Posted by: scottishwriters | October 19, 2017

In Process Masterclass: Tom Leonard

‘They don’t want you to be Scottish, they want you to have Scots.’

In September we welcomed Tom Leonard to the Scottish Writers’ Centre for the ‘In Process’ masterclass in which he discussed the institutionalisation of language.

Language is the greatest marker of our personal trajectory. Where were we raised? Where were our parents raised? With whom do we associate ourselves? In what time period were you born?

Yet what happens when language becomes institutionalised? This is the question that drives Tom Leonard. Because ‘Language’, as Leonard states with feverish zeal, ‘is a symptom of human existence.’

When an institution gives a person their language and cuts off their tongue, it becomes difficult for a person to communicate the very essence of their individual human existence. This frustration at language’s systematisation is what inspired Leonard’s poetry collection ‘Six Glasgow Poems’ in which the poems are not only written in Glaswegian dialect, but spelt out phonetically. Detached from all stylistic rules, Leonard manages to bring the focus back to language – and poetry – as pure music. The medium of poetry is particularly important to Leonard since, for him, poetry deals with the processes of language, whereas novels deal with language as speech.

he brings the focus back to language as pure music. Leonard valourises the medium of poetry since, for him, poetry deals with language’s processes; novels deal with language as speech.

As Leonard says, ‘Even if they’re from Glasgow, they put on a Glasgow accent’. Once language is institutionalised, it is manipulated and performed, and becomes a question of being versus having. We change our accents, our dialects, and perform speech like actors playing a simplified version of ourselves. The music of language is being lost in the pursuit of the idea of ‘literariness’, something that Leonard laments in his poem ‘Good Style’:

jiss try enny a yir fly patir wi me

stick thi bootnyi good style

so ah wull

Leonard concludes the masterclass with an anecdote that sums up the subject matter of his poems. He discusses his recent time spent in hospital and having to take medicine before bed. On the hazy cusp of consciousness and sleep, he recounts having heard two women talking near him ‘like music.’ He could hear their words with such clarity: the elocution of each stress, syllable and stutter. He could decipher that they liked each other and felt comfortable with each other. This is language as ‘being’. As Leonard poignantly concludes, it wasn’t ‘the essence of what they’re doing’ but rather the ‘essence itself’.

Words by Rebecca Gaff

Posted by: scottishwriters | October 16, 2017

SWC Recommends: Black History Month

To commemorate and celebrate Black History Month, SWC’s Literary Editor Rachel Walker put together a list of works we love from talented black writers from Britain, America and beyond. Some are classic, well-loved authors, some are less well-known, but all deserve to be read, and all showcase important aspects of both historical and contemporary black experience. Read away!

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Posted by: scottishwriters | October 12, 2017

Autumn Voices

Larry Butler is a poet and publisher who focuses on the idea of writing as a healing process. Larry came to the Scottish Writers Centre on the 26th of September to deliver “Autumn Voices”, an event billed as a talk and workshop centred around creativity and aging. As the discussion began, however, it became apparent that this was not only a talk about aging in general, but also about that little-discussed side-effect of aging. Namely: dying. I have never in my life had such an honest conversation about dying and death as I did in those two hours, with people who were either complete strangers or tentative acquaintances. I wrongly expected that there wouldn’t be much in the workshop that was relevant to me, as a relatively young person who hasn’t really done much in the way of writing. However, death is relevant to everyone, and as the night progressed I realised it had touched the lives of every person in the room, young and old.

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Posted by: scottishwriters | October 9, 2017

SWC Recommends: Contemporary Scottish Novels

We’re very excited for tomorrow’s nEW wRITINGS sHOWCASE – a brilliant event in partnership with the University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing programmes (MFA and DFA). Supporting up-and-coming talented Scottish writers is at the very ethos of what the Scottish Writers’ Centre does, and what better way to celebrate the fantastic and continuing tradition of Scottish writing than by sharing some of our favourite (of many) contemporary Scottish writers? Read on…


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‘All poetry is historical as it comes from the world.’
Sally Evans

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Posted by: scottishwriters | October 3, 2017

‘Nessie’s Diary’ Competition Winners

Scotland’s mythical legends are famous worldwide. From fire-breathing dragons to shape-shifting water spirits, our legendary beasts have inspired countless tales of drama and mystery. This year, their side of the story will finally be heard!

Scottish Writers’ Centre was thrilled to recently announce the winners of our children’s creative writing competition Nessie’s Diary. The competition asked entrants to envisage the unknown world of Nessie – the famous Loch Ness monster who has captured local and international imagination for centuries.

Here you can find the wonderful winning entries. We hope you enjoy reading them!


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Posted by: scottishwriters | October 2, 2017

Winners of ‘Nessie’s Diary’ competition announced

Scotland’s mythical legends are famous worldwide. From fire-breathing dragons to shape-shifting water spirits, our legendary beasts have inspired countless tales of drama and mystery. This year, their side of the story will finally be heard!

Scottish Writers’ Centre is thrilled to announce the winners of our recent children’s creative writing competition Nessie’s Diary. The competition asked entrants to envisage the unknown world of Nessie – the famous Loch Ness monster who has captured local and international imagination for centuries.  We wanted to hear all about the day-to-day life of Scotland’s most notorious loch dweller, and the school-children of Scotland definitely delivered.


We would like to thank everyone who entered Nessie’s Diary – the submissions were absolutely fantastic and wonderfully inventive, and we very much enjoyed exploring the funny, frightening and always imaginative worlds of Nessie. But unfortunately we can only choose three winners, and the three entrants whose interpretations most stood out to us were…


Winner: Greta Lawson (Netherlee Primary School)

First Runner-Up: Sam Boulton-Jones (Netherlee Primary School)

Second Runner-Up: Kirsty Simpson (Kilmacolm Primary School)


All three winners will receive National Book Tokens to spend in any bookshop across Scotland, and will have their winning entries featured on the Scottish Writers’ Centre website.

Posted by: scottishwriters | September 28, 2017

Water as Poetry Inspiration

On 4th of July the SWC welcomed Morelle Smith and George Colketto to the CCA Clubroom for an event based on how water inspires poetry. These two writers shared stories about their creative processes, the locations and events that inspired them, and the place water holds in their work.

water as poetry 4

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Posted by: scottishwriters | September 20, 2017

The House that Heals the Soul

Sunday 3rd September marked the closure of one of the CCA in Glasgow’s most triumphant exhibitions: The House that Heals the Soul. When I visited this temporary library in August, I saw a space dedicated to a love of literature, community, and generative discussion. The House that Heals the Soul offered an interactive exploration of the public library, its contributions to independent publishing, to cultivating a love of books, and to its possibilities of connection.

Alastair Blog1

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Posted by: scottishwriters | September 13, 2017

Douglas Thompson: ‘Dirty Poetry to Die For’


Douglas Thompson kick starts the evening by taking us on a whirlwind tour of the poetry and philosophy that has influenced his interpretation of what love is. We are catapulted through the ages of love poetry, from Anna Akhmatova’s ‘Everything’ which Douglas believes describes the heightened state of awareness that experiencing love is akin to. Then to the links between love and death that are explored by many authors such as Leonard Cohen and Rainer Maria Rilke who speak to the heightened awareness of death that love can bring us.

Douglas suggests that poetry can emulate or describe this heightened state of awareness through images that are so vivid they remain with the reader long after they have finished the poem. Images of colour are, he argues, one of the most effective ways of achieving this as he describes the way he was completely taken over by the colour red that is evoked upon reading Edwin Morgan’s ‘Strawberries’. Not only does this poem provoke truly vivid images but also the feelings and emotions that go along with the image of the colour red. Douglas feels this poem is “erotic but not pornographic”, with a sense of illicit love woven throughout. This reflects many of the traditional associations with the rich red colour that we associate with the strawberries mentioned in this poem, including sensuality, romance, and perhaps even danger.

In the second part of the evening Douglas moves onto his own poetry, alongside which he also shows some of his own photography, graphic images and artwork by his late brother. Douglas explains that whilst links between the poems and images do exist he has no set rules for how to link a poem and an image. In some cases he has written a poem about an image, in some he has created an image specifically for a poem, and in other cases he has simply found that a certain poem and image fit well together despite having no prior intentions to put them together himself.

One of the first poems that Douglas reads for us is ‘Poem for November’ which is Douglas Thompson8presented alongside the image that he created for the poem after the poem itself was completed. ‘Poem for November’ is itself an image of a cold autumnal day that is interrupted, for the speaker, by a memory of what seems like warmer, sunnier days, when his love had not yet left him in the same way that just a glimpse of blue sky can sometimes break through dark clouds. It is possible to apply Douglas’ own earlier reading of the way in which love is similar to some sort of heightened state of awareness to his own poem here. The “humdrum” life the speaker is experiencing in the first part of the poem might not seem as if it owns itself to heightened awareness. It seems to me that the speaker has accepted his new life without his love and is simply trying to get through the grey days that now lie ahead. However, the way the “carnival flags defy the grey” later on suggests that the speaker maintains some of his previous “brief dreams of sweet escape” and “reckless flight”.

Douglas ends the evening by reading from his poem ‘The Submerged Princess’, which he created the image for before writing the poem. Looking at this complex image it is easy to see how the poem, which embodies so much varied female spirit, came about. I am particularly inspired by how multifaceted both Douglas’ poems and images are, every time I look back I notice shapes that were not there before that add new nuances to the poetry they accompany.

Douglas Thompson7


Words by Kate Jackson











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