I don’t feel like doing a summary of the year – there are enough unreadable Round Robins in Christmas cards without me adding to the total, and I know if I try to list highlights I’ll forget some. At the time of writing the temperature is plummeting, more snow is forecast, but I’ve had a lovely meal, I’m nice and warm, and I don’t need to go out until Sunday night’s ‘Dunbar Sings’ concert, in which the Dunbar Writers are taking part. I’m going to read my ‘Winterlude’ poem, which fits the season, the weather, and the setting in St Anne’s Church. So this is a random walk through some of the events of 2010, in no particular order, and without any special significance.
Back in February I was contacted to come in to the East Coast FM studio in Haddington to talk about my new book, which was about to be published by Red Squirrel Scotland. I enjoyed the experience, and it turned into a weekly ‘Bookshelf’ spot on Thursday’s morning show, when I introduce authors with local connections on air. I discovered that I love doing live radio – there’s nothing formulaic or rehearsed about it – it’s all spontaneous and creative. Sometimes I’ve struggled to get authors to come in on specific dates, and often I’ve had to dredge my memory for music suggestions for the presenter, Jim Anderson, but it has been such fun. I’m looking forward to 2011, and I’m lining up authors for January just now.
I’ve published nine titles in 2010, with the latest one being Eddie Gibbons’ marvellous collection, Why she flew to Barcelona. Next year I go international, with Sonata Paliulyte from Lithuania, and Alistair Noon, who lives in Berlin. And I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be publishing Ross Wilson in 2012, along with Dunbar poet Jo Gibson. I’ve always liked Ross’s poems – he’s the real thing – and Jo’s poetry has become stronger and deeper in the time I’ve known her.
I enjoyed taking part in two Hidden Door Festivals in the old Roxy Art House, and I’m unhappy over the financial problems now besetting the landlord – the University Settlement – who also own the Forest building and the GRV. I hope to see more poetry events in these venues in 2011. Jane and I missed our holiday in Italy in April – she was stranded in Germany by the Icelandic volcano, and couldn’t get home in time to catch the outward flight. In July I got my allotment at Thistly Cross, and it’s been great growing my own veg. I’ve done some super workshops during the year – in Buckie, Inverness, North Uist, Newcastle and with my friends in Carstairs. I’m doing another three workshops in Carstairs early in 2011, and I’m looking forward to them. I’m also looking forward to helping to set up a reading group within a mental health organisation in Kirkcaldy in January. I climbed one Munro this year – Beinn Dorain – and I was relieved to see I can still do it. We had a marvellous holiday in Barcelona in September, with my fellow Fahrters (don’t ask), and Jane and I had two inspirational weeks in Assynt, on Top Left Corner retreats, the second one coinciding with the celebrations around Norman MacCaig’s centenary.
Finally, I’ve been elected this year’s Makar to the Federation of Writers (Scotland). It’s a huge honour, and I’m looking forward to attending their events in 2011, and to doing what I can to promote the Federation.
Here’s the Winterlude poem, first published in Sushi& Chips (Diehard)
Frost haze hangs over the stiff furrows,
whitens fields with iced wheat stems.
A brown layer of trapped smoke,
a line against the pale sky, shows the limit
of this cold, dense air-bubble – an invisible
inversion. The Bass Rock rises
from a milk-blue sea, its base fog-blurred,
and to the long horizon, no horizon.
At this time, we feel the need for warmth,
for company, and if our forebears feasted
so can we. We gather further, winnow the world
for tropical fruits, exotic spices, tangy sauces.
No borders to bounty, no boundaries to taste,
no limits to wanting, because we can have.
And to those who have not? We give, we must,
for now we see that difference makes us all
the same. Need is universal, want is just the way
we choose to live.