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.

Ni de aquí, ni de allá. LGBT History Month: Blurring borders with Andrés N Ordorica.

Last night we enjoyed a wonderful poetry performance and Q&A session on Facebook with Andrés N Ordorica.

The full performance and Q&A is now available to watch back on Edinburgh Libraries’ YouTube channel.

At least this I know by Andrés N Ordorica

‘One of my big aims in dealing either with queerness, or immigration, or racial identity was not to stay within the trauma. It was ultimately about reaching joy [..] Saying I understand now this facet of myself, and this is what I know about it, and this is what I choose to share with you.’

To celebrate LGBT history month, Roshni from the Library Resource Management team sat down with the Edinburgh based, queer, Latinx poet Andrés N Ordorica, where he performed and discussed work from his collection ‘At least this I know’. His performance was tender and celebratory – rich with colour, characters, and sometimes flowing into Spanish. There is a sense of honouring those who have come before us. From Chihuahua to Bennachie – the collection journeys through childhood to adulthood. Exploring what it means to find belonging both as an immigrant and within queer communities. Here’s a glimpse into their conversation –

The theme of LGBT history month is ‘blurring borders’. How does your work blur borders?

I think for me what really fascinates me about this idea is it really does feel intrinsic to my understanding of the self. I was born in the US, I’m a second generation American so all four of my grandparents came to the US in the early 1960s from Mexico. So this idea of borders and being fixed in any one place – it just is not true of my own existence.

My identity has never been one that could clearly sort of sit with any one place. To have an American passport, to be American, but then not always be ‘allowed’ to be American. To be questioned you know where are you really from? Oh, your family is from Mexico so you’re Mexican. It’s like well, no, I don’t have a Mexican passport and my Spanish isn’t that great. So, you know the place that I am from doesn’t always allow me to lay claim to it.

How do the themes of vulnerability and celebration coexist in your work?

A lot of these poems are dealing with loss and loss of homeland, loss of youth, and then loss of people. There are a lot of poems that are written in a very eulogy-like way. My hope then is that it allows readers the opportunity to process their own loss and then actively kind of work towards joy and celebration.

In the section that deals with queerness there are some poems in there that are revisiting the difficulty that I had in coming out. Navigation this new world and what it means to be part of this community. Then that section is followed by a section that’s dedicated to my husband and they’re love poems. It’s mapping out someone’s journey of contending with these things – because it’s a great thing to be celebrating LGBT history month but I think it would be negligible to not also acknowledge that for lots of people the journey towards coming out can be very difficult. One of my big aims in dealing either with queerness, or immigration, or racial identity, or racism was not to stay within the trauma. It was ultimately about reaching joy and confidently taking a seat at the table. Saying I understand now this facet of myself, and this is what I know about it, and this is what I choose to share with you.

I love how Spanish bleeds into your work, often people speak to you in Spanish – when and why do you use Spanish in your collection?

I think in choosing to write about especially my grandparents I felt like the most authentic or honourable way to have them as a presence is in their mother tongue. You know my grandparents were not the most confident English speakers – they were able to kind of carve a life for themselves with other Mexican immigrants and therefore were able to sort of get by. I often talk about how my mother growing up often had to be the translator. So you know at age eight, she would be going to the bank with her parents and speaking to these sort of scary older men talking about big sums of money and trying to get a mortgage or this or that –  and so for me to really have them there I wanted them there in Spanish because that’s how I grew up with my grandparents. I wanted that authenticity of my very specific experience of being part of the Latinx diaspora to exist in that way within the poems.

Which poets have inspired you and this collection? Can you recommend any queer or LGBT poets ?

This collection very specifically was inspired by the work of Edwin Morgan. Danez Smith is an amazing queer American poet – how they write about desire and race and racism is just profound. Natalie Diaz and her collection ‘Postcolonial Love Poem’ really was something that resonated with me. And then Nadine Aisha Jassat who’s ‘Let Me Tell You This’ (also published by 404 ink). I like to think that our collections are speaking to each other. Nina Mingya Powles is an amazing, amazing poet. How Nina writes of memory and family and growing up between cultures – how much more robust could our relationships with our grandparents be if we were fluent in our mother tongue?

Queer poets in general that I would recommend – Harry Josephine Giles, her collection Tonguit is beautiful. And Joelle Taylor‘s collection is beautiful and it’s very much about honouring her very specific community – you know a butch lesbian during the 80s and 90s and a history that you know has been done away with through gentrification. There are so many beautiful queer writers both in the UK and around the world who are just doing stunning things.

Enjoy Andrés poetry readings and his full conversation with Roshni on YouTube.

At least this I know by Andrés N Ordorica is available to reserve from Edinburgh Libraries.

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.

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!

Green Pencil Award-winner 2020

We’re delighted to announce the winning entry for this year’s Green Pencil creative writing competition, is Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin from Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce.

Now sit back, listen and enjoy a specially recorded reading of Rosanna’s winning poem by poet, Michael Pederson.

Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin, read by Michael Pedersen

And in case you missed it, here’s a link to yesterday’s Green Pencil blog post where all four of our finalists’ brilliant nature writing are available to listen online.

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!

Dreams We Dream Of Dreaming

As part of Book Week Scotland (16 – 22 November), Edinburgh Libraries are asking people all over the city to submit their poetic verses inspired by Edinburgh born poet Michael Pedersen’s verse on this year’s theme, Future.

Michael is co-founder of the literary events platform and micro publisher/record label Neu! Reekie!, and recently appeared on BBC 6 Music’s ‘morning musing’ for Gemma Cairney (sitting in for Lauren Laverne) detailing his books, writing poetry, Neu! Reekie! and his many collaborations (Michael’s segment starts at 1 hour 8 minutes).

Throughout Book Week Scotland Michael will be joined by some of Scotland’s most talented writers and poets in sharing their takes on this year’s theme. Watch out for responses from well known faces from the cultural scene including: Ian Rankin, Hollie McNish, EA Hanks, Rachel Sermanni and more.

We know that our world has reached a point of drastic change; it will never be the same. Poetry helps us to archive the past, process and heal our present emotions and anticipate and celebrate what is to come. By way of a prompt, Michael writes…

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.

We would like you to craft a response in four lines to Michael’s verse, on what the Future means to YOU. Our future has never looked more different and through sharing poetry, we hope to collectively assemble our thoughts and feelings, hopes and aspirations and send them out into the open in words.

Responses may be received in a variety of ways:
You might decide to screenshot a verse on your social media feed, tag and tweet us your verse on Twitter or write your poem on a giant poster, felt-tip letters, and tape it to your window. Whatever you decide, send in your verse and tag us/DM via social media, @TalesOfOneCity on Twitter, @EdinburghCityLibraries on Facebook or email your verse via and we’ll send your words out into the world. When submitting your verse please include the hashtag #DreamsWeDreamOfDreaming

More from the poet – Michael Pederson:
“This poet and this poem call upon you to choose a future. Put your word flag in the moon-sand. Make it majestic or chaotic. Sculpt a utopia or dystopia; a life technology fuelled or natural world zested; make it planet earth or another galaxy altogether; abstract to the max or seriously straight-talking. It’s all to play for. Write or speak it and pick your language: English, Scots, Gaelic, Spanish, Japanese, Polish or Khmer, if it’s your go-to tongue for poetry, go to it. Maybe try some Edwin Morgan style sound poetry, perhaps go all J.R.R Tolkien on us and invent a language of your own. Let’s hear some Liz Lochhead style dialect, some Kate Tempest inspired rhythms. Head off on whatever trajectory your imagination takes you — there’s no wrong or right here, just you and whatever comes out. It can be peaceful or provocative, spiritual or daft, rowdy or ruminative.

I wanted the graphic to contain the line-work as a guide to the relatively small number of words necessary to complete your poem. My poem is around 40 words all in, but the second stanza can be done in far fewer — 20 or 30 words, sure, but maybe even 10 or less. Let’s see? And, hey, feel free to break the structure too, a prompt is not prompting properly if it doesn’t let you mess with it. I summoned my favourite book-cover designer Jon Gray to turn the poem into a visual feast. And I think he’s done a bobbydazzler of a job — lush to lunar levels. Jon’s designed books for the likes of Zadie Smith, Sally Rooney, Stephen King and Salman Rushdie, so having him conjure the graphic for the prompt was a real treat. Stare deep enough and you’ll see the stars beyond. Then get to writing. I can’t wait to see what your mind musters from its ‘deep litter’. Mon yer (future) selves / get sticky with the word goo.”

By posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your poetic verse you are granting the City of Edinburgh Council permission to use your submission in connection with the operation of Book Week Scotland 2020 including, without limitation, the rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your submission and to publish your name in connection with your submission but not its reproduction.

Poetry and creative writing with the Scottish Poetry Library

The Scottish Poetry Library are hosting a new poetry and creative writing workshop at Wester Hailes Library, running for four weeks on Wednesdays from 28 February to 21 March 2018, 11.30am – 1.00pm.

The free workshop, run in partnership with WHALE Arts, is part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s year long residency project in Wester Hailes. The residency also plans to include taster sessions with local community groups and partners and monthly poetry groups at WHALE Arts.

The workshop at the Library is suitable for all, with no writing experience necessary, and it is not essential to attend all four sessions.  For more information or to book your place contact Wester Hailes Library via email or phone 0131 529 5667 or contact Helena at WHALE Arts on 0131 458 3267/

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!

In the Ink Dark

a dance and poem
made from memory and from conversation

In the Ink Dark is a new project from artist Luke Pell and collaborators. Throughout May and June a series of conversations and encounters with different people in Leith and Edinburgh will lead to a week of live dance performances at unique spaces across the city including Central Library and McDonald Road Library.

Performed by an eclectic group of dance and performance artists with an original music composition from Scott Twynholm, In the Ink Dark collects and explores experiences of loss and landscape, memory and materiality through dance, design and poetry.

Luke draws upon his own and others stories to make objects, dances and installations that can only exist because of different people coming together to listen and to share. This project invites people from all walks of life to talk with him, to share, reflect and celebrate something they have loved and lost. In the Ink Dark is an immersive project with different moments and modes of participation, an accumulative poem and choreography – for live and virtual space – that can only be made by the many people it meets with.

Drawings and photographs will be made as part of every performance of In the Ink Dark. The performance is immersive with seating provided, lasting approximately 1 hour with no interval.

Performances take place at:
McDonald Road Library Monday 19 June at 6 – 7pm
Central Library Thursday 22 June at 7 – 8pm.

Book online via Edinburgh Reads on Eventbrite.

Visit the In the Ink Dark website to find out more about the project and further performances.


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.

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.

Opening the Cage in the Art Library

Feb 14 Fine Art A3A collection of photographs by Hamish King is on display in the Art Library until March 31.  The exhibition, which is titled Opening The Cage, takes its name from a poem by Scottish writer Edwin Morgan. Opening The Cage: 14 variations on 14 words, which is itself based on a quotation from the American composer John Cage: “I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.”

Of the theme of the exhibition, Hamish King remarked: “Most photographers, most of the time, work on projects. They pick a subject or theme, and then set about the photography to produce a portfolio of pictures that illustrate or comment on the chosen topic. This exhibition is an attempt to make interesting photography without a subject, or to put it another way, to make visual poetry while having nothing to say. The photographs have no intended subject, theme, message, or narrative; there is no political, social or documentary purpose. The intention has simply been to create a set of pictures that are interesting purely because they show something amusing, unusual, striking or mysterious; or for their abstract, graphic qualities of colour, shape, tone and line; or for whatever metaphor they might contain.”

The exhibition will run in the Art Library, from Mar 4 -31.

“A room with our view” in pictures

There’s been a fantastic response to the “Room with our view” poetry installation in Central Library. Take a look at these cracking pics to see what all the fuss is about.

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The exhibition will be on display until Friday 27th April. If you can’t make it along we’ve got even more photos for you to enjoy on our flickr page.

Glittering Evening in Central Library!

Love (and glitter) was in the air in the Central Library Boardroom on Wednesday, when Reader in Residence Ryan Van Winkle sprinkled some poetic magic over our Valentine’s Card Making Workshop attendees. This year, tired shop bought verses will be no match for our sparkling, sequinned and beribboned cards, featuring the most romantic of sentiments from T.S. Eliot, e.e.cummings and old favourite, Edward Lear (who penned The Owl and the Pussycat).

Take a look at these photos to see for yourself!

Ryan Van Winkle is pretty confident that he’ll be able to woo his sweetheart with this masterpiece featuring ‘The Mysterious Human Heart’ by Matthew Dickman.

If you’re perplexed as to why a stick of celery and a potato are on a Valentine’s card, why not find out more about Matthew’s work by listening to this podcast, featuring Ryan and Matthew in conversation?

With our vast collection of poetry pamphlets and books, Edinburgh City Libraries is sure to have just the right verse for you, so why not get your glitter glue and scissors at the ready and have a browse through these suggestions?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How to make the perfect Valentine’s Day card

“Roses are red, violets are blue, what else should I write, I haven’t a clue…”

Tired of shop-bought sentiments? Lost for words? Why not let our resident poet Ryan Van Winkle and his articulate friends (Keats, Burns, Shakespeare…) help you find the right words to woo that special someone?

Ryan will provide all your card-making materials and poetry, just bring your creative flair!

Wednesday 8th February, 6pm – 8pm at Central Library. Booking is esssential, to reserve a free place call 0131 242 8100 or email

Green Pencil Award Ceremony 2011

This year’s Green Pencil Awards took place at Edinburgh Central Library recently.   The Green Pencil Award is a creative writing competition with an environmental theme, open to all Primary 4 to Primary 7 children in Edinburgh.

Over 1100 entries were received this year giving the judges a difficult task to select the winners.   Edinburgh’s  Makar, Ron Butlin, presented the overall prize to James Macnab of Cargilfield Primary School for his poem ‘The Last Christmas Tree’.

Alasdair Gray – The Gray Stuff

Released last month through Canongate was the brilliant A Life in Pictures  by Alasdair Gray.  He  is perhaps more reknowned for his writing but Alasdair Gray is also a highly regarded artist who has provided the illustration and design for his books over the years.

In this visual biography Gray gathers together some of the work that matters most to him and weaves the story of his life through the pictures.

Coinciding with this release is an  exhibition of Alasdair Gray’s work currently running at Edinburgh University’s Talbot Rice Gallery.  ‘Gray Stuff: Designs for Books and Posters, 1952 – 2010’  displays original graphic works by Gray revealing the development of illustrations used in his critically acclaimed novels, such as ‘Lanark’ (1981), ‘Poor Things’ (1992) and ‘Old Men In Love’ (2007) . The exhibition runs until 10th December.

Also, for anyone who missed his appearance at Central Library earlier in the year, we have some videos of the event posted on our You Tube Channel and Facebook page.  Please check them out.

Poetry in the Garden

On Friday afternoon Edinburgh City Libraries along with our colleagues from the Scottish Poetry Library hit the streets to take poetry to the people.  We arrived in the trusty library mobile (like the bat mobile but with books) at 10am and spent the day in Castle Street where we promoted all things literary to passersby.

The aim of the event was to promote Poetry in the Garden, an  initiative by our good friends at Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature,  and to raise the profile and encourage a love of poetry.     We were on hand until 3pm helping out with recommendations of poetry and summer reading.  Many thanks to anyone who took the time to pop in and say hello.

Love poetry?

Join Chatter and Verse, our brand new poetry group. We’ll be meeting in Central Library – when we meet is up to you.

If you’re interested in coming along or would like to know more about the group please email stating whether you’d prefer to meet on a Wednesday evening (6-7pm), a Thursday afternoon (2.30-3.30pm) or some other time that suits you better.

We’ll be in touch soon about the first meeting – look forward to seeing you there!

There’s lots going on in libraries – remember to check our what’s on page for details of book groups, computer classes, author events and plenty more…