Highs & Roads

StAnza International Poetry Festival kicks off this Wednesday 1st March in St Andrews and ends on Sunday 5th, packing in a variety of poetic events from readings, masterclasses, translations, collaborations, filmpoems and artworks. I’m reading on Sunday 5th at 11.30 in St. John’s Undercroft, South Street with Katharine Towers whose latest collection, ‘The Remedies’ was shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize in 2016. I’m very much looking forward to hearing her read. The themes for StAnza this year are ‘The heights of poetry’ and ‘On the road’ so I’ll include some of my poems that fit the theme as well as a range of others from the collection.

As usual I have tickets for about ten events. My highlights include John Agard, Patience Agbabi, Sarah Howe, Kathleen Jamie, Elaine Feinstein, Zoe Skoulding and Vahni Capildeo. There will be a great representation from St Mungo’s Mirrorball poets this year with Jim Carruth leading the charge, as well as Jim McGonigal, Nalini Paul, Mark Russell, Jane Bonnyman, Claire Quigley, Juana Adcock, Stephen Watt and Katie Ailes. There will also be a tribute event to the late great Sandy Hutchison.

More upcoming readings include:

The Missing Slate on Friday 10th March in the Project Room , 50 George Square, Edinburgh from 7.30pm-9pm. The Missing Slate is an International online literary magazine with roots in Pakistan so expect an excellent International line-up. I’ll be reading a couple of poems related to the ‘Glasgow to Lahore’ project that I was involved with last year as well as a few from the book. All proceeds from the night go to a charity supporting refugee welfare (I’ll be selling some books with the profit also going to the charity).

Bards at the Bookshop: The Nairn Bookshop, High Street, Nairn on April 12th at 7pm with Mark Russell.

Glasgow Women’s Library on May 4th at 12.30pm, The story cafe with Theresa Munoz.

Later in the year I’m hoping to confirm a readings in Edinburgh and Brighton.


Doon the water


The Dunoon Book Festival will take place on the newly refurbished Victorian pier from 28th to 30th October. I’ll be reading on Saturday 29th at 1.30 with these guys (£4).

I’ll also be reading at St. Mungo’s Mirrorball alongside a quality line-up: Em Strang, Marion McCready and J O Morgan. The event will be in the CCA, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow at 7pm (non members £5/3).

Latest news is that my book has been shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the year award 2016. I am chuffed to find myself listed alongside poets whom I very much admire. The literary awards for all the book categories (fiction, non-fiction, first book, history and research) are held at a public event in Edinburgh on 24th November; the awards are organised by The Saltire Society Scotland.




The Mirrorball & other events


St. Mungo’s Mirrorball is a network of Glasgow poets that I’m proud to be part of. They hold at least 6 events every year and on Thursday 27th October I’ll be reading alongside  J O Morgan – whose latest book is the impressive Interference Pattern (Picador) – and Marion McCready who is soon to bring out her second collection Madame Ecosse with Eyewear publishing. The readings will be held at 7pm in the CCA, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow; free to members or £5/£3 on the door.

I’m also looking forward to reading at the Dunoon Book Festival on Saturday 29th october at 1.30pm (Bookpoint Bookshop). With other dates planned for ‘up North’ and ‘down South’ next year, I’ll update the ‘Readings’ page as details are confirmed.

Finally here’s an interview I did with Rana Faizan Hussain, journalist with The Nation newspaper in Pakistan, that was published this weekend.







Edinburgh Book Fringe


Here’s a couple of free events I’ll be reading at in Edinburgh in August:

Monday 15th August 1pm: At the Edinburgh Book Fringe I’ll be supporting William Letford who has just published his second collection with Carcanet entitled ‘Dirt’. The event is at Word Power Books, West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DB.

21st August 9pm: Unbound at the Edinburgh Book Festival: From Lewis to Lahore will incorporate collaborations between musicians Sara Kazmi & Sarah Hayes, storytellers Ian Stephen & Shazea Quraishi, and illustrators Mehreen Fatima & Kate Leiper. I will be doing a short reading of my versions of poems by Pakistan poets that were created during a project with Highlight Arts in 2015.

Countdown to launch



Join me for the launch of This Far Back Everything Shimmers at Waterstones, Byres Road, Glasgow, Thursday 30th June 2016 at 7.30pm. With wine, and guest readings from Jim Carruth, Kathrine Sowerby and Mark Russell. Everyone welcome.

The book is now in stock in Waterstones in Glasgow and Edinburgh or can be ordered at your local bookstore (Glasgow libraries also have a few copies).

Here’s an audio clip of me reading a couple of poems and a short interview.

Sonnet on Saturday

I’ve a sonnet in The Scotsman today, it’s a love poem to a dog, It contains details of animal mummification which, coincidentally, you can see examples of in an exhibition at The Kelvingrove art gallery at the moment, ‘Gifts for the Gods’.

It’s from my new collection (out now!) This Far Back Everything Shimmers, details of launch to follow, (30th June).

StAnza: an extreme sport


Poetry is hard work. No, not just the writing of it, the listening. And if StAnza poetry festival is an extreme sporting event – a marathon no less– I’m proud to say I completed a half marathon. It took concentration and stamina, a year of planning and training. I did my best to cram in 10 events and managed to get a snooze in on the Saturday too. I feel proud of my achievement. I made it to the end and saw the Northern lights at 1am on the final day – yahoo. I’m exhausted, no idea how Eleanor Livingstone and her team manage to pull off such a feat every year.

The stars of the poetry world were there and I enjoyed hearing the fine poetry of Jo Shapcott and Pascale Petit, adding a new dimension to what I knew of their work. I also heard Lemm Sissay for the first time, a fantastic performer: honest, funny and dynamic, he had the audience hanging on his every word.

Discovering new poets is always a quest at StAnza and I found Nora Gomringer’s playful poetry performance, accompanied by percussionist Philipp Scholz, was aurally, visually and cerebrally inspiring.

I also enjoyed hearing up-and-coming writers I’m familiar with, reading new work: Em Strang, Sam Tongue and Lindsay MacGregor in particular. Clare Best and James Arthur were other new names to me, who gave excellent, moving performances.

The breakfast discussion sessions are always interesting and ‘Body of poetry’ with Andrew McMillan, Clare Best, Aase Berg, S J Fowler and Justin Stephenson was a thought provoking exploration of the idea of bodies in the widest possible sense. I left wanting to seek out the work of Stephenson, who showed a short extract from his film The Complete Works, celebrating the poetry of bpNicol, and S J Fowler: a talented polymath.

For the first time this year I noticed the particular skills needed to introduce and chair events and was impressed by Annie Rutherford’s idiosyncratic enthusiasm.

Now I need to get in shape for Aye Write, the Glasgow book festival, which is only 2 weeks away. Poets: Helen Mort, Rebecca Perry, Sinead Morrissey, Andrew McMillan & David Kinloch are all reading. I’ll need to start carb loading soon.

Wa-wa Lahore


The Lahore literary festival 2016 was fantastic, (wa-wa being a Punjabi term of appreciation). A mix of local and international writers discussing and reading their work included many new collaborations; it was whirlwind of creative conversation packed into two days. The original line-up was 3 day event but a last minute withdrawal of government security clearance forced the organisers to shorten the festival and change venue from a large public arts space to a 5 star hotel which may have limited the diversity of attendees. However it certainly didn’t curb the enthusiasm of the crowds who attended in their thousands and many events were packed out. Voices that I discovered at the festival and want to know more about include: writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, who gave informative insights into the political situation in Pakistan; writer Tania James and artist Anwar Jalal Shemza.


Our event – Poetry in Translation – was the launch of a book of poems in English and Urdu ‘A change in the light’ published by Sang-e-meel, a publisher from Lahore. This was the culmination of the Highlight Arts project that I was involved in last year with: Kishwar Naheed, Afshan Sajjad, Dr. Khalid Javaid Jan, Ali Akbar Natiq, Jim Carruth, Gerry Cambridge and Kathrine Sowerby. The musicians Sara Kazmi and Sarah Hayes interspersed our poetry with their beautiful music and singing, and the performance went down well with the audience.

We also enjoyed the storytelling event with Ian Stephen, Mujahid Eshai expertly illustrated by Kate Leiper and Mehreen Fatima. Many thanks to the Lahore Literary Festival for the invitation. And a special thanks to the British Council for sponsoring the events and looking after us.


The city is a fascinating and contradictory mix of traffic chaos and relaxing parks, poverty and wealth, old architecture and modern hotels. It was unsettling to see so many armed guards and police in public places. Despite only being in the city for 3 days we managed a trip to the Badshahi mosque at dusk and the Shalimar Gardens in bright sunshine. We were asked for selfies from friendly locals many times and most had heard of Glasgow due to the large Pakistani community in the city. It was a wonderful opportunity which may not arise again but if I could go back I’d jump at the chance.




Readings from Jupiter


Jupiter Artland is a private collection of outdoor artworks in West Lothian that is open to the public every summer. They recently held a writing competition and the shortlisted entries are available to listen to on Soundcloud. My poem The Coppice Room is inspired by the artwork of the same name by Andy Goldsworthy – pictured above. My poem is read by Marjorie Lofti Gill (poet-in-residence at Jupiter Artland) as I was unable to attend the reading event. Look out for the winning poem, Prophets by Raphael Torrubia. The shortlist can be read here.