‘If you don’t like the weather…’

Reading at the SPL.
Reading at the SPL.

Everyone jokes that, in Edinburgh, ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute’. We say the same thing in New England. However, I have to say that I don’t think I’ve experienced quite the dramatic and rapid meteorological changes that I did over the past few days: rain, hail (proper chunks of ice,) and sun, all at the end of April! Maybe this was appropriate for a reading of Science Fiction poetry?

Russell Jones and the wonderful Scottish Poetry Library hosted a handful of readers and a short film, all to celebrate Edwin Morgan’s poetry, and the anthology (edited by Russell,) Where Rockets Burn Through.

It was particularly nice to see many familiar faces at the SPL – the last time I was there was to read from Darwin’s Microscope in 2009! Ron Butlin, Edinburgh Makar, read, as did Andy Jackson, who performed a wonderfully touching poem based on the ‘Clangers’ characters (I had to have this explained to me and then was shown film clips of this children’s TV series later in the evening, just to be sure I understood how influential this show was to a particular generation! The fact that I loved Andy’s poem and performance nonetheless speaks highly of its ‘translatability’.)

Pippa & Andy read 'The First Men on Mercury'.
Pippa & Andy read ‘The First Men on Mercury’.

Pippa Goldschmidt and Andy co-read ‘The First Men on Mercury’, which brought out the fascinating and unsettling shift that happens as the poem goes along. Ian McLachlan and Claire Askew read entertaining and very different sci-fi and also quite ghostly pieces. The reading was broken with a short, eerie film by Dan Warren based on Morgan’s poem, ‘In Sobieski’s Shield’ – I found Dan’s explanation of climbing into abandoned bomb shelters to film particularly interesting when he introduced the film. Watch it here.

I took the plunge and read ‘The Loch Ness Monster’s Song,‘ which was inspired by hearing Dr John Holmes perform it wonderfully back in 2009 as part of a reading from his book, Darwin’s Bards. It’s a challenge, but I was very pleased when not a few people expressed their thanks afterwards – so it seemed to go well. The poem is a pleasure to read again and again, and difficult to read aloud (try to roll those ‘r’s!) I interpret it as if the Loch Ness Monster has popped its head out, takes a look around, gets quite peeved that the Diplodocus is getting all the attention, and sinks back under the water…

It was special to be able to congratulate Pippa Goldschmidt on her novel, too, which was launched the night before (I was sorry to miss the launch)! The Falling Sky, published by Freight Books, looks beautiful and I was pleased to buy a copy while in Edinburgh. Pippa used to work as an astronomer, and I met her through our mutual friend, the Royal Observatory’s Public Astronomer, Marek Kukula. Pippa and I are pleased to be able to commiserate and celebrate while writing novels about female astronomers – mine historical, hers modern.

Congratulations to those involved with Where Rockets Burn Through, and thanks to The SPL and Russell for a lovely evening.

Forthcoming, Autumn 2013…

The book cover for our forthcoming collection of poems by the Nevada Street Poets, with illustrations by Cassie Herschel-Shorland, published by Valley Press, with an introduction by Don Paterson.
Forthcoming collection of poems by the Nevada Street Poets. Cover photo by Marcos Avlonitis. Illustrations by Cassie Herschel-Shorland. Published by Valley Press. Introduction by Don Paterson.

A pocket horizon is an instrument used for navigation: a small, smooth, darkened glass providing a reflective surface from which to take bearings with a sextant, when one’s view at sea is shrouded in fog or mist, or when the true horizon cannot be seen.  In Pocket Horizon, an array of objects drawn from the collections of the Whipple Museum in Cambridge and Wellcome Collection in London serve as points of navigation for the Nevada Street Poets.  Pieces from a Masterclass with leading poet Don Paterson developed into the poems collected here.

Along the way, we glimpse stories and histories of models varied as horses’ teeth and a clockwork orrery depicting the universe. There are fragile, hand-made glass fungi, and the glass prism used by Newton in his ‘Crucial Experiment’. A parade of amputees marches the reader past a case full of artificial limbs, as one of the first clocks in Britain tolls the hour. A wave machine immerses us in the currents of human love, and votive models murmur questions from the past. Each poem is paired with artwork by Cassie Herschel-Shorland. Pocket Horizon is a book of excursions into the human mind and body, and the story of the world we feel compelled to map.