Nature and Self: Free National Poetry Day Writing Workshop

On National Poetry Day 2022 join poet Roshni Gallagher for a free poetry writing workshop delving into nature and the self. No previous writing experience is needed. Roshni will lead the group through several gentle writing prompts. This is a session to explore the joys of nature and poetry! Please book your free place on Eventbrite.

Burns, not Burns

Display in Music Library, Central Library

Not Mr Burns the Scrooge-like boss from The Simpsons, not Pete Burns, unique frontman of the band Dead or Alive, not Frank Burns character in the hit TV show M.A.S.H. and the butt of many a joke, also not Gordon Burns journalist and broadcaster, host of the Krypton Factor or indeed, not the wonderfully named Otway Burns the American privateer and later State Senator for North Carolina born just a few years after the Burns of today’s blog – Robert Burns, our National Bard.

Life is but a day at most.

Written In Friars Carse Hermitage

Robert Burns, fair fa’ his honest, sonsie face, writer of everything and the voice of Scotland since the beginning of time, even though he was born in 1759, and died in 1796, at the age of only 37.

Now health forsakes that angel face.

Fragment “Now health forsakes that angel face”, Robert Burns

Burns, Robert Burns, licensed to rhyme, lived his short live to the full, his many roles included exciseman, poet, republican, song collector, father of four.

I’m twenty-three, and five feet nine, I’ll go and be a sodger.

Extempore Burns 1781/82

His legendary excesses, his many loves and love affairs resulting in, at least, the four children mentioned earlier and his membership of the Crochallan Fencibles, an Edinburgh convivial club who had their meetings in the Anchor Tavern just off the High Street.

I flatter my fancy I may get anither, My heart it shall never be broken for ane”.

As I go wand’ring, A song collected by Burns, C1792

Robert Burns, so good they only had to name him once, is known as a great poet, with a catalogue of hundreds of works and these hundreds of poems and songs make up the lyrics of the great Scottish song collection since the mid 1700s. With a cannon of works as large as Burns has, it is the case that he is the go-to lyricist for all of the songsters since, well since him, Robert Burns.

God knows, I’m no the thing I should be, Nor am I even the thing I could be”.

Epistle To The Rev. John M’math

Our small display in the Music Library highlights the Burns collection of Jean Redpath with Serge Hovey. In 1976, when Jean Redpath began recording the complete songs of Robert Burns, Hovey researched and arranged 324 songs for the project but died before the project could be completed, leaving only seven critically acclaimed volumes of the planned twenty-two, Jean Redpath felt unable to continue without Hovey.

While winds frae aff Ben-Lomond blaw,
An’ bar the doors wi’ driving snaw,
An’ hing us owre the ingle,
I set me down to pass the time,
An’ spin a verse or twa o’ rhyme,
In hamely, westlin jingle.”

Epistle to Davie, A Brother Poet

Thereafter our display highlights the works of other notable poets, many known by, or contemporaries of, Burns. Many of these works, poems and songs by the people below and their contempories were collected by Burns on his travels round the country, this small selection demonstrate that although Burns is the pre-eminent lyricist in the Great Scottish Songbook, there are many others wordsmith for us to celebrate.

Owre the Muir, Amang the Heather (O’er the Moor, Amang the Heather) by Jean Glover
Jean Glover (1758 – 1801) of Kilmarnock was known by Burns as a fine singer and poet, it was he who recorded this song. Burns seems to have had some sort of relationship with Glover, possibly literary sparring partners, possibly more. 

Jock O’Hazeldean by Sir Walter Scott
The fifteen-year-old Scott met Burns at a ‘literary’ get together, where he prompted the bard with the name of a poet whose lines had just been quoted. Scott later remembered how touched he was by the gratitude shown by the great Burns.

Cam’ ye by Athol James Hogg
It is not clear whether Burns was aware of the work of the Ettrick Shepherd but Hogg was certainly aware of the former’s work. Hogg recounts in his memoir how he was in rapture when he heard Tam O’Shanter for the first time and how he learned it in an afternoon.

Farewell to Lochaber by Allan Ramsey
Allan Ramsey died a year before Burns birth, so was unaware of the talent to come. Burns was more familiar with the work of the great Ramsey. Burns was always willing to acknowledge the elder influence, he was not, however, always fulsome with his praise.

Auld Robin Gray by Lady Anne Lindsay
Born Ann Lindsay in 1750, she became Lady Anne Barnard when she married Sir Andrew Barnard in 1763. She accompanied him to the Cape of Good Hope when he became colonial secretary there in 1797. They returned to London in 1802. When Sir Andrew chose to return to the Cape in 1806, Anne decided to remain in London. Sir Andrew Barnard died in the Cape in 1807. “Auld Robin Gray,” written to the music of an old song, was first published anonymously; in 1823 she confided its authorship to her friend Sir Walter Scott, who in 1825 prepared an edition of the ballad. Lady Anne died in 1825 in London.

O! Are you sleepin’ Maggie by Robert Tannahill
The Weaver Poet was born in Paisley, in 1774, where he lived and worked all his short life. Prone to bouts of depression, Robert took his own life in 1810. Tannahill was a great admirer of Burns and was the first Sectretary of the Paisley Burns Club, one of the oldest Burns clubs, which was founded in Tannahill’s house in 1805.

Annie Laurie by William Douglas
William Douglas (1682(?) to 1741) soldier, poet and Jacobite. It was this last part which brought Douglas into direct, and at times physical, conflict with Annie Laurie’s royalist father. Annie and William’s flaming romance fizzled out and they both went on to marry others, but we are left with a wonderful song.

The Auld House by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne
Carolina Oliphant was a prolific author and collector of songs and poems. Considered by many to be a national bard second only to Robert Burns.

Mary McNeill by Erskine Conally
Conally, born in the year of Burns’ death would have been aware of the Bard’s work. After schooling at a local high school, Conally was apprenticed to an Anstruther bookseller. He moved to Edinburgh and worked as a clerk to a writer to the signet. From there he went into partnership with a solicitor. On his partner’s death Conally took over and ran the firm. Although he never published a collection of his work, many are well-known, with “Mary McNeill” being the best known.

Song Gems (Scots) The Dunedin Collection which contains Mary McNeill is edited by composer Learmont Drysdale, who arranged a number of the songs in this volume. The list of arrangers/composers contains some names of composers/arrangers who crop up regularly in the “Scots Songbook” – J Kenyon Lees, C R Baptie, Ord Hume. In amongst these, there are a few notables in Scottish Music including Sir Alexander McKenzie, Natale Corri and Learmont Drysdale himself.

There is another book to mention in our wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous  display, which is a Volume of “Seventy Scots Songs” by Helen Hopekirk.  Hopekirk was born in Portobello in 1856 and became a world-famous concert pianist and composer, working and touring in Europe and America. After making her home in America, she visited her native Scotland many times during her long life, song collecting and composing. During an extended visit she played her own piano concerto in D major with the Scottish Orchestra in 1919.

So, gie bring to me a pint o’ wine and we will celebrate Rabbie’s birth on the 25 January with suppers and socially distanced get togethers, to drink whisky, or Scotland’s other national drink, Irn Bru, eat Haggis and too much tablet, whilst we recite the verse and sing the songs.

To everyone else born on the 25 January we celebrate you too, and raise a glass in hope that this year is better than last.

Explore Burns in our collections! Here are just a few suggestions –

The Complete Works of Robert Burns
Borrow the ebook

Robert Burns – complete classics
Borrow the audiobook

Burns Supper Companion by Hugh Douglas
Reserve print copy online

Burns Supper Companion by Nancy Marshall
Reserve print copy online

The Ultimate Burns Supper Book by Clark McGinn
Borrow the ebook
Reserve the print copy online

The Broons’ Burns Night
Reserve the print copy online

Burns Night: a freestyle guide by Boyd Baines
Borrow the ebook
Reserve the print copy online

The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection has lots more material available on Robert Burns and the Music Library has many CDS of Burns’ music available. Go to the Your Library website and search the catalogue for Burns suppers, Burns songs etc for much, much more.

And for a quick virtual tour of the Bard’s time in Edinburgh, read the Robert Burns in Edinburgh story on Our Town Stories.

Spotlight on Spoken Word: Black History Month

Watch the full performance and interview on Edinburgh Libraries’ Facebook page at 6pm Monday 25 October. Or listen back on our YouTube channel.

To celebrate Black History Month, our colleague Roshni, had the honour of welcoming the spoken word artist and writer Mae Diansangu for an online poetry performance and Q & A session. Mae is from Aberdeen and she writes in both English and Doric. She is co-founder of Hysteria, an intersectional feminist arts platform. Her work is published in many places and she is set to feature on the BBC’s Big Scottish Book club. The set she performs for us was originally written for Fresh Ink on ‘My Experience of 2020’ – commissioned and published by the National Library of Scotland. 

Here’s a little glimpse into what they spoke about:

The theme of Black History Month this year is ‘Proud to be’. Can you speak a little bit about what makes you proud to be Black?

Mae: I don’t know if there’s anything in particular that makes me feel ‘I am proud to be Black because…’ because there’s billions of identities within that and it means something different to everyone. But, definitely, I’m proud to be a Black queer person who is able to be themselves and fight against the perceptions of what that means and the internalised homophobia and racism that comes with that. I’m proud to be a Black person who uplifts other Black people and I’m proud to be a Black person that talks about racism, my own experiences, and Anti-Blackness. For a long time, I didn’t really think about those things – I experienced them but I didn’t really talk about or process them. For quite a long time my race consciousness wasn’t really there at all, which is kind of bizarre, but a lot of it is to do with where in the world I was brought up. […]

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Mae: To be honest it’s not really something that’s ever had much prevalence or relevance in my life and I think that has got to do with growing up – I’d never heard of Black History/Black History Month. It wasn’t really something that was taught in school. It’s only really in the last few years that it’s become more of something I’m aware of and want to participate in. I think it’s really important that things are happening and especially important if it’s something that’s part of the curriculum, but there can be a certain level of performativeness that can come with these things. […]

Who are your favourite contemporary/historical Black writers and poets. Who inspires you?

Mae: […] The clichés, the obvious ones because they are so incredible and in this pantheon of greatness: Toni Morrison, James Baldwin. Not just what they wrote and how they wrote, because they’re phenomenal writers, but how they managed to represent and typify an African American culture and say there is a culture here – there’s this really rich culture and history here.

Just now [I’m reading] Akwaeke Emezi – everything I read by them I’m amazed. There are so many moments when I’m reading that that I’m thinking ‘this is life changing’.

I haven’t mentioned any poets – I love Raymond Antrobus, he’s just been nominated for the T.S Eliott prize. How he talks about deafness, disability, and race – he has such an amazing voice.  I think the fact that Hannah Lavery just became Edinburgh’s Makar, not just because she’s an incredible writer and it’s totally well deserved, but just to see a Black Scottish woman have that title – it’s really amazing. 

Join Mae and Roshni on Facebook on Monday evening at 6pm to hear their full discussion and Mae’s poetry reading.

The Poet-Tree of Stockbridge

Today, on National Poetry Day, we hand over to Janette Ayachi to tell us how she worked with pupils from Stockbridge Primary School to create a tree full of poetry in King George V Park at Eyre Place.

I’m Janette Ayachi, a poet (and performer) living in Stockbridge with my two daughters  and I engage in as many art projects, collaborations and literary events as possible alongside writing books.  My first poetry collection Hand Over Mouth Music won the 2019 Saltire Literary Award and I have been published extensively in journals and anthologies.  I also have a MSc in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and I have appeared on BBC radio and television.  More about me here: 

In preparation for National Poetry Day on October 7th I organised a poetry workshop for the two P5 classes of Stockbridge Primary School. The Stockbridge Library librarian, Carol Marr, was as helpful as they come, and as energetic as I am so we bonded immediately to smoothly bring the workshop into a fun existence.  We had originally planned to run it as an off-site school trip to George V Park, but as Carol had predicted, it rained, so we relocated to Stockbridge Library and Carol organised a line of plants in the performance space to bring nature indoors as the mud splashed up to the windows from the outside. 

As soon as the pupils arrived, and regimented through their wet jacket disrobe and current clean down at the door, they were eager to start (bless them, the school was located next door and still they were drenched!)  

Firstly, I explained what poetry was and they responded with what poetry meant to them, (most of them had written a poem before and some even knew them off by heart) and I was amazed at their levels of engagement and craft and practice.  The theme was ‘Choice’ which I reflected in the way that we always have the choice of words that we use. I asked how many of them spoke different languages, (almost half the class!) and as little hands went up my favourite answer was “I speak English and Scottish and Gibberish”.   

P5 poetry workshop with Janette Ayachi in action at Stockbridge Library

We covered how poetry is different from song lyrics because it is something more than to sing about, it is having something to voice, and that within the multidiversity of all human voices you can never really be dispossessed of what you are trying to express. It is always your ‘choice’ what to say and you can never really be wrong in the words you choose as long as they are respectful of each other. One child then raised his hand and said: 

“You can be wrong. If you add 2 + 2 and you write 5 that would be wrong!” to which I replied, “but that would be a wrong mathematical equation not a poem” however, with an afterthought from the challenge, I decided that his answer was a poem in itself entirely especially if he spelled out the numbers!

We imagined what it would be like in the park as planned, transporting ourselves to that environment to describe it, which in the end was ideal because using our imagination is how we are enchanted to write stories and poems. I also handed out a set of Nature Magic oracle cards, desperate to incorporate nature in that choice, with beautiful images of waterfalls to dolphins to fairies and volcanoes all with a meaningful word as a title. They held up their card individually and I explained the message and how that might connect to something they would like to express. They responded so well to the cards and intuitively started making synchronicities. 

We discussed vocabulary and where we can find words, that some people often tend to use the same words (out of habit, laziness or trend) but if you learn more words you can reflect your style, share a wider vocabulary and find new ways to say something. Some of the pupils had done some ‘found poetry’ exercises in the past isolating single words from a piece of text and making a poem out of those highlighted words in succession.  I showed them how we absorb and carry words everyday from music, books, things our parents share and friends say in the playground. That the words are always inside of us already.  To bring this to light, we engaged in a little meditation.

I asked the P5 pupils to ground into what I call our ‘inner sanctum’; a sanctuary is a safe space, a haven (which sounds like heaven) but is also a nature reserve, the place we build to protect nature and restore wildlife. I asked them to think of the roots of the trees outside reaching under the earth under their feet and to try to connect to that. In their mind’s eye, or third eye, I asked them to watch the stories, messages, downloads and inspiration that plays there on a giant private cinema screen. Then to pay attention to what they were tuning into, was it wisdom and knowledge or was it chatter and just noise? 

I read them a poem about my grandmother and the story of how she lost her eye rescuing my father from a well when he was little, then I read them my first ever poem that I wrote when I was at primary school to show them that poetry wasn’t difficult to create at any age. You become a writer by writing and as you grow you just get better at it.

We used rhythm, metre and rhyme to sculpt the words phonetically and transformed meaning with tricks of craft and technique to make language harmonious and conflicted, showing that the joining of opposites, or union of duality, was where the magic stems.

I was also fortunate enough to work with such confident and bright children, and able to put together a collaborative performance poem as they recited their poetry leaves to the class, or just myself on the other side of the bookshelves depending on how they wanted to share it. This can be found here: 

And some of the children loved it so much they asked if they could make two leaves to write two poems! The show and tell part was exquisite and I am so proud of the literary prowess and delivery of such work after our morning poetry workshop taking over a closed library on a rainy Monday morning. 

Images of The Poet-Tree installation where the pupils’ poetry leaves are suspended from a tree situated in George V park

Here the children have put their ideas; feelings, wishes, dreams, mantras and sketches into poetic words, phrases and stanzas, and by sharing their emotions and descriptions they have created a piece of collaborative work that truly can speak for us all.

Thank you so much to Carol Marr from Stockbridge Library, teachers Jill Fraser and Katherine Leyland and of course, the poets in the two P5 classes of Stockbridge Primary. 

And a huge thank you from us to Janette for such a wonderful workshop!

Dreams we dreamt

Last week for Book Week Scotland, we asked you to submit your poetic verses inspired by Edinburgh born poet Michael Pedersen’s verse on this year’s theme, Future.

We wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who shared their poems and dreams with us and to highlight just a small selection of the fantastic contributions with you.

Michael’s starting prompt was:
is the distinction between dreams & the dreams we dream of dreaming;
is the memory of a song in toes frisking soil for its stories;
is like rice, best served sticky and shovelled back;
is a restless poem, caught in night’s nib.

The Future poem design by Jon Gray

Louise responded:
The Future:
is sitting next to a stranger at a gig, without being armed with sanitiser;
is doing the weekly shop, without worrying about a mask;
is taking the kids to the playground, without being mindful of distance;
is waking up on a day where lockdown is HISTORY.

For Scott –
The Future:
Is trilling silver moths under street lamps;
Is the moon and its pockmarked peep hole in the night;
Is a congregation and a glad eye;
Is our scudding wind, drunk, with only a collar.

Claudia wrote:
The Future:
is dancing;
is laughing;
is wine;
is friends.

We were honoured to receive poems from well-known writers and artists:
This one from E. A. Hanks –

The Future
Is shuffled in my small, hot hands.
Major Arcana. Minor. Black keys to black doors. 

And shows no difference from warlock
to gambler, sword to spade, decked out in dreaming. 

So what can the Hierophant tell me
of how much I miss strangers’ lips? 

Pressing mine to your coffeecup?
But still, I toss a coin for peonies and milkshakes,

remember that a shimmy makes a spell, a fox in the night
something planted in the ready earth. 

Such witchy hope!

Poem by E.A.Hanks. Art by @madeveart.

And one from Ian Rankin –

At ten, I was a captain on a boat
At fifteen, a pop star (sort of)
At twenty, thirty and forty
I dreamed of writing, and I wrote (and wrote) and wrote…

Dreams of writing from Ian Rankin

Rachel Sermanni even read her fiery verse –

As did Val McDermid –

Thank you everyone!

Emmeline Vyner: poet, psychic, dog-lover

Staff at Central Library have been archiving a box of personal papers, diaries and scrapbooks and in the process, discovering a remarkable life. Emmeline Lillian Vyner was born in Halifax around 1876. She moved to Scotland with her husband and first daughter and stayed here for the rest of her life. She was found dead in her shop in Leith in 1947 by her son.

A mother of five, she possessed a wry sense of humour and a robust outlook on life lived through two world wars. She liked to write poetry and her poems were placed in Edinburgh and Leith newspapers: romantic and natural subjects to start with then moving on to First World War poems, based mainly on the experience of the women and children left to cope at home. She was not afraid to criticise the church and the established institutions of the day and to challenge injustice where she found it with her published articles and in letters to the newspapers. When she felt in a lighter mood, she wrote humorous pieces for magazines, newspapers and lyrics for songs. She had lofty ambitions and received rejection notices from some of the biggest literary agents in Britain. She has pasted one of those rejections in her scrapbook signed by Curtis Brown. He set up the agency which still manages some of the biggest names in the literary world today.

Some of her most interesting pieces are on her activities attending psychic seances in various houses in Edinburgh and Leith in 1942. These circles were well attended by large numbers of participants and, from Emmeline’s accounts, the attendees gained a great deal of comfort from the messages from the mediums. She explains in one article that she has been receiving jealous looks from the other sitters at the number of messages she receives and explains the best way to receive messages from the spirit people. She advises not to eat flesh meat or eggs on séance days, talk to your spirit friends before you leave your house, tell them where you are going and ask them to come with you. Once you are at your circle, sit still and relax and don’t cross the legs, feet, hands, arms or do anything to close yourself up. She writes “Let spirit emanations flow from your extremities and remove your hat if you like.” Always enterprising, Emmeline has typed up these accounts on reused paper (due to wartime restrictions) and has charged between threepence and sixpence for a copy!

It’s her delight in children and dogs that really shines through her journals and scrapbooks. In her work as a cinema pianist, she rails against playing for two hour features with only the shortest of breaks but she delights in the mornings that she played her piano for the children’s features. She loved to hear all the children singing along to her piano and deliberately played tunes they would enjoy although she said that, due to the noise, a brass band might have been a better accompaniment! Dogs she loved, especially old English collies, and her charming article on dogs and their affinity with their masters is illustrated with four photos of Rough, her own example of the breed. She states the reasoning powers of dogs is quite evident and provides several examples of dogs doing just that. The funniest is an Alsatian called Prince whom, upon hearing his mistress’ wish for a fur coat from her husband, promptly went out the door and stole her a mink coat that had been left out to air by a neighbour!

We are glad Emmeline Vyner settled in Scotland all those years ago and left behind so many different types of writing. It has been fascinating to see a glimpse of how an ordinary person dealt with the Great War through poetry and then found support through spiritualism to carry on through the Second World War, brought closer to home by Leith air raids and rationing. We are so glad that we have had a chance to read her papers, her newspaper articles and her scrapbooks and make a connection with such a lively and resilient character.


Green Pencil Award Ceremony 2018

There were smiles all round when finalists in the Green Pencil Award  collected their prizes with their families and teachers, at a ceremony hosted by Councillor Alison Dickie, Vice-Convener for Education, Children and Families on 22nd November at Central Reference Library.

The environmentally-themed creative writing competition, funded by Edinburgh Libraries, has been running for 11 years. This year’s competition was launched at the Queen’s Park Education Centre in August by children’s author Vivian French, who led a writing workshop for P6 pupils from Preston Street Primary.

To tie in with 2018 being the Year of Young People, the award was opened for the first time to S1-3 pupils, as well as P4-7 pupils from City of Edinburgh Council and independent schools across Edinburgh. Because of this, the theme was ’Young People and the Scottish Environment’. There was a record number of 1245 entries, from which 20 finalists and an overall winner were selected by a judging panel whose members came from the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Libraries and Schools and Lifelong Learning.

Generous prizes were donated by sponsors, including RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, Jupiter Artland, RSPB, Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Bedlam Paintballing, Dynamic Earth,Camera Obscura, NTS and Historic Environment Scotland.

Green Pencil Award

This year’s overall winner Liam Guyatt, from St Margaret’s RC Primary is presented with the Green Pencil trophy along with a medal to keep by Councillor Alison Dickie.

The judges comments on Liam’s winning story ’Ferry Glen’, “What really struck the judges was the way that Liam’s story addressed the topic so well, giving a real sense of a young person enjoying the Scottish environment. Liam cleverly managed to create a wonderful picture of this beautiful place, with all its sights and sounds, in his own, very personal way. We were impressed with the humour and originality of the story which in no way took away from the depiction of the natural environment and Liam’s appreciation of it.’

All 20 finalists attended the event.

The 20 winning entries appear in a brochure which goes to all public libraries, sponsors and schools that submitted entries to the competition.

Central Library’s BookCafe is back for Autumn!

We’re almost ready for our autumn season and we’re looking forward to sharing some great new finds with you! We’ve been digging around for interesting new (and old) work that’ll be perfect for your lunchtime listening.

Our BookCafe isn’t an ordinary book group; it’s a shared reading group. We come together to listen to a book, short story or poem being read aloud. You can say as much or as little as you like, and just listening is fine too. It’s a simple as that.

If you’ve never been to a shared reading group before, and are wondering if it’s for you, please come along and say hello. We run 1 – 2pm once a month so you can pop in on your lunch break and see what you think. And, as well as good stories, good poems and good chat – there’ll be plenty tea and biscuits to go round too!

Our dates for Autumn/Winter are:

20th September, 18th October, 15th November & 20th December

We love our BookCafe and we’re sure you will too, but you’ve heard enough from us. Here’s what our members say:

‘It’s an hour of calm in my day’

‘It’s such a great way to leave your day at the door and focus on something completely different for an hour’

‘Coming to the BookCafe really makes my week’

Book online at or drop in on the day!

Green Pencil Awards 2016

Last week the Central Library hosted this year’s Green Pencil Award Ceremony when 20 finalists, their friends and families and other special guests came to the awards ceremony held in the Reference Library on Thursday 24th of November. Councillor Richard Lewis attended to hand out the prizes.

Photograph of Green Pencil Award

The 2016 finalists from left to right
Bethany Woodburn – Cargilfield School, Megan Rutherford – Bruntsfield Primary, Afra Schwannauer – Preston Street Primary, Jemma Cattanach – Bruntsfield Primary, Catherine Byrne – Cargilfield School, Alice McGuire – Hermitage Park Primary, Greta Grant – Leith Primary, Councillor Richard Lewis, Lily Chatwood – Leith Primary, Cara Campbell – Pentland Primary, Catriona Simpson – Preston Street Primary, Finlay Black – Cargilfield School, Blair Henderson – Clifton Hall School, Rachael Smyth – Davdison’s Mains Primary, Natalie Ruzgar – St Margaret’s Primary, Amy Brand – Oxgangs Primary, Samuel Joester – Wardie Primary, Rose Kinsler – Sciennes Primary, Seren McDougall – Bruntsfield Primary

This year the theme was ‘Scotland’s Glorious Gardens’, Edinburgh school pupils in the P4 to P7 age range were inspired by the many gardens, parks and green spaces that we are lucky enough to have, and to enjoy using, here in the City.

Photograph of Councillor Richard Lewis and Green Pencil Award winner

Councillor Richard Lewis congratulates the winner, Rachael Smyth from Davidson’s Mains Primary

The Award aims to promote literacy, in particular reading and creative writing and firing the imagination. It also helps raise awareness and encourages learning about nature and other important environmental topics.

Photography of Green Pencil Award

Rose Kinsler from Sciennes Primary reads her entry to the crowd

This is the ninth year the competition has run. This year’s competition was launched by the author Vivian French on September 1st at Central Children’s Library and Princes Street Gardens with pupils from Preston Street Primary School.

The Green Pencil Award

The Green Pencil Award

The night was a great success and we very much look forward to next year’s competition.

Dr Poem on call on National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day on Thursday, Dr Poem came to Central Library dispensing a little bit of poetry to our readers. Poems were prescribed to patients according to their mood.


We also collected comments from the patients:

Poems help me get through life


To do…get the messages

Read a poem


Remember the poem

Create the feeling

Life is good!


The rain in Wells

Runs mainly into drains

Unlike the rain in Spain

Which drains into the wells


Get the messages



To make potage!


A wonderful idea


Words to make the world a better place


Our Doctors consulted the fantastic Scottish Poetry Library website for help with prescribing the right poem remedy.

Green fingers needed for annual writing competition

Young entrants in the Green Pencil Award will explore the competition’s theme, Scotland’s Glorious Gardens.

Last week children’s author Vivien French joined pupils form Preston Street Primary School  for a special writing workshop in Princes Street Gardens to launch the competition.


Image of Princes Street Gadrens

Amelie Colgrave, age 10, and Vivien French, author, admire the view in Princes Street Gardens

Children, who must be p4 to p7, can write a poem or story, which could focus on anything from a memorable visit to a Scottish garden like the Royal Botanic Gardens or a creative depiction of what the ideal Scottish garden would look and smell like.

Culture Convener, Councillor Richard Lewis, said: “This is a popular and engaging competition for budding writers across the city, and always produces many creative and compelling entries from young people.

This year’s theme should also inspire more visits to our fantastic range of parks and green spaces so I look forward to reading the creative writing to result from it.”

Image of children

Councillor Richard Lewis and children’s author Vivien French with pupils from Preston Street Primary School.


Find out how to enter the Green Pencil Award and inspiration for your poems from this library booklist 

The closing date is Friday, 14 October, with an awards ceremony to be held at the Central Library in late November.



Harpies, Fechters and Quines – Women around the World, 13 – 23 June

This year’s Harpies, Fechters and Quines 2-week events programme celebrates women’s cultural contribution to life in Edinburgh.

There is a wide range of events and exhibitions starting with the launch on 13 June and closing with the amazing poetry slam competition on 23 June at Out of the Blue in Leith.  Whether you are interested in women’s issues, literature, arts or simply learning about new things then you are warmly welcome to come along and meet other women with similar interests. We are sure you will be both entertained and informed.

See the full programme of events and book your place.

This Festival for women by women is the result of a partnership between the Bonnie Fechters, an Edinburgh Women’s Group, the Glasgow Women’s Library and Edinburgh Libraries.


Volunteers needed for our ‘Read Aloud’ project in care homes

Every month Edinburgh Libraries and 34 volunteers visit 17 care homes around the city.

We ‘Read Aloud’ short poems and stories, pass round photos and props to get the old memories flowing and often end up with a song. The care home residents love the contact, the chat and the laughs, and the pleasure and stimulation that reading brings.

We are currently looking for volunteers in two areas of the city: Polwarth and Leith.

If you or someone you know would like to get involved we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Call 0131 242 8046 or email for more information.

You will be asked to complete a PVG form and provide two references. We would like volunteers who can commit to monthly sessions for at least six months.


Five ways to celebrate National Poetry Day


One: Find a poem to suit your mood with Poetry on Prescription from the Open University.

Two: For a more personal service come along to the Edinburgh and Scottish Department in Central Library where Dr Poem will prescribe you the perfect poem. From 11am until 12.30pm.

Three: Discover new poems with the help of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Four: Join the conversation using the #nationalpoetryday hashtag on twitter

Finally: Take a minute to enjoy Sean Bean reading Notes on the Art of of Poetry by Dylan Thomas.

Green Pencil Award 2015 is here!

This year’s Green Pencil theme is ‘Food for Thought – Scotland’s food and drink’.

Vivian French and pupils from Carrick Knowe primary school.

Vivian French and pupils from Carrick Knowe primary school.

Author Vivian French helped launch Edinburgh City Libraries and Eco Schools 2015 annual creative writing competition, the Green Pencil Award, with P5 pupils from Carrick Knowe Primary School. Vivian inspired the class with some wonderful ideas for poetry and story writing around the subject of Scotland’s food and drink, getting them to think about the taste, texture and smell of different foods and describing them in different ways and then helping them create a recipe poem and an acrostic. Then it was out to the school’s vegetable gardens for photographs and a bit of gardening!

Vivian French and pupils from Carrick Knowe Primary School

The competition is open to all P4 to P7 pupils in Edinburgh schools and entries should be handed in to any of our libraries by Friday 9th October. Full details, resource ideas and an entry form can be found at

How we’re Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of W.B. Yeats

This month sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and we’ve got together with the Irish Consulate here in Edinburgh to host a commemorative talk and exhibiton.

yeatsBook your free ticket for our celebration event on Friday 22nd May where Ambassador of Ireland to Great Britain Daniel Mulhall will give a speech on Yeats’ 20th Century.

And right now the Reference Library is hosting an exhibition telling the story of Yeats life and work, using material from this award-winning installation at the National Library of Ireland.

The exhibition is on display from now until 25th May.

‘Poetry by heart’ regional winners

Edinburgh Libraries recently played host to the East and Fife regional finals of the inaugural ‘Poetry by Heart’ competition organised by the Scottish Poetry Library.

The finalists

The finalists



The contestants (winners and runner’s up from their school heats), came from Fettes College and Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh and Dunfermline High School in Fife.

After watching the students performing 2 poems each, learned by heart and chosen from a set list of pre and post 1914 poetry, the judges, who included performance poet Rachel McCrum, had to make the agonising decision of who would be going to the grand final at the end of March.

It was desperately close but in the end the two going forward were Emily Heseltine from Fettes (runner up) and Meghan-Rose McKee from Dunfermline (winner).

Meghan-Rose (left) and Emily

Meghan-Rose (left) and Emily

Our congratulations to them both and to all the finalists for their wonderful performances and a memorable evening.

Anita Govan performing “D is for Dragon”

Take five minutes to enjoy performance poet Anita Govan in full flow.

Anita will be at Portobello Library on Thursday 6th November as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week in association with Dyslexia Scotland.

View our programme page to book a ticket and see what else we’ve got lined up.


Special event: World War One in Poetry and Song

Join Alexander Hutchison and Wendy Carle Taylor (whose grandfather was saved by a German soldier) for an evening of historical and contemporary poetry and song.

Someone was singing: a commemoration of World War One  in poetry and song. 

Thursday 11th September 2014

More information / Book online

This event, held in association with the Scottish Poetry Library marks the launch of our World War One programme of events.

Visit Our Town Stories to find out more about the impact World War One had on Edinburgh, through maps and photographs from the time.


Taking the library to Edinburgh’s care homes

We’re looking for people to help us.take the library out to care homes across the city.

‘Read Aloud’ brings poetry alive, with song and conversation for elderly residents in 16 care homes. A small staff team and more than 30 fantastic volunteers spend up to an hour reading and chatting with groups once a month.

We bring poetry and short stories along with a few familiar songs, photographs and objects to stimulate reminiscence and discussion.

This fantastic work has been recognized at the recent Inspiring Volunteering Achievement Awards.

Here Annie Bell (left) and Rowan Walker of Edinburgh Libraries accept the certificate from Lord Provost Donald Wilson.

Annie Bell, Rowan Walker and Lord Provost Donlad Wilson

If you’re interested in volunteering email or phone 0131 242 8046 to find out more and request an application form.