Pefkin’s new album Murmurations includes Charlie Gracie poem

Murmurations is Pefkin’s new vinyl album on the Belgian-based Morc Records. Excellent, stuff, with long, ranging pieces that take you one minute to dreaming, the next to intensity. Pefkin is Gayle Brogan’s solo musical persona.

Among the pieces on the album is Jackdaws, based on a poem of mine. Gayle picked up on it when she played one of the HillGigs house concerts in Thornhill in 2016 as part of the brilliant duo Electroscope (with John Cavanagh). I was at the recent concert in Glasgow’s Glad Cafe to hear the last gig on Pefkin’s tour with Bell Lungs and Chris Cundy.

As well as Murmurations, Gayle has many CD’s that can be found on Pefkin’s Bandcamp site. You should also check out Morc Records for more of Gayle and other amazing electronic and experimental musicians.

Here’s what WIM from MorC Records say about Pefkin.

“Gayle Brogan has been a key figure in the experimental music scene since the mid nineties. She first gained recognition as one half of the remarkable duo Electroscope, mixing psychedelic pop, lofi, drones and folk. And as the woman behind Boa Melody Bar, she became a well known distributor of underground music as well, and so got exposed to more great music than most of us will ever be.

When Electroscope went on hiatus in 2000, Gayle picked up the name Pefkin, and continued on the same path, though the music shifted a bit more towards freeform folk and longer dronepieces. This resulted in a string of well-received releases on prestigious labels like Pseudoarcana, Foxglove, Ruralfaune, and in 2014 in a first LP on morc (now sold out).

​The past couple of years, Electroscope has become more active again as well, exploring new sounds, and as one half of the duo Barret’s Dottled Beauty, in which she performs alongside Kitchen Cynics’s Alan Davidson, all while keeping her work as Pefkin top level.”

New Charlie Gracie poem in Scotia Extremis Week 54

Scotia Extremis has been an excellent project run by Brian Johnstone and Andy Jackson. I’m delighted that my poem Ye dancing? features this week. The theme: Francie & Josie and The Proclaimers. What divergence, but also such resonance with both pairs laid deep in Scottish hearts.

The Proclaimers poem is Men, a belter of a piece by Theresa Muñoz.

Why not sign up to Scotia Extremis and get the chance to read poetry from all over Scotland, illustrating the depth and breadth of our country and our poets?



Scotia Extremis with a big nod to Scottish singers Emeli Sandé and Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle – against the odds

Yet again Scotia Extremis hits the mark with work by Scottish poets about Scottish singers.

Susan Magdalene is an aching poem by Valerie Thornton about Susan Boyle and wider issues of bullying. Real tenderness with a big bloody dash of anger: I wish that I could sing / like you, into the heart / of every wounded child.

Similarly, Janet Paisley delves beautifully into the essence of Emeli Sandé in Voice: There are rhythms in rain, of storms, / grace in green notes, a flowering. 

Both these poems continue the journey of Scotia Extremis across the great divides of Scotland. They move towards a deeper understanding of all of us with our differences and our intricacies. Excellent stuff. More to come.

Jackdaws shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Competition 2016

I didn’t win, but my wee poem Jackdaws was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Competition 2016.

pefkinI am also pleased to say that Gayle Brogan, as Pefkin, will use the poem as the basis for a piece on her new album, due out in 2017. Check Pefkin out for really beautiful music, such as in the 2015 album Liminal Rites.

Good poems take on a life of their own. Jackdaws is part of a broader, developing piece of work called Tales From The Dartry Mountains. In this I am exploring the people, culture, politics and geography of the area in the west of Ireland that my mother came from.

The Bridport Poetry Competition was won by Edinburgh-based poet Mark Pajak with Spitting Distance, described by the judge, Patience Agbabi, as having an ‘understated authority of voice’. Well done!

To Live With What You Are – Charlie Gracie’s debut novel

To Live With What You Are will become the first Charlie Gracie novel to be published, following up on my poetry collection Good Morning. The publisher is Northumberland based Postbox Press, run by Sheila Wakefield, an imprint of Red Squirrel Press.

Sheila is renowned as a publisher of poetry and has a growing list of fiction. To Live With What You Are will be the first novel by a Scottish author from Postbox. I had the pleasure of going down to Newcastle last week for the launch of Postbox’s latest publication, Ren and the Bluehands by the wonderful Ellen Phethean.

Two sections of the novel appeared (a long time ago now) as short stories in consecutive editions of the annual New Writing Scotland anthology from Glasgow University’s Association of Scottish Literary Studies.

Publication will be in 2018. It seems like a long way away from here, but there is a good deal of work to be done, as well as other Postbox Press books in line. I’ll keep you up to date with progress.

Review of Good Morning by Des Dillon

I was very pleased to have Good Morning reviewed by one of Scotland’s best writers, Des Dillon.

Charlie Gracie’s collection Good Morning is saturated with poems about landscape. Mostly wet rainy, moss-laden Scottish landscapes and so evocative are they that they reminded me of Graham Swift’s Waterland which is set in the Fens. But these poems do for Scottish wetlands what Waterland did for the Fens. I doubt Good Morning will make the money that novel did but it conjures up the smell, feel and chill of the landscape just as well. There are other poems not set in landscape but even those don’t escape Gracie’s obsession with water, squelch and rain and so the reader leaves the collection with the sensation of having been on a deeply melancholy but somehow redemptive journey.

If you haven’t read Des’s work, I’d recommend you do.

‘Jackdaws’ shortlisted for Fish Poetry Prize

‘Jackdaws’ shortlisted for Fish Poetry Prize

My poem ‘Jackdaws’ is part of a larger sequence I am writing based around the Dartry Mountains in Ireland. The poem was shortlised for the Fish Poetry Prize 2016, run by Fish Publishing who operate from Bantry in Cork. Well done to the winners.

back of Arroo
Arroo Mountain, inspiration for Jackdaws

The Dartry Mountains includes Benbulben in Sligo (Yeats’s mountain) and travel north to Arroo, overlooking Lough Melvin, a lough that is part in the Republic and part in the UK. It is an area full of natural beauty, geological wonder, political and social history and, for me, family history, with my mother being born in Glenade.

I’m off to Ireland again this month to spend more time among the hills and to write, write, write. I’ll do what Liz Lochhead suggests: tie myself to a chair and tie the chair to the desk. There might be time for a night or two out in Bundoran for a pint or two of the black stuff in Brennan’s Bar or a bite to eat at Madden’s Bridge Bar. That and a hallo to my family there.

So, with all that, my Irish poems will be more and more formed. Perhaps I’ll have others for the Fish Poetry Prize next year.

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.