Spicer, irresistible badman

Was reading Jack Spicer and U.A. Fanthorpe in the National Library of Scotland tonight, ah wondrous retreat. They’re unlikely to have any joint monographs published about them anytime soon, but the two pamphlets I was enjoying do slot nicely into each other with their complementary lime-green and yellow pages respectively, and their shared A5 format.

I was clearly enjoying myself too much as I accidentally handed in my own notebook with the titles at the end of the night. Hopefully it can be retrieved tomorrow. . .

I thought I’d share a Spicer excerpt. It’s from Admonitions, his mid-length sequence of poems, all addressed to different people he knew. Spicer being the prickly customer that he was, I suspect about half of them were not meant nicely. He talks in his introduction (addressed as a letter to (publisher?) Joe Dunn) about how each poem is a mirror fashioned to show up what he, the mirror-maker, would like the recipient to see about themselves. It’s clearly a manipulative strategy. It takes the idea of each reader finding his or her own concerns mirrored in a text out of anonymity and into aggressive specifics. In some cases, the recipients are more or less victims of an attack and Jack Spicer’s poems seem to have been effectively targetted weapons at various points.

The one I’m sharing doesn’t appear to be nasty, though. In fact, it’s rather fun.

For Willie

There is no excuse for bad ghosts

Or bad thoughts

6x / 10 equals 150

And electric socket with a plug in it

Or a hole in your eyeball:

It is bad

And everyone says, “What?” X

– 4X / 10 equals 150.

The annual ‘By Leaves We Live’ fair at Scottish Poetry Library (27th Oct)

i just wanted to add my recommendation to the many possible reasons for visiting the SPL’s annual small press/poetry/artists’ book fair. I’ve enjoyed going for the last few years and have been impressed by the growing energy of the talks programme. The SPL is riding high at the moment so I was expecting things to be even better than ever, and a glance at the programme proves my confidence justified.

The stallholders (they always manage to fit an amazingly large number in among the stacks) are:

Artist Book Group
unit4art / antonio claudio carvahlo
The Book Tree Press / Lucy Roscoe
Caseroom Press
Essence Press
David Faithfull
Hamish MacDonald
HappenStance Press
Hestan Isle Press
Jane Hyslop
Mariscat Press
Moschatel Press
The Owl and Lion Gallery
Alex Pritchard
Rag-and-bone shop Books
Red Squirrel Press
Roncadora Press
Salt + Shaw
Stichill Marigold Press
Mary Thomson
Wild Pansy Press

There will be somehow also be space for exhibitions in the library, including a display of Ian Hamilton Finlay, and a great series of poetry broadsheet posters including one by the able SPL librarian Julie Johnstone. They’re inspired by Hansjörg Mayer’s futura series from the sixties, so come with excellent historical credentials.

And some of the best bits will be the talks. The two below leapt out at me as not to miss, and I’m already trying to reschedule a walk in the Pentlands to get to them.


Typesetting & Typography
Gerry Cambridge, poet and editor of The Dark Horse, is one of the finest typesetters in poetry publishing. He talks about the importance of good typesetting and how an awareness of the elements of typography and layout can improve the appearance and readability of your poetry books and pamphlets.

30 years of Mariscat Press
Editor Hamish Whyte chats with Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Robyn Marsack, about what it’s been like to run a publishing press for thirty years and talks about some of the poets he has published, such as Gael Turnbull and Edwin Morgan.


Congratulations Mariscat on your 30 years and congratulations SPL on yet another brilliant programme!


Iain Morrison reading @ Verse Hearse (Glasgow. 23rd Oct 7pm)

Hello Poetry-Pickers,

I’m reading again next week. In a foray outside of Edinburgh City limits, I’ll be appearing at Verse Hearse in happening Glasgow. The details for the event are on facebook here. In summary, it’s from 7-10pm at the Rio Cafe in Glasgow’ West End. I’d say more, but would risk sounding like a tourist guide, because the truth is I don’t know Glasgow as well as I’d like, although I’ve been there more times in the two year’s of living back in Edinburgh than I was in the 18 years of growing up here in the first place. I like the sound of this Rio Cafe, I’ll say that much.

I’m sharing a bill with David Kinloch (his website here). I’m looking forward to discovering his work. He sounds very accomplished, with three Carcanet publications under his belt.

And as well as getting to hear us read, you can join in after the break at an open mic section. The word is, it’s good. The night’s certainly run by friendly, good people, Calum Roger and Stewart ‘Sandy’ Sanderson, who wear their intellect with cheeky grins.

Get there early if you want to see me, I think. I’m probably going to read my sequence about the Venice cemetery island, so here’s a taster:


Your life has been as short as a smile

Their photos are bossy and glossy and glum,

or sometimes off-putting and sometimes a character treat. I like best

the ones which show them entirely alive,

though maybe this is perverse and salt in the wound, mud in their eye.

The shots that hurt are those of the mopey, the woebegone gone

or of the glossed, the unmossy young.

It’s noisy and You can listen LIVE (If you read this in the next 12 hours)

In the spirit of capturing the moment, Word,  a friend John Winslow, who’s studying at Edinburgh College of Art, is making noise (I think) for the next 12 hours and streaming it live on the internet.


I kind of love stuff like this – durational, random, mesmeric, irritating, connected, etc. I also love the fact that it’s being broadcast from the building next door to my flat. I suspect the window in the video looks onto my bedroom. It’s a crazy, mixed-up, broadcasting world we’re living in.

I’m looking forward to checking back to see what’s going on over the rest of the night, and what state the noise-makers descend into. At the moment it’s like a Bjorkian wet-dream in one of her more out-there moods.

I’m reading again – 3rd October 2012, ’10 Red’ at The Persevere Bar in Edinburgh, 7.30pm

Am hoping that this is the right way to embed something on WordPress, in this case a youtube video, in particular a youtube video with me featuring in it in a rather strange still photograph taken on the spot in the redeveloped infirmary where I think I was BORN.

The point of the video, however, is to advertise a poetry event I’m reading in this Wednesday in Edinburgh at The Persevere Bar in Leith. Organised by the splendid Kevin Cadwallender, the 10 Red series give good value for money by putting on 10 poets in short sets in convivial surroundings.The other writers are a mix of those new to me and those I can vouch for as worth hearing.

If you’re free to be in Edinburgh on Wednesday night, and have a spare £3, I hope to see you. I shall be reading from some of my favourite recent poems in a self-pleasuring, yet simultaneously generous, set.