Englyn for Sally
In her cave of books, she guards the words,
Sorts trinkets from treasure.
There is fire in her belly,
And strength in her outspread wings.
I wrote this ages ago, when I first got to know Sally Evans, editor of Poetry Scotland and the Die-Hard Press, (which she runs with her husband, Ian King), and thought that, because of her name, she must be Welsh. She is, but not quite as much as I thought. Although of Welsh heritage, she was actually brought up in Northumbria.But this year she has been learning Welsh, and here she is, reading poems inspired by it.
Never was this englyn more appropriate than this weekend, when, as she does every year, she organises her Callander Poetry Weekend. Originally meant as an extended party for her Edinburgh friends who didn’t drop in quite so much when she and Ian moved to callander, it retains the friendliness, the hospitality and the illusion that it’s all easy and comes without effort. But it’s also an open house for poets of all kinds and types and classifications of poets, to read and meet up and find out what’s going on in poetry in Scotland – and further afield.
There are young poets, just getting started. There are older poets with years of successful publication behind them. There are mystical poets, political poets, love poets, green poets, lyrical poets, satirical and historical poets – some fabulous performance poets – and some really good musicians too. There are poets who write in Gaelic, in Doric or in the many dialects of Britain (and if you think dialect = comic you would be only half wrong as we had some excellent comic poetry written in dialect).
There were really good food, workshops (can’t comment, mine was one of them!) two book launches, (Charlie Gracie’s Good Morning, which I featured back in May and Sheena Blackhall’s Wittins, which I’ll write about later this month), and a tribute to Edwin Morgan, which everyone who was there found moving and appropriate for Scotland’s well loved makar.
Now, as well as organising and programming the many events packed into the weekend, Sally also cooks the food for everyone (and doesn’t charge), puts people up in her flat or in her garden, helps people find lifts home or places to stay, provides stalls for poets and other publishers to sell their books, and shares her lovely home and shop and garden with everyone who comes. It’s a mammoth job. What’s more, this year she did it, as she says, “with one hand tied behind my back”, because of a broken wrist which was in plaster until last Monday.
Sally, we couldn’t possibly tell you how much we loved this year’s festival, or how grateful and appreciative we are for all you do for Scottish poetry. Thank you so much!