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The Beech Plantation on the north face of the Pentland Hills to the south of Edinburgh


The Edinburgh School of Poets

2014 Yearbook


Tessa Ransford founded The School of Poets  in response to her recognition that in the early eighties there was no group where Scottish Poets could meet and share their work. Originally membership was by invitation but is now open to any interested writers. The underlying ethos of The School of Poets is that nobody teaches and everybody learns. Meetings are monthly except during August and December. The School is flourishing and has a dedicated core membership where ongoing friendships have formed.



Tessa Ransford, one of the best-loved and inspirational Scottish Poets, was the driving force in founding the School of Poets, and it is most appropriate that she has agreed to head what is possibly the first collection of poems produced by the group, with a poem that she presented at its inaugural meeting and dedicated to the first members*.





For Poets of the first School of Poets, 1981


Mutilated, mangled, lacerated,

my composition had been broken up.

The kind of execution perpetrated

on Cicero by that Caesarian pup.

Axe my gesturing hands, my very arms!

Van Gogh sliced off his ear, and I am less

than he . . . Our life-work in pieces, what harms

us further? Love has nothing to confess.

Now unexpectedly the Muse has sent

me comforters, and several:

poets, whose craftsmanship and wise intent

restore my form and my material.

Sappho had never Royalties like these:

Two Robins, Jenny, John, Rose, Anne, Elise.





This poem was included in ‘Fools and Angels’ (published by Ramsay Head Press, 1983) as part of a sonnet sequence called ‘Inch Space of the Heart’.




*Anne Gwilt, Robin Bell, Robin Alexander, John Bate, Jenny Robertson. Rosemary Hector, Elise Mackay.






Anne Connolly


Anne is an Irish poet living and working in Scotland. She has enjoyed teaching throughout Britain for many years but the fun of being a granny trumps everything. She likes to sing, sew, potter in a wild garden, wander regularly, drink gallons of tea and enjoy an interesting whisk(e)y. Photography and calligraphy are abiding interests. Anne has kept an eye on the School of Poets for several years, is a veteran of Slam poetry and reads and performs her work regularly throughout Scotland.





The last Act

 

I am the waiting-woman

in the wings of expectation

knowing exactly what she will say

about the perfumes of Arabia

with her small hands steeped

in that overweening power of decay

which haunts her walking-dream.

 

And in a moment now the curtain

will guillotine the well-rehearsed

glide of Birnham wood as our director

gaunt and pale as Banquo’s ghost

tells us of a cavalcade in Dallas.

The regicide of other potent dreams.  





Kate Murray

Thirteen years in Edinburgh. Before that, a wandering existence, living and working in Sheffield, Regensburg, Belfast, Cookstown, Folkestone, Aix-en-Provence, Horning, Benfleet,  Seville, Wicklow, St. Raphael, St. Monans and  St. Andrews. I’ve stood on the summits of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland; have walked the Pennine Way, Snowdon Horseshoe, Gorges de Verdon and Cuillin Ridge of Skye. I’ve ridden a motorbike through flaming hoops at the Fête and danced Sevillanas en la Feria.  The poems in my pamphlet: From the Lang Rig, celebrate walking Arthur’s Seat. In 2010 they were displayed by Historic Scotland at each gate of Holyrood Park. Other poems have been published in Staple, Poetry Scotland and competition anthologies.


Gritstone Virgin 


You lack irregularity:

no mole, wrinkle, wen, pockmark,

pimple, crevice nor crater.

How to get a hold on you? 


My fingers are practised in pry

and pinch and pull on pinnacle

pillar and pike in Buchaille

Borrowdale, Bwlch;

but for you esoteric techniques

solicit full splayed-hand force.  


I yield my palm

to the small stings

of a myriad

grit kisses:each one confirms

our full engagement. 


‘Push! Go on! I’m holding you.

Counterpoise, countercharm me in

pressured in-tension

propulsion. Go on!

Give me your foot …

Yes! That’s good! 


And it is. This sleight

of hand and limb

in frictioned weightless

upward rising

to the chimney- cleft,

back to wall buttressed:

legs bridge,

feet flat,

hands brace, their heels strong,

shift taut buttocks off… up… on,

walk feet up rock in parallel… 


… and I, am out

am balanced

Saltirewise on your rough

most subtle features. 






Angus D. H. Ogilvy


Angus was born in Glasgow, grew up in Galloway, and was educated in Edinburgh and Dundee. He has had a career in education which included 25 years as an international school teacher and administrator in Spain, China, Nepal, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. Since winning his school poetry prize in his youth, he has had an abiding interest in poetry and his poems have appeared in various publications. He returned to Edinburgh in 2008 and spends his time writing, doing voluntary work, and addressing conferences, seminars and symposiums about the patient experience of cancer using his poetry as an aid to communication. He has recently published a collection of poems, Lights in the




On Going Before


When the voice cried

out of the wilderness

I prepared myself a way,

accepting how things could be

living on locusts and wild honey,

straightened some edges,

worked the roughness

as conditions allowed

down narrow trails to the waterside.


And, yes, I was ready,

eager, even,

in light of the inevitable,

to make the passage to the other shore,

biding my time watching the river,

hearing it flow.


Nothing transpired but continuation, more

of the same:

bee-eater birds coming and going,

now and again some new revelation,

seekers arriving looking for bread.


It appeared like reprieve or a restoration,

the breath of a blessing,

but still that voice calling

and a body detained,

sustained for its end.


Another will come now,

fiercer than the last;

and I fear it,

I fear

I will not be ready

as I was then

to pass through pain

for the trick of a chance

in a promise given:

the price of its dance.






Jeff Kemp


My lineage involves England and Australia: I was born in New Zealand but left after receiving my education.  I travelled for some years, primarily in Asia, then returned to New Zealand for further training to work in Bangladesh.  I was there for a decade, followed by a shorter time in the Middle East, then Scotland.  I began writing as a means on reflecting on my daily experiences.  I still write, although perhaps now it is memories that I am digesting.  It still feels like fun so I continue doing it.



Mourning Walk


The valley

funnels winds

that trouble trees,


surface water ruffles

as the stream falls away

to a pebble-strewn beach.


Stones slip

and clatter underfoot

as I follow the

rock-riddled shore,


their smoothed shapes

chatter into place:


glancing back along the bay,

nothing seems changed.


The tide chants,

cicadas sing into

the calm lee

of bastion hills.


My walking slows,

breathing stills.


Out to sea,

currents writhe toward a

white-peaked horizon.


Overhead,

gusts tear clouds to shrouds

that disintegrate into sky.





Andy Hunter


Born in the north of Scotland he has lived and worked in Glasgow for most of his life.  He has a life-long commitment to poetry - reading it, writing it, discussing it.  Going to the Scottish Poetry Library has been a great opportunity to experience other writers at work, reading and analyzing their poetry with them.  What better way to learn to be a better writer?  This piece was written from a BBC Alba documentary about fishermen in the Western Isles, where Andy has many roots.  The aim of the piece is to open a small window on the reflective life of a working person from a rarely considered part of life: the inshore fisherman.  At its best, poetry should open our eyes to ourselves.



Lobster man


imagine it

a living creature that's never seen the sun

not till the day it's caught

hauled to the surface from the spit of the sea

and dropped

into that white

plastic

box


 I keep my lobsters hidden all the day

                     under a sack cloth soaked

                 in salt water

         it separates each one for they

                  always end up fighting with themselves

                         tearing one and other

                         limb from limb


they’re kept in cellular cages out in the bay

             sunk back into the current

                   at the end of each day

   it keeps their meat

                                                 fresh


it's amazing how long they can last


till McCaskill comes

at the end of the week

to lift the catch


        on stormy days

we always repair the nylon mesh

of our creels together chatting

about the summer’s take

in the smokey half-light

of the shed by the swell


         we lost

my brother last year

he was out for prawns

way beyond the grey headland

      where the waves

      and the clouds

      and the rain

      were a bitter pay


Kenny Campbell found the body


the slight

                   orange flair

of the oil-skin on the sea

was a marker

of sorts

                      buoyed up

but face down

as they always are

 

head bowed into the tide

the lungs

trapping the last gasp of air


they say


his blue eyes

a watery stare


I think of him

every day.



Philip Hutton


I was an art teacher and continue to paint, but at some point saw that drawing and painting in a fairly traditional way, however earnest, were not going to deliver some realisation of what occupied my mind, and that previous attempts at a modernist “breakthrough” were spurious.   Having always read poetry, especially Browning, Hardy, Auden, Larkin et al. in the new century I started to write. A workshop by Ken Cockburn and a Peebles writers’ group tutored by Magi Gibson encouraged me. I have attended the School of Poets for about eight years.




On an annotated  volume of Yeats


Marginalia engross, as the dust rolls under beds

generating swirls of plasmic greyness hardly spoken of.  

These pencilled exclamations, queries, notes, are tokens of concurrencies, contraries or codicils to the page first read. Underlinings, ruled, free or wavy, or wired together leading the eye straight down the gist across a drift of print      

and passages slashed open or fished in brackets hint        

at sly, perverse or deconstructed reading.

Long waiting for their maker to return   

mere marks stir with sui generis belligerence,

active to excogitate a reader, him or her          

by quickened legibility, epiphenomenal intelligence       

to challenge and to clarify, annotations teach and learn.    

As dust rollicks under beds, books swill indwelling sense.



And I will take these books, take them to a room,     

a low-ceilinged room on an island, an island I know.

I will have some damp there, rising from below,       

damp and the draughts creep, but no dry dust for the broom.   

Nine great books will I have there, alive with pencilling                   

that hacks deep into the text there, under the sea wind’s moan    

and jangles together voices, yours, Yeats, and my own.

Margialia will arise there, beyond all cancelling.

I will not see the sun set for all its backwash of valium.

I will face to the east, by mile measuring mast,       

cooled and tranced by the silvered enamelling   

sea that holds the light of the day now past,    

enough just to trace the faint marginalium

and draw myself into the poem at last.



This poem ventures the singular of marginalia, marginalium, not in the dictionary.





Tony Lawrence


Raised in a farming community in South Gloucestershire. Studied Chemistry and taught biological sciences in Glasgow University from 1968-2001. Love of poetry kindled by Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia and Walter De la Mare and melodramatic works of the recent past that charmed my parents and grandparents. Later influences include Browning, Blake, Fitzgerald, Eliot, cummings, Hopkins and anon. Started writing in 1991. Attended DACE courses in GU run by Gerrie Fellows and the unforgettable Donny O’Rourke.




False memory syndrome


That night there was a heavy bomb-fall.

Did we sleep well through it?

That is not recalled.

but on our Sunday stroll

with Aunts and Uncles

twice as tall, who said

‘Just mind the edge now!’

walked the fields around the bomb-holes,

not too deep, but oddly conical and clean

and, while nobody remarked on this;


one was yellow

and one was blue

and one the colour of deep dug earth.


Would and might and this must be;

the pipe, the flute, the harp, the lute

and did these knights come

one, two, three?

and early learnt things,

false or true?


But now there’s no-one here to ask.





Maurice Franceschi


Maurice lives and works in Edinburgh, where he first attended the School of Poets in 2003 around the time when he began to write poetry (again). Poets he often returns to are Eliot, Neruda, Yevtushenko and Darwish, and always look forward to new work by Duffy, Armitage and Shapcott.




Red Shoes Tango


Silk topped heads on ermine shoulders

judging silently as a court of owls,

with cherubim mooning from on high,

a Virgin of Copacabana by the bed.


He waits for the Sister to leave

his midnight milk (which he carefully sniffs),

closing the heavy mahogany door

completing the inner sanctum.


He takes out the red leather shoes,
a hidden, well polished pair,  

that everyone thinks he never wears.


He lays a disc on the waiting tongue,

Tango Nuevo accordion plays,

if the Swiss Guard hears he will not say.


Remembering a dance of Buenos Aries,
in this city of piazzas and parishes,

where Piazzola cut Libertango.


Dancing a memory of Buenos Aries,

that city of  theatres and barrios,
bigger than the State he runs.


He dances a little,

nimble on the marble,

his age leaving him

breathing a little bandoneón,  

thinking of Maria de Buenos Aries

as the ermine owls sing

Balada para un loco.




Finola  Scott


Since retiring Finola Scott has enjoyed writing everything from poems to articles, the intellectual stimulation being better than Suduko. Recently moved to Edinburgh to be with her family & new grandchild, she is grateful for the warm welcome the writing community have given.





Spot on


When I touched it

base metal

deep in the drawer,

I knew it - Dad’s plumb-line,

a tool that built brochs and battlements.


In the string’s strands I smelt

Dad’s sweet sweat,

stood beside him again

as wallpaper & brick were ruled

with ease and ancient science.


He’d unravel the tawny twine

from the dull weight

that held the cord sure,

                                   then

         drop.

 

      It swung out

                                         Tic

   Toc

                      Tic

              down

            to a calm

               stop.


He smiled and explained gravity.

I listened and nibbled Newton’s apple.

Our home safe in his hands,

his judgement always true.



Angela Blacklock-Brown


I was born and raised in Dumfries and Galloway. I came to study Modern Languages at Edinburgh University and apart from a year in Germany have lived in the capital ever since. For over twenty years I taught languages in Edinburgh Schools and worked in the Scottish Poetry Library for eight years. In 2004 I graduated from Glasgow University with  an M Phil in Creative Writing. I now spend my time writing and tutoring.





Spring Garden


The air smells earthy,

sunlight sings crystals over morning grass.

A wedge of ebony descends, white bib freshly laundered.

He is lord of the lawn, pecking his pick of grubs

until the resident bully squirrels up behind,

eyes on fire, with a look that says,

‘you’ve pinched my patch.’


I watch from the window,

rush out to intervene,

play the go-between before

feathers and fur litter my pristine green.

They’ve seen me and scarper.  

Snowdrops nod  scalloped heads.

Peace reigns.





Betty Green.   

  

Has enjoyed poetry since childhood, encouraged by both parents especially:- the old fashioned verses that my father used to recite at times when he returned home from his time as a  soldier in World War 2’


Studied History at University and started to write poetry after her children had grown up. She is primarily a nature poet.


There is inspiration for poetry to be found all around; from simple everyday "things" to more introverted feelings and grand sweeps of outside life including the splendid, exhilarating feeling  when standing on high points of hills or mountains and drinking in the views, as well as, on occasion,  more mundane things such as T.V. Advertisements’.


 


About Poetry Concerning Gold and Angels


I saw the title gold and angels in the Radio Times.

It seemed a lovely title for a poem;

Very poetic, not prosaic at all.

Surely a poem about gold and angels could not be just

Down to earth, no matter what the radio programme was like.

Would I need my gold tipped pen to write one.

I thought about it for a while,

And for some unknown reason pushed it all aside

To await some other day







Shampa Ray


I was born in New Delhi in 1967 and have lived in Scotland and Iraq.  I am an artist working at St Margaret’s House, Edinburgh. I write in order to write and am deeply interested in things, especially small, intricate, natural ones. My most recent publication is in the FWS anthology ‘Making Waves’.  





Moving house


This house will not let go.

Fables and song will not part,

held forever in ice and snow.


The western poplars orange glow

makes purple shadows on the heart.

This house will not let go.


Weeping ash, its ball gown flow

draws with twigs its gradient art,

held forever in ice and snow.


The burn waltzes quick, quick, slow;

dark woods and lawn step apart.

This house will not let go.


Snowdrops come, an early show,

burst Time’s invisible chart,

held forever in ice and snow.


These things that I have come to know,

winter, long after spring can start.

This house will not let go,

held forever in ice and snow.





Ana  Maria Maguire


Born in Lisbon.  Studied  economics,  languages and classics in Lisbon and later in London. Married and domiciled in Edinburgh. A nature poet with a special affinity for the sea. she has been a long-time member of the School of Poets. Influenced by a wide range of European, American and African writers, naming Sofia  de Mello Breyner Andresen, Fernando Pessoa, Camoes, Michael Longley, and Christine De Luca as particularly significant for her development. Ana Maria writes in both her native Portuguese and in English.






Ondas de Pedra Dura


Lua deslizando,   

enche com a noite            

ondas desertas.     

De manhã,                         

os pombos que pousam

são gaivotas,                 

procurando comida.  


Passos  apressados,        

gentes em correria,        

barcos que passam     

nas superfícies polidas.    


Corvos pendurados,               

gravados nas velas,               

na espuma estática,                

branca da cidade.                    


E nessas ondas,                

fixas, sólidas,              

só o vento, as nuvens,           

o sol, as sombras são os flύidos.  













Jennifer Alderson


Originally from Dumfries and Galloway, I have for many years made my home in Edinburgh. My working life was spent teaching young children and encouraging young writers. In common with children, I see the world in vivid pictures and try to create strong images in my poems.






Candlemas   

                                         

Unopened snowdrops

are Bride’s candles

pointing unflickering flames

towards the light

before coyly bowing heads.


Candlemas has washed sky

with that brightness

that coaxes first primulas

from green sheaths

to lie stemless on bare earth

like scattered jewels.


A tentative flower

of wild strawberry

is a small white star

glowing among brown

and wizened berries.






Contributors


Tessa Ransford

Anne Connolly

Kate Murray

Angus Ogilvie

Jeff Kemp

Andy Hunter

Tony Lawrence

Maurice Franchesci

Finola Scott

Angela Blacklock-Brown

Shampa Ray

Ana Maria Maguire

Jennifer Alderston


2016 Yearbook








Stone Waves


The gliding moon,

fills deserted waves

with the night.

By morning,                    

pigeons landing

are seagulls

looking for food.


Rushing footsteps,

people running,

boats that pass by

on polished surfaces.


Ravens perched,

engraved on sails,

on the white

static foam of the city.


And, of these

fixed, solid waves,

only the wind, the clouds,

the sun, the shadow

s are fluid.

Contributors