Last year, in my other job, poetry editor at Vagabond Voices, I was involved in the publication of Vicki Husband’s debut collection, This Far Back Everything Shimmers, which features a short poem about attending a poetry reading called ‘The reading’.
It is not about poetry or poets, as you might imagine, but staring at the back of someone’s balding head during a reading. Many people who have attended poetry readings will no doubt sympathise. One must constantly fight the tendency when at readings to think about what to have for dinner or whatever happened to so-and-so.
This of course is not something that ever happens at a reading staged by my employer, the Scottish Poetry Library. And would you believe it, just this very week, we are launching our spring programme of events, a season that extends into July when the winner of 2015’s Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year, Ryan Van Winkle stages an alfresco reading at Edinburgh’s Jupiter Artland. The last time I saw Ryan was at a gathering at his home on the cold November night Donald Trump won the Presidency of the US; I baled out when people started screaming. If you can’t get a good poem out of a night like that, though, then when can you?
Talking of the Trump era, we kick the season off with a trio of Russian poets – Grigory Kruzhkov, Lev Oborin and Marina Boroditskaya – who are visiting Scotland for a series of dates, starting on Tuesday, 14 March, at Edinburgh University, alongside T.S. Eliot Prize-winner Jen Hadfield, Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca, and the very promising Stewart Sanderson. The reading is an excellent opportunity to step away from the headlines about hacking and doping and remind ourselves that Russia is not merely the land of Putin; it is also the land of Pushkin, Lermontov and Pasternak.
Closer to home, on Friday 24 March, we welcome Iain Sinclair and Brian Catling to the SPL. If you’re as big a fan of Sinclair as I am, you will have been waiting in vain for years for him to make an appearance in Scotland. He hasn’t made one, I think, for five years, not being a great fan of the festival circuit. It’s fascinating to me that he shall be appearing alongside Catling. Long-term Sinclair readers will recall Catling as a recurring character in Sinclair’s non-fiction work. Two years ago he broke out of Sinclair’s oeuvre when he published to great acclaim his fantasy novel The Vohrr, the back cover of which contains favourable quotes from most of the people I like: Tom Waits, Alan Moore, Terry Gilliam and Sinclair himself.
There’s a bunch of other events I’d urge you to find for yourself, but I’ll conclude with a plea for you to drop by the SPL on Thursday 23 March, when William Letford will be reading from his second collection, Dirt. Letford is a charismatic performer whose readings are distinguished by the fact he reads his work from memory. Without a book or sheet of A4 curtaining the peering poet from his crowd, he fosters a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Should you come, I swear you won’t spend the time thinking about what to have for dinner.
For more details about the SPL’s spring events, visit the SPL’s website: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/connect/blog/eventful-spring