Edinburgh Book Festival now runs for two weeks each August in Charlotte Square, and get 220,000 visitors in that time. Their bookshop is always worth a visit as it tends to be a bit different from the usual set up, and if you aren't coming to the ticketed events, the Square still makes a good place to eat your picnic on a sunny day during the festival. I saw three events during the festival this year (for £39 in total, before you buy the books). Here are some quick reviews of a couple of book festival events that I went to.
|Edinburgh International Book Festival|
Alice Oswald ***
James Kelman *****
I have seen Kelman talk many times before and every time he gently shares his knowledge with the audience, on subjects as diverse as the Clearances, Russian literature, the co-operative movement, the Newport Folk Festival or the history of the Gaelic language. Whether you notice it or not you will always come away from one of his books or his talks having learnt an awful lot of stuff, mostly about people.
He also revealed a lot about his writing technique here, and talked about scenes he had written then cut out of the final book - a "director's cut" of a James Kelman book would clearly be a fascinating read. I hadn't noticed the name of the elderly Creole singer, Queen Monzee-ay, hints at her Menzies hinterland and in the book various tiers of Scottish immigration to America are apparent. When asked about his ending for this book he said that "the best type of ending takes me by surprise", then when he looks back at it there is not any alternative ending. It just fits.
Wi' the Haill Voice *****
Try these couple of lines as an example and I think you can see that this was a good decision. In English the lines are rendered as...
Pineapple, pheasant's breast,
or as Edwin Morgan has it in his Scots translation...stuff till you vomit, for that is your last feast
Stick in, douce folk.-Pineaipple, feesant's breist:
Already you can hear the sounds and anger missing from the first version, and to me this feels more like an angry Russian revolutionary's voice. To celebrate the re-printing of Morgan's poems we had Tam Dean Burn and the improvisational musicians of Ferlie Leed (double bass, harp, electric guitar and keyboards) taking us through a selection or poems from the book. With an energy and enthusiasm they brought the words off of the page to be looked at in a new way. If this had been a standard poetry reading, somebody standing up and reading from the page, this would have had niche appeal to these fluent in Scots. I had read through the poems in the days before attending this, using the glossary in the book to get the sense of the poem then reading through the sounds and feelings on the page. As Edwin Morgan is no longer with us to read his own words, this performance was a great way to give them a novel force. Tam Dean Burn definitely read them wi' his haill voice, and with all of his body. I am very sure Edwin Morgan would have whole-heartedly approved.stuff till ye boke, for thon is your last feast.
|Tam Dean Burn gie'ing it laldy|
Edwin Morgan's beautiful book, now re-issued by Carcanet is well worth getting. I managed to find another piece of Edwin Morgan's poetry on show at the Edinburgh Festival. I made my first visit to the Scottish Poetry Library, just off the Royal Mile. They have a small exhibition of concrete poetry, including some of Edwin Morgan's concrete poems, alongside those of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Vaclav Havel. There's a nice wee shop and, of course, their lending library for all your poetry needs.
|Scottish Poetry Library, just off the Royal Mile|