate too much cake, maybe just enough wine and didn’t buy enough books. I never buy enough books. Sorry.

And then it was my turn to contribute. I had produced a show HamishMatters to mark the end of a year of celebrating the centenary of Hamish Henderson’s birth and filled the main stage of The Byre with poets and musicians backed by audio visuals. The adventure had started the previous year at StAnza with slivers of new poems still being nurtured and then projected on to the Byre café walls. HamishMatters had woven its message through 2019 by way of books, Festivals, portraits on mountainsides, poems on Kirk roofs, impromptu gigs and the Scottish Parliament to return to St Andrews for a last curtain call. And it was to be – a last curtain call. 

On Sunday 8th March, 2020, after the show, after the wine, the laughter, the renewed kinship, the fresh friendships and my dodgy dancing and before I left the Byre boozily content, I hugged Eleanor Livingstone and Annie Rutherford and thanked them for their hospitality and generous support of my work and for StAnza. They would be the last people other than my wife that I would embrace in over a year and I’m still counting.

I know that point won’t be lost on all of you and over months of tragedy, isolation and adjusting to an uncertain future where we have watched our industry dragged to its knees with meagre support from central government, we’ve learned a new lexicon of unwelcome acronyms and become too comfortable with pandemic phrases - lockdowns, bubbles, social distance, long covidand zoom. 

I must confess zoom for me was an ice lolly of my childhood and on many occasions I wish it had remained a sugary memory but as the weeks turned into months it became a lifeline of support and our relationship with online creativity has advanced way beyond those initial cobbled together homespun events.

This has been so beautifully and powerfully demonstrated this week at StAnza. I stopped myself there when I typed ‘at StAnza’ because I’m in my jammies at home in between events and looking forward to this evening’s (Saturday) events. I’m typing this now because I can’t guarantee any sense later – there will be wine.

This week has been an emotional weave of what I expect from StAnza. I have found in translation: connections and determination to engage beyond my boundaries. I have immersed myself in the assured brilliance of Roddy Lumsden and Edwin Morgan. I have been inspired and challenged off stage, centre stage, between the covers and been welcomed into poets homes. I have been StAnza’d again and I am in awe and content in equal measures – mostly 250 ml.

Yes, I have missed the random blethers, the quiet corners of reflection and the energy of being there with like minds in the streets that speak of so many shared histories. I have missed swanning about in my Makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland regalia, feeling all self important and being able to promote all the good things they do to encourage poets old and new. I don’t actually have regalia but if I did I’d have enjoyed the swanning. I do however, encourage you to seek out the website and become a member. It’s free hugely welcoming and then come and say hello. My next event is tomorrow evening – Pushkin meets Soutar >

But most of all I miss the hugs. 

And we have all missed the chance to say thank you in person to a giant in our poetry world for whom we should all be eternally grateful. So if you wouldn’t mind pausing some time today for a moment and virtually hugging Eleanor Livingstone that would be a beautiful thing. Thank you. 

I’ll shut up now and leave you with a short poem I wrote on the way home from StAnza last year. I think it’s message remains true today. Enjoy the last day. 


Be not a distant flag

nor a song buried so deep

I can’t find you.


Spring passed


summer will be lost,

autumn remains buried

under winter’s mulch, fidgeting.


To everyone with words

in the darkness we share

I pin my hopes to the stars

for our tomorrow’s

and I pray

for the purity of our art

to find breath once more.


Jim Mackintosh


Poet, Editor, Producer
Makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland 
Poet in Chief of The Hampden Collection
Makar of the Cateran EcoMuseum
Poetry Editor of the Nutmeg Periodical
Cultural Ambassador for The Friends of Pskov

Committee Member of The Friends of William Soutar 

Committee Member of The Friends of Hugh Miller
Programme Manager of the HamishMatters Festival



Categories: News
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