As you know I like to keep myself busy and on Saturday I managed to do exactly that by attending not one but two separate events. Not only that, these events weren’t just in separate locations they were in different cities. The things I do in the name of poetry.
I started my day by travelling to Edinburgh to the Scottish Poetry Library to an all day symposium on Scottish Women’s Poetry. Me being me it I missed the morning session in which there were excellent seasions which included poet and freelance writer Theresa Munoz who gave her take on Minority Women Poets in Scotland: A Rhetoric of Difference. This was followed by Greg Thomas from Edinburgh University who presented his thoughts on the Concrete Poetry Movement and Scottish Women’s Poetry. I also missed the first round table discussion of the day on Poetry in the Community which was led by Claire Askew and Jane McKie which I must admit I was gutted about as this is a topic on which I would have raised a few points some of which may have sparked a degree of controversy. Well I tend to be honest on issues like this perhaps too honest for my own good. That said I would sooner be honest than lie for popularity as a false popularity can only ever be temporary.
Controversy over, the ladies had lunch before resuming for the afternoon. The first session was on Daughters, Mothers , and Others in Contemporary Women’s Poetry. I arrived at the Poetry Library just as the first speaker in this session Richard Price was finishing his poetry reading so I went up to join the gathering just in time for a very interesting talk by Glenda Norquay on Negative energies not being our being mothers. During her presentation, Ms Norquay who is based at John Moores University in Liverpool looked at poems by Kathleen Jamie, and Liz Lochhead to illustrate the complex dynamics of the mother – daughter relationship which show that this relationship works best when viewed through the prism of indifference. The speaker made this point to suggest that because every daughter will in some ways mirror her mother ambivalence in this relationship, isn’t so much desirable as necessary to allow the daughter to grow and become her own woman. Speaking as someone who very clearly recognises the indisputable fact that I am getting more like my mother with every passing day I find this slightly uncomfortable and disturbingly accurate.
This was followed by a short discussion before moving on to the next topic entitled If you don’t get caught Islands, Isolation, and Entrapment in Contemporary Scottish Women’s Poetry. This talk presented by Peter McKay from the University Of St Andrews was extremely enjoyable as Peter explored the idea of the islands being inclusive and exclusive. romantic and remote. During his talk Peter who himself is a native of Skye talked about the concept that living on an island could at least for some voices and especially women’s voices result in entrapment as to a significant extent the island narrative has already been written and it’s been without women and with a distinct geography of religion running through it. Peter provided evidence of this on hinting that certain islands featured more prominently than others. On listening to this I noticed that there no mention of the largely Catholic islands of South Uist or Barra. When I asked if social and religious conservativism was presenting a Protestant and unionist view of the islands I was told that there was a strong possibility of this and good old fashioned sectarianism may be a factor in it. Now I don’t know why but I didn’t find this surprising. I found it shocking, and insulting, but I wasn’t surprised by it. Nor I was surprised by the fact that the islands with their male cultural and social dominance were such difficult places for female poets to make their voices heard.
At the end of this session, we adjourned for a well deserved coffee /wine break and it was good to catch up with friends such as the brilliant Claire Askew, and Theresa Munoz, and three of the fierecest women I know Elizabeth Rimmer, Janet Crawford, and the force of nature that is Lesley Traynor. Yes it must be said that Fierce Women may only have been on the go since August but we have become a tribe and the bonds of friendship made on that day ensure that we will always go team handed to events.
After mixing and mingling with the other women during it was time to go back for the final session of the day. This was a round table discussion about poetry in the field where we heard excellent contributions from Jane Goldman a poet and reader at the University of Glasgow Helena Nelson a poet and founder of Happenstance Press , and Jennifer L Williams a poet and the programme manager of the Scottish Poetry Library. In the picture below you can see our esteemed panel
Picture (1) From left to right Helena Nelson , Jennifer L Williams, and Jane Goldman.
This was an interesting discussion in which Jane informed us about the course she runs at Glasgow University what’s involved in it, and why it would be worth taking. Helena told us why Happenstance was set up and the rationale behind it which was to get more female poets in to print and Jennifer reflected on her poetic journey which has taken her from the USA and brought her to Scotland the place she now calls home and for one hope she always will.
After a final short break it was time to enjoy some top quality performance readings and the first reader to entertain the crowd was Lila Matsumoto
Picture (2) Lila Matsumoto at The Scottish Poetry Library
Picture (3) Shows our next reader Jane McKie
Picture (4) Jane was followed to the stage by the excellent Helena Nelson.
Picture (5) Sees the brilliant Theresa Munoz holding court and her poem Animals was my favourite poem of the day.
Picture (6)Sees Jane Goldman reading from her collection as she entertains an audience who were eager to listen to her carefully crafted words
We concluded the readings and the symposium with a reading from Jennifer L Williams who was curating her last event as events organiser at Scottish Poetry Library and I have she signed off in spectacular style giving us an event we can be proud of. Trust me , replacing Jennifer (pictured below) will not be an easy task as she has big boots to fill so finding a successor will be no easy feet.
Picture (7) The outgoing events organiser at the Scottish Poetry Library Jennifer L Williams.
At the end of an eventful day I had one final chat with Janet and Lesley before grabbing a quick single haggis from Bene’s my favourite Edinburgh chippy before heading to Waverley train station to get the first available train back to Glasgow in order to attend Nellie Bly for a feminist poetry reading at the Old Hairdressers at which I was billed to appear.
At a packed Waverley station there was a real party atmosphere as members of two tartan armies were travelling homewards. Both our football and rugby teams had been in action and both had lost to England and Australia respectively but this did nothing to dampen the spirits of their fans who were as they have always been fantastic ambassadors for our country.
On arriving at the Old Hairdressers I was warmly welcomed by our host Alex Kampfer who I believe is without doubt one of the finest young compares anywhere in Scotland and has an energy about which let’s you know something good is going to happen. This was my first appearance at Nellie Bly and I can guarantee you it won’t be my last. In fact I fully intend to become a regular as this varied and inclusive night.
As I listened to a variety of acts performing a range of poetry, comedy , and music I couldn’t help but think that I had almost by accident stumbled upon a goldmine of talent all of whom I have every intention of introducing to Words and Music sooner rather than later.
Since I arrived later than planned I regret to say I missed some of the acts but I got chatting to them during the break and they were a very friendly and welcoming crowd.
As I prepared my set, Alex informed me she had put on first after the break so I was mindful to get my set prepared and selected three very feminist poems which to me show what the power of being a woman really means. I started my set with a poem on politics and why women need to make our voices heard and I have to say that I think A Woman’s Voice got probably the best reception it has had to date at any venue.
I followed this with an equally passionate poem and A Story To Tell let the audience share the journey I’ve been on since transition. I finished my set with a poem which I knew would play well to this young mainly female audience and 16 Cinderella’s certainly did the trick. I think the fact I described it as the day a female guerrilla movement stormed the poetry library to read our fierce words went down well with a crowd appreciated the seriousness of my message and the humour contained within it.
The pressure now off, and my debut as a Nellie Bly girl over I could now sit back and enjoy the rest of the show. This was the perfect way to end a brilliant day of poetry and proved if proof were needed that a double shift of discussions and dreams and a journey from page to stage had everything every a woman could want on a very cultural Saturday.
Love And Best Wishes