Gearing up for an EIBF event on Sunday 21st August with Edinburgh’s previous Makar, Ron Butlin and Professor James Loxley of Edinburgh University. James chaired the event skilfully and we read poems from Sir Walter Scott to Muriel Spark, from Stewart Conn to Angus Calder and from Robert Garioch to Valerie Gillies, as well as a few of our own. Surprising how many folk are ready for a poem first thing on a Sunday morning!
We had a delightful evening on 18th August at the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award event at the 2016 Edinburgh International Book Festival. The winner was Penny Boxall and the runner up was Miriam Nash. Congratulations are due to all six who were short-listed. The others were Claire Askew, Sophie Collins, Harry Giles and Stewart Sanderson. The judges – who had had a tough job deciding – were Jackie Kay and Stewart Conn.
Edinburgh-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi attended Leith Walk Primary School. The children there responded to his art with a striking playground mural, reflecting his styles and themes. Encouraged by Dr Carlo Pirozzi, I recently wrote a poem about their mural and, on Monday 20th June, handed it over to their head teacher Ms Anne Houliston. I was accompanied by Carlo and by Paolozzi’s sister, Yolanda.
On Monday 30th May I will be launching Edinburgh Unsung, an online anthology of poems celebrating all those people whose work for the city largely goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Joining me at the Writers’ Museum will be many of the poets who have gifted a poem and several of the service providers who have been the inspiration. You can read all the poems here.
Lately I have been writing several poems inspired by the work of the late Eduardo Paolozzi, one of Edinburgh’s foremost 20th century artists. We are fortunate to have several of his best known sculptures in our city (for example The MS of Monte Cassino) as well as the stunning stained-glass window designed by him for St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, in Palmerston Place. This project is being orchestrated by Dr Carlo Pirozzi of St Andrews University.
Recently a group of second year Illustration students from Edinburgh College of Art undertook a project which involved working in teams to produce 3D ‘tunnel books’ based on the Royal Mile. They were led by the artist Brigid Collins.
They used the poem A Month on the Mile (written by myself and Ingrid Murray) as a jumping-off point to discover more of the history as well as the contemporary feel of this famous street. They made a lovely job of their books!
On 17th March I spent a happy morning with staff of Scotland Gas Networks (SGN). They were replacing a major mains pipe in Morrison Street in the city centre. I was intrigued by the complexity of what lies beneath our streets; and how skilled they have to be to work safely while keeping both the gas and the traffic flowing.
In the Orchard Brae area, where they are also replacing the old cast iron mains, I was shown how they detect the pipes.
Now for a poem …
I was honoured to read the poem I had been commissioned to write for Sir Tom Farmer on being given the Edinburgh Award for 2015. Much as he has been given many honours over the years, it was a special moment for him to be recognised by his own city. His philanthropic work in Edinburgh and beyond is well known.
Recently Ottar Grepstad and seventeen of his colleagues from the Nynorsk Cultural Centre in Western Norway spent a study weekend in Edinburgh, exploring the city and learning about our languages and literature.
Some years ago I was invited to their Ivar Aasen centre to talk about Shetlandic language and literature.
It was a special treat to meet up with them again in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh celebrated World Book Day by bringing beautiful words from 11 Cities of Literature around the world to the streets of Leith.
From 3-13 March, poems will be projected from Creative Exchange onto the Royal Bank of Scotland on Leith’s Constitution Street, with one poem from each of the first 11 Cities of Literature featuring each night.
The projections are accompanied by a small exhibition within Creative Exchange, highlighting each of the UNESCO Cities of Literature featured and showcasing the poets whose work will be projected.
The participating cities are Edinburgh (Scotland), Krakow (Poland), Melbourne (Australia), Iowa City (USA), Dublin (Ireland), Reykjavík (Iceland), Norwich (England), Dunedin (New Zealand), Prague (Czech Republic), Heidelberg (Germany) and Granada (Spain).
This project is delivered by Edinburgh City of Literature Trust in partnership with Edinburgh’s sister City of Literature, Krakow.