Archive | November, 2010

A broken conversation

27 Nov

Earlier this year I organised a blogging experiment, brining together fourteen poetry bloggers.  Everyone was given a theme to respond to, and each linked to all the others – making, in essence, a digital magazine.  Today, the experiment continues.  This time with six English language and six Spanish language poetry bloggers.  Any dialect of either language is permitted and no one has been obliged to accompany their blog with a translation.  This could not have been possible without the hard work of Marta, who has organised the Spanish side for me, and of course, all my bloggers.  The theme for this experiment is Broken Conversation.  I hope you enjoy reading their work, I will.

Broken Conversation

When I still lived in dreams

I glimpsed it, like the tail

of the salmon as it re-enters

the falls.


Sitting in Calvanist pews

I sang psalms with

those for whom English

was a second tongue.

Old men who spent their

dreaming days in black houses,

who knew the meaning of

the names of mountains.


By the blackboard and off curriculum

we were told stories of Cuchulain,

Finn McCool, the history of the Gael.


They showed me photos of French beaches

smudged with uniforms.

Told how Norwegian sailors showed

them how to stand, feet firm, in a storm.

And looking down, with soft voices,

how Agnes lost her arm falling

asleep in a field at harvest.


In the same country

with this cities clangorous sound

I can not find if their lullaby tones,

and kindness born from weary life,

still exists.


The other lovely bloggers taking part

Roger Santiváñez Cisco Bellavista Jesús Ge Ana Pérez Cañamares Felipe Zapico Martaerre (Marta R. Sobrecueva) JoAnne McKay Rachel Fox Russell Jones Alastair Cook Scottish Poetry Library


Government confirms successor to Edwin Morgan being “finalised”

26 Nov

The two parliamentary written questions that I highlighted in my last post, regarding the appointment of a new Scots Makar, and the terms of the appointment have been answered by Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs.

Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will appoint a new Scots Makar.

Fiona Hyslop: Arrangements to appoint a successor to Edwin Morgan are currently being finalised. I refer the member to the answer to question S3W-37491 on 24 November 2010. All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament’s website, the search facility for which can be found at

Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether there will be changes to the appointment of the Scots Makar.

Fiona Hyslop: Discussions are ongoing to agree a new process for appointing the next Scots Makar. An announcement will be made once the process has been finalised.

Appointment of a new Scots Makar questioned

13 Nov

It may be of interest for readers to know that MSP Pauline McNeil, Labour member for Glasgow Kelvin, has lodged two written question in The Scottish Parliament about the appointment of a new Scots Makar.

S3W-37490 Pauline McNeill: To ask the Scottish Executive when it will appoint a new Scots Makar.

S3W-37491 Pauline McNeill: To ask the Scottish Executive whether there will be changes to the appointment of the Scots Makar.

This questions may have been prompted by the Literature Forum Scotland, who wrote to the Scottish Government as reported in The Herald, asking them to change the term of the post and in this article Robyn Marsack, Director of The Scottish Poetry Library suggests that some consideration should also be given to the role and purpose of the Makar as well.

According to the Standing Orders of our parliament written questions, such as these, need to be answered within ten working days (unless given a holding answer).  I shall endeavor to let you know the answers when they are made publicly available.

Poetry is not difficult, just not interesting to you

9 Nov

On this blog I used to regularly review films about poets, or with a poetry content to them.  This stopped, mainly because I canceled my LoveFilm subscription.  However, a new season of films at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, in conjunction with the Scottish Poetry Library called Poetry in Motion has been keeping me feeling satisfied this month.

Last night I watched Bright Star.  Bright Star follows Fanny Brawne, the finance of John Keats, as she meets him and they fall in love, ending with Keats death at the age of 25.  The film is excellently directed by Jane Campion who brings a great amount of elegance and grace to the film.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

However one of the things that struck me was Fannies’ early admission to Keats that she found poetry difficult.  The idea that poetry is difficult is always cast as a very modern one.  We are told that poetry is difficult because people now receive information in different ways, poetry is difficult because it is not taught well, poetry is difficult because contemporary poets write abstrusly.  However I have come to believe none of these.  I think they are all an excuse.

On the list of “why (modern) poetry is difficult” no one appears to be able to actually pinpoint the difficulty as coming from within themselves, rather education, poets and modern technology are blamed.  I find maths quite difficult, yes, I had maths teachers who scared me stiff, yes, I am dyslexic.  At the end of the day though one of the reasons why maths is difficult for me is that I have not applied myself to it.  I do not spend my evenings reading mathematics books, I don’t blog about maths, I don’t watch films about maths and I don’t go to maths classes, or spend my time seeking out other people to talk about maths with.  If I genuinely wanted to improve my mathematical ability, I could, it would never be at a Nobel Prize level, but it could be much better than it is.

Therefore I posit that when people say poetry is difficult, what they are actually saying, is I’ve never found a poet or poem that has interested me enough to find out more.  And that, is not necessarily poetry’s fault.  So perhaps it might be worth poetry’s while to leave behind its navel gazing and hand wringing about its popularity, and just get on with writing some excellent work.

Published and er, well..?

4 Nov

Today I had the happiness to come home to an email from Crafty Green Poet, Juliet Wilson, letting me know that one of my new poems Talking About It has been published on her blog Bolts of Silk.  Juliet uses Bolts to publish poets whose work she enjoys, and contains a large selection from all over the world.

The pleasant and relatively simple experience I had in submitting to Bolts is a vast contrast with another I had recently.  I submitted to an anthology which is going to be published in aid of a well-known charity.  Shortly after submitting I received an email from the editor who called my poem “very poignant” explaining that it would be included and asking me to write a dedication to my husband and also how I wished my name and copyright to appear.  I found it a bit odd to be asked to write a dedication to my husband, after all he  had cancer, it isn’t like he died from it, and I also found it odd to be asked about copyright, as no other editor I had worked with ever had.  However I submitted the dedication which was pronounced “perfect” and was told I would be given more details on publishers etc. in October.

Fast forward to October and I receive a short pro forma impersonal email telling me that I was not being included and that they hoped I would still buy a copy of the book.  I was taken very much by surprise.  If after such gushing acceptance emails and discussion of small inclusion details I would have expected, if in retrospect they decided not to include me, at the very least a personal email explaining and detailing their decision.

I emailed back, politely explaining my confusion and asking for an explanation. I have so far received no reply, I don’t expect one.