Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Doris Davidson

Everyone at Birlinn is very sad to announce the death of Doris Davidson.
   Doris was an Aberdeen lass through and through, having been born there in 1922 the daughter of a master butcher and country lass. Her idyllic childhood was shattered in 1934 with the death of her father, meaning her mother was forced to take in lodgers to make ends meet and Doris’ early departure from education. Doris went to work in an office, gradually rising through the ranks until she became book-keeper, but at the age of 41 she decided to do something else.
   Doris went back to college to study for O and A levels and trained as a primary school teacher. From 1967 until she retired in 1982 she taught in schools in Aberdeen but once again, Doris decided to change focus. Her new 'career' was as a writer. Drawing on her own experiences and childhood she would become an acclaimed and much-loved romantic novelist. One of most successful books, though, was her autobiography A Gift from the Gallowgate, charting her childhood in Aberdeen in the 20s and 30s, her marriages and working early working life.
   Doris was a joy to work with, still appearing at signings locally well into her 80s and still delighting readers. She will be very sadly missed.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Aibisidh Shortlisted for £30,000 Literary Award

Polygon is delighted to announce that Angus Peter Campbell has been shortlisted for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award 2012. Angus Peter’s collection Aibisidh won the poetry prize, worth £5000, and now joins the shortlist for the £30,000 award.

‘I am delighted to have won this major poetry award from what really was a tremendous shortlist,’ said Angus Peter. ‘Best if I could dedicate it to our greatest living Gaelic poet, Donald MacAulay, who not only encouraged me personally at the very beginning of my career but whose parallaxes have helped me navigate the skerries since. Nuair a sheatlaigeas a’ mhòine,‘s e an luimead a dhealras.’

Aibisidh was described by Tom Pow, one fo the judges of the 2012 Awards, as 'an unusually rich, coherent and emotionally satisfying collection'.

The shortlist for the Award is:
Fiction: Ali Smith, There but for the (Hamish Hamilton)
Non-Fiction: Janice Galloway, All Made Up (Granta)
Poetry: Angus Peter Campbell, Aibisidh (Polygon)
First Book: Simon Stephenson, Let Not the Waves of the Sea (John Murray)

The winner, chosen by public vote will be announced at an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Friday the 17th of August. To cast your vote click here. Voting closes on midnight on Monday the 6th of August. 

Congratulations to Angus Peter from everyone at Polygon!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Happy 70th Birthday Aonghas MacNeacail!

If there was anyone we’d describe as laughing at the clock, it would be Aonghas MacNeacail. Acclaimed as the fforemost poet writing today in the Gaelic language, his skilful way with words and general bonhomie make it very hard to believe his latest collection Déanamh Gáire Ris A' Chloc - Laughing at the Clock is published to celebrate his seventieth birthday. Aonghas talked about his experience of ‘being a poet’ on the Scottish Poetry Library's blog, Our Sweet Old Etcetera.
Image by Kevin MacNeil
“The moment when an individual decides to be a writer of poetry is not at all the same as that when the same individual can be said to have become a poet. In my case, around five years of exploring how words work - those of acknowledged practitioners, and - clumsily - my own.
Being told to ‘go back to your roots: write about what you know’ might seem like obvious advice, once it’s been taken. I might wish to have received it earlier, but those years of obsessive reading, and obsessive writing, were also a kind of affirmation that I had the tenacity to follow this path - that I had chosen / had chosen me - through to a productive conclusion.
Once poems begin to appear in print, you are then liable to be introduced as 'the poet...' which can itself be discomfiting, when you’re aware of only having, at most, seven adequately abandoned (in the ‘Valeryan’ sense) poems. And there are those days, weeks, months, when nothing at all is written: terrifying. Have I said all that there is to be said? But you keep reading, and there’s a part of the brain always open to the possibility that something interesting may present itself: which, eventually, if you let it, happens.
Those politicians who argue that ‘incentives’ - i.e. lots of cash - are necessary to encourage the creative process (‘enterprise’, they call it) have clearly never experienced the itch at the back of the brain that insists on being turned into a poem. It may be a word, phrase, visual image, sound, or simply an inchoate feeling that there is something to be said, and it’s your job to say it. What eventually turns out may seem inordinately slight, ludic, ludicrous even, but if you can say, with reasonable confidence, that it is a poem, then that is enough.
When asked, usually by children, ‘What’s the best poem you’ve written?’ I invariably reply, 'The next one'. Whether writing to commission or responding to an unexpected trigger that sets the creative juices going, the process is always going to be one of discovery: sometimes the material is drawn entirely from memory, at other times it may depend on considerable research.
But even the least personally experienced subject can only be responded to successfully if there are enough points of recognition to enable the poet to engage with the material. The previously unknown has to be uncovered until it becomes thoroughly familiar: once it becomes a ‘known’ which can then be explored with the same level of assured curiosity as any other subject, all the fun, and torment, may begin.
It’s maybe just as well that such commissions are not daily occurrences. Even after half a century of writing, I am still more accustomed to the mysterious pleasures derived from writing ‘to find out what I have to say’. That the spark may present itself in one of three languages, and in poem or song form, merely adds to the satisfaction gained from being a poet.”

Laughing at the Clock: New and Selected Poems - Déanamh Gáire Ris A’ Chloc: Dáin Ùra Agus Thaghte is published today on Aonghas’ 70th birthday by Polygon, £12.99 pbk

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dark•Heritage: Vikings in America

Click here for more info
Sometimes you just need something different, so in amongst all the bunting and flags we were delighted to see Dark Heritage taking the time to blog about Vikings in America by Graeme Davis. The first book to tackle the subject of the true extent of the Viking discovery and colonisation of the eastern seaboard of America, it's a cracking - if sometimes controversial - read. We think 2012 is going to be Viking-tastic with a new series on BBC by Neil Oliver coming up in the autumn, and Graeme's book is an excellent jumping off point.