Don Paterson: I Hit the Beach and Swept Away the Town
Edinburgh International Book Festival,
Thursday 20th August, 2015
Don Paterson came to Edinburgh to read from and discuss his latest collection 40 Sonnets – and though we didn’t get tsunami-like obliteration as flagged up in the title, there was plenty clearing away: so what came through, and what we heard, was tonic and enjoyable. Following on from a very good reception for Rain, and some rattling but productive exchanges over his commentaries on Shakepeare’s Sonnets – Don Paterson’s projected persona was a pleasant mix of genial and bemused, pugnacious and droll. I wouldn’t sound out any one of these epithets with particular emphasis – this is a writer sharper than a tack, and a swift counter-puncher – but the tone was comfortably set for the audience from the start.
To some extent the substance was established not by Paterson, but by his interlocutor, the mahogany tinted and dapper Stuart Kelly – with a technicolour fogle fizzing out of his breast pocket – who was clearly a fan and had done his groundwork with more than care. In prompting responses from the poet he rarely risked over-workng a point, so generally the probing and badinage worked to good effect; and though Paterson may have tracked through the issues before, his answers were fresh and useful, rather than ready-cooked. As when he talked about there not really being a problem for him about the difficulties in the sonnet form, since practice made him ‘used to it’ – in the same sense that an organist would approach a fugue familiarly, though without presumption.
At the same time there was the importance of testing or stretching the form – Rilke was one of his exemplars here – and the graft of shaping possibilities out of ‘the germ of an idea .. the things you get for nothing’. I recalled how in a similar vein (writing about his book Reading Shakepeare’s Sonnets) he had described Shakespeare’s use of the poem ‘as a way of working out what he’s thinking. not as a means of reporting that thought’. Perhaps ‘most poets’ did that, he conceded; but not many followed the Bard to the point where ‘with a minimum of experiment’ he was capable of ‘writing the form into transparency, until it became as effortless as breathing’.
Paterson wasn’t claiming that for himself either, of course, and there are plenty signs of experimentation in 40 Sonnets; but he does want to see the form ‘freed from its own expectations’ – permitting a broad range of contexts, reactions, tone. That we got a taste of in the readings, with tender elegy and satire and stark affront (as when we have GPS direction to that ‘fine country, the fuck away’ and a darkling vision of the Blairs in their boudoire. There were also some affecting pieces close to family ties (with one conclusion “Mother, why so far afield?’ and a poignant meditation on a daughter of ghostly presence, not yet come to be.
Back in conversation he was in good form. Asked if he was keen to shift ground after this sonnet phase – and the anti-lyrical tendency of pentameters ‘you canny sing’ – he responded readily that though we might think he’d be ‘champing’ to try something different, his inclination actually was ‘never to write again’. Pressed a bit on metaphysics he said, ‘I believe everything does come from matter; but matter is miraculous’. Being sensitive to ‘the perils of facility’ he held it was ‘a good thing to make it harder again.’ One aim was to work where, as for the musician, ‘the whole piece is encoded in a fragment of melody’.
For Paterson a key desire (going back to Shakespeare) was transparency, while at the same time acknowledging ‘the thing in question is outwith the usual channels of intelligibility’, and in some respects the focus in poetry ‘is where language fails’. In spite of these caveats his connection to his audience in the final selection from 40 Sonnets was clear and memorable – personal, close, political, disarming.
Reviewer: Mr Scales
Kate Tempest in Conversation with Don Paterson
August 28th 2015
Edinburgh Book Festival
Charlotte Square Gardens
Kate Tempest is no prophet, no shaman, she tell us. But she believes that the world we live in is deeply troubled, that there is something stopping us from accessing ourselves. It is vital, she believes, for people to gather in a room and hear someone give voice to their fears, their questions, the discontent that accosts them. It is important for someone to say aloud and with conviction, “I have felt this too.” Relief, is one of the things Tempest offers her audience (if not anger in equal measures).
So gather we did at the Edinburgh Book Fest – a scattering of young(ish) poets and writers, a handful of incendiary journos (Not Guilty), and a sea of hoary old Book Fest Veterans. As I took my seat in the Baillie Gifford theatre, a charming old couple with plummy home county drawls sat down next to me: “Could you tell us,” they asked, “who Kate Tempest is? We thought this was something to do with Shakespeare!”
I will not draw lofty parallels between the two (although I do believe Tempest has the talent to leave as lasting a legacy). Tempest is a unique and blistering force on the music scene (nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2014), the spoken word circuit (is there anyone more successful?), and the poetry world (published by Picador, edited by Don Paterson). As talented a performer as she is, Tempest admits right from the start that she feels more than a little awkward, perched on a stage in front of hundreds of people, listening to her Picador Editor Don Paterson ask vague questions about her ethos and her “stagecraft”, overusing phrases like “the page” and “the stage”, and at one point asking, haltingly, if there is a “shamanistic, priestly element” to her work, citing “cadences of performance prevalent in early black performance”.
Luckily, Tempest is down-to-earth, honest, hasn’t got a scrap of makeup on, isn’t trying to make people laugh, or even convince them to buy her album, or leave any kind of impression (she’s “not trying to sell perfume”). She is there to talk about her work, about her life. It is important to her not to become a product of the music industry, or some snobby commodity hell bent on distinguishing herself from the masses. The intention shows. Her answers are thoughtful, genuine. Funny. When Paterson asks her about these so called “shamanistic elements” in her work, Tempest responds by citing her conviction, and her roots. Rap has taught her to speak with conviction, and that’s what lies at the core of what she does. She just really f*cking believes in what she is saying, and the way she says it.
Brought up in South London (before the hipsters moved in) in a scene where rap was a fundamental element of culture, communication, and assertion, hip hop was just something she was desperate to be a part of. “I wanted to be a rapper, I lived and breathed hip hop,” she tells us. “It was a vibrant culture I felt close to, I worked in a record store writing rap secretly… and I was crap. You’ve got this big circle of locals and I was white, a girl, podgy, gay… and I wanted to rap about conspiracy theories. But if you haven’t got anything worth saying you’ll be laughed at … and that happened for years.”
The commitment shows. Tempest’s work is fired with social observation, fears about the direction society is headed, anecdotes from her time lived in that crush of anonymity, London. A city bursting at the seams with hypocrites and hypochondriacs, builders and bankers side by side on the tube, protestors and police fighting each other, while kids every colour, every accent, every name under the sun are growing up – and looking around, and seeing the strangeness of it all, but there’s just the same old headlines and the same old politicians, and the same old problems. That’s where Tempest comes in. Her lyrics speak to this strange dichotomy of suffering and nonchalance rampant within the city, and the political state of the nation:
See the man with the blood on his hands/ See the girl with her hands on her hips/ Everybody say nothing. Stay bland/ If you don’t show it then it don’t exist/ Right?
Them things you don’t show, I can see/ Them things you don’t say, speak to me
It’s obvious that for Tempest, rap and poetry is a compulsion. Her work is intended to generate change, widen people’s eyes, say something that needs to be heard. In a recent article also reviewing the night, a misguided journalist claimed that Tempest had some kind of issue with so-called “conventional poetry”, which is ironic given she herself is working on a poetry collection with Don Paterson, for Picador – names which are almost synonymous with convention. Tempest is clear about there being a division between performing poetry and poetry for the page, but believes “there is no set of values that makes one more important than the other…a poem on the page isn’t finished until its read, it is a map towards the experience or emotion a poet had; performance happens in the moment it’s received. The person who hears the poem is most important.”
This is Tempest’s focus – not weighing art forms or celebrating herself, but getting her message across. Indeed, while most of the interview with Don Paterson is taken up by these kinds of debates over the “page” and “stage”, discussions regarding the nature of performance, and Tempest’s flourishing career, Tempest keeps coming back to the point to of it all, why she does what she does. Tempest is very clear about the amount of work (and failure) it has taken to get to where she is now. She is not an “overnight sensation,” as so many have described her. She’s been working on her craft for fifteen years, going to gigs in “dodgy pubs” to perform to men who “just wanted to watch the football,” competing in rap battles on boat parties. Touring, writing, honing her craft. When you spend that long working on your craft, you have to wonder (often) why the hell you keep doing it, what on earth the point is. Tempest admits that at times she is riddled with insecurity – “that thing that tells you your work is going to prove to the world how shit you are”. The thing that Tempest wants most – she says is not to make audiences laugh (“if a room is full of laughter, it doesn’t mean they’re listening”), but to get her message across. “There’s no point preaching to the converted,” she says.
Perhaps Edinburgh Book Fest, then, was the perfect place for her to visit. See, Tempest wants to get her voice out there – and whilst her rigorous festival circuit is probably amassing a cult following amongst the young and drug-addled eighteen to twenty-somethings, there is a whole other audience interested in learning more about this young supernova, people who don’t really know where to start. I expect a Picador/Paterson stamped collection, and a slot at the Edinburgh International Book Festival will certainly do the trick. The night was hilarious, intriguing, and fresh. I’m actually glad Paterson hadn’t prepared much for the night, as it gave the conversation plenty of room to dip and weave into areas I doubt Tempest would have covered without the pressure to say something of interest, with little guidance for her editor (the bane of many a writer’s existence…)
Tempest may not be a prophet, she may not be a shaman (and dear readers, she has nothing to do with Shakespeare). But she certainly has the integrity, and the devotion to make a lasting (and much-needed) mark on contemporary poetry, introducing the art of spoken word to audiences unaccustomed to the power of physical performance. She certainly seems to be converting the masses. After the night was over, I spied my plummy voiced neighbours wafting over to the wine tent with a fresh copy of Tempest’s collection tucked into the pocket of their tweed jackets. A few minutes later, two younger girls walked past holding Tempest’s poetry collection.
“Thing is,” one of the girls said, “I have no bloody idea who Tiresius is.”
The other girl shrugged.
“I think it’s got something to do with Shakespeare.”
Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan
Mexican Writing, an Insider’s View with Gabriel Orozco
Edinburgh International Festival
Wednesday 19th August, 2015
The third of three programmes on Mexican Writing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival featured three young poets: Mónica de la Torre, Julián Herbert and Gabriela Jauregui. Introduced and championed by the distinguished visual artist Gabriel Orozco they turned up to be a good mix: with stimulating commentary on the Mexican literary and performance scene as well as their own practice.
Nick Barley, the Festival director, came in to top and tail the event: highlighting a special in-house and frreely distributed anthology production Mexico in Words (selected by Gabriel Orozco), and promising that the Mexican-Scottish connection established here would be strengthened and maintained in the future.
The three poets turned out to be other things as well – performers, musicians, editors, impresarios, actors, photographers – and this many-sidedness kept surfacing in the transitional scene they described and the options they kept open. They read their poems in Spanish, which was good (the anthology is monolingual English translation) though the pieces themselves (a riff on the ‘invisible city’, a tip-off that ‘Jesus doesn’t love you’, a drifting catalogue of rain and moon and water), while solid enough, didn’t quite jump as much as I had hoped.
More local settings, varied media and production, a little unloosening (difficult here) would have underlined the impact and promise more emphatically. However in conversation, spurred on by Orozco and getting a bit of a purchase on each other, they kept up interest and had us engaged. What made them different, what sounds and vision they were after, what they did and didn’t want to deal with, what they sucked on early, what they spat out later, what English meant and how it was inflitrating what they knew, how things formed and deformed, how they cut off then sewed back on the toes and ears of tradition, what was ‘gnarly’ what was not, what skins of feeling and language they shed, how they lapped up narco-culture, necro-culture and things of the ‘north’, what they intuited, what they warped, how language as material was bumping and grinding, what became of the soul, what was lost in translation, what discovered in manipulation – all these things rattled around in the gourd of talk and kept us ticking along.
Review by Mr Scales
Anthony Sattin: Time for TE
Edinburgh International Book Festival
21st August 2015
Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.
It’s puzzling how to review an event that isn’t a performance. A poet will read poetry, a raconteur will tell stories, but what marks a successful event for the writer of a non-fiction work, in this case a biography? Well, as the overall aim is, I suppose, to sell the book, a successful event of this nature must reveal enough to whet the potential reader’s appetite, but hide enough so that it’s still worthwhile buying the book. The book in question is Anthony Sattin’s Young Lawrence: A Portrait of the Legend as a Young Man, and the subject is T E Lawrence before he became ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
Well, if the queue for this event, which went round three sides of the square, was anything to go by, the Legend is a draw. This was borne out by the show of hands when the audience was asked how many of them had Lawrence’s own Seven Pillars of Wisdom, had read it to the end, or had seen David Lean’s film with Peter O’Toole (almost everybody raised a hand for that). Chairing the event, writer and critic Stuart Kelley played a role that was part interviewer and part erudite chat-show host. Anthony Sattin himself needed little prompting to talk about his subject, being obviously enthusiastic and totally immersed in it, and therefore if I am to compare his delivery to any kind of ‘performance’ I would have to say that it was near-faultless.
As for the reveal/hide conundrum, that turned out to be a doddle, because, as the audience’s questions during the final twenty minutes showed, their main interest was in the later Lawrence anyway! However, thanks to Stuart Kelley’s steering and Anthony Sattin’s own focus, some intriguing aspects of Lawrence’s earlier life and character were revealed. That he was the illegitimate son of Irish Baronet Sir Thomas Chapman is well enough known; that he worried about the stigma attached to illegitimacy is perhaps a little less known. Of Lawrence’s sexuality, Anthony Sattin is sure that he was, to all intents and purposes, asexual, even having a disgust for erotic contact of any kind; therefore of Lawrence’s relationship with his young Arab protégé Ahmed Dahoum, Sattin says “… there are no ‘dirty sheets’…” But he liked beauty nonetheless, from which we are to gather that any attraction he felt towards another person would have been aesthetic and not erotic.
Ultimately Lawrence thought of himself as a failure. He was only every happy for a few short years before the war, when he was able to travel, to study history, and to dig for archaeological artifacts. Of his work at Carchemish, Lawrence wrote a chatty, enthusiastic letter to Vyvyan Richards, saying it was ‘a place where one can eat lotus every day’. Anthony Sattin reminded us that six months later war broke out, and Lawrence destroyed a book he had written – confusingly also called The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – probably because he expected he might die, and he didn’t want his mother to read that he had been happy. “Whenever she knew something about him,” said Sattin, “she spoilt it.”
By the end of the event I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about the diminutive, fearless, contemplative, self-deprecating man behind the legend. If you like to read biography, and if Anthony Sattin’s book reflects the enthusiasm and the knowledge that he displayed during this event, then Young Lawrence: A Portrait of the Legend as a Young Man is probably for you. It’s on my Christmas stocking list.
Reviewed by Paul Thompson
Ron Butlin & Valerie Gillies : Seeing Scotland in Verse
Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
Thursday 20th of August
Let’s start at the end: during the Q & A session an audience member asked the poets: “What are your thoughts on the tension between performance poetry and poetry on paper?” Both poets concurred that their poetry is rooted in a Scottish oral tradition and that to read poetry aloud was a natural and vital part of their art and conversation with the Scottish public. There was no need to go into “Bardic Overdrive”, as Ron Butlin described it but that public readings and sharing poetry in this way was as the theme of the reading—Seeing Scotland in Verse–suggests essential to the life of verse in Scotland. Indeed in my view this question had already been eloquently answered in what had gone before as both poets read a selection of their poems beautifully and the sound, cadence, politics and humour of their readings certainly captivated me—a newcomer to their poetry. An interesting aside on the point was the lectern on the stage—disavowed by Ron Butlin who chose to address the audience directly without the intervention of the symbol—a small matter perhaps and one that made little difference to the quality of the reading but one that was related to the question and one that was to introduce us to political themes in both the poets’ work.
The Scottish referendum was unsurprisingly considered by both poets to be a catalytic event for Scotland and Scottish poetry—Valerie admitting that while living in America she followed the debate constantly on the new technologies and had to fly back to experience the moment . Ron Butlin reading from The Magicians of Scotland gave us The loch Ness Monster’s Post-referendum Curse a wonderful, absurdist and humorous take on the event that also developed another interesting thematic element of the poetry—the conflation of Scotland’s past, present and future. Nessie is “hauled” from the depths of his “dark-fathomed kingdom” for a photo-op and asked to supply a profile on Linkedin: “and they wanted me to tweet?” Nessie asks. Valerie Gillies’ politics is one that is less direct but meditates on Scottish history, identity and the environment– reading from The Cream of the Well in To Edinburgh we consider Scotland’s Roman past:
in eden Edinburgh, centred on the rock,
our city with your seven hills and heavens.
Both poets previously being Edinburgh Makars and this poem written during her tenure, Valerie confided—with a smile– that Edinburgh council considered the name-change “Edenburgh”. The political aspects of Ron Butlin’s work is further broadened with poetry responding to contemporary national and global events—events with particular resonance for Scotland. A poem that was very well received by the audience was Tony Blair’s Butterfly Effect read by Mr Butlin who introduced the poem by discussing the inspiration behind its composition: on pondering the Melville Monument in St Andrew’s square he felt there was an uncanny resemblance to Tony Blair (Edinburgh being the city of his birth) in the sculptured eagle glaring down from the plinth:
Time enough for down-soft feathers to have stiffened
Into archangel-strength wings,
Time enough to curve himself a profile
Of absolute conviction, take on
A gaze of stone-hard sincerity.
Of course there was much more to the poets’ work than overt political themes; however, the proximity of the referendum and current political developments predominated and justly so. Let’s return to the end: another audience member in the Q& A session asked the poets’ views on the politics of austerity and its effects on Scotland cultural life—in particular with a direct reference to library closures in Fife—for both poets libraries (physical not virtual) were vital for Scotland’s cultural and educational life and that austerity was a “con”—it’s clear the Scottish public agree. A beautiful hour aesthetically and intellectually; the only criticism is that it was too short.
Reviewer : Paul Rivers
Ferdinand Mount : Epic History of the British in India
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Wednesday 19th August
The British Empire in India was basically about what Conrad in Nostromo, an novel set on another continent, called ‘material interest’. So the affairs of the East India Company and the crown colony of India set up under Queen Victoria’s rule in the aftermath of the Sepoy rebellion or ‘Indian Mutiny’ of 1857 were mostly focused on expansion and protection of trade. The means the British chose to carry this out hardly bear close moral inspection, in spite of the scruples and higher ideals maintained by some of those charged with the task.
Ferdinand Mount, briefly introduced and cheered on by the BBC’s political correspondent Brian Taylor, outlined this chapter of history to an almost capacity crowd in the main venue at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The matter was taken from his book Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 (Simon & Schuster), and his illustrated talk was lively, amusing, judicious and well-paced: satisfying, I should think, most of the well-versed and well-connected audience who turned out eager to hear it.
The author, who was for a period editor of the Times Literary Supplement and, intriguingly, a member of a ‘policy unit’ during Margaret Thatcher’s government, very skilfully wove in details of family history within the broad cloth of civilian and military affairs. Mount is related (as is the current Prime Minister) to the families of Lows, Thackerays and Shakespears, who provided many of the key characters here – especially General John Low, his great-great grandfather.
Low went to India at age 17 as a young soldier from the family home ‘in the shadow of the Paps of Fife’ (our guide was keen on this precise location), and eventually retired back to the old kingdom, where he derived such benefits as being allowed to ride his pony between shots on the Old Course at St Andrews to spare his venerable frame. Some of his attitudes to India and the people – a leaning to ‘native rule’ and ‘non interference’ were not easily sustained in the events he was caught up in – including the annexation of various wealthy states and the dreadful military suppressions (though these not so personally or directly organised) – where floggings and hangings of reprisal were not uncommon, even extending to firing with field guns on ‘mutineers’ penned up in fives courts.
Mount has described his book as ‘a collection of India tales, a kind of human Jungle Book’ – and the Scots side of things certainly features. His ‘Aunt Ursie’, produced a book on the same subject matter, which the family had long neglected until someone else came across it in the British Library, prompting some lurid headlines about David Cameron’s ancestors, and in turn stirring the present author into further reflection. Steadily the young Scots headed out from Fife, occasionally intermarrying. and steadily the young children were returned for upbringing in the fairly ‘chill’ homeland sites – where you might, for example, encounter Aunt Georgina, keen on church three times on Sunday and ‘no jam’.
This mix of public and private themes and arenas was handled very smoothly by Ferdinand Mount, and his even-handed judgements and appraisals were well received. Who ultimately gained from this? What are the key impacts? Answers are always there; but the certainties often roll back under cloud, and revising opinions are never in short supply. In this talk, however, and in the book, there appeared to be a wealth of informing detail.
Reviewer : Mr Scales
David Kinloch: Adam could have said no thanks…
Edinburgh International Book Festival
19th August 2015
The position of religion has shifted over the decades. It is no longer comfortably respectable, it is no longer part of the cultural landscape of the vast majority of the population, a building with a spire is as likely to be a discount carpet warehouse as a church. Religion has been marginalised to an extent, but in some places it has had a startling resurgence – in the West it pickets abortion clinics, in the East it smashes heritage sites and decapitates people. But hold on, isn’t that a simplistic, headline, sound-bite, knee-jerk way of looking at it?
Take the Bible for example, favourite mocking ground of thread-commenters in The Guardian – it is still as much one of the corner stones of our literacy as it ever was, you can even say the influence of the King James Version was one of the major factors why the Scots language failed to establish itself in our own country, gravitating instead closer to its English sister. It is, if nothing else, a repository of stories, language, names, and poetry.
To David Kinloch, professor of poetry and creative writing at Strathclyde University, the Bible is something with which he reconnects to his childhood and upbringing, a book which, when he re-read it as an adult, brought a ‘shock of recognition’ and an appreciation of its physicality. He recalled the Bible as an object, seemingly rice-paper pages you could see through onto the obverse print, bound in crocodile skin. When he read a piece by another poet, detailing the names of biblical women, and the meaning of those names, with inserted into that tender description a couple of lines about people being taken away to extermination camps, he was moved and inspired to look once again at the women of the Bible and, because they are little heard, to give them a voice.
Helena Nelson of Happenstance, who chaired the event, was not alone in spotting the irony of sending a man to speak for Biblical women (I mean, damn it, The Mumble sent a man to review the event!). So how did it go? Well, for a start, David Kinloch is Biblically literate and theologically adept, without which his Happenstance pamphlet, Some Women, would have been in danger of falling flat. As it was, his progression of readings from the extra-Biblical figure of Lilith, who referred to Adam as ‘that big, milk-toothed innocent’, to his ‘1st Letter of the Hebrew Women to Paul’ with its wonderfully irascible ‘faith is a stubborn doubt in what you despair of…’ was precise and compelling. The audience hung on every syllable.
As a literary agent and an Eng. Lit. undergraduate, I’ve seen more than my share of poetry, from the sublime to the gorblimey, and let me tell you this: this is how I like my free verse. Pointed, punchy, serious where it needs to be, witty wherever it can be, written by someone who knows that free verse is not just cut-up prose, someone aware of the value, and meaning, and double meaning, and sound, and rhythm of every word. The nameless wife of Cain was all rhythm; ‘Rebecca’ made poetry out of the exotic names of food; Bathsheba and David rolled the letters ‘B’ and ‘D’ round their tongues in an orgy of alliteration; Rahab ‘stonewalled… in a world of falling walls’; Ruth was the first of ‘the endless line of women who will give birth to God’; Martha complained to Jesus, ‘Resurrect this bucket’. ‘Deborah’ focused on the female Judge of pre-monarchic Israel, handing out ‘a thorough stoning’ (is there any other kind?), exhorting the Israelite C-in-C “Arise, Barak, the roots of war are everywhere…” and chiding him for not watering them; the modern reference was very vivid and was not lost on us.
Apart from the excerpts from Some Women, David read to us a handful of unpublished, just-written poems, intended as a possible follow-up to the pamphlet, and focusing on St Joseph. An angel calls on the phone – “Can I speak to Mary?” – there is a ‘silence like blown glass’, the carpenter asks ‘When is a puppet wood? When is it flesh?’ The same poetic values as in Some Women, similarly from a not-much-heard person, but I don’t know whether this selection had the same impact as his female voices.
About forty years ago, I wanted to be a poet too. I was also very familiar with the KJV. I asked a published poet of my acquaintance, who wrote on religious themes, whether publishers would accept poems that were slightly irreverent. He replied that these (those) days publishers expected downright blasphemy, let alone irreverence. When I asked David what had convinced him that the wheel had come full circle, so that now a poet could write with ‘gently reverent irreverence’, I think he was a little put out. To him, as he answered me, general trends were not important; this project, this pamphlet, was something very personal to him, and a response to serious subjects. Point taken. Maybe he felt that ‘gently reverent irreverence’ was not an appropriate description for poems in which some post-watershed words and concepts appeared, or rather poems that asked us to consider subjects of weight. Poems such as the one to Mary Magdalen, who was effectively the first actual Christian, were clearly and pointedly serious, and there was a message even in the ones that made us smile and chuckle.
There was a slightly ironic postscript. Having reminded us that the Children of Israel were, for an important part of their Biblical history, a nomadic people, David and his retinue of pamphlet-signees were led back and forth between three separate book-signing locations, until being settled in the Canaan of their final location. A fitting wee Apocrypha to the Old and New Testaments of David’s event. My last word is this – that David Kinloch is one of Scotland’s most expert poets. Read him and see for yourself.
Reviewer : Paul Thompson
Monday 17th Aug 2015
Journalist Jackie McGlone introduced Henrietta Lidchi to her audience on a roasting Indian summer day at Charlotte Square’s Garden Theatre. Discussing the politics of adornment within the last 150 years is no mean feat when an hour is all there is to share vast amounts of knowledge and not overwhelm the audience with all the facts. Book title ‘Surviving Desires’ Lidchi explains was a ‘“ riff on ‘Surviving Desire’ the film” by Hal Hartley of recent Ned Rifle fame.The main thrust of the book explains what Lidchi’s focused anthropological practice is, essentially silver and its by product turquoise. Due to a delayed gallery project, 1997 was the year she was asked to do some fieldwork. Having the entire world to choose from, she thought she would find out more about the Southwest American indigenous peoples and boy has she done that! This book guides you through contemporary makers such as Navajo couple Tsosie and Mary Taylor to the lapidary inlays of the Reano’s from Santo Domingo Pueblo who feature melon shell in their pendants.
A regular trans-atlantic traveller, Lidchi has built up a reputation as someone worth befriending in the ‘Four Corners’ states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Knowing how to connect at parties, Lidchi regularly fires up a conversation with ‘That’s an amazing piece of jewellery.’ It is entirely fortunate that The British Museum entrusted Lidchi to buy for their collection because much of the jewellery purchased on these trips have since become incredibly expensive and probably not a viable option now. Dr.Lidchi has discovered much about ‘the specific meanings in context of visual material’ and is keen to share her findings. In August 1998 Lidchi was approached by Emerson from Twin Lakes near Gallup, a jeweller who has different ambitions for his children. She purchased his work for the British Museum collection. Through Emerson she found ‘Thunderbird’, the local jeweller’s supply store.
Cradle boards, katchina dolls, block turquoise, coral and the complex social and political history of the Hopi and Navajo pueblo jewellery with all its cultural and material history is only some of the topics under discussion here. Not to mention how the pawn industry conducts itself very differently to how it does in Britain. This glossy wonder is invaluable reading matter and a fertile place to learn more about this subject.
Reviewer : Clare Crines
Having a laugh with Julian Clary and David Roberts
Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015
17th August 2015
Mr and Mrs Bold are two stolen identities, scavenged from an unfortunate couple who were eaten by a crocodile while on safari in Africa. The funny duo duped their way back to Blighty and now live in a nice house Teddington, Middlesex. They have jobs (Christmas cracker jokes) and they are partial to a bit of a giggle. Only problem : they’re hyenas. Yes, that’s right – they’re covered in fur, have tails tucked into their trousers, and they live to laugh.
After a bit of stomach ache from what she thought was a dodgy burger, Bobby and Betty were born… what will the neighbours think if they discover a hairy appendage protruding from their shorts?
Julian says, “I wanted to write a children’s BOOK to relive the thrill I used to get as a child entering a fictional world. The idea came from stories I used to make up for myself as a child, and I grew up in Teddington – a very suburban place with tree-lined streets and a nice park – so it seemed right and proper to set it there. I am thrilled to have the wonderful illustrator David Roberts bring The Bolds to life for me. He has the ability to convey my humour brilliantly and his drawings are always funny and endearing. Mrs Bold’s hats are a particular delight!”
The banter between Julian Clary and ‘lovely man,not everyone can wear yellow’ David Roberts is a hoot. Vivienne French who introduced Clary and Roberts gives out a book and a Roberts original to a wee boy who gets upset during question time. Asked by a child in the audience what his favourite animals are Clary tells that he keeps dogs and chickens. One of his chickens, Archimedar, ‘comes in through the french windows and likes to watch me at my desk.I like lions and tigers when they’re babies,they’re so sweet. Then when they grow up they can live in the garden.’ Clary’s latest offering and debut children’s book is, ‘very good value,’ with 266 pages of illustration from a charming union of artistic minds that culminate in a laugh a page suburban romp that is THE BOLDS.
Reviewer : Clare Crines