This is a much more interesting version of my poem to celebrate 70 years of the Edinburgh International Festival!
I was delighted to be asked to write a poem to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and the involvement of the British Council in the special programme of events (Spirit of ’47) to mark this occasion. The poem was recorded in the derelict (and atmospheric) Leith Theatre. It has a wonderful acoustic. One day … it will spring back to life!
The launch of a Scottish issue of The Café Review took place at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Friday 28th July. The Editor of the journal, Steve Luttrell, came across from Portland, Maine for the event. I had the joy of guest-editing the journal but the unenviable task of selecting around 30 poets to represent the contemporary poetry scene in Scotland. Given we have so many gifted poets, I found this really difficult. It would have taken the whole year, four issues, to do a half-decent coverage.
However, select I did, and they all sent in wonderful poems. Nineteen of the contributors were able to attend the launch and read a poem. Two of the three artists also attended.
For the first time hundreds of items from the City’s collections are on display at the City Art Centre. Many of Edinburgh’s poets have been inspired to write a poem based on one of the exhibits. There are readings in the Museum of Edinburgh, Canongate (2pm-2.30pm) on July 15th, 21st,27th and August 3rd; and later at the City Art Centre (11am-11.30am) on September 16th, 22nd and 27th. Do come along to these free events.
Here’s one of my attempts at a poem in response to an exhibit!
Letter from the Earl of Buchan to Robert Burns 1/2/1787
That Earl of Buchan who wrote you, Burns,
seems a bit of a blowhard: couldn’t resist
letting you know he’d ordered six copies
of your book from Lady Glencairn’s list.
His advice: Keep your Eye upon Parnassus
and drink deep of the fountains of Helicon.
He didn’t think your little doric pieces displayed
your metal; and your provincial dialect was apt
to trap your talent. He was sure English
would empower you, let you demonstrate
the extent of your genius, attempt works
of greater magnitude, variety and importance.
Did you think to ask the fine Lady Glencairn
‘what’s English for “tha man’s haverin”?’
After a welcome by the Lord Provost and a tune on the Wilfred Owen violin by Thoren Ferguson, I read a poem at the station war memorial. We then processed along Princes Street with pipers to the west end and returned for ‘a hearty breakfast’ at the Balmoral Hotel (formerly the ‘North British’). This was followed by a reception by the Lord Provost.
You can follow it from Custom House, down by The Shore, up Constitution Street, then through the Kirkgate to the foot of Leith Walk.
18th May saw the opening of the summer exhibition at the City Art Centre – three floors of exhibits drawn from all the city’s many museums. It is a fascinating and eclectic mix, bound to stir the memory and imagination. The exhibits are organised on an A-Z basis. It’s a lovely airy space to wander around.
Several Edinburgh poets have offered poems linked to the exhibition (and/ or the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology). Come and hear them read their poems, 11am- 11.30am, on Saturday September 16th, Friday September 22nd and Wednesday September 27th.
Lovely to see the unveiling of a commemorative stone in Makars’ Court celebrating the life and work of Scottish poet George Campbell Hay. He was one of the few Scottish poets who could write in English, Scots and Gaelic.
It was a privilege to write a poem for world-famous boxer, son of Edinburgh, Ken Buchanan.
(Photo by Lloyd Smith)