Northwords Now poetry reviews

Northwords Now is an excellent Scottish literary journal, produced and published in the north of the country. Edited by the poet and academic, Chris Powici, Northwords Now brings good quality writng to the whole of the country and beyond.

Chris asked me to review some new poetry books and pamphlets, and these are available on-line, along with the latest edition of the magazine. Read the reviews in Northwords Now 31, but more importantly, buy the books and pamphlets that grab you and dip into the wonderful creative minds there. They are a pleasure.

Northwords Now issue 31 coverThese short reviews cover the work of ten poets: Ron Butlin; Eileen Carney Hulme; Jackie Kay; Stuart A Paterson; Sheena Blackhall; Donald Adamson; William Bonar; Robin Lindsay Wilson; Anne Connolly and Tracey Herd.

It is impossible for me to pick out a favourite among these; the voices mingle, refelcting the diverse way that Scotland is. From the intense, packed pamphlets of Sheena Blackhall to the spare, powerful poems of Eileen Carney Hulme to the diversity of Ron Butlin, there is such a lot to be digesting.

The new Makar, Jackie Kay, features beautifully here, and hers is one of several publications that are designed and typeset by Gerry Cambridge. When you read poetry, it is, of course, all about the words. However, the words that he brings so skillfully to the page sit easier, and are therefore better on the eye.

Poetry book and pamphlet production is not only about the poet, but about the commitment of those who produce the work, and Gerry’s artistry adds to the feel and shape wonderfully. The publishers too, to bring such a lot of poetry to our tables: Red Squirrel (ten years on); Mariscat; Indigo Dreams; Cinammon, among others (not forgetting diehard, of course).

While you are in Northwords Now 31, take the time to read Richie McCaffery’s review of In Casting Off, a short novel by J O Morgan, also in the on-line section. Other delights await in the paper version.

Scotia Extremis: week ten

You’ve got to love the place whaur extremes meet: Scotia Extremis, now at week 10 of a year-long exploration of the edges of Scotland and Scottish poetry.

Week 10 is of the west, of the islands. The Balamorie of Sheenagh Pugh’s True Places is in the past, but very real in her extrapolation, despite Balamory being unreal on almost all its literal levels. Summerisle, by Hugh McMillan is almost super-real in its insight into this remote place and its resonances.

Callander Haiku

20160310_135036Sally Evans, poet and editor at diehard, has produced a great collection of haiku whose inspiration comes from Callander and the Callander Poetry Weekend that she and husband Ian run annually. Callander Haiku is tightly packed with work from a wide range of poets from all over Scotland and beyond.

I am very pleased to say that there is a small batch from Charlie Gracie. Katrina Shepherd, one of Scotland’s best and most prolific haiku poets, features among the 39 poets, as do Elizabeth Rimmer, Colin Will and Finola Scott.

Here is one of my poems that are included. Hens feature very strongly in the Callander Poetry Weekends.

clack clack of hens

breeze through the garden

a poet speaks

The form is played around with by some of the poets and this adds to the joy of this book. Sally has a knack for picking out ideas like this and making them happen. This is a lovely production and one that I will leaf through often.

Moniack Mhor writing weekend

Evening off!

I’m having a whale of a time here at Moniack Mhor with my friends in the G2 writers’ group.

It is a real joy to be in such a special place, with its hugely important place in supporting Scottish writing. I have been progressing my sequence Tales From The Dartry Mountains. Getting the chance, with other writers, to write and talk through ideas is great. Serious writing, serious eating, serious evenings of fun.

The view from my bedroom windae


Of course, procrastination is our constant friend: I do things like take lovely photos and write posts about Moniack Mhor for my website. Get back to work, Charlie!!


You can find out mmore about the work of Moniack Mhor by looking in their website. If you ahven’t had the chance to be here, you should. The whole place is geared to supporting our writing and the staff here are focussed on making it as useful as possible. Great place.

Opportunity with Creative Scotland: peer reviewers being sought

Creative Scotland is looking for writers and other artists to become peer reviewers for their funded projects.

It is part of their overall programme of evaluation of the work through their development of an Artistic and Creative Review Framework to create an open dialogue with our Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) around the artistic and creative quality of their work.

How does it work?

The Framework is designed to help Creative Scotland, the sector and stakeholders to support a culture of continuous improvement and to better understand how we consider quality and excellence across the wide range of work that we fund. We will do this through a process enabling 3 perspectives on the work of the 118 RFOs:

  1. Self Review (by the RFO)
  2. Creative Scotland Review (by Creative Scotland’s Lead Officer for the RFO)
  3. Peer Review (by independent, relevant expertise from the sector)

Interested? Go to their website for more information.

Football poems from Scotia Extremis in week 4

Scotia Extremis has another two poems this week,. These are not simply football poems, but evocations of life as we live it together, as a town or a nation, against others only in the sense that we are for ourselves.

This time, the poems are in celebration of two of Scotland’s greatest players: the artist that was Archie Gemmill and and the brilliant battler that was Billy Bremner. From two distinct poetic voices: Harry Smart and Graham Fulton. 

The poems are intense and hearfelt. More great stuff from Scotia Extremis.

More lovely poems from Scotia Extremis

Another pair of beauties this week in Scotia Extremis.

From two Makars, no less: Christine de Luca is Edinburgh’s and Elizabeth Rimmer, the Federation of Writers in Scotland’s.

Both poems are great, each a reminisce of distant and recent cultural icons: Celtic Connections and The White Heather Club. You’ve got to love the humourous way Christine and Elizabeth take it on: humour and pathos. Ideal.

Elizabeth, Charlie and Sally at Mugstock. July 2015.

To add to the moment, here is a photo from the inaugural Mugstock Festival last year: Elizabeth Rimmer, Charlie Gracie and Sally Evans after our poetry reading there.

Scotia Extremis: exploring the soul of Scotland

Check out Scotia Extremis, a new project from Andy Jackson and Brian Johnstone. This brings together poetry and poet’s voices from all over Scotland for 2016, with new work each week.

The first poems, from Ryan Van Winkle and Roseanne Watt are on the site now: beautiful words to kick off a great project.

I’m delighted to be playing a small part in, so look out for a poem from me over the next few months.

Here’s what Andy and Brian say on the Scotia Extremis site:

Scotia Extremis: Poems & Poets

This poetry project explores the soul of Scotland through an examination of extremes. Each week we will publish a brace of poems on a particular Scottish theme – people (past and present), places (real and imagined), culture (high and low) and customs (ancient and modern).

The project will last one year, from Burns Night 2016 to Burns Night 2017. Those invited to participate are either poets from Scotland (though not necessarily living there) or poets resident in Scotland (though not necessarily Scottish).

Writers have been invited to contribute poems inspired by themes drawn up by the editors Andy Jackson (an Englishman based in Scotland for over twenty years) and Brian Johnstone (a native Scot, long resident in the country), and while the list of themes reflects the interests and obsessions of the editors, it is hoped that it also picks out some of the most telling strands of the nation’s DNA.