May was a strange, busy and enjoyable month. The strange side has largely consisted of weird fluctuations between summer and something resembling winter. Big winds have toppled a lot of trees hereabouts which gives the landscape a sort of dishevelled but interesting look – as if the weather has just finished having a party. Maybe that should be rave.
On the literary front, the highlight has to have been the Ullapool Book Festival where I read some of my poems at a free Sunday morning event. Not a bad audience and not a bad reading (though I say it myself) considering any sleep the night before was sacrificed to neuralgia following a tooth extraction. We poets are such a heroic bunch. The festival itself was as convivial and stimulating as ever – smaller, inclusive and much friendlier than many of these gatherings but with no sacrifice in quality. The president, James Robertson, was in tremendous form as host and all round enthusiastic presence. There was even an OU sponsored event in the shape of Peter Mackay’s talk on Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean. Other highlights included poetry from Don Paterson, a nigh perfect demonstration of the short story from Bernard MacLaverty, and two sessions featuring Canadian journalist and novelist Linden MacIntyre . The atmosphere was given a further boost after the Scottish Parliament election results and the news that Ullapool resident, festival supporter and owner of the Ceilidh Place (hotel, restaurant, bar and art gallery) had a won list seat for the SNP. The malts in the Ceilidh Place bar seemed to taste even finer thanks to the celebratory mood. They also helped with the neuralgia.
As for Northwords Now, the summer issue is 90% ready with lots of fine writing, especially form Orkney and Shetland. You’ll have to wait until late July to see the results but I can let people in on one of the more enjoyable aspects of editing: choosing the artwork. For the next issue Shetlanders Paul Bloomer (painter) and Ivan Hawick (photographer) will be featured. I’m not going to give the game away by saying which images we’ll be using but you’ll not be disappointed if you spare a few minutes googling their work on the web.