Muriel centenary Sparks interest in women’s writing

Muriel centenary Sparks interest in women’s writing

In the spirit of this national conversation, Fi and Charlotte Duffy-Scott of Glasgow’s Category Is Books recommend eight books by Scottish women and non-binary writers, and Asif Khan, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, has done likewise with women poets.

Last year saw an explosion of activity across Scotland (and as far afield as China) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s grande dame of prose, Muriel Spark. A huge range of literature and broader arts organisations came together for a year-long programme of events, publications and artist commissions, kicked off by an evening of Spark readings and tributes, hosted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. New editions of all 22 of Spark’s novels were published in the UK by Birlinn, and there was even the first Chinese translation, launched by Sturgeon in Beijing. The new Muriel Spark 100: Endless Different Ways Small Grants Fund provided awards of up to £1,500 to individual writers, artists and groups look- ing to celebrate Spark’s work, contribution or legacy.

The centenary may have passed, but the spotlight in Scotland remains on women’s writing and gender equality across the publishing industry. The ROAR project, created around Christina Neuwirth’s Women of Words doctoral research project into gender equality in publishing, is generating a national conversation, and organisations such as the Glasgow Women’s Library are flying the flag for women’s voices.

Fi and Charlotte Duffy-Scott

A Scots Dictionary of Nature
Amanda Thompson
Out now

Scotland is a nation of dramatic weather and breathtaking landscapes of nature, resplendent. A Scots Dictionary of Nature brings together the "deeply expressive" vocabulary customarily used to describe the "dramatic weather and breathtaking landscapes" of Scotland.

Protest! Stories of Resistance
Comma Press
Out now

In this "timely and evocative" collection, 20 authors have assembled to reimagine key moments of British protest, from the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 to the anti-Iraq War demo of 2003. A highlight is Glasgow-based Scottish-Canadian writer Sandra Alland’s contribution, on the National Blind March.

Polly Who?
Jem Milton
Out now

Polly Who? is a collection of diary entries, comics and reflections on love, queerness and polyamory. Following the story of a network of relationships, Jem Milton gives us an intimate view of their experiences. The comics are available to purchase from Milton’s website or at zine distributor One Beat Zines.

Of Sirens, Bodies and Faultlines
Nat Raha
Boiler House Press
Out now

This collection from Edinburgh-based poet and queer/trans activist Raha centres around the time between the financial crash of 2008 to Brexit Britain, where "crisis and austerity meet the vanity projects of the super-rich". The poems are of a society that is under surveillance, and how that affects the lives of queer and transfeminist people, as well as people of colour.

Ali Smith
Hamish Hamilton
Out now

Refusing to be tied down to either fiction or the essay form, Artful is narrated by a character who is haunted (literally) by a former lover, who wrote a series of lectures about art and literature. It explores form, style, life, love, death, mortality, and what art and writing can mean.

A Suitable Job for a Woman
Val McDermid
Poisoned Pen Press
Out now

In an effort to plumb the real world of working female detectives—and throw new light on her own craft of crime writing—McDermid interviewed women private eyes from both sides of the Atlantic and assembled their stories, with an eye for the absurd and a keen grasp of the gritty nuts and bolts of the profession.

Jackie Kay
Out now

Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, Trumpet is a starkly beautiful modern classic about the lengths to which people will go for love. It is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart.

The Games
Harry Josephine Giles
OutSpoken Press
Out now

The Games is a book that plays with language. In Scots and English, it mucks about with sound poetry, found poetry, computer-generated poetry, dirty poetry and more. It blurs and busts the borders of genre. Its themes are ecology, power and sex... How can you have fun in a system that’s trying to take power away from you?

Asif Khan

Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks
Magi Gibson
Luath Press
Out now

The subject matters of Gibson’s Scotland include: a woman sunbathing on a demolition site in Bridgeton; two women in a punch-up in Glasgow’s West End; a young mother breastfeeding
in an art gallery; and a working man stepping off a tenement roof on a snowy morning. City streets. Country lanes. A letter to Sappho. A ticking off for Nietszche. Not to mention Hugh MacDiarmid’s dirty socks.

Jay Whittaker
Cinnamon Press
Out now

Written from personal experience without a hint of sentimentality, Wristwatch charts a course through cancer treatment and recovery, becoming a widow at 44, and taking on the social care system on behalf of elderly relatives.

Gerda Stevenson
Luath Press

In the centenary year of the partial introduction of women’s right to vote, Stevenson gave poetic voice to 68 women spanning the millennia of Scotland’s history. These voices, depicted mainly in Scots language, range from those of queens and politicians, to fish gutters, scientists, sportswomen (including a whole football team) and many more.

There’s a Witch in the Word Machine
Jenni Fagan
Out now

Fagan’s new collection is an exploration of words as spells, incantations, curses and solace. Her "spell poems" are portraits of people, lovers and cities: Paris, New York, Edinburgh, Detroit, LA and San Francisco.

All the Prayers in the House
Miriam Nash
Out now

Bold, honest, playful and inventive, the collection travels far from its coastal beginnings, crossing the Atlantic, visiting a women’s prison and a 17th-century ladies’ dictionary. Here are poems of ritual and transgression, safety and danger. They take the form of songs, letters, fragments, formal verse—many kinds of prayer, perhaps, for many kinds of storm.

Adhbhar Ar Sòlais/Cause of Our Joy
Marion Morrison
Bradan Press
Out now

I once heard poetry in translation described as like kissing your partner between a glass panel, and I think this understanding is a fine one to adopt when reading work in other languages. Cause of Our Joy is the first Gaelic poetry collection from the 2017 winner of the Scottish Book Trust Gaelic New Writers’ Award (Poetry). Morrison writes on themes of religion and spirituality, family, and daily life in Uist.

The Gaelic Garden of the Dead
February 2019

I am a big admirer of MacGillivray’s The Nine of Diamonds and feel that this new collection is equally, if not more, impressive. The Gaelic Garden of the Dead is three "Books of the Dead" bound as one. Includes 10 pattern poetry dream diagrams and 35 death sonnets deconstructed to Mary Queen of Scots.

Wain: Poems for Teens
Rachel Plummer
Emma Press
February 2019

Wain is a collection of LGBT-themed children’s poetry based on retellings of Scottish myths. The collection contains stories about kelpies, selkies and the Loch Ness Monster, alongside lesser-known mythical people and creatures, such as wulvers, Ghillie Dhu and the Cat Sìth.