video – Iain Morrison reading at The Other Room, Manchester

Got the video through from the reading I gave in July 2016 at a reading series I’ve long been an admirer of, The Other Room in Manchester.

I read a poem riffing on Star Trek, one that uses karaoke tracks from sad dance music, and Sunny Sutra, my beatnik poem for Orkney solstice times.

The night was a real pleasure for me, catching up with Manchester friends and poets. Kimberly Campanello and Geraldine Monk were on the line-up with me, two poets I’ve been interested in for a while, and I recommend checking out their readings too on The Other Room’s Channel.

Thanks for having me Manchester, and for the excellent documentation too.

Queer in the Landscape: Andrew Black at Embassy Gallery

Edinburgh Art Festival is running at the moment, concurrently with all the other August festivals in town. I got to the Embassy Gallery today, to see Our Andrew of the Flowers – a solo presentation by Andrew Black, a Glasgow-based artist.

Andy 1

Andy is a friend and I’d been looking forward to this for a while. I knew I was interested in the themes of ‘queerness, gayness, maleness’ that he was thinking and working around, but even so I was swept away by how much in the show there was that I connected with. The piece I spent longest with was ‘A man struggling with a huge faggot of wands’ which combined film footage of Scottish remote coastal landscape with superimposed transcript (rolling film-creditwise) of diary-like pieces in different voices that told a story of a trip made by a group of queers around the Highlands at the time of the Brexit vote.


This piece was the first art I’ve seen that deals explicitly with Brexit, so I guess that being dealt with was an unexpected bonus, in addition to the queer themes I was looking forward to seeing explored, and it all resonated hugely with me because I had been travelling around the same part of Scotland at exactly the same time with some friends, and was able to map and think about and compare my experience with that recorded in the work. I remember waking up in a hostel in Ullapool to find out the news, and the same feelings of wondering who around me had voted what, being angry at perceived ignorance, seeing the EU-funded signs on many rural infrastructure projects….. In the narrative Andy put together, the protagonists wake in a tent that day, and there is talk about their physical sensations on processing the news, passing through Fort William, thinking about communities they’re linked to or with elsewhere and how it all adds up to how visible these elements of their identities might be to those sharing the same landscape.


The question foremost in the piece, of how the queer can exist outside of the urban context is one I’ve thought about a fair bit, and in my experience, many remote livers are happy to see you! The way the outdoors industry markets itself though, can be pretty excluding, with straight stereotypes and expectations abounding in brochures and b&b’s. And even where situations turn out to be receptive, there are many moments of wondering how one is being perceived. One of the diary sections in the piece records a feeling at a Glen Brittle campsite of the circus having come to town.


I’d loved seeing Andy’s Instagram pictures of his time on Skye, of him and his partner and friends swimming naked at the Fairy Pools, as I’d done with my friend Viki a couple of years before. In my parallel trvelling at the time of Brexit news, I’d just come down from participating and reading at a community festival in Orkney, and was still thankfully buoyed by the knowledge that queer-friendly communities can set up and connect in the remotest of places. I feel encouraged too by Andy’s work to keep getting out there and living as I need and desire to. As one of the voices recorded said, ‘the sea is for me too’.

note the sea crashing, and the woodchip on the wall

note the sea crashing, and the woodchip on the wall

Andrew Black’s ‘Our Andrew of the Flowers’ is on at Embassy Gallery until 28 August 2016. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday 12–6pm. Go!


JL Williams on representation of women in recent poetry events/publishing

Ace blog entry here on the Scottish Poetry Library’s site from Jennifer Williams, their programme manager and all-out poet hero imho.

Jennifer covers the recent StAnza festival in St Andrews (which I was sad not to make it up to this year, though grateful for this and for Dave Coates’ reports back), and talks about recent publishing of and aimed at women. I share with her the desire to get on and read Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.

Check out JL’s last book, Locust and Marlin, reviewed also by Greg Thomas in Hix Eros not so long ago. I love the below picture of her performing at Cooper Gallery in Dundee recently.


documentation from Another Athens exhibition, Interview Room 11

Now that Interview Room 11 is no longer in its gloriously brutal concrete former location at Argyle House in Edinburgh’s West Port, it’s nice to look back and see documentation of what was achieved during its stay.

One of the exhibitions I was invited to be part of, in this case by Nicky Melville, was the 2014 Another Athens exhibition. This film on Vimeo from Suzanne van der Lingen interviews its curators: Nicky Melville, Mirja Koponen and Gerry Smith, and shows visual material from the exhibition.

The ambitious project was pretty global in its reach and included a one day symposium. There was an official pairing with the SNEHTA art space in Athens.


My involvement was to provide text pieces, two in collaboration with Colin Herd, two on my own, for display in the space. We were asked to provide an original piece and to respond to a text from one of the Athens writers who were paired with us on the project. The texts were displayed beautifully with pins on two opposite gallery walls. They were unidentified by author, so it was left to the view to play with attributions to Athens or to Edinburgh authors, and they were a variety of sizes, so looked great.

The request for our original pieces was framed in the set of instructions below:

Edinburgh is The Athens of the North. This project will show Another Athens, a composite city constructed from depictions of both Athens and Edinburgh. The composite city will be based upon the memories and personal experiences of its inhabitants.

You should write about an event or situation which says something about your own “Athens”.

The text should fit on one side of A4 paper.

The city should be referred to as Another Athens.

Aside from that, the style and content is up to the writer.

I loved thinking about composite cities, cities of possibility. And in my piece I was also thinking about cities in their different historical moments, with memory and trace as important cues for how we navigate and negotiate them. The project was happening at the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum, so had resonance with large scale imaginings of that sort. I was very engaged with Emily Dickinson’s work at the time, so my piece of writing quotes her only poem to explicitly name Athens. I also went to Greek poet Cavafy for material to work with. I loved his homoerotic poems when I was younger, and I enjoyed mapping personal past erotic experience into this flickering virtual city the project was allowing me to conjure while mapping Cavafy’s geographical concerns about his identity as an Alexandrian Greek onto Edinburgh’s very present politics.

Here’s the piece I compiled in its entirety.

Lad of Athens Iain Morrison

More information can be found about the exhibition here.


Disimprovements. Disimprovements. Disimprovements. Disimprovements.

Charlotte Prodger Northern Dancer

I’m part of a reading at the British Art Show 8‘s Edinburgh leg. This is happening on Saturday 5th March in Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Maria Fusco has invited Sam Riviere, Daisy Lafarge and myself to respond with her to Charlotte Prodger’s work, Northern Dancer. Prodger’s work is a 4-screen installation which flashes up names from a lineage of racehorses, in a pattern worked out with a choreographer – it’s pretty visually dancey, black screens/white text pulsing. While the screens work, an audio text about Gertrude Stein being made to savagely edit one of her texts by her girlfriend Alice B. Toklas is played.

We’ve taken a lead from the purported Stein incident and the text patterning, and over 40 minutes we’ll be reading out our ‘disimproved’ texts, texts which have succumbed to sadistic rules set by our fellow readers.


Thinking Verse – online journal recommendation

I haven’t yet found time to read the articles within this online journal – Thinking Verse – yet, but over the last week, there have been lots of posts elsewhere with poets I respect and admire praising it. At a quick look, I think it’s aims are valuable. Here’s their ‘About us’ section quoted:

‘T H I N K I N G    V E R S E   (ISSN: 2049-1166) aims to provide a forum for discussion and debate in poetics, specifically regarding verse as a feature of writing, and the different kinds of thinking — aesthetic, linguistic, philosophical — that verse engenders and necessitates. In so doing the journal seeks to reconcile a close attention to the technical aspects of verse art with these broader stakes, not least given that it is through an engagement with technical minutiae that these stakes are articulated, and that without an understanding of these stakes the focus on such minutiae cannot grasp the object it purports to discuss. In particular, it seeks to reconcile a close attention to the technical aspects of verse art with these wider questions for ‘thinking’.

I like this sort of proposed switch around between the micro-macro and macro-micro: how does a big idea use small-scale organisation to articulate itself; how does the sum of verse technique deployed give us an understandable road-map towards furthering our understanding big ideas, or shape the way we think to allow us to arrive at new perception?

I put it more crudely there. And part of me questions that it is an entirely reversible link – I have a slight intuition that the ideas can’t be arrived back out at through a process of reverse-engineering the way they made it into the crystalised verse, and I think the journal mission may imply that. I wrote that last sentence more like the below sentence first, and I leave it in, as even though I think it’s more mysterious, it might be closer to what I was trying to say: the technique doesn’t latch on to the ideas in the way the journal might imply is the equivalent of the way the ideas might be worked through the space of the technique’s actions.

These are questions I enjoy thinking about, and if this journal lives up to people’s appraisals of how well it is thinking about them, then I look forward to reading on.

Preview : Drag Queens @ the SPL

Lovely preview here of an upcoming event I’m working on for the Scottish Poetry Library with my fierce friend Jean-François Krebs.

More information and bookings here:

Expect sad music, performance, froideur, and some personal (and impersonal) poems.

Mumble Words

Thursday, January 28

Scottish Poetry Library



image002.jpgPoet Iain Morrison has written a sequence of poems about drag queens that he will perform at the SPL alongside Wanda Isadora de Fourrure (also known as the poet and artist Jean-François Krebs). The poems, which are insightful, funny and erotic, dramatize the pleasures and pitfalls of wearing drag.

The phrase ‘the library is open’ is used in the drag queen community to open hostilities, in a fun and witty way, when drag queens ‘read’ each other: ‘Girls, the library is open. Now, read her for FILTH!’ It was chosen as the title of the event as it represents an opportunity for a drag queen to express herself with her own voice as opposed to lip-syncing to a song.


As mainstream society grows more aware of issues regarding those whose gender can’t be neatly labelled, the SPL’s event is an imaginative, sensitive and…

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D.H. Lawrence – The Ship of Death

This beautiful poem, The Ship of Death by D.H. Lawrence:

It was nagging at my head tonight. I half remembered the line about the cooking pans, which had struck me as delightful before, that line and the voice’s naive optimism in setting out on this journey with a change of clothes, setting forth with all the learned behaviours we have learned for every other journey we’ve made before, and hoping it will bear us through. And I was loving the echoes of some of the death rituals we hear about from the ancient Egyptian tombs, say.

Also I was reminded of the section in Alice Notley’s  The Descent of Alette where the protagonist sinks into the dark lake at the bottom of everything, with eyes glowing and swimming around her absence. Such strong imagery in both and this poem’s a good read for our (finally) cold, dark midwinter. It speaks with such vision I find myself almost unquestioningly believing in reincarnation. Enjoy its strangely comforting incantations.


Sophie Collins and paraphonotextuality, vis-à-vis visual art’s poetry crush

I enjoyed one of those pleasing experiences this week where recent reading and thinking seems to form itself into an interesting connecty cycle:

I’d been reading an article about paraphonotextuality, as I understand a term meaning the artefacts of sound recordings of poetry readings in relation to the printed text of the read poems as transmitted otherwise through writing/publishing. The article was by Al Filreis, whom I’ve blogged about previously, and who I have yet to find less than excellent.

In this article, one angle of the phenomenon he discusses is the existence as recordings of multiple readings by a poet of their same poems on different occasions, sometimes stretching across considerable spans of time (he discusses Rae Armantrout in this regard). And generally he argues persuasively for the admission of the evidence of the sound recording of live performance into the discussion of and interpretation of poets’ work.

Friend and fellow poet Jennifer Williams had also sent round to a few of us with feet in both camps, an interesting article on visual art’s apparent current/ongoing significant relationship with poetry, something, as someone who’s a poet and who works in a visual arts context, I’m keenly interested in.

As I worked my way down that article, I had my eye caught by a 2015 exhibition cited which had been co-curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, called ‘Poetry will be made by all!’.

In the broad terms of exhibitions invoking poetry, one thing I noticed – not my main relevant thought here and it probably needs unpacking further elsewhere – was that in the exhibition’s description the usually tricky conceptual bridge between the presentation of text in an art gallery and whatever is conceived within the exhibition’s construct to lie solely within, and thus being borrowed from, the art of poetry – was formed with the phrase ‘expanded writing and poetry’. I usually find these exhibition descriptions telling as they help me to work out what it is that the curator or artist showing/making work thinks it is that poetry does – what the particular glamour of poetry for them is. Here I read an implication from the writer (curator?) that poetry fits the description of ‘expanded writing’ itself – writing, that, as might be their ambition for the exhibited texts, is able to operate in more than in a monolinear, purely denotative or operational way. Expanded writing perhaps is also a more art-form neutral version of the ‘art writing’ term.

Anyway, when I investigated this particular exhibition a bit more, I discovered that at the opening event of the broader After Babel exhibition, of which ‘Poetry will be made by all’ was a part, there were readings from various younger poets, including a friend of mine, Sophie Collins. What was great about this discovery, in terms of things connecting, was that when I watched her reading, it gave me the chance to think about some of the ideas in the Al Filreis paper about paraphonotextuality from my own experience of attending live poetry readings.

I take on board that Filreis’ article was purportedly talking about sound recordings, rather than remembered live events, but mostly the same principles of triangulation apply between the readings as experienced in one form or the other. Also I note that with YouTube etc., we’re now often given recorded visual elements of an event we weren’t at to experience as well – paravideotextuality? That’s the case here in Sophie’s reading, which I recommend it in and of itself. The first poem, Bunny, was new to me and a particular witty treat.

But it was the poems that I’d heard Sophie perform live previously that I’m thinking of in this blog post. The one that seems particularly pertinent is the last in her reading at the Moderna Museet, a poem called Zizzio (I’m guessing at the spelling), which was also the last poem of the whole three-hour-long event, Sophie being the last reader. The poem charts an imagined experience of Hans Ulrich Obrist, who while feeding swans in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens in London notices a sick swan, which somehow unsettles him, and opaquely leads him to take action the next day. It’s a poem I found fascinating when I first heard Sophie read it at The Number Shop in Edinburgh, a small artist run space, where the predominantly young art-educated audience took it in noticeably appreciatively. I now remember thinking something like that it was a well-judged choice of Sophie’s to read a poem about a somewhat cult figure for young artists that night, and that it showed somehow that she was on board with what the constituted audience might give cultural value to.

Now that I encountered the poem again, in this web adventure looping through the article about poetry in the context of art and after having watched Hans Ulrich Obrist himself talking in an introduction to the event Sophie was reading at, I realised that there might be other ways to think about the poet’s strategies. I was stuck that, unless he left early – a possibility – Hans Ulrich Obrist will have heard Sophie’s performance (perhaps the first of this poem? perhaps a poem written for this event?). Certainly he appears on camera reading out her name in the list of poets he welcomes to the event at the start – there’s a connection in a way I hadn’t suspected when I’d somehow imagined the poem as a more distant cultural appropriation on the part of the poet.

Also, then, the poet’s choice to read a poem naming a member of the audience, a member of the audience with a pivotal role in the assembling of poets under an art banner, I could read as more of a challenge to him, and to his own deployment of powerful organisation bringing together and presenting these young poets in this context. Was there a questioning of the validity of what was happening? I can think of ways that the imagined Obrist’s treatment of the swan – an interruption to the his confident carrying out of his activities at ‘the gallery’ – could be read as allegory for others unable to consume his product (in the swan’s case, his bread). This might be a stretch, but I certainly enjoyed thinking about the power of Sophie’s text in a context other than the one in which I’d first encountered it, and where I’d already found it powerful/effective in another way.

For a poem Sophie had read earlier in the reading, An Unusual Day, Sophie offered more of an introduction, a paraphonotext(!), than she did for others of the poems in her set, some of which she gave only titles for. This poem, I find this fun, she dedicated to her partner, which she also did previously when I saw her read it live in Edinburgh, I think at The Sutton Gallery reading where her partner was present and was also a performer on the line-up. I can’t remember how she introduced it exactly at The Sutton Gallery, but at the Moderna Museet reading she says ‘it’s about, I guess, male noise pollution’, adding with a smile ‘it’s a daily struggle’ and then ‘for both of us’, with a glance maybe at her partner if they’re in the audience (along with maybe Hans Ulrich Obrist!).

I don’t have any crushingly important point to make about this, just that I observed that something about my feeling about the poem, from its introduction in both readings, was slightly different, the Edinburgh one more playful and intimate perhaps, given the context and the fact that both parties were being given voice in the event. It struck me that these spontaneous introductions, really do offer a chance to think about the text presented in a slightly different way than the (usually) fixed words of the poems themselves. That we can chart changes in the poets attitudes too, tentatively yes, but that potentially that might be something we’re able to do when we look at the record of different performances of their works by them over time.

I guess this post has been about my delight in having a new (to me) idea to play with in thinking about poems. Thanks to Sophie Collins who I hope doesn’t mind me having had and shared an experience with her work, and employing it to try out this way of thinking. As someone who myself likes to think carefully about the potency of work I present in the specific situations that readings can’t help but offer, I’m happy to see this element of poems’ production and presentation given space to be considered as part of their effort and achievement.

10 Red. Reading in Edinburgh, Weds 1 July 2015

A pinch and a light punch for the 1st of the month; am going to be one of the readers at Kevin Cadwallender’ always interesting ’10 Red’ night at the Persevere Bar in Edinburgh tomorrow.

The concept is as simple as the event’s name: 10 readers of different styles read for 10 minutes apiece. Great way to introduce your work to new audiences and I always enjoy the reactions, including my own, to what’s on offer. Here’s the event on facebook here.

The simple deets are:

The Persevere Easter Road. £3 in. FREE Raffle. 7.30 for 8pm

398 Easter Road, EH6 8HT
10 Red Poster Kevin Cadwallender 1/7/15