Friday, 28 February 2014

Poetry loops at StAnza

As mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, poems from Tasting Notes will be present at StAnza with Poem in a Bottle. At the same time, the film version of Tasting Notes has also been included in Poetry Loops. Extra background information about the short poetry films that are to be shown is now up at the StAnza blog here. Apart from my work, there will be excellent pieces from the likes of Alastair Cook, Edward O'Donnelly and Alessandro Tedde.

Poetry Loops will be showing in the Conference Room at the Byre Theatre from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Thursday 6th March to Sunday 9th March. It's all free and no ticket is required, so you can just drop in and watch a film or two whenever you like, recharging your batteries for the StAnza experience!.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

From pamphlet to full collection

There are many pitfalls involved in the transition from a pamphlet to a full collection, haste being prime among them. I discuss these dangers and their implications in an article that's just been published over at Sphinx. You can read it in full here.

Friday, 14 February 2014


So I pour somebody a glass, wait as they taste and then ask them what they think. At this point, the trouble starts. People feel awkward and embarrassed. They wish they'd never got roped in to coming along to the flash wine tasting and inwardly swear never to return. Replies are immediately qualified, as in "Well, of course, I don't know anything about wine, but... "

As a consequence of the above, I'm forever explaining that the important thing (the fun thing, in fact) is the exploration as you work out what you like and what you don't, the journey towards changing tastes as your knowledge grows thanks to those around you. I also tend to hold a deep-seated grudge against the many sommeliers and wine experts who play on people's insecurities and lack of experience to cultivate a snobbish sense of superiority.

We could easily replace that glass of wine with a poem, that sommelier with a swanky poet, and the snobbishness would still remain. By this, I don't mean I'm an advocate of superficiality. Instead, I'm convinced that we have to encourage the development of taste and knowledge rather than relishing a false sense of belonging to an elite just because we've  been lucky enough to have the chance to acquire the veneer of literary or vinous experience.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The journeys of secondhand books

I've written about the lives of secondhand books on several occasions on Rogue Strands. They never cease to bring surprises.

The latest case was a beat-up Penguin copy of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. I purchased it at St Wilfred's Hospice Shop in Chichester and brought it back out to Spain. On opening the book last week, I noticed a sheet of glossy paper slipping out and falling to the floor: it was an advert for a bullfight in Mijas back in the 1980s.

How many hands have held this book? How many lives has it touched? How many journeys has it made? Will it ever make another one...?

Monday, 3 February 2014

Poem in a Bottle at StAnza

StAnza, Scotland's international poetry festival, will be taking place in St Andrews from 5th to 9th March. I'm delighted to report that my work will be present at the festival in two ways.

Firstly, there's Poem in a Bottle - Poet and winemaker Matthew Stewart's poems uncorked, whereby individual poems from Tasting Notes will be available for the taking throughout the festival, straight from otherwise empty wine bottles, in various locations around The Byre Theatre.

Secondly, the film version of Tasting Notes will also be showing as part of Poetry Loops in the Conference Room at The Byre Theatre, along with other short poetry films.

Why not have a look at the full programme here? StAnza 2014 promises to be a terrific poetry festival!