Grant Campbell on ‘Your thin shoulders’…

August 31, 2009

Our friend, the bass-wizard from the darkly poetic band, “St. Jude’s Infirmary” , discusses an amazing Osip Mandelstam poem. It’s a beautiful poem, read it and Grant’s thoughts about it on the SPL’s Reading Room site. And watch out for our up-coming podcast featuring St. Jude’s.

St. Jude’s Infirmary have an epic new album titled “This Has Been the Death of Us.” It is quite a treat and an instant contender for my yearly top-ten list. You can buy it here.

And here is a video of the band in action at the National Portrait Galley. If you watch the whole thing, you’ll hear my name mentioned. As it was in the blog Terrible Love Songs.Why? Because the band kindly invited me to read poems between the songs. I think it worked, hopefully, we’ll find that footage on the internet soon and I’ll post some audio of our collaboration soon.


I Awoke Covered in Glitter

August 28, 2009

I Awoke Covered in Glitter….

thanks to a manic night of Live Art Speed Dating at the Forest Fringe hosted by the fearless and peerless arts collective out of London called Stoke Newington International Airport. If this event was anything to judge their artistic chops by, I’d say they are definitely worth checking out if you are in the London area. In one hour I slow danced on a plinth, had a chat with Simon Munnery about the “propensity” of putting gays on the moon, had a couple re-enact my most memorable kiss (they did well without the rain, lake and lightning) and, lastly, got doused in glitter by a transvestite named Scotee who promised it would change my aura.

I think it worked…

because when I showed up a-sparkle at the Edinburgh International Book Festival I got more attention than usual. The superfluously lovely staff at the Author’s yurt got me some wet-wipes and we cleared some of the gold and green flecks from my beard but, if you know glitter, you know it is tenacious stuff and there will probably be some in my bed till Christmas. I took a nap earlier and it looked like I’ve been shagging a pixie. Anyway, I was at the Book Festival to help SPL’s Julie Johnstone run a Nothing But the Poem session. Feeling self-consciously unprofessional about all the glitter, the workshop group quickly put me at ease as their (and my) attentions seemed to be fully on the poems and nothing but.

I Love Jen Hadfield / I Hate Jen Hadfield …

is what I wanted to say after reading her poem “Blashey-wadder” aloud to our NBTP group. Jen was kind enough to come and read at the savage August Golden Hour at The Forest this month. She gave a great reading to a restless festival crowd. It was amazing to watch. I’ve work-shopped her poems before and was super-pleased Julie picked this one to share. I loved how it turned; seeming, at first, like a simple poem about ugly weather. But there is something unsettling moving around in here. (Indeed Blashey-wadder means “wet and unsettled weather” in Shetlandic, which goes to show how ferociously subtle and detailed Jen is in her writing. I have no doubt that every word is plotted, every image deserving of a thesis). Anyway, yes, I first read it as a little natural poem but then there is that sniffing dog. That sniffing dog. Then that line, that line which says “we had it coming.” And then there is that lone and mysterious “you” in the first stanza. And then there are all the stanzas that begin with ‘And’, as if the poem is in some kind of argument. And another thing. And one more thing. And that crackling lamb, that dung-beetle who has “stolen the sun”, that football going around and around. Yes, there is some dark weather in here. But it is more than that “weak, wet hail” more than “that bastard wind.” Read. Then read again. You’ll love her too. And, if you’re a writer with ambition, maybe you’ll hate her too. I read this and thought, “Shit, it’s too late to learn to play basketball. I better raise my game.”

by Jen Hadfield.

At dusk I walked to the postbox,
and the storm that must’ve passed you earlier today
skirled long, luminous ropes of hail between my feet
and I crackled in my waterproof
like a roasting rack of lamb.

And across the loch,
the waterfalls blew right up off the cliff
in grand plumes like smoking chimneys.

And on the road,
even the puddles ran uphill.

And across Bracadale,
a gritter, as far as I could tell,
rolled a blinking ball of orange light
ahead of it, like a dungbeetle
that had stolen the sun.

And a circlet of iron was torn from a byre
and bowled across the thrift.

And seven wind-whipped cows
clustered under a bluff.

And in a rockpool,
a punctured football reeled around and around.

And even the dog won’t heel since yesterday
when – sniffing North addictedly –
he saw we had it coming –

and I mean more’n wet weak hail
on a bastard wind.

This is from her latest collection, “Nigh No-Place” available from Bloodaxe Books (ISBN 978-1-85224-793-5) and is of course copyright so go out and buy the book.

Or get it online here.

Thanks to for posting this text.

Don Paterson Touched Me …

with his poem “Waking with Russell” which is a gorgeous sonnet to his son. Bess, in our group, pointed out that it was a unique twist on the traditional and typical love sonnet. Which I had to agree with as I’ve been writing through the turgid emotions of my own dismal love life, it was heartening to think of other forms of Love. I thought of the advice Burkrad gave me a long while back which was simply, “Write about something else.” Like a table. A stairwell. A Turkey. Perhaps a sonnet that uses the phrase, “I love lamp.”


Right Now I’m Listening to Camera Obscura

because after the Nothing But the Poem session I was jazzed to kick around the Book Festival a bit. I started to think maybe I’m getting old, as I’ve been more enthusiastic about the Book Festival this year than normal. But, then I kept getting reminded that I was covered in glitter which must mean I’m not quite elderly yet. Anyway, I got a chance to go and see the launch of “Addressing the Bard” which is a Scottish Poetry Library collection of Burn’s poems and responses from living Scottish poets like Rab Wilson and Tim Turnbull. Both Meg Bateman and Liz Lochhead gave good readings of their favourite Burn’s poems and read some excellent responses and I particularly enjoyed James Robertson‘s response to Burn’s “Address of Beelzebub.” In Burn’s version, written in 1786, Belezebub congratulates, endorses and encourages Highland land owners to be more cruel to their tenants. Burn’s Beelzebub liked what he saw of the mistreatment and so does Robertson’s who arrives above ground to delight in the ruining of our environment, the multitude of wars, our urban degradation. Belezebub, Robertson posits, would feel very comfortable up here.

During the Q&A someone spoke about Burn’s well known womanising and philandering. The woman said she couldn’t read his work the same any more. I thought Liz Lockhead responded well by saying that we shouldn’t necessarily make our writers our role-models. Which, I learned when I started reading about my young influences like Kerouack and Bukowski. At some point, our friend Lorna, said she wouldn’t have wanted to be Jean Armour and I immediately wanted to get home, write this down, and put on this fine Camera Obscura song which makes Burn’s feel as alive now as he was then.




More August Events

August 11, 2009

In addition to the all the events posted here ( there’s also the following special literary treats!

* Wednesday 19 August – 8pm – The Forest – Freethe-paper-cinema-kora-weekend
The Golden Hour – The Festival Special
note: NO BYOB as Forest is Licensed for August


* Friday 21 August – 6.30pm – Scottish Poetry Library
Movement and Stillness

An event inspired by our poetic interaction with the natural world featuring contemporary & folk music (bluegrass, blues, British folk), poetry and poetic-prose from North America and the British Isles.
Readers & Musicians:  Landscapes, Kept and Unkempt

£2, all welcome

Don’t forget to see the below link for more free events at the Westport Book Festival, The Poetry Gardens @ St. Andrews Square and The Scottish Poetry Library:

* Wednesday 26 August – 5.30pm – Fingers Piano Bar – Free:

Utter! Spoken Word Night  – “Dirty Words”

I’ll be droping some F-bombs with the Utter Crew. Come on by for a few “dirty” poems.
Don’t forget to see the below link for more free events at the Westport Book Festival, The Poetry Gardens @ St. Andrews Square and The Scottish Poetry Library:

Hope to see you at one of these gigs soon!

The Golden Hour – Festival Special


August 19th — The Festival Special

Readers / Writers:

Jen Hadfield – a remarkably original and inventive poet who recently won the TS Eliot prize.

Ryan Van Winkle – poems & stories from the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library.

Nick Holdstock – short stories which grow inside you like golden crocuses.

Ericka Duffy – hot new prose from her hot new chapbook called The Succubus!

Jason Morton – stories that can eat bricks.

Music / Song Writers:

Billy Liar – Acoustic + infectious punk.

Jed Milroy – singer songwriter and hunter finally back from the Woods.

Withered Hand – intense, eccentric, bittersweet and very wry original songs.


Jonny Berliner – Joyus songs about crustaceans, exhaustion, and glucose.


The Black Diamond Express – a rocking, hell-playing, old time string band.

Visual Amazement:

Paper Cinema and Kora

A cast of hand-drawn marionettes are magically brought to life. This is what happens at the accidental meeting of inkblots, photocopies, cardboard, angle-poise lamps, the occasional table, video technology, a laptop and a banana box.