Joanna Monks – Tell It Slant’s spring poet in residence

Tell It Slant’s second poet in residence has an exhibition in the shop just now! Come see.

tell it slant


Below is a Guest blog by Joanna Monks, our Spring poet in residence at Tell It Slant, Come and see her exhibition, on now!

“I immediately loved the idea of a residency in Tell It Slant. The surroundings of The Project Café provides the warm bustle of a café sought by many as a workspace (don’t you always see someone at a coffee shop hunched over a laptop, or surrounded by books). Amidst the warmth, music and smell of food there is also an atmosphere of creativity, experimentation and activity, a multifunctional space for a broad community. Tucked in the corner, in the bright window, Tell It Slant has bookshelves filled with poetry, worlds and images, laments and accounts, a hubbub of voices. I have been fortunate to spend three months of dedicated writing within this space.

“Until the end of June, you can find segments of the work…

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Jim’s Guitar Fund


We did it!!!! Thanks to all who gave a gift, my lovely brother Jim is so lucky in his friends and family. He is going out to buy his guitar and has promised to post a photo of it on facebook. Happy Birthday Jim! xxx

If you didn’t get a chance to donate, you still can:

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In Jim’s own words:

Jim's missing guitar

“My guitar, it has gone far!
Maybe it’s gone to Zanzibar?
It didn’t even say “Ta-ta”,
Or, in Norwegian – “Ha det bra”

“In Norway, was this photo shot
The last known image that I’ve got
Of this thing, which I forgot
Where last I put it…dot, dot, dot!

“Even though it has my name,
Taped upon its wooden frame,
It wanders wild. It is not tame,
Some day soon, I’ll do the same!

“Farewell to you, dear wood and glue,
With strings and things for tuning too,

Maybe one day we will renew,
Our music partnership so true!

“Meanwhile, I’ll buy a guitar NEW!

“If I could find some money too!”

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5 Hour Fundraiser

Excellent cause, fantastic event. Sign up and donate to join the Mirrorball open mic at Tell It Slant in aid of the Scottish Poetry Library!

tell it slant


Sunday 22nd February, 12 noon- 5pm

An open-mic afternoon hosted by St Mungo’s Mirrorball and Tell It Slant in aid of the refurbishment of The Scottish Poetry Library. Come and read your favourite poem or perform one of your own or just be part of the audience of a wonderful one-off event at Tell It Slant/The Project Café, 134 Renfrew Street, Glasgow. All welcome!

To guarantee your chance to read a poem – email Jim Carruth with your preferred reading hour.

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Wool, words, feathers, fathers.

christiewilliamsonphotoA lovely last night at tell it slant, our old poetry bookshop in The Project Cafe, now admirably run by Kathrine Sowerby, launching another Clydebuilt poet on his way with a first collection before I launch myself South and East across this island to work for The Poetry Trust.

Christie Williamson‘s Oo an Feddirs, published by Luath Press, is a book I have been waiting for since I first heard Christie read at St Mungo’s Mirrorball five years ago. Christie with his long fair hair and strong Shetlandic voice seemed to come from another age, and his poems tangle Shetlandic Scots and English together in a weave so subtle as to be both intriguing and accessible – a rare pattern. “Oo” is Shetlandic for wool, while Feddirs can mean feathers or fathers.  He speaks of the ambivalent  nature of fatherhood, juggling boats for his son, and remembering “when someone else/was the clown/wishing he/was the child again.” He writes of his daughter’s first Carnival, music and dreams mingling “under her tuft of hair.” He speaks vividly of his passion for his partner Hazel Frew, herself an excellent poet, and literally writes her body as it writes on his.

But it is the Shetlandic poems which grip me most – an ancient voice is speaking of the things of everyday and making them seem eternal, as in his poem, Truth, where “da answer phone’s caald/unblinkin licht” says “‘Look at de…./fir aa dy runnin aboot an rantin/an tinkin an bellin desel at life/an gallavantin, du’s come hem/ower laet, an dis truth/can nivvir be erased./Du haes nae new messages.'” That poem certainly rang true with me, as did another, in which he bewailed every liberal parent’s realisation that “raisin’ the bairn wi his ane ideen” is “aa very well, till he starts spikkin back”.*

Being a weaver of voices by nature, Christie chose to interlace readings from the book with “a poyim or twa” from other poets who had helped him on his journey to this point, including myself, Kathrine, Jim Carruth, Cheryl Follon (whose new poems about Russia and love were an eye-opener!) and “da man who give me the best rejection letter of my life”,  Gerry Cambridge, editor of Dark Horse magazine, who finished the night with a bit of music with a young singer songwriter he knew and some harmonica of course. Alexander Hutchison sadly arrived too late from another event to give us his traditional song at the end. But all in all, a lovely way to say farewell to the Glasgow “poyits” for now, though many of them will hopefully join me at future Aldeburgh Poetry Festivals once I get settled in… in the meantime, you can of course buy Christie’s book from tell it slant.

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* There is a very helpful glossary provided at the back of the book by Luath, from which these translations come: du/de– you; aa – all; hem – home; laet – late; bairn – child; oo – wool; feddirs – feathers (or fathers).

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Off the Beaten Track

Nice review of the Female Beat Poets night Maggie Graham and I did by Douglas Thompson from the Scottish Writers’ Centre in Off the Beaten Track.

DCART-20141114104-55-EditPhotography by Dominique Carton:


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“I hear those voices that will not be drowned” – Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Oh the dread and joy of getting what you wish for! When I saw through StAnza‘s blog that the Poetry Trust, which runs the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, was looking for a new Director, my whole self rushed towards it like a sea. But of course, I also found myself looking back – to the very precious land I would have to leave, full of friends and love and music, wildness and mountains, islands and lochs. As the child of an English mother and Scottish father, born in London but brought up in Scotland with an English accent from the age of 7, I have always felt conflicted as to where I belonged. Now I am clear – I belong everywhere there is poetry.

Being at the 26th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival was like a homecoming, and also like the greatest adventure away from home. Hearing poetry from Zimbabwe, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, America, Zambia, Australia, England, Scotland, and Wales in the same programme was wonderful. Highlights for me included Kathleen Jamie reading, unusually for her, from unpublished works which brought to life the incredible journey of revolution that has been lived by everyone in Scotland over the past year. They included the beautiful words of Zambian-born, Zimbabwe-raised poet Togara Muzanenhamo, who writes in English. They included the warm music and sisterly dance between Brazilian poet Adelia Prado reading in Portuguese and her translator, the American poet Ellen Doré Watson. They included the bravery and power of Hannah Silva‘s cross-disciplinary feminist performance, Schlock!, the sharpness and rightness of young Kayo Chingonyi‘s poetry and social criticism, the brilliant Tom Pickard with his songs and poems coming from the “tradition of disobedience” in Newcastle, and Karen McCarthy Woolf‘s heart-achingly good performance. Finally, meeting the new poets chosen for the Aldeburgh 8, and a crazy and lovely coincidence involving Helen Mort, took me from 7th heaven to an 8th and 9th I hadn’t even heard of.

As many will have seen, Helen Mort deservedly won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection prize this year for ‘Division Street‘, published by Chatto and Windus. This was a particularly happy coincidence for me, as last year I won a pamphlet competition judged by Helen Mort with a ten-poem proposal. Poetic justice in the fullest sense of the word, you might say – especially as I can assure everyone I had nothing to do with the judging or selection of the Fenton-Aldeburgh prize! Strange circles of completion.

A major highlight was the breakfast discussion on poetry and disobedience, with Finuala Dowling, Thomas Lux, Robert Seatter, Tom Pickard and Hannah Silva (Tom Pickard did not make good on his threat to demonstrate the principle by staying in bed). It tuned out that disobedience is innate in most poets, and comes out at an early age – a fair percentage of the panel admitted to childhood pyromania. I knew I wasn’t the only firestarter to turn to words when they took away the matches.

The beauty of the festival lies in the fact that it is a continuous conversation between poets and audience (also full of poets, editors, publishers, poetry lovers) over the weekend that we are all together, made up of readings, craft talks, masterclasses, discussions and in process interviews. Poets attended each others readings and talks, and by the time I reached the beautiful retreat where we tuck away the Aldeburgh 8 group to reflect on all this input, and use it to inform their own work under the mentorship of founder Michael Laskey and Peter Sansom, everyone was speaking to the experience like old friends.

The beauty of Suffolk has been a wonderful surprise of these past few visits – the wildness and power of its seascapes, its huge, changing skies, and the fact that a very flat county can actually be full of mystery, with roads weaving woods and rivers and, yes, even hills, together in a magical tapestry, as my kind hostess, Tamsyn Imison, pointed out. The reedbeds round Snape Maltings seem to whisper with the voices of the past, which made them a suitable place for the Unforgettable Voices exhibition at the Dovecote Studio – so moving, like a memorial ought to be, voices of poets who had read at Aldeburgh, now deceased, echoing in a beautiful room smelling of wood.

There was also of course much carousing and celebration, lead by the brilliant Creative Director Dean Parkin and magician/Festival Manager Jo Leverett, who thank the stars are staying on to help me in this transition, and have made me feel incredibly welcome. I will have many enduring memories of the festival: one will be ourselves, with the hardworking Mary Smyth and the enthusiastic Amy Wragg, and miscellaneous poets, slapping the table and singing “is everybody ‘appy? You bet your life we are!” – lead by Dean.

Pulled between the sun rising over the sea and the setting moon as I walked on the stony shore of Aldeburgh that last morning, I felt as if the current Director Naomi Jaffa has given me a rare and precious thing, crafted lovingly by herself and others for decades; unique and beautiful as the sea-gifts I held in my hand. A delicate responsibility, and an incredible blessing.

A sadness was missing the voice of Jen Hadfield, who was stranded on Shetland by bad weather, though this took a strange turn when I was asked to read one of her poems in her place, and the Poetry Trust took the opportunity to announce me as the new Director. Apparently the Poetry Society were impressed by the fact that I came onstage in a leather jacket and almost the first word out of my mouth was fuck. (It was Jen Hadfield’s word not mine, from the poem “Saturday Morning” in her new book, ‘Byssus‘.) We then had the wonderful Helena Nelson up to fill the rest of the slot, to the delight of my seven-year-old twins, who loved her work, and asked for more. I also took the opportunity to lead a cheer for Naomi Jaffa, who has led the Poetry Trust for more than twenty years, built the Aldeburgh Poetry festival into the incredible thing it is today, and taken it to its new home in Snape Maltings, in partnership with the wonderful Aldeburgh Music, founded by Benjamin Britten. (Words from his opera ‘Peter Grimes‘, its libretto adapted by Montagu Slater from the narrative poem by George Crabbe, form the first part of this article’s title, and are inscribed on a shell sculpture on wonderful Aldeburgh Beach, by local artist Maggi Hambling).  Naomi also swore onstage at a later attempt to acknowledge her leadership and achievements, asking that we all “shut the fuck up and listen to some poetry” – fitting words to end on, I think!

wine and byssus


Michael and Naomi

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Tell all the truth but…

TIS header

A lovely launch of the bookshop, champagne and all, though we chose to drink it rather than smash it over the shelves… and a star reading from Glasgow Poet Laureate Jim Carruth, moving and emotional work from Hazel Frew and a great performance from Mark Russell, who had us all in stitches. I especially enjoyed hearing Juana Adcock read her contributions from a previous four fold, and some of her magic “Spanglish” poems in Spanish and English. Kathrine has done a beautiful job with the shop, and though it was emotional to wave it off, I know it is sailing in safe hands. Below is one of my poems from four fold – to read the other three, you’ll have to buy the magazine from tell it slant! Special thanks to the McAteer clan who came down and entertained everyone with music into the wee small hours! The new site for the shop, designed beautifully by Kathrine, is at:

TIS new

River Song 3

I am Willow                        cried myself dry
thicker than                       skin        sharp     and holy
all my soft                           parts                      eaten away

insides rotting                  still        grow leaves

shelter you         drink     eat sunlight

everybody          comes                   to me
carves their        name                    in my hide
makes their        home                    in my head


All photo credits: Kathrine Sowerby.

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Four Fold 4 kathrinegarden-300x225

We are moving towards incarnation four of Tell It Slant – a chosen one this time, as we are welcoming a new Manager, poet and publisher Kathrine Sowerby (above), to the helm. So it seems suitable to relaunch the bookshop under its new captain alongside the launch of issue four of her uniquely visual poetry publication, fourfold (above left) – on the 24th of October! Kathrine, also a graduate of The Glasgow School of Art‘s prestigious MFA programme, has been busy with paintbrush and shelving making it a more colourful and elegant space for the proper display of the poetry gems in our collection. Evolution four will be fascinating to watch as it unfolds. Kathrine, who is responsible for thinking up the name Tell It Slant, is also a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art and taught English in Slovakia and Lithuania before returning to Scotland. She has exhibited her writing in artists’ books, in videos and installations and in 2000 her 15 page poem Unnecessarily Emphatic was transcribed for theatre and performed at Columbia University, New York. She graduated from Glasgow University’s MLitt in Creative Writing with distinction and was named joint winner of the Curtis Brown Prize 2011 for an extract of her novel The Spit, the Sound and the Nest. In 2010/11, she took part in St Mungo’s Mirrorball Clydebuilt Apprenticeship Scheme. In 2012, she was a runner up in the Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition and commended in the Wigtown Poetry Competition. Kathrine runs Hope Hill Press. She was awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writer’s Award in 2012.

Juana Adcock, Jim Carruth, Hazel Frew, Mark Russell and myself will be reading at the relaunch. It promises to be a wonderful evolution. Come and join us!

New Look

The new look bookshop, within The Project Cafe, decorated and rebuilt by Kathrine.

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Wish tree ticket…

Let me be clear – I am generally against borders. So it would take a lot for me to vote in another one. I have friends and family across all the British Isles and Ireland, but then I have connections all over the world. So I will vote YES – hoping for a genuinely fair, open, equal, multicultural Scotland with no nuclear bombs, better treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, a greener approach to energy creation and consumption, a thriving arts scene, a smaller, richer research community, social justice, more localised government and a better education, health and benefits system. After years of campaigning for all these things in the UK and abroad, I don’t expect to see this tomorrow, if ever. But I am willing to help and try to make it happen, I am willing to pay the price, and I don’t think we’ll have another such chance for centuries. And I believe change happens on a local level first. So let’s get smaller.

Yes Linthouse

[Photo – local hedge says yes, by Tom Davis, Linthouse.]

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Telt it

I am long overdue to post about the third incarnation of Tell it Slant, the poetry specialist bookshop I’ve been trying to set up for a while, along with many very helpful volunteers, poets, donors, friends and influencers! Well, it’s third time lucky at 134 Renfrew St, I do believe. In our first incarnation, popping up in the empty furniture shop at Fleming House, Glasgow, along with a great art show run by Creative Banter, we opened on Friday the 13th December 2013, fate-temptingly, to a fantastic party involving readings and music and lots of booze, only to come in next day to a roof fallen in, and storm water pouring! Superstitions abound, but I suspect it was a reaction to too many poets under one roof, such as Mirrorball‘s Jim Carruth is always warning against. Fortunately, the kind owner of the onecubeortwo next door, Robert Singer, an artist and visionary who wanted to start up the next Third Eye Centre (original incarnation of the CCA on Sauchiehall St.) , invited us to camp in his cafe. Tragically Robert was unable to fulfill his vision due to illness, and the cafe was closed in early January this year. I was pretty upset, for Robert, the cafe staff & loyal customers, and ourselves, and so were the landlords, who really wanted the cafe to remain open, and asked if we’d consider staying. Then a synchronicity occurred. I got in touch with Reuben at Locavore, a fantastic Community Interest Company based on the South side of Glasgow which specialises in supporting local sustainable food hubs, and selling the resulting produce. I knew a cafe was part of their eventual vision, but for Reuben it was a bit too early – except that a woman called Eilidh McKay had just been in touch, saying that they shared Locavore’s ethos, and wanted to start a vegetarian cafe based on sustainable food sources. She and her business partner Tiril Planterose had run the Project Nomadic Cafe in Ullapool for a good while, and were looking for a permanent home. To cut a long story short, after a couple of meetings, some involving beer, the three of us have flung ourselves into a heady relationship, and after a series of one-night-stands, such as Locavore Honesty Box Canteens, Project Cafe Parties, and Tell it Slant poetry readings, we have decided to move in together. The result is Project Cafe, a lovely and welcoming space, with art from students of the Glasgow School of Art on the walls, a Locavore Store up front, and Tell it Slant poetry bookshop tucked cosily in the rear among the comfy seats, with plenty of instruments for visiting musicians to pick up and play. We stock poetry in all forms and many languages, and there will be book and album launches, exhibitions and kids events. We are having our first open mic this Friday 25th, and hope to make this a space where people can come and read, write, sing, play, make art and enjoy lovely fair trade coffee, homemade cakes, and healthy food. It is reasonably wheelchair-and-buggy accessible, having been road-tested by a Paralympic champion no less, as well as several local mums and wheelchair users. And there’s ample parking for bicycles. We are sure this will turn out to be a sustainable partnership! 



Reuben GFT


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