by Colin Waters

Crichton’s Close

August 29, 2016 | by Colin Waters

A Scottish Poetry Library blog

With the sort of timing wags might describe as ‘exquisite’, the Scottish Poetry Library was completing an autumn programme of events with a European theme on the very morning after the UK decided to leave the EU. As the member of staff whose job it is to promote such events, I can only hope I make a better fist of selling tickets than Stronger In sold the case for Bremain.

At the start of the year, the SPL joined sixteen European literary festivals and institutions based across Europe (including the Berlin Poetry festival, the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival and the Oslo International Poetry Festival) to form Literary Europe Live (LEuL). Its aim? To encourage the programming of events that reflect contemporary European writing; to encourage translations; and to support new writers. Our commitment to LEuL means that this autumn visitors to the SPL can enjoy performances by the Hungarian poet and children’s writer Árpád Kollár, the Galician critic, translator and poet Yolanda Castaño, and the Polish poet Wojciech Bonowicz.

Bringing in audiences for poetry readings is tough enough at the best of times, even with ‘name’ poets attached (and there are only a handful of those in the entire UK). When your poets’ names are unambiguously non-Anglo-Saxon, even Don Draper would struggle. I blame Nigel Farage for my marketing woes, although I suppose I should be grateful there’s no equivalent figure in the literary world; no bookish Little Englander complaining about Polish poets undercutting English poets or terza rima, villanelles and other foreign forms swamping our sceptred isle’s native rhyme schemes.

If nationalism has scrambled my chances of selling tickets to our autumn events, perhaps an enterprising Communications Manager can use it to make things right again. One wonders, for example, the extent to which fellow Scots voted to stay in the EU because they were pro-Brussels as opposed to wishing to distinguish themselves from our English friends and neighbours. If that was the case – and who can say? – mightn’t I sell the season on the basis of offering Scots a further opportunity to let the continent know what tolerant and culturally curious Europeans we are.

If that fails, then I plan to turn instead to the Brexit camp for inspiration. Many criticisms could be made of how Johnson, Gove and co came to successfully sell leaving the EU. I prefer to learn from their campaign, however. Which is why I’m pleased to announce that Jennifer Lawrence will be introducing Yolanda Castaño in the nude while the SPL will be donating a million quid to the NHS for every ticket sold to see Wojciech Bonowicz.

You can browse the Scottish Poetry Library’s autumn events brochure here:

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