I’ve been a member of the Federation for several years. I’ve read at open mikes, I’ve been to meetings, I’ve engaged with the facebook page, and, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, I have the honour to be this year’s makar.
I wrote about the Fed in March 2011 – you’ll find it here. That was a great night and summed up what this organisation has meant for me. Although I’ve been writing something or other most of my life, there was a long time when poetry wasn’t happening, and when even the live-the-dream self-help books tell you no-one will publish your poetry unless you have a ‘story’, you don’t have much hope it ever will. And yet —
Last time I started writing, I didn’t know what contemporary poetry was like. If I hadn’t found Kenneth White’s Bird Path, I wouldn’t have thought I could even write it. I certainly had no idea whether I was any good, or whether anyone would be interested. Three things happened. The first was the friendship of Sally Evans, who was my first publisher. Once you know Sally, you gradually get to know everyone, because she will invite you to everything that is happening (poetry writing group this morning!), and I began to realise that writing is a very live, active and diverse thing here in Scotland. Then there was Stirling Writers under the tuition of Chris Powici (now editor of Northwords Now). It didn’t matter how raw and unfinished your work was, he could find the three good words on the page, and help you to see why they were good, and what you could do with them to make something work.
And the third was the Federation. This organisation is FREE to join, and completely open access. Here you could meet writers of all genres and at all levels, from the people who had just joined their first writing group to people with several publications and prize-winning careers behind them. You’d get all the news, all the contacts, a chance to present and advertise your work, your events, your projects, and make some good friends. I found it was a safe place to try my wings, a grounding, supporting and encouraging experience, and it was enormously helpful to me.
This year, as Makar, I’ve judged the poetry competition, and it has been a delight. We have so many good creative, truly inventive poets here, as well as a lot who are still perfecting their craft (but who will be pretty exciting in a year or two) and some who are still feeling their way. There is so much to be proud of.
But the organisation is showing signs of strain. The newsletter, which goes out to over 1000 people, comes out every fortnight, and must take enormous amounts of work. The facebook page has over 2000 people engaged. There is a website which has to be maintained and updated, and there is a committee which has been holding the whole enterprise together, and which depends on members to keep it running. This year several committee members have to stand down, and volunteers are urgently needed. If you can give any time, any admin, financial or social media skills, please think about standing. The details of the AGM are here: