You’ll Love Humberto Ak’abal – Guatemalan Indian Poet

May 22, 2010

Humberto Ak’abal

In a special podcast from the Ullapool Book Festival, we have the great pleasure to include a reading from celebrated Guatemalan Maya Indian poet Humberto Ak’abal together with his Scots translator James Robertson and English translator Rosemary Burnett. Their new book Drum of Stone is now out from Kettillonia.

Presented by Ryan van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser. Music by Ewen Maclean. Twitter: @byleaveswelive & @anonpoetry. Mail:

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About Humberto Ak’abal

Humberto Ak’abal was born in 1952 in Momostenango, Totonicapán, Guatemala.

He left school at twelve to work with his father weaving the heavy woollen blankets for which Momostenango is famous. He is the foremost Maya K’iche’ poet, and has been recognised with awards such as the Quezal de Oro APG in 1993 from the Guatemalan Journalists’ Association, an honorary degree from the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, the Blaise Cendrars International Poetry Prize in 1997, the UNESCO ‘Song of America’ Prize in 1998, and the Pier Paolo Pasolini Poetry Prize in 2004.

He was decorated by the French Ministry of Culture with the order of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2005. In 1994, he refused to accept Guatemala’s highest literary award, the Miguel Angel Asturias Prize, because it is named after a writer whose work Ak’abal considers to have encouraged discrimination against the Mayan people.

About James Robertson

James Robertson was born in 1958 and grew up in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire. A poet, editor, novelist and publisher, he is an active and prolific writer, enjoying stints at Hugh MacDiarmid ‘s cottage, Brownsbank, near Biggar, Lanarkshire, and as the first Writer-in-Residence at the Scottish Parliament.

He set up Kettillonia, a small pamphlet press in 1999, and is general editor of Itchy Coo, the successful Scots children’s book imprint at Black and White.

His novel Joseph Knight won the Saltire Society Book of the Year in 2003 and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year award.

James Robertson lives in Angus; his novel, The Testament of Gideon Mack, was published by Hamish Hamilton in June 2006. He has also translated Roald Dahl’s classic novel The Fantastic Mr Fox as The Sleekit Mr Tod. His forthcoming novel is And the Land Lay Still (Hamish Hamilton, August 2010), which takes its title from an Edwin Morgan poem. He has also recently been appointed Writer-in-Residence for the Creative Writing course at Edinburgh Napier University.

About Rosemary Burnett

Rosemary Burnett, who made the English translations of Ak’abal’s poems in Drum of Stone, studied Spanish at university, and subsequently went on to become Scottish Programme Director of Amnesty International. She has lived and worked in Guatemala amongst the Mayan people.

Parallax by Helen Mort

May 21, 2010

Now available for a bargainous £2 is the second issue from Volume 2 of Forest Publications’ Chapbook Series: a collection of poems entitled, Parallax (For Justin) by Helen Mort.

A sample:
While You Weren’t Listening

I heard the glass
say to the tabletop:
I like the way you hold me.
I heard the table
answer back:
I like the way you feel.
The barstools
thanked the floor
for all the nights it propped them up
And though
I didn’t catch the floor’s reply
it sounded delicate
and I wondered
what the wind says to the trees outside
to make them swoon like that
and what it tells
the grass
to set it shivering,
or what it is
that’s spoken when you
press that bottle to your lips,
what passes there
between you
in that silent and repeated kiss
that seems to say
I’m here,
I’m listening.

Read more!

Product details

  • Title: Vol.2 Iss.2 ‘Parallax (For Justin)’
  • Author: Helen Mort
  • Pamphlet: 20 pages
  • Publisher: Forest Publications (18 April 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956338860
  • Amount: £2


Dear Old Dad Gets Good Press

May 20, 2010

I was happy to see my father’s retirement making the New Haven Register back home in Connecticut. Dad’s been working with kids in West Haven for over 35 years and has given me loads of encouragement and advice as I’ve been going to visit schools as Reader in Residence for the SPL. The fact that he’s worked in education for 36 years, to me, is an achievement in itself. That my father has been able to bring positivity and compassion to lives without much of either is exemplary. As part of my father’s final days as principal at Washington Elementary, he’s bringing a bus-load of kids to see Billy Elliot on Broadway. As he told me, a lot of these children have never left the city they were born in or gone to anything but a movie theatre.

I’ve enjoyed watching my dad at work over the years, have seen first-hand his care and concern for the students, teachers and staff he sees everyday. I hope his replacement loves his work as much as my father does. Which is all to say, I’m pretty proud of my dad and wish him the best in retirement.

If you are interested — the article can be found here.

Subscribe: SPL Poetry Podcast

May 19, 2010

A Special Podcast Plea

Hello dear friend and listener, thanks for downloading our podcasts, we’ve been working really hard to make them as good as can be and we appreciate your support. We’ve been getting feedback from all over the world, and I’m pretty proud of what we’ve been doing, especially our recent Southbank Podcast which was an experiment of sorts. Anyway, we’d love more people to know about what we’re doing so what we need from our friends  — if you haven’t already — please subscribe by clicking the I-Tunes link below or using the RSS. The more subscribers and ratings we get, the more we’ll move up the rankings and the more we’ll entice a broader listener-ship. So, please, subscribe. It is totally free. Also, if you want to really help us out — give us a rating. This will give us a little bump too and we’ll be able to spread the poetry word worldwide! Thank you. And now on to today’s podcast:

itunes pic

In an eclectic episode, we talk to exciting new poet William Letford, recent winner of the Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary, about memorising your work and the art of roofing. We also catch up with SPL podcast favourite Jim Carruth, who tells us about his 1959 jazz project. And we speak to My Kappa Roots and discuss poetry and music, as well as get the chance to listen to his track “Fleeting Like Etain”. Presented by Ryan van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser. Music by Ewen Maclean. Twitter: @byleaveswelive & @anonpoetry. Mail:

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Listen now…

The Golden Hour Goes South

May 18, 2010

Roll Up Roll Up — the literary cavalcade known as The Golden Hour is storming the South. We’re going to Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol, Brighton and London! Dates are below —  It is physical and mental. It is a reading. It is a gig. It is a party.

When?  20th – 25th May, 2010!


Readers / Writers:
Ryan Van Winkle – poems & stories from the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library.
Ericka Duffy – Southern (Ontario) Gothic fiction & Poetry.
Jason Morton – Shouts from the barroom floor.
Jane Flett – winner of the Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Award and seamstress of many fetching stories.

Music / Song Writers:
Hailey Beavis – an angelic voice, but devilish on six strings.
Jed Milroy – bouncin’ bluegrass from the banjo balladeer.
– weaves a shoegaze-crunk house hybrid as suited to cocooned winter days as to sweaty late-night adventuring.

PLUS a variety of SPECIAL GUESTS each night – no two shows alike!


20 May – The Rude Shipyard, 89 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield
8 – 11pm,  £3    [Facebook event link]

Matt Clegg – beautiful poems, wonderfully restrained.
Matt Black – serious, sharp, surreal, irritated and funny.
Pete David (of The Payroll Union) – The local hero shares some rustic country of his own making.

21 May – The Cube Cinema, 4 Princess Row, Bristol
8 – 11,  £3    [Facebook event link]

Rachael Boast
– poetry with the confident ease of a tall glass of iced-tea.
David Briggs
– idiosyncratic poems where clowns and teacups are lit at the edges with a gunsmoke-blue glow.  New book due out from SALT!
Jonny Berliner – joyus songs about crustaceans, exhaustion, and glucose.

22 May – Redroaster Coffee House, 1d St James Street, Brighton BN2 1RE
8 – 11pm,  £3   [Facebook event link]

Jonny Berliner – joyus songs about crustaceans, exhaustion, and glucose.
The Half Sisters
– Ukulele, flute and drums combined with three point harmonies create a lush and mesmerising chorus of catchy pop hooks and adorable honesty.
Possible special amazing comedic guest who we can’t quite pin down but will pop like a snake in can!

23 May – SECRET VENUE, London – Free —- Shhhh, Secret Special BBQ gig…
4pm – midnight, FREE!

The Itinerant Poetry Library – ‘Reaching the parts other Libraries have yet to reach!’ INDEED!
Paper Cinema & many surprise friends!!!

Contact us for the magic venue!!!
24 May – Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden, London
7 – 11pm, £5  [Facebook event link]

Mario Petrucci
– Imaginative, sophisticated and effortlessly masterful poet. AMAZING!
Kirsten Irving
– The editor of FuseLit brings poems of effortless and funky finery.
Sam Taradash
– stories from the hard shoulder.
The Itinerant Poetry Library – ‘Reaching the parts other Libraries have yet to reach!’
Jonny Berliner – joyus songs about crustaceans, exhaustion, and glucose.

25 May — Star and Shadow Cinema, Stepney Bank, Newcastle Upon Tyne
7.30 – 11pm,  £3   [Facebook event link]

Maybe Myrtle Tyrtle – local heroes bring their brand of bluesy country/folk hillbilly mix of utter eccentricity


We can’t wait to see you at the GOLDEN HOUR!

Forest Publications, bringing it to your backyard (or garden).

Golden Hour Tour in The Skinny

May 17, 2010

Back we are from our almighty Golden Hour Highlands Tour 2010.  It was great fun all around and here’s a little I wanted to share with those who couldn’t make it.  ESPECIALLY as we are gearing up for our England Tour in less than a week, so if you like what you see/hear/read, check us out down south (in England, I mean).

A tour podcast is forthcoming from Anon magazine’s Colin Fraser, but until then, here’s me reading ‘Darkness on the Edge of Toast‘, from our massive Findhorn gig.

Also, while we were up in Ullapool, a reviewer from HIARTS came to see us. You can read what she said about us here. I particularly liked this line:

“A vibrant band of eight writers and musicians … provide the cultural equivalent of riding bareback on a wild horse.”

And last but not least, an excerpt from Jason Morton’s day-by-day review of the tour, via The Skinny:


The morning of our drive to the Granite City, I couldn’t sleep. Restless and fitful, I woke up and wrote. Recapturing the essence of this experience I found quite difficult, and I hope to have conveyed it effectively, though I would have no gauge to measure it. Either way, it was a bittersweet experience, realizing this night would represent our final performance of the journey, and that soon I would be referring to it, as well, in hindsight, where triumphs and tragedies would both be glaringly apparent. I left writing for a while, and instead talked to our host, Jamie, over a cup of coffee, as the rest of the crew woke in time.

The Aberdeen gig would, again, differentiate itself greatly from our other stops. We had performed at the Blue Lamp the previous year, also as a final show, so it felt familiar, even though we’d only been there once before. During the afternoon, our merry band splintered across the city, each pairing striking out on its own.

Jed and Ryan, always our keepers – the ones who put in 1000 per cent to make sure things come off without a hitch – stayed at the venue to set up sound and speak with staff. Toby and Hailey worked on each others’ songs, hoping for an eventual collaboration. Ericka and Jane disappeared for lunch at a high street pub, and Billy and I went shopping for sunglasses, though the grey overcast made them unnecessary.

We arrived at the venue, slightly late, greeted by a crowd already assembled, already attentive, waiting for what we had to offer.

A recurring theme throughout the night was the sense of liberty we felt regarding the content of our readings and performances, which I feel was shared at least between myself and Jane. After scoring out large passages of my texts for each preceding gig, as well as each and every curse word, I read, at long last, an unedited excerpt from by chapbook, “Old & New.” Miss Flett finally had an opportunity to delve into seedier territory as well, reading a powerful piece about a woman trapped in a bizarre, and seemingly inescapable sexual relationship.

Also benefiting from the change in format was Billy Liar, who made full use of the amped up sound system. Blazing through his set, I was impressed by his rendition of “It Starts Here”, a song I must have heard over a hundred times before. However, whether it was the tuned-up volume or the emotions over ending our short sojourn, there seemed to be an additional vigour there, though when I complimented him on it he responded in the vein of “What are you talking about?”

This provided, as well, the first collaboration between Toby – who also guested with Billy and Hailey – and Ryan, where he laid down some smoky, Southwestern rock-style whittling under a poem about finding a murder victim in the depths of a river.

As an emcee and solo reader, Ryan excelled in Aberdeen, as he must have had an extra boost of energy – or glass of wine – pulling down the wool curtains over his own creative process. “This one’s called Falling No. 71,” he said at one point. “Now, no, I didn’t write 70 other poems about falling – but if I did, imagine how rubbish those other ones would be.”

Jed closed down the show, and though we all knew it was coming, the end felt sudden: Tomorrow, we would all wake up in separate places, for many our own beds, and not feel the pressure or joy of the night’s upcoming gig. It’s a blessing and a curse, both touring and home, but – if you’ll excuse a bit of sappiness – friendships were made, sights were seen, good times were had… and, if there’s a little sadness on the drive home, there’s always next time.”

Definitely click over to the full article for more lovely nuggets from the journey, plus gorgeous pictures c/o Ericka Duffy.

Thanks for all your support, friends!  See you again soon!

Edwin at 90 on the Podcast

May 15, 2010

Edwin Morgan

Scotland’s Poet Laureate, Edwin Morgan, turned 90 on Tuesday 27 April and we headed over to Glasgow’s Mitchell Library to celebrate his birthday with friends in the poetry world, as well as launch [email protected], a book of tributes from friends and poets and his latest collection of poems Dreams and Other Nightmares: New and Uncollected Poems 1954 – 2009 (Mariscat).

We include a few poems from this collection and chat to Alasdair Gray, Gerry Cambridge, Hamish Whyte, James McGonigal, Valerie Thornton, Gerda Stevenson, Aonghas MacNeacail, Donny O’Rourke, JL Williams, David Kinloch and Robyn Marsack.

Presented by Ryan van Winkle. Produced by Colin Fraser. Music by Ewen Maclean. Twitter: @byleaveswelive & @anonpoetry. Mail:

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Or subscribe without iTunes (RSS)

Listen now…

Or download as MP3.

First published 30 April, 2010

About Edwin Morgan

Edwin Morgan Born in 1920, and first published in the 1950s, Edwin Morgan has produced an extensive body of work. Endlessly curious and open-minded, he has experimented with the language of machines as well as translating from a variety of European languages. He is a poet who is willing to give a voice to everything around him, whether it is an apple, the Loch Ness Monster, a cancer cell or the source of the Big Bang.

About the Edwin Morgan Archive

Edwin Morgan Archive The Edwin Morgan Archive was collected over a period of thirty years by Hamish Whyte, Edwin Morgan’s friend, publisher and biographer.

The Archive represents the most significant and accessible collection of his work in print and other media, vividly illustrating the breadth and variety of his writing, his publishing career, and its context, decade by decade.

Handwritten corrections and notes made by Morgan in the published texts, give an illuminating insight into the mind of the poet.

Golden Hour – MAY LINE-UP!

May 14, 2010

The Golden Hour – May 19th, 2010


Forest Cafe, 3 Bristo Pl

Free! Free! Free! (byob)

Act I:

Chloe Morrish — releasing her new chapbook!

My Kappa Roots — tender and touching, but you are not allowed to touch him.

Act II:

TRIO VERSO: poetry & jazz-inflected soundscapes from Brian Johnstone, Richard Ingham & Louise Major

Act III:

Rapunzel Wizard – long haired poems ready to tangle!

Pockets – the uke bastard lights it up.


Lawrie Clapton – New Chapbook

May 13, 2010

Are you ready for this?!  VOLUME TWO is here!

Now available for a bargainous £2 is the first issue of Volume 2 in Forest Publications’ Chapbook Series: Lawrie Clapton leads the way with a short story entitled, The Ones You’ve Had, The Ones You Get & The Ones You Want.

An excerpt:

“There are plenty of great ways to introduce a story; you can start with a death, like Albert Camus, or you can start with rainfall, like Edgar Allen Poe, or a wedding, or an introduction, or an elaborate pratfall, drunk, down a set of stairs. Being original and being clever were never my strong suits – besides it should probably be with what you remember best that you start off a story. I remember the songs the best. This song is My Generation, by The Who, and the year is nineteen-sixty- something – probably sixty-five – and it’s December. I think it was, at least – it was cold. I remember sitting on the pavement in Piccadilly Circus watching Dez (Derrick to his mum) ride his scooter up and down the street, screeching to a halt in front of prams and bicycles and parents with their five-year-olds. There was a tape player down at my feet…” Read more!

Product details

  • Title: Vol.2 Iss.1 ‘The Ones You Have, The Ones You Get & The Ones You Want’
  • Author: Lawrie Clapton
  • Pamphlet: 12 pages
  • Publisher: Forest Publications (18 Mar 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956338853
  • Amount: £2


SPL by Night

May 11, 2010

This Friday, as part of the Museams by Night weekend extravaganza, the Scottish Poetry Library is staying open past dark for some late night fun.

It is all free and BYOB so come along!

Where: SPL By Night

When: Friday, 14 May — 8pm – 10.30pm. Drop in any time!


* Jed Milroy with poems songs, banjo and guitar

* Chandra getting the folk out.

* Frieght Tray electro accoustic riffs with soaring beautiful vocals. Singing the poems!

* Readings of Rude Poems — bring your own favorite! If it has a “naughty” word in it, we wanna hear it!

* Poetic Tours of the Library. (There May Be Ghosts!)