For the last 4 years Ron Butlin has been Edinburgh’s Makar (poet laureate), a position which he finds an honour and a privilege, and which has enabled him to pen many poems, some to commission, others inspired flights of fancy, about a city he so obviously adores. Many of these have now been published in a wonderful, illustrated collection, The Magicians of Edinburgh.
These accessible poems visit the famous and not so famous sites, resurrect historical luminaries, report on current events (not all complimentary) and project the city into an at times surreal future. In addition to being marvellously entertaining, they served as a terrific companion and a 5-star guide to this bookwormy tourist wandering the streets during festival time.
Together with two musician friends, Butlin put together a fringe show in which some of these poems were set to specially composed pieces. The show may go in tour. If it does, I urge you to avail yourself of the opportunity to attend. In the meantime, here are details of the set:
1 The Magicians of Edinburgh
(Celebrating the revitalisation of the city since the 1970’s. Who are the magicians? Read to find out.)
2 The New Towns Response to the Threat of Global Warming
(Of Bankers and the New Town)
3 How can the words I love you …?
(The winner of a charity auction paid £610 for this love poem to his wife.)
4 Edinburgh Love Song
(In which the various districts of Edinburgh seranade each other)
5 Oor Tram’s Plea tae The Cooncillors o Edinburgh
(In which the tram which used to stand on Princes Street – until it lost its planning permission – makes an impassioned plea to Edinburgh Council.)
6 Something to look forward to
(Of moons and Majorca. This poem contains the best line in the collection – Memories are something to look forward to – and I’m certainly looking forward to memories of this year’s trip to Edinburgh.)
7 Come Evening
(A reflection on time and life.)
8 The Gondolas of South Bridge
(Sheltering from a downpour in a bus shelter on South Bridge, Butlin imagines an alternative transport initiative.)
9 David Hume takes a walk on Arthur’s Seat
(The famous philosopher takes a final hike to the top of Edinburgh’s extinct volcano.)
10 EH1 2AB
(A serious poem about the homeless woman who froze to death on Lothian Road.)
(Of Edinburgh’s dark wynds and closes)
12 Dancing In Princes Street
(As you do during rallies, festivals and building works.)
Can you imagine a more varied and entrancing sequence of poetry? There are many more in the volume and, thanks to the generosity of the publishers, Polygon, and to celebrate the fact that 700 copies have been sold in the first two weeks of release (exceptional figures for poetry), I have two signed copies to giveaway. So whether you’d like to revisit Edinburgh or make a virtual first visit with Butlin’s poems as an introduction, just leave a comment below. Competition open internationally. Winners will be chosen in some random fashion on Monday 3rd September.