While I’ve been away…

Uath Lochan 2

Uath Lochan, Glen Feshie, Cairngorms.

It seems an age, so much has happened in between, but I just don’t seem to have had the time to sit down and write anything bloggable. So this is by way of a catch-up.

‘Maya’ came out on my birthday, celebrating with a launch in the Scottish Poetry Library. I played tenor sax solo before and after reading the poems, to match the cover image. Lots of friends came, including several I wasn’t expecting to see. It was a lovely day.

Since then I’ve read from it at Dunbar Craft Studio, Vibrant Musselburgh, and the Callander Poetry Weekend, as well as doing an Edinburgh reading for Christine De Luca at the Edinburgh City Museum in the Royal Mile.

I took in a little bit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but I gave the Book Festival a miss this year – I went to a lot there last year.

Jane got her second cataract operation, and it went very well. We also had a disastrous experience with double glazing, and they’re coming back today to fix the messes they made last time. So I’m deskbound at the moment. Monday morning would normally be one of my gym sessions, but I’ll go tomorrow instead.

We got back from a short break at Feshiebridge, in the Cairngorms. It’s our only real break this year, mainly because of the uncertainties over Jane’s operation date. We may try to have a city break later. I could fancy Durham, but anywhere really.

On the writing side, I’m editing a lot of my short stories, in preparation for putting together a book for next year. And I’ve been reading fiction submissions for Postbox Press.

Altogether, keeping busy, so nothing really changes.

 

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Sequencing the collection

When I was publishing poetry collections under the Calder Wood Press imprint I always took a great deal of care placing poems in a sequence I thought made sense. It was one of the things I enjoyed most about publishing. I also tried to do it with my own poetry books.

Now there’s the new one:

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I can honestly say I took more care and expended more thought over the sequence of poems here than in any other collection I’ve written. Why? I think that having a structure, even an implied structure rather than an explicit one, makes a collection easier to read. There are many themes in this, my ninth and largest poetry book, and I’ve tried to ensure that the themes are linked, possibly through ideas, more often through words in one poem reflected in the next, even if the themes are different. I don’t suppose many readers, other than possibly some critics, will notice the connections, but I know they’re there.

I hope that readers will enjoy the poems as much as I did writing them, because I strongly believe that poetry is an act of communication between people. My late friend Brian Osborne, in his address to the Scottish Library Association awarding me Honorary Membership said that I was all about communication. It was true then. It is true now.

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Also by Colin Will

First there was Thirteen Ways of Looking At the Highlands (Diehard, 1996)

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Then came Seven Senses (Diehard, 2000)

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Mementoliths (Calder Wood Press, 2005)

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Later replaced by the revised Mementoliths 2 as a Kindle edition (2011).

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Sushi & Chips (Diehard, 2006)

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The floorshow at the Mad Yak Café (Red Squirrel Press, 2010)

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Recycled Cards (Kindle, 2011)

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The Propriety of Weeding (Red Squirrel Press, 2012)

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The Year’s Six Seasons (Calder Wood Press, 2013)

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The Book of Ways (Red Squirrel Press, 2014)

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Getting On (Postbox Press, 2016) (short stories)

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The Night I Danced With Maya (Red Squirrel Press, 2017)

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The new book

Now that we’re into July I can begin letting people know about my new book, coming from Red Squirrel Press on the 22nd of the month. I’ve checked the proofs, and it’s now being printed, so here’s a preview of the cover:

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Huge thanks to Gerry Cambridge for designing the book and the cover, and to Sheila Wakefield for publishing it. The cover reflects the mood of the title poem beautifully, and it also alludes to my other life as a musician. I’ll bring my tenor sax to the launch (details to be advised later), and my black fedora, but I think I’ll give the white bow tie a miss.

The poems were mostly written between 2012 and 2016.

It’s my tenth book, and my ninth book of poems, and it feels pretty amazing to have reached these particular milestones in my writing career.

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The back cover

The back cover blurb of a book usually describes the author, sometimes in embarrassingly excruciating detail, sometimes with quotes from the great and the good, or from reviews.

Writing a blurb is one of those essential jobs that most authors leave until the last minute. So it is with me. I’ve written a lot of them over the years, and it’s often hard to come up with something fresh that you hope will interest a reader, while providing the essential information which might move them in the direction of actually buying your book.

My tenth publication (Oooh! Get him!) is coming out on 22nd July, so I’ve I’ve been doing the necessary again. It’s a full-length collection of poetry, under the title The Night I Danced With Maya, and it’s being published by Red Squirrel Press. Arrangements for the launch are in hand, and more information will be coming later. So in the meantime, here’s what will be on the back cover, subject to editing and revision:

Colin Will began writing, mainly poetry, in 1961, but then wrote nothing between 1965 and 1985. In the interim he became a scientific librarian, adding a science degree and a doctorate in information science to his library qualifications. His first published poem was in 1989, and his first book – Thirteen Ways Of Looking At The Highlands, and more – was published by Diehard in 1996. Between 1998 and 2016 he ran Calder Wood Press, publishing 61 titles, mainly poetry pamphlets. His first Red Squirrel Press poetry collection was The floorshow at the Mad Yak Café, published in 2010, followed by The Propriety of Weeding in 2012 and the haibun collection, The Book of Ways, in 2014. He also writes short stories, and his debut short story pamphlet for Postbox Press is Getting On, published in 2016. He has written song lyrics, and his first short play was performed in 2017. He’s also a musician, playing saxophones and clarinets.

He has chaired the Boards of the Scottish Poetry Library and the StAnza Poetry Festival, and he is currently one of the team behind the CoastWord Festival, which takes place annually in his home town of Dunbar, in East Lothian. He was Makar to the Federation of Writers (Scotland) in 2011 and President of the Scottish Library Association in 2000.

These new poems were almost all written between 2012 and 2016. Their subjects are as varied as Colin’s interests – music, art, science, politics, landscape, nature and human nature. Its publication date coincides with his 75th birthday, and he has no intention of slowing down.

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Will this do?

 

 

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Stepping down

Last weekend I stepped down from my second 3-year term chairing the Boast of Trustees of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival. My involvement with StAnza goes back to 2003, and I first joined the Board the year after that. So I have had a long and very personal relationship with the Festival, and I have hugely enjoyed working with successive Directors Brian Johnstone and Eleanor Livingstone, and with Trustees past and present.

But for the past couple of years I’ve gradually been cutting down on my commitments, especially those involving committees. I’ll be 75 in July, and it feels like a good time to concentrate on my own writing.

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Past and Present

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That’s the title we give to the sessions at StAnza: Scotland’s international poetry festival where a present writer talks about a poet from the past. These events have been a regular feature of the Festival for several years now, and I’ve been involved since the start, chairing and introducing three of the first four events, as I recall. I’ve continued to be involved, but as I step down next month from chairing StAnza’s Board of Trustees, I realise it may be the last time for a while that I sit in the Provost’s Throne in the Cooncil Chambers. I always feel somewhat ridiculous in that chair, and, frankly, it’s rather uncomfortable, but the quality of the speakers always makes up for that.

I chaired two sessions this year, both memorable, and both sell-out events. First was one featuring Neil McLennan on the war poets in Edinburgh, and the second was Alice Oswald on Homer. Both very different, but utterly fascinating. Neil talked about Craiglockhart, a hospital in WWI, then a Catholic convent and student teacher training establishment, and now a part of Napier University. When I was growing up in Colinton Mains, I passed it every day on my way to Craiglockhart Primary School. Neil spoke about Owen and others walking in the Pentland Hills, as I often did as a wee boy. And when he mentioned Owen teaching English at Tynecastle High School I almost couldn’t believe it, because my late brother Graeme attended the same school. Then to Alice Oswald. I found her talk riveting and entirely believable. I want to read the versions of Homer she mentioned, and ‘to hear the wind blowing through the words.’  I also want to re-read her own re-interpretation of the Iliad, a book I completely enjoyed on first reading. She was wonderful.

My second session in the chair was very different. Emmanuelle Lacore-Martin spoke on the poetry of Mary, Queen of Scots, and my old friend Stewart Conn on the poetry of Muriel Spark. I have to confess that I hadn’t previously considered Mary as a poet, but on this evidence she certainly was. Also, familiar as I am with the novels of Muriel Spark, I hadn’t read her poetry. And yet, according to Stewart, she always considered herself primarily as a poet.

The outcome of these sessions, I always hope, will be to make listeners seek out and enjoy the poetry of the subjects, and that’s definitely something I have been encouraged to do this year.

 

 

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