Monday, 23 February 2015

Knitting with dog hair

See it does exist! This is p&g editor Bridget Khursheed in geek mode speaking at the TCUK conference in Brighton.

Photo by Helen Harbord

Bridget assures us dog hair knitting features in one of her prize-winning poems.

You can find out more here and you can buy the book here

Voice workshop

Now I am back performing a bit more often - I have been benefitting from some voice coaching in various settings. But I thought I would take this a bit further and actually work on my singing voice too. So I have joined a traditional song workshop with Scott Murray the folk singer.

This is great for a number of reasons.

  1. First I love singing. I like singing all the parts from tenor - and I do mean tenor - up to soprano - when did that happen? I never used to be able to sing high but now everyone around me has got lower in voice apparently!
  2. Secondly we are allowed to improvise. Like in a folk club, the singers I am working with join in and harmonise as soon as they get the tune - often after the first few bars. So I am developing harmonies too - I found myself adding parts to the power ballads CD I had in the car. A first. The Scorpions never sounded so good!
  3. Thirdly we stand in a circle and eventually we are doing a concert. So, Eye contact. Body Language. Standing up straight. All valuable.
  4. But finally and best of all the songs are fab, rude and sad, pretty and intricate and powerful, and very often in wonderful rich Scots.

O Willie brew'd a peck o' maut,
And Rob and Allen cam to see;
Three blyther hearts, that lee-lang night,
Ye wadna found in Christendie.

We are na fou, we're nae that fou,
But just a drappie in our ee;
The cock may craw, the day may daw
And aye we'll taste the barley bree.

(extract from Robert Burns Willie brew'd a peck o' maut)

More about some of the songs we are singing here and about Scott Murray here and Robbie Coltrane reads Burns' poem here

Sunday, 15 February 2015 Issue 9 - the myth issue - is out now

Helen Shay considers Orpheus on the underground. Steve Komarnyckyj ponders the saints and the seabirds in liminal Edinburgh and beyond. Rob Yates translates. Josie Tutty dips a toe in the Styx, while Ed Waverley discovers Atlantis.

And John D Robinson sneaks in the closest thing to prose to ever feature in p&g.

We invite you to cross over to the other side...

New work from Steve Komarnyckyj, Judith Taylor, Lou Siday, Josie Tutty, Nick Monks, John D Robinson, Helen Shay, Robert Ferns, Phil Wood, Rob Yates, Kat Soini, Laura Carter, Dave Migman, Ed Waverley and Ashby McGowan.

Read the full issue here

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Big mouth strikes again

The Scottish Book Trust New Writer Awards showcase at The Jam House was great. Nice atmosphere. Endless delectable poetry. And prose. And people. Cool lights & DJ....

Here is p&g editor Bridget Khursheed in full flow. She doesn't like this photo for some reason!

More photos and stuff here

After Norman MacCaig

This is a poem that is playful and terrifying in equal measures.

The deceptive 4 line stanzas with their loose, assonant and ultimately absent abab rhyming scheme provide an initial sense of calm underpinned with something not quite right. The images in the first stanza hint at Thomas Hardy but next quickly swing into a hallucinogenic world of milking sunsets and fiery dew.

Stanza four for me is where the poem becomes truly disturbing - the entrapment of "distance" and its captivity for our pleasure sets a scene of power and oppressive control that is almost Blakean but with no sympathy for the underdog.

And then the killer blow: what is it we are missing who live like this? Find out in the last stanza.

Refer back to title.

Pow. A hit, a very palpable hit.


Let’s choose a pretty word, say, evening,
And climb through it into the past,
or stand on a towering If, surveying
The rosy kingdoms we have lost.

From every corner creep a thousand
Boredoms saying, Greet us.  We’re life.
Let’s round the sunset up and milk it
Into a jug and drink it off.

Or in the hawthorn let us tangle
Our dreary look like gossamer
To shudder with that sparrow’s chirping
And when the dew falls be on fire.

Or drag the distance home and chain it
There in the corner of the room
To charm us with its savage howling
And beg for fragments of our dream.

There’s a clue somewhere.  Can you find it?
Can you say it over and over again
‘Love’, till its incantation makes us
Forget how much we are alone?

Norman MacCaig