CoastWord is, with nae word of a lie, the best small literary festival I’ve ever had the joy to attend. The camaraderie of the team, the beautiful welcome to Dunbar, and the excellent discussions and performances I’ve seen at the festival would be hard to match elsewhere; it is the specific folks involved who make this festival truly special and I tip my hat to one and aw of them.
It’s been excellent to watch CoastWord grow over the years to become a staple of the Scottish literary calendar. For the last two years it’s also been a joy to be a guest programmer for the festival, through Flint & Pitch, my spoken word, live lit and music organisation. However, to have been asked to be poet-in-residence this year is, quite simply, an honour, coming, coincidentally, at a really crucial time for me as a writer.
During the festival itself, I will be in conversation with two fabulous writers, Janice Galloway and Catherine Simpson, talking about This Script, my second poetry collection, which will be launching on Fri 17th May, a week before the festival. I’m looking forward to this very much! As a programmer, director and facilitator, I had, until last year, rather neglected my own word-babies, passionate instead about finding and showcasing the numerous Scottish performance poets who need and deserve support. I adore my art-form, but I must say that I’m looking forward to talking about the difficult process of writing from life with two authors whose genre differs from my own!
On the Friday evening I will be part of the Neu! Reekie! Showcase, with brand new work written during my residency in Dunbar, which will be in the last week of March. I will be staying in Dunbar for the whole week, meeting people, engaging with local groups, and scribbling furiously! I’ll also be writing a second blog during that time to keep you updated on how things are going!
It would probably be an understatement to say that, often, when writers of all kinds apply for residencies, fellowships, funding of any kind, the temptation to just caps-lock the sentence OH MY DAYS I JUST WANT TO WRITE HOLY HECK JUST GIE ME SOME TIME AND SPACE TO WRRRRRIIIIITTTTEEEEE!!!! is ever-present. I know it is for me! That this residency with CoastWord is fluid, open to me to be inspired by Dunbar - and most specifically, the stories of its people, living in the here-and-now - is absolutely brilliant. So! What’s my plan?
I’m currently developing two creative ideas, both of which will change over time as such things always do. The first has the working-title ‘All Of This Is Ordinary’, and is currently planned to be a work of literary and performance poetry focussed on the extraordinary of the every-day. A mission to find the poetry in the small acts we overlook, the things we take for granted as ‘ordinary’ - the commute, the morning ritual, a flick of a switch, a selfless act that has become expected, our own bodies themselves - a loose theme, perhaps, but I am looking forward to the chance to hash this out during my residency! I’m already in the process of finding specific groups to meet in Dunbar to work with - watch this space!
The second creative work I’ve been trying to develop this last wee while - in the time I’ve not been writing This Script - is entitled ‘New Edina’, which is a performance poetry work, designed entirely for the stage - and for potentially theatre. Based on a short theatre commission written last year for the Lyceum Youth Theatre, in itself based on a novel I’ve been trying to write for, er, 10 years (sshhhhhh), it is set in a near-future Edinburgh and the ‘Outwiths’ (incorporating all of Lothian) and is an exploration of political power, sustainability, a-mortality and the madness of crowds. Again, a bit of a loose one, but again, I can see how Dunbar and its folks are the perfect locale to bring parts of this work tae fulsome life. I’m particularly interested in hearing the insights of residents of Dunbar who have noted the changes in housing over the years. A key part of New Edina is questioning the priorities placed on commerce over sustainable, enjoyable, home-building and placemaking; the loss of communities - the compartmentalisation of so much of our lives, my ain included.
In short? This week-long residency comes at a really exciting point for me as a writer and by heck, I’ll be thanking this residency for whatever comes next, of that I am sure! I am ecstatically grateful to Hannah Lavery and the CoastWord committee for inviting me to be their poet in residence, and overjoyed to be a festival attendee without my programming hat on! I can’t wait to come live in Dunbar for an entire week. It is a place that is extremely dear to me, that I love, that I have met life-long friends in, that is truly beautiful too. I also look forward to the seafood. I feel that is an entirely legitimate use of my time too!
With many thanks, here endeth blog number 1! Look out for the second at the end of March/ beginning of April!