Category Archives: Poetry

Poet on the runway!

Don’t take any notice of what I’m about to mention here.

My Swedish Bookwitch-sister recently blogged about Elsa Grave, a poet who lived ‘not too far away’ from where the younger Bookwitch used to live and work, whereas I see that it’s been quite a while since I wrote about Elsa on here.

A friend emailed me about her a while back, and it was when I mentioned this to the family that the Resident IT Consultant asked how important a poet she was. And I have absolutely no idea.

When someone is ‘famous’ locally, it could be that they are merely a big fish in a small pond, or it’s possible they are world famous, or at least a national treasure. So I don’t know. We looked Elsa up on Wikipedia, and she seems to have done a bit of everything.

Anyway, this post was caused by what my friend said. It seems her mother knew Elsa, whereas I never really stopped to think about even where she lived, despite my postal connection to Elsa’s cat and her pot plants. I knew her postman fed one and watered the others, but as to the where, well that seemed irrelevant.

Now I know, and I can quite see why Elsa did what she did, both from a geographical point of view, as well as how it fits in with her personality. When she wanted to go into town, she cycled. And the most direct route was along the runway of our small airfield/airport. Strictly not allowed, but apparently she knew the timetable…

Mind you, I’m sure this never happened.

Advertisements

The Rainmaker Danced

Poems are always hard to review, and poems and I don’t always see eye to eye. But there is something about this collection of poems by John Agard that drew me in.

Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, there is much to see and think about. Some of the poems are literally sitting inside the pictures, or otherwise a part of one thing, instead of separate.

John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura, The Rainmaker Danced

I particularly liked the poem about whether or not you believe in Nessie, which was beautifully illustrated with our favourite Loch Ness monster.

And I like the fact that John uses such ordinary words in his poems. Nothing too grand, as can be seen in the sad story about the Sputnik dog; ‘soon Laika is a goner.’

I don’t know whether this is more for children to read themselves, or if you read the poems to them. Both, probably. Or either.

Troll Stinks

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Troll Stinks

It looks like Jeanne Willis has her heart set on educating young readers, and what better way than through poetry and catchy illustrations?

This time Jeanne and Tony Ross are tackling cyberbullying, and high time, too. (It ends better than Chicken Clicking, in case you’re worried…)

Jeanne rhymes her way through a different version of the Billy Goats Gruff, where a young silly Billy  finds a mobile phone and decides to get up to no good with it, along with his friend. They take selfies and send horrible text messages to Troll.

And then they go off to visit Troll. Aren’t they brave?

Well, no, they are bullies. The thing is, just as goats – maybe – have the right to cross bridges; perhaps trolls are entitled to try and prevent them?

Maya Angelou

I knew nothing about Maya Angelou when I first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, back in my teens. Rather mistakenly I assumed it’d be boring. But it wasn’t, and I went on to read the other two books about Maya’s life. I was mostly surprised that it could seem so modern and ‘with it’ for being set as long ago [then] as over thirty years before.

As an adult I kept track of what became of the marvellous Maya, until the day she read her poetry in public, next to the new President, thus proving how much a black girl from the American South can do.

Lisbeth Kaiser and Leire Salaberria, Maya Angelou

There is a new picture book about Maya, by Lisbeth Kaiser, with illustrations by Leire Salaberria.

To be truthful I do feel it is a little bit sugary sweet, but probably aimed at really quite young children, so I suppose it has to be. They have to skirt over what really was done to Maya by men, and by society.

But it’s important that young children can read success stories like hers, as well as finding a small black girl in a book like this. Whether that’s more important if you are black, or white, I can’t say. We all have our needs, and we must be educated.

Hopefully this book will inspire young children to learn more about Maya, once they are a little older. She was truly a great role model.

All right, maybe some more last photos then

Nearly twenty years after J K Rowling was here with her first book, it has been illustrated by Jim Kay, and become much, much larger.

J K Rowling and Jim Kay, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

From Potter to poetry with Zaffar Kunial and the Scottish Makar. And festival director Nick Barley.

Zaffar Kunial, Jackie Kay and Nick Barley

And Pufflings, as in Lynne Rickards’ Skye the Puffling, with Jon Mitchell.

Lynne Rickards and Jon Mitchell, Skye the Puffling

Sticking with my letter P theme, here is Petr Horáček and Nicola Davies, busy entertaining fans in the children’s bookshop.

Petr Horáček and Nicola Davies

Slightly scarier stuff in Zom-B Goddess, but Darren Shan is as polite as they come.

Darren Shan, Zom-B Goddess

And before I leave you with another image of my favourite lights in trees, I offer you two people who always make my book festival a pleasanter place; local agent Lindsey Fraser in conversation with Mr B.

Lindsey Fraser and Mr B

Charlotte Square

(In order to find our first encounter with Mr B, I went down Memory Lane, which is about seven years away, and I was astounded to see how many authors were around then. We were only there for a week, but had authors practically coming out of our ears.)

Here I Stand

Here is a book you should all read. Here I Stand is an anthology for Amnesty International, where a number of our greatest authors and poets and illustrators have come together and written short pieces about the injustices in life as they see them.

Here I Stand

John Boyne writes about child abuse and Liz Kessler deals with same sex love. Both stories are hard to read, but at the same time they are uplifting and they make you think.

And it is repeated in every single contribution to this volume, whether by Jackie Kay or Jack Gantos, Sarah Crossan or Frances Hardinge. Bali Rai, Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Laird are others who have important things to say about why life is far from right for many people in the world.

People who can be jailed or executed for the most normal behavior, or those who are simply too poor or too unfortunate in various ways. People for whom we need to continue fighting.

There is much in this book to think about. Please think about it.

Monday, Mounties, Metaphrog and the Makar

On my walk from Haymarket to Charlotte Square on Monday I was overtaken by a Mountie. This doesn’t happen often, and as this one was a fake, it might not even count. But still. That’s Edinburgh in August. Thank you kindly.

Just before the entrance to the book festival, I came across our new Makar, Jackie Kay, being photographed by a fan. On my way to a reception in the Party Pavilion, I first stopped by the signing tent to see who I could find. I had missed Philippa Gregory, but caught Dominic Hinde with his last fan. He’s written a book about Sweden, which I’ve not read, but is why I sort of knew he’d be there.

Dominic Hinde

Got to the party just as it was beginning, finding Debi Gliori in the queue by the door and had the nerve to ask her why she’d been invited… (For a good reason, I may add.) She was debating the impossibilty of removing more garments in the somewhat unexpected heat. It’s hard when you are down to your last cover.

Janet Smyth

We were there to eat scones and dainty sandwiches, and to hear about the book festival’s new-ish venture outside Charlotte Square and August, Book-ed. Janet Smyth introduced the speakers, who told us what had been happening, or was about to happen, in their home areas, primarily half a dozen new towns, including Irvine, Glenrothes and Cumbernauld. It seems that having the EIBF behind you means any venture stands a much better chance of success, so I believe we can look forward to many more little festivals here and there.

A wealthy Bookwitch would have offered to sponsor something on the spot, but in this case she merely had another piece of rather nice cake. Met a crime colleague, who was able to tell me what I did last August, which is something I increasingly need help with. To make the most of my invited status, I sat outside on the decking for a while, enjoying the sunshine.

Charlotte Square

It was going to be an afternoon of bookshop signing photos, and I hurried over to catch Nicola Davies and Petr Horáček (for a while I lost Petr’s lovely accents, which was worrying, but they have now been found again), who had so many young fans I didn’t stop to talk.

Nicola Davies

Petr Horacek

The really great thing about Charlotte Square is that someone built it near a good shoeshop, making it possible to pop out for new shoes whenever a gap presents itself. I found such a gap on Monday.

Richard Byrne

Back for Richard Byrne, who seems to be a very nice man, with a whole lot of lovely little fans. And then I crossed the square for Jackie Kay and Zaffar Kunial, checked out the sandwich situation, and went and had a chat with Sarah from Walker Books.

Zaffar Kunial

Jackie Kay

Refreshed from my brief rest, I braved the world of Harry Potter. Jim Kay, who is illustrating the books about the famous wizard, had a sold out event, which then filled the children’s bookshop. Although I couldn’t help noticing that those first in line were really quite old. I chatted to Jim’s chair, Daniel Hahn, who is so relaxed about travelling that he’d only just got off the train.

Jim Kay

After a little sit-down in the reading corner I was ready for Ross MacKenzie and Robin Jarvis. The latter had brought a skull. And with all three signings happening side by side, there was quite a crush. On the left side of the queue I encountered Ann Landmann, who told me she was feeling stupid. When she’d told me why, I also felt stupid, so it must have been an Ann thing. (We should have brought our copies of A Monster Calls. And we didn’t.)

Ross MacKenzie

Skull

My sandwich required eating, and I repaired to the yurt, before going zombie-hunting. Darren Shan was signing his Zom-B Goddess (and I can’t tell you how relieved I am I haven’t really started on his – undoubtedly excellent – books). His hair was extremely neatly combed. I liked the way Darren allowed time for chatting with his fans, initiating a discussion if they seemed shy. I can’t see how he’d have time to do it with all of them, but maybe he feels that those who’d waited to be first in line deserved a bit of extra attention.

Darren Shan

Over in the children’s bookshop I found Metaphrog still signing, and was pleased to see they look nice and normal. The name has always worried me a little…

Metaphrog

And then all I had left to do was get ready for Jo Cotterill and Kathryn Evans, which you’ve already read about. Listening to others in the queue, I got the impression, as with Michael Grant on Saturday, that many people buy tickets on the day for an event that sounds reasonably suitable, but might be with an author they’d not heard of before. I like that. It’s good to know you can discover a new favourite out of the blue.