Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas Everyone

The alchemy of myth-
the stars and angels, the earth's
return to light, green ivy,
the quickening sap in the tree's
deep heart, the cattle
kneeling in frosty fields,
the robin's song at midnight -
all refined to the bare particular
fact of a birth -
that night, that inn, that boy.

Peace and happiness to everyone who is celebrating the winter feasts.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

death of a bookshop

I was in Glasgow yesterday, and couldn't resist going into Borders for the last time. I got two poetry books I'd wanted for ages for half price, and I guess Eavan Boland and Gillian Clarke will get the good of it no matter what the circumstances, but boy, it was sad.

The top floor was closed off altogether now so much stock has been sold, and all the rest is huddled onto shelves with temporary labels, and the gaps are appearing and closing up again as books go and are not replaced.

One of my children was working at the Sweater Shop when it went into administration, and although it wasn't her career, just a student job, the experience was traumatic. As other shops closed down the leftovers were sent to hers, and people would rush in looking for bargains. Then the shelves would empty again and a few more staff would be let go. I got the same feeling yesterday. All the staff working their socks off, and knowing that every day brings you a little nearer the edge. God bless them, I hope they all find good jobs to got to, and soon.

But I also hope that whoever takes on the building will try to do something else significant with it. Borders was more than a bookshop. It was a bookshop that tried, as Waterstones used to, to present the range of what was available, to encourage diversity and experiment, to recognise that books were a bit more than a commodity, and reading was more than something to fill the time in airports. Not bad for a big corporate chain.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Scottish Pamphlet Poetry

Last night Scottish Pamphlet Poetry organised a pamphlet fair, to which I was invited by Mary Thomson, who produces the most beautiful small books of illustrated poems - she doesn't have a web-site, so I can't post a link.

I was feeling fairly discouraged when I arrived. The night was wet and cold, the library appeared to be locked, and I'd just had the worst chicken Caesar salad I have ever seen in my life. However, there were signs helpfully directing us to a door that was open, and after that things looked up dramatically.

Inside there were tables where people were selling their pamphlets. It's unbelievable how much good poetry you can get for a couple of quid, and some publishers - perhaps it would be unfair to single out Perjink Press, but they're the ones I remember - go out of their way to make the pamphlets look and feel really lovely to handle and read. I didn't buy nearly enough, and not half as much as the sellers would have liked, I bet, but I have more than exceeded my poetry budget this year (again) so it will have to do. Nobody any good is allowed to bring out a book until the start of the next financial year!

I met a great many friends, largely, but not confined to, people I knew from Callander. Poetry is such a solitary occupation that is is more than usually cheering to meet up with other poets, and it was nice to have it assumed I would have something to sell! There were readings, limited with ferocious military precision, to two minutes, which meant they could fit thirty-six readings into three hours (with intervals). And if you incurred the penalty, you got a bag of chocolate coins, which must have sweetened the blow more than somewhat.

In the intervals there was wine, (or orange juice)and home-made mince pies, and the bran tub, where for a pound I got AC Clark's The Gallery on the Left, full of excellent poems about Vermeer and Cezanne. And music. I wish I could remember the names of the musicians because they played wonderful traditional music.

I had to leave early, because trains to Stirling run only once an hour after seven, and I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the station. But I left full of admiration not only for the poets, but for the organisation which could bring together so many talented people to put on such an event.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

More of the same, more of the same

Still busy with family. I went to see my mother in Liverpool, also catching up with my sister and two of my brothers. Good fun, and I slept so much while travelling I feel like a new person. It doesn't mean there is much writing going on, however. I have been Christmassed - you know the stage where every brain cell you have left is full of presents and who is going to be home and what will they eat and defrosting the freezer.
Also every time I turn around there seems to be something lovely that my grand-daughter would really like.

Nevertheless. Two poems last week, one of them even finished. And the news about next year's festivals is coming out - StAnza looks fabulous already. Usually it sneaks up on me and I find myself saying "Oh, if only I'd known last week---" Next year it will be different!
Here is the link