Thursday, 22 December 2011

A little goose this Christmas?

Is there a foodie in your life? Perhaps a bon viveur in general? Forget the predictable TV chef cookbook and whisk them off to sunny Botswana with Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built. NB, also a pretty good bet if your loved-one is a fan of Alexander McCall Smith!

Or perhaps their taste buds cry out for something a little closer to home? The Stornoway Black Pudding Bible takes the humble but hearty black pudding into a whole new realm with great recipes from Seumas MacInnes of Glasgow’s legendary CafĂ© Gandolfi.

And to wash it all down? How about Ciderland, or Charles MacLean’s Whiskypedia? Bottoms up!

And don't forget, there's a feast of good books for all tastes over at

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Santa, baby ...

We don't want no '54 convertible nor a platinum mine, we just want fabulous books. And they don't come much more fabulous that Roger Hutchinson's The Silent Weaver: The Extraordinary Life and Work of Angus MacPhee

Like his bestseller Calum's Road, The Silent Weaver is an amazing story about a truly remarkable man. Angus MacPhee returned from the Second World War bearing, as many young men did, invisible scars. At the age of twenty-four he was referred to Craig Dunain Hospital in Inverness where he would spend the next fifty years of his life. Retreating into his own silent world he created wonderful works of art using organic matter – grass, wool, leaves – which he would allow to decay or even destroy himself. It was only when an art therapist discovered him and his creations did some of them begin to be preserved and for Angus to begin to talk again.

Anna - ahoy matey! - chose The Silent Weaver for her Christmas recommendation:

"This beautiful little book not only tells the intriguing story of Angus MacPhee and his haunting artworks made of grass and leaves but also gives fascinating and unexpected insight into schizophrenia and attitudes to mental health following WWII. It's another gem from Roger Hutchinson and has one of my favourite book covers of all time."

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas? You’re having a laugh!?

If you’re on the lookout for something to tickle their funny bone, look no further.

They’ll never be lost for a one-liner with Chic Murray's Funnyosities, or find out more about the man himself in Just Daft: The Chick Murray Story. And for when you just can’t take another rerun of The Sound of Music, sit back and enjoy his offbeat humour with a DVD of his comedy classics.

If you have email, then you have spam. Not sure what we mean? Have you been offered a Rolex, love, money, ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’ recently which seemed too good to be true? That’s spam. It’s pretty annoying but one man has adopted it as his raison d’ĂȘtre. Bob Servant, the comedy creation of Neil Forsyth, takes spammers on and strings them along. It’s hilarious. His first volume of online adventures, Delete This at Your Peril, has been joined by Why Me?: The Very Important Emails of Bob Servant. Now something of a celebrity in his native Broughty Ferry, Bob even has his own biography, Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee. (Work of fiction or fantasy might be a better description! – Ed)

Another funny man, Stanley Baxter, is the perfect guide to learning to Parliamo Glasgow (now also on CD), or gie your greetin’ faced friend a treat with the charmingly titled, Awa' An' Bile Yer Heid! And in these troubled times you too can do your bit for international relations with Auld Enemies: The Scots and the English.

So come on down and laugh it up at

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Balls III: There's Only One Dixie Deans!

It’s another case of balls today in our staff recommendations. Pete – multitalented and multi-job titled – goes for a football book, which is quite surprising seeing as he’s all about the rugby. Ah well, does a man good to cut loose now and again and if there’s one man who can tell you all about that it's the one, the only Dixie Deans.

At this time of year it’s hard to swing a practice ball without hitting some footballer or other using fairground attractions as similes for life in the beautiful game. Rollercoasters and merry-go-rounds are favourites, but you’d need the Pepsi Ride at Blackpool without breaks and some jetpacks attached to get close to the highs and lows experienced by Dixie Deans at Celtic.

Here's Pete to sings his praises: "There's Only One Dixie Deans: The Autobiography lifts the lid on the life of a true Celtic great, part of the legendary team that swept to nine consecutive league titles and dominated a golden era in the Scottish game. A fascinating story – in turns uplifting, heartrending, inspiring and haunting."

And don't forget, it's always a sporting life over at

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Christmas Story

A novel is an excellent idea for a Christmas present, quite apart from being easy to wrap! Polygon has a pleasing plethora of novels for your delectation, but we've chosen two particular favourites for you today.

Vikki – Sales & Marketing Liaison, a song for every occasion – is especially keen on The Book of Crows by Sam Meekings:

“Sam Meekings’ The Book of Crows is a bit of an epic. It’s the story of five different people, in five different time periods, all linked by their encounters with a mysterious Book of Crows which contains the entire history of the world and everyone in it past, present and future. As Sam is also a very fine poet, it’s no surprise to find he writes beautifully. That he also writes a book so pacy—with many a twist in the tale—and jam-packed with memorable characters, makes it’s an obvious choice for book of the year!”

You heard the lady! The Book of Crows is also available as an eBook.

Laura – Sales Director de Luxe – went for The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons:
"I thought I knew a lot about WW2, but I had never heard of the Kindertransport, and what a few brave people managed to achieve despite the worst that humanity could throw at them. Meticulously researched, powerfully written, emotionally compelling – Jake Wallis Simons is a real talent to watch."

Also available as an eBook. And for many, many more suggestions head over to

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Cue the Ball Jokes: II

We were terrible remiss the other day and forgot to expand upon our Christmas pick by Kenny. So, with apologies here are some thoughts for presents for the sports fan this year.

There’s Only One Dixie Deans, a Celtic legend par excellence and a must for all fans of the hoops. Or, if you’re buying for a ‘Ger you might consider Barcelona and Beyond: The Men Who Made Rangers Champions of Europe. If their balls are odd-shaped, we have some of the best rugby books around - Southern Comfort: The Story of Borders Rugby (as recommended by Kenny), or how about Behind the Thistle: Playing Rugby for Scotland. And for the serious rugby aficionado, there’s The Accies: The Cradle of Scottish Rugby, available in hardback or as a signed limited edition.

And if balls aren’t their thing at all – double entendre central here, so it is – there’s the dashing Dario Speedwagon, Scotland’s legendary cricket champions (Dad’s Army) and Graeme Obree, The Flying Scotsman to keep them amused. And there's loads more over at

Line up, line out, kick-off and start your engines for some stupendous sports books from Birlinn!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hit the Right Note With Your Christmas Presents

It’s not just carols at Christmas, nor blaring muzak in shops, neither. For the discerning music fan in your life we have some suggestions for pitch-perfect presents this year.

Fond of flares? If 1970s music is their thing, man, it’s going to be a tough choice between Some People are Crazy: The John Martyn Story or The Sensational Alex Harvey, both by John Neil Munro. John Martyn was the last of the music mavericks, loved and loathed in equal measure but hugely talented as a singer-songwriter. And what can you say about Alex Harvey? Somewhere between naughty boy and wild man, he was one of the most exciting and diverse (everything from Jacques Brel to rock) of the 1970s. Truly sensational!

If they still hanker after shoulder pads and batwings, the 1980’s music fan will love The Glamour Chase: The Maverick Life of Billy MacKenzie (our Alison certainly does). Author Tom Doyle traces the story of the fabulous front man of The Associates who left a rich musical legacy despite his short life. But if their tastes run to beautifully crafted, emotionally-charged ‘2 a.m. songs’ Nileism: The Strange Case of The Blue Nile by Allan Brown is perfect, as he tries to unravel the most reclusive of bands. (We have a small number of hardback copies of Nileism, so if you really want to make an impact get one of these.)

And for something for everyone you should tune into Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country by Allan Glen. Beginning as dynamic guitarist for The Skids, Stuart Adamson would conquer the world with Big Country before branching out as part of The Raphaels and as a solo artist. But behind his success was a tragic story of alcoholism which would drive him to disappear to a lonely death.

So, there are our suggestions for harmony this Christmas but there are plenty more at

Monday, 12 December 2011

"If there's a cure for this, I don't want it"

Christmas is the one time you can go overboard but, unless you’re blessed with a cast-iron constitution and need no sleep, it’s probably a good thing it’s only once a year. There are, though, some people to whom the normal rules do not apply – Billy MacKenzie was one of those people.

The beautious Billy
The octave-vaulting charismatic front man of 1980’s band The Associates, he beguiled and unsettled in equal measure with the voice and face of an angel and the impulse-control issues of a spoiled 8-year-old. As with so many gifted artists ahead of their time, Billy was his own worst enemy and went from the top of the charts to the depths of despair in the blink of an exquisitely made-up eye. Convinced that the music industry had forgotten him and his career was over, he took his own life aged just thirty-nine leaving a rich dynamic musical legacy that continues to inspire artists today. We love him madly.

It came as no surprise, then, that resident Polygon hipster Alison chose Tom Doyle’s fabulous biography of Billy, The Glamour Chase: The Maverick Life of Billy MacKenzie as her Christmas pressie wish:

“One of the most entertaining music biogs ever written. It matters not a jot if you don't know who Billy MacKenzie was, this is an intimate, funny, moving account of a genuine one-off, taking in whippets, Dundee, chocolate guitars and heaps of 80s excess. Just gorgeous!”

Friday, 9 December 2011

All I want for Christmas is ... odd-shaped balls?!

It’s the traditional annual wheeling out of that joke in connection with rugby. If you have a rugby fan in your life then Southern Comfort: The Story of Borders Rugby by Neil Drysdale is the one for them. Neil is a freelance sports journalists who has written acclaimed books on Walter Smith, Dario Franchitti and how Scottish village Freuchie won the National Village Cricket Cup.

As a Duns man, it came as little surprise that Kenny Redpath – our events guru and former sporting champ – picked Southern Comfort as the book he’d crawl through a scrum to get for his Christmas:

“Coming from the Borders this was a book that I so looked forward to reading. Neil Drysdale didn't disappoint. There were so many rugby heroes that I idolised growing up! Practically every page has a story that made me smile and be proud of Borders rugby. It makes you realise just how much talent comes from such a small part of our country.”

You heard the man … line up, or line out if you prefer, for your copy!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dear Santa ...

We know you're bombarded with suggestions for what to buy people at Christmas, so we're going to be gentle with you. We'll post some thoughts here for books for people who like fiction, are into food or maybe like kicking balls of varying shapes around, for example, but we'll also highlight what made our lovely staff get all tingly.

First up, Sarah our publicity monkey. Known for her consumption of Irn Bru and love of Windswept Archaeologists (we're not sure what that means either), Sarah got all poetic with her Christmas pick.

Sorley MacLean: The Collected Poems is gorgeous on the outside and breath-taking on the inside. In Gaelic and English, with poems not previously published, material previously cut and a biographical essay showing MacLean to be as passionate in his life as in his work, it’s a thing of beauty all round.”

There's more about Sorley MacLean and his work on our web site, and we'll be posting more suggestions for Christmas presents over the next few days, so stay tuned!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Boyracer Done Good!

Once upon a time, long, long ago – well, 2001 – Polygon published a book called Boyracers. It was the coming of age tale of a boy growing up at brake-neck speed on the back seat of a car called Belinda on the roads around Falkirk. It’s become something of a cult classic but little did we know …
Flash forward to November 2011 and not only is there a brand new edition of Boyracers to celebrate the tenth anniversary of publication, but the author Alan Bissett – now a fully-fledged novelist, playwright and performer - wins the prestigious Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award for Writing.

Alan was presented with his Award by
up and coming crime-writer Ian Rankin.
Elizabeth Lafferty from Glenfiddich said,” Alan is a multi-talented writer and we are delighted to be able to play a part in recognising his achievements.”

We say, well done Alan! Shine on you crazy diamond! xx

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

From the Royal Navy to the Scots Guards: Six Months Without Sundays by Max Benitz

Max Benitz as Midshipman Calamy
with Russell Crowe
Aged just seventeen, Max Benitz was filming the Hollywood blockbuster Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World with Russell Crowe. He left the sheltered environment of his school for what you could call a dangerous, whirlwind adventure. Away from home, with a cohort of experienced professional actors he, by his own admission, “did quite a lot of things for the first time”.

Fast forward eight years and Max embarked on a very different ‘adventure’ and a new set of ‘firsts’. As criticism of the British involvement in Afghanistan grew, and issues with equipment and supplies to troops came to light, Max ‘embedded’ with the Scots Guards – his father’s old regiment – in Helmand on operations to write a book about what the day-to-day realities are like for young guardsmen and women in a conflict most people in Britain don’t want or think is winnable.

“As a student of history I found the situation in Afghanistan fascinating but I had no clear conception of what was actually happening over there,” says Max. “There has been some excellent coverage of the conflict, but I wanted to experience it all at first hand and, being an arrogant stripling, I thought I’d then be able to explain it to a wider public who wanted to get a sense of the reality of today’s conflict.”

“Once I’d got to know the characters and customs that make up 1st Battalion the book became a testament to them and any thoughts of a ‘my personal voyage of discovery’ nonsense was dismissed. I owed them a good and lasting tribute to who they are today; perhaps who they’ve always been since the regiment was raised in 1642.”

Six Months Without Sunday: The Scots Guards in Afghanistan by Max Benitz is published on Friday, £16.99 hbk

Friday, 7 October 2011

Calum's Road Rolls On

Congratulations to the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Calum's Road which received a four-star review from The Scotsman.

Iain Macrae, as Calum, maps out his plans.
Pic: Richard Campbell

"The story told here is of such wisdom and significance that it sweeps objections aside, and moves many in the audience to tears. Iain Macrae gives a fine performance as Calum, a difficult man of unpredictable opinions, who - when not crofting, minding the lighthouse, working as the local postman, or building his road - spent most of his time writing stroppy letters to council officials. John McGeoch's backdrop video designs are breathtakingly beautiful.

Alasdair Macrae drives the whole 95-minute show forward on a tide of music, often traditional, but sometimes inflected with the hard, electronic rhythms of the world in which we all now live; and which may at last be turning back towards places like Arnish, towards their beauty, their natural richness, and their stories, which tell us so much, and cost so little to pass on."

The play Calum's Road is on tour throughout the autumn, find out more at And if you'd like to find out more about Calum and his road, Roger Hutchinson's original book - on which the play is based - is available in all good bookshops and online. Go to

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Road to Success for Calum

Lovely to see heartfelt and much-deserved praise for the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Calum's Road in the Guardian. "Lyrical, musical and elegiac," - not bad at all! You can read the rest of the review by Mark Fisher here, and find out more about about Calums' Road on tour throughout the autumn at

 And if you'd like to find out more about Calum and his road, Roger Hutchinson's original book - on which the play is based - is available in all good bookshops and online. Go to for more on Roger himself

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Calum's Road Takes to the Road

by Roger Hutchinson
Calum's Road and Roger Hutchinson’s book of the same name have become the stuff of modern folklore. It is the remarkable true story of one man's single-minded determination to challenge the powers-that-be and is now coming to stages across Scotland for the first time thanks to Scots playwright David Harrower and the National Theatre of Scotland.

Calum MacLeod lived with his wife on the remote island of Raasay, just off Skye. Born there in 1911, he was crofter, postman and lighthouseman until the population of the north of the island dwindled in the 1960s to just the two of them. Determined not to see the area die – and tired of waiting for the Council to do something – he took matters into his own hands. He built a road. Calum’s unpaid labour of love was to dominate the last 20 years of his life and leave behind a legacy – both practical and poetic – carved into the landscape he loved.

Directed by the highly-acclaimed Gerry Mulgrew Calum’s Road is a co-production between Communicado Theatre Company and the National Theatre of Scotland. The play will be touring Scotland throughout the autumn, ending on Calum’s home island of Raasay on 25th November. Further details of performances can be found here.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Jane McKie Awarded the 2011 Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize

Polygon is absolutely delighted to announce that Jane McKie has won the 2011 Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize for her poem Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin.

Jane McKie
Exactly one year on from the sad death of Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s first Makar or Poet Laureate, Jane was announced as the winner at a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Her poem was chosen from 1200 entries. The prize - £5000 – is one of the largest of its kind and is sponsored by Strathclyde University.

Judge Vicki Feaver said of Jane’s poem, "Each stanza leads the reader a little further on a vivid sensual and historical journey from a world where leprosy is no longer a scourge to a world where its sufferers went on pilgrimages in search of healing. It's a poem about touch - one of the most difficult senses to write about. The untouchable lepers, the God who 'did not touch', and the touch of the lepers on the ledge of the church window 'the lip of sandstone ... purled (wonderful word!) with fissures'.

To read Jane’s winning poem - Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin – and the other shortlisted poems go to Jane's collection of poems When the Sun Turns Green is available from Polygon.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Published today is the autobiography of one of the most colourful, most outspoken and one of the most deeply principled MPs. His career of 43 years saw him be the thorn in the side of several Prime Ministers, even i fhe never got a front bench political career. But Tam Dalyell's name was rarely out of the headlines.

An outspoken critic of both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, his vehement criticism of the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict, the Gulf War of 1990 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he has also been a leading figure in the attempt to uncover the truth about the Lockerbie bombing. His memoir, based on personal papers as well as official documents – many of them only recently declassified – looks back over a lifetime of dedicated service as MP for West Lothian and Linlithgow and covers his family connections to the area for almost 400 years.

Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch of The Binns, 11th Baronet – better known as Tam Dalyell – was born in Edinburgh in 1932 and inherited the Baronetcy of the Binns via his mother in 1972. Educated at the Edinburgh Academy and Eton College, he did his National Service with the Royal Scots Greys from 1950 to 1952 as an ordinary trooper having failed his officer training. He studied History and Economics at King's College, Cambridge, where he was Chairman of the Conservative Association. Following teacher training at Moray House College in Edinburgh, Tam taught at a non-selective school and a ship school. He joined the Labour Party in 1956 after the Suez Crisis and became an MP in 1962, defeating William Wolfe of the Scottish National Party. Tam was an MP in the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, first for West Lothian and then for Linlithgow. He became Father of the House after the 2001 General Election, when Sir Edward Heath retired, and was a Member of the European Parliament from 1975 to 1979 and a member of the Labour National Executive from 1986 to 1987 for the Campaign group. In 2003 Tam was elected Rector of the University of Edinburgh.

The Importance of Being Awkward: The Autobiography of Tam Dalyell is published today, 17th August, £25 hbk. Tam will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this evening.

Meet the Family ...

One of the highlights of this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been a little number called The World According to Bertie. Sound familiar? Yes, the Italian-speaking, saxophone-playing wunderkind of Alexander McCall Smith's delightful 44 Scotland Street series has made his world stage debut. And he even got to meet his maker ... in a nice way!

Above: (from left to right) Bertie Pollock (Clark Devlin), Stuart Pollock (Jack Reid),
Alexander McCall Smith (himself), Irene Pollock (Rachel Ogilvy), Cyril (Corrie), Angus Lordie (Edward Fulton).

Sandy seems pleased with the result, see here for a short interview with him courtesy of STV. The show has been getting great reviews, so why not take a stroll around The World According to Bertie? Find out more at, and catch up with all the goings-on at 44 Scotland Street in the latest novel in the series, Bertie Plays the Blues.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Getting slightly excited ... Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011 starts this Saturday!

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest in the world. In 2010 the stats stacked up to 778 events, 200,000 visitors, 870 authors from 49 countries - 165 of them Scottish – with 341 sold out events and 118 free events.

2011 promises to be even bigger, even better – possibly wetter, but we don’t care! Both Birlinn and Polygon will be cheering on their authors at this year’s festival, and we can promise something for everyone. From Precious Ramotswe’s first case to true tales of derring do in the Second World War. Victorian crime fighters to naughty little boys. Growing up foreign to the greatest discoveries in astronomy. Makars and Method Actors.

Self-contained in a small but perfectly formed village of white tents in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is a wonderful place to be. Why not join us?

Charlotte Square, in the sunshine!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Read the book, see the show, send the card!

The 44 Scotland Street
Door Knocker
by Iain McIntosh 
The whole world seems to be going Bertie mad! Not content with a brand new 44 Scotland Street novel, Bertie Plays the Blues, tomorrow sees the World Premier of The World According to Bertie at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And now an Edinburgh retailer is offering cards and a poster featuring images from the 44 Scotland Street books - including the iconic lion door knocker - by Iain McIntosh. More information on the items (which are exclusive to Context Interiors) can be found at

Friday, 29 July 2011

WANTED: One calm yet enthusiastic and very waggy-tailed Collie dog

The World According to Bertie
Do you live in Edinburgh and have a Border Collie who isn’t likely to be fazed by stagelights, laughter, clapping, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, etc.? If you do, Andy Jordan Productions is holding auditions to find just such a dog to play Cyril the Border Collie in the World Premiere of The World According to Bertie (a 44 Scotland Street Novel by Alexander McCall Smith).
Cyril by Iain McIntosh
Illustrator of the 44 Scotland Street series
The ‘real’ Cyril is the gold-toothed pet of Angus Lordie, resident artist of 44 Scotland Street and much-loved by Bertie, even though – or perhaps partly because – Cyril bit his awful hothouse mother Irene. But then, she did call Cyril “bad and smelly”.

‘The World According to Bertie’ will have two performances a night, and the successful Cyril will be onstage for two five-minute appearances at approximately 8.20pm and 9.45pm from 3rd to 29th August (not 15). Auditions will take place between 4 and 6 p.m. on Sunday 31st July in Adam House, Chambers Street, Edinburgh. If you’d and your dog would be interested in audition please contact Louis Hartshorn in advance -

In return, Cyril will receive a six months supply (4 Adult 12kg bags) of Barking Heads dog food courtesy of Fergusons Pet Supplies Ltd of Tranent. Cyril’s owner will also receive a number of free tickets to the show.

Good luck! And don’t forget to look out for the latest instalment in the adventures of Bertie, Cyril and all the other residents of 44 Scotland Street, Bertie Plays the Blues out soon.

Friday, 15 July 2011

World Premier - The World According to Bertie

Edinburgh’s perennial six-year-old Bertie Pollock is about to make his stage debut! Andy Jordan Productions, in association with CU@WE.BDY, will be presenting the world premiere production of The World According to Bertie as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Adapted from Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling novel by Lydia Bruce and Sandy Burns, it’s sure to be a hilarious and touching night out. The World According to Bertie will be performed at CVenues – CSoCo, Studio 2a, beginning on Thursday 4th August and running until Monday 29th August at 7.20pm and 9.00pm daily. For information and to book tickets go to

And just in time for the latest instalment of goings on at 44 Scotland Street, Bertie Plays the Blues and some wonderful events with Alexander McCall Smith at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

We love We Love This Book

For booksellers and publishers, in fact anyone involved in the book trade today, The Bookseller has been an essential magazine for many years and has developed into a wide-ranging and informative web site for the industry. Now, The Bookseller turns its expertise and insider knowledge to providing information on the latest books and must-read authors for the general public with the publication of We Love This Book.

Published as a quarterly magazine - available on subscription or free through selected specialist bookshops and libraries - it's packed with news, reviews and features on all the latest titles. A web site is also being launched and is running a beta version at the moment. Polygon is delighted that Sam Meekings' amazing novel The Book of Crows is featured on the site with a free extract for you to read at

Keep your eyes open for copies of We Love This Book!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Jane McKie Shortlisted for 2011 Edinburgh Morgan International Prize

Polygon is absolutely thrilled to announce that Jane McKie has been shortlisted for the 2011 Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize for her poem Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin.

Jane McKie
One of the judges, Vicki Feaver, said of it, “I think it was Coleridge who defined poetry as 'the best words in the best order'. This short and beautifully constructed poem follows that definition perfectly. Each stanza leads the reader a little further on a vivid sensual and historical journey from a world where leprosy is no longer a scourge to a world where its sufferers went on pilgrimages in search of healing.”

Jane’s poem is one of five – all by female poets – shortlisted for the £5, 000 prize which attracted over 2000 poems from 900 poets from around the world. The winner will be announced on 17th August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, whose director Nick Barley said the shortlist "reflects the high quality of contemporary poetry".

The complete shortlist, which can be read here, is:
Four Sisters: Sargent's The Daughters of Edward D Boit by Jane Yeh
Leper Window by Jane McKie
Loving Medusa by Gillian Andrews
Ossuary by Lydia MacPherson
Remains by Sarah Jackson

When the Sun Turns Green
by Jane McKie
Congratulations to Jane, and everyone on the shortlist, from everyone at Polygon.
Jane’s collection When the Sun Turns Green was published by Polygon in 2009.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Scots Makar Tells MSPs to “close the gap”

Liz Lochhead, Scots Makar
Liz Lochhead, Scots Makar (Scotland’s ‘Poet Laureate’) joined The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, First Minister Rt Hon Alex Salmond and MSPs for the opening of the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh this morning.

Following in the poetic footsteps of the first Scots Makar, her good friend Edwin Morgan, OBE, Liz read a poem which was commissioned from her for the opening ceremony. And like Edwin, she pulled no punches in what the Parliament and its MSPs should be and do, ending one verse with, “But close the gap between what we say and what we do”.

The full text of Liz’s poem “Open” can be read on the Scottish Parliament website, here.

Polygon publishes three collections of poetry by Liz Lochhead – The Colour of Black and White, Dreaming Frankenstein and True Confessions and New Cliches. A new collection of her selected work, The Choosing, will be published in September.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Birlinn Authors to the Fore at Fingask

Fingask Castle, Perthshire
It was wall to wall Birlinn authors at Fingask Castle last week for a very sunny literary event! Gillian Galbraith, with her Alice Rice Mysteries lent a touch of gritty reality to the picture-perfect surroundings, whilst Lady Mary McGrigor swept everyone to the snowy wilds of Russia with The Tsar’s Doctor and Andrew Orr and Angus Whitson talked up a storm about Sea Dog Bamse.
From left: Gillian Galbraith, Fingask hosts Andrew Threipland and his wife Helen Molchanoff, with author Gavin Dobson, Roddy Martine, Andrew Orr. Seated, Mary Miers (Literary Editor of Country Life) and, right, Mary McGrigor.

Author of This Too Shall Pass – amongst other excellent books – Roddy Martine said "It's a huge pleasure for authors to come together and share literary interests in such stunning surroundings in Perthshire".

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Edinburgh International Book Festival, 2011 - Part 2, Birlinn ...

The theme of EIBF 2011 is revolution, and if you’re holding out for a hero we can help. In the 1930s rich young men tended to buy islands as weekend getaways. Not so John Lorne Campbell who bought Canna to try and preserve its Gaelic traditions before handing it to the National Trust for Scotland. Ray Perman’s biography – The Man Who Gave Away His Island, the only one on John Lorne Campbell – tells of his dreams and struggles. The rights and wrongs of land ownership is a subject close the heart of Andy Wightman whose superb The Poor Had No Lawyers explores how millions of acres of common land ended in the hands of a chosen few.

Robin Harper
Politicians are not always universally considered heroes, but as the first Green parliamentarian Robin Harper has certainly cleared a path for others to follow, as he describes in his Technicolor autobiography Dear Mr Harper. Tam Dalyell is a hero to some, to others ... well, probably best not to ask. Let’s just say the title of his much-anticipated autobiography The Importance of Being Awkward says it all. Everyone who fought for freedom in World War II was a hero, but Allan Burnett chooses just a few true tales of heroism in his latest book for children. And a hero for our time if there ever was one is Bob Servant, the hilarious alter ego of Neil Forsyth, who takes on email spammers at their own game.

But sometimes it is the quiet things that make the biggest changes. Mairi Hedderwick’s charming Peedie Peebles will enchant and distract young readers with his exploits. And inside every one of us is a silent revolution, our DNA. Alistair Moffat and Jim Wilson use cutting edge technology to trace the history of the Scots in The Scots: A Genetic Journey. And it’s changing a few beliefs on where they came from!

So make sure you get in quick on 26th June to buy your tickets, and we’ll see you in Charlotte Square – hopefully in the sunshine!

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011, Part 1 ...

It’s that time of year again! The 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival programme has been launched and we’re very excited. Here are the Polygon highlights of the programme …

There is a fantastic range of fiction on offer including Kevin MacNeil, whose A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde takes it’s setting and a lot of its inspiration from Edinburgh itself. The Edinburgh of the nineteenth century is the backdrop for David Ashton’s fantastic Inspector McLevy Mysteries, star of a BBC Radio 4 series and now of three brilliant books. But if you fancy ranging further afield, Carlos Alba’s moving novel The Songs of Manolo Escobar chronicles the hardships of growing up Spanish in Glasgow. And you can jump in space and time with Sam Meekings to China over two thousands years in the magical The Book of Crows, or join Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei in Stuart Clark’s magnificent debut novel The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth.

Poets are often thought of as having their heads in the clouds but Andrew Greig really has as the ‘laureate of climbing’ whose mountain poems are collected in Getting Higher. And you can’t get much more down to earth than Scotland’s own Makar Liz Lochhead, a Polygon perennial favourite. Talking of ‘great folk’ (see what we did there?), Martin Strong author of The Great Folk Discography will be sharing his encyclopaedic knowledge of the musical genre.

And it wouldn’t be an Edinburgh International Book Festival without Alexander McCall Smith. He’ll be opening the front door on the latest goings on at 44 Scotland Street with Bertie Sings the Blues as well as leaping back in time and across continents to reveal Precious Ramotswe’s very first detective case in Precious and the Monkeys – a treat for all ages.

Stay tuned for the view of EIBF 2011 from the Birlinn side …

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Scotland in Stitches!

One of the world’s favourite writers, Alexander McCall Smith, has brought together the talents of artist Andrew Crummy, history writer and festival director Alistair Moffat and stitchers from around Scotland to create Scotland’s largest ever tapestry and to tell the story of all Scotland.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is to be launched at the Borders Book Festival in Harmony House Gardens on Saturday 18 June at 12.15pm. At this event, Alistair Moffat and Alexander McCall Smith will reveal the content of the 100+ panels, which together will depict our history. The choice of topics and events to cover has been made by the trustees under the guidance of Alistair Moffat but by its very nature the list is bound to prove controversial – what to include, what to leave out? The trustees are inviting debate on the list and are open to adapting it to include other suggestions.

At the launch, artist Andrew Crummy will display some of the early sketches for the panels and announce the search for volunteer stitchers from every corner of the country.

Alexander McCall Smith spoke in more detail about the project …

‘The recording of events, both great and small, on cloth is nothing new. The most famous example, of course, is the Bayeux Tapestry, which is one of the world’s best-known works of art. More recently, the completion of the Prestonpans Tapestry in Scotland has reminded us of just how effective this method of narrating history can be. When I saw that tapestry for the first time, I was struck not only by its beauty but by the story behind its creation. That led me to raise with Andrew Crummy, the artist, the possibility of creating a tapestry that would illustrate the whole history of Scotland. To my delight, Andrew agreed to take on the task. Alistair Moffat, one of Scotland’s finest historical writers, was then approached to join the project and come up with a list of historical moments that the tapestry would cover. As we had all expected, Alistair’s list is both balanced and exciting – a series of snapshots of Scotland from its earliest days to the recent past.

This is a collaborative project. The work will be done by volunteer stitchers working throughout Scotland. Although the overall artistic vision will be Andrew’s, and the telling of the story will be Alistair’s, the creating of the tapestry will be the task of many hundreds of people who will invest in it their feeling for the story that they will be illustrating. When the work is finished, we shall hand the tapestry over to the nation, to be displayed to the people of Scotland and visitors to Scotland.’

The project will take 2 years to complete and the finished tapestry will go on display from August 2013. A book detailing the project will be published by Birlinn Ltd.