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.

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.