August 2021

It’s August and we are just a month away from launching our festival program, so it’s been busy times in the boat. While we can’t reveal anything just yet, a raucous poetry clamjamfrie in person is feeling more and more within our reach, and with the festival taking place October 15th – 17th, there’s not much longer to wait now…

In the meantime, there’s plenty to dig into in this month’s newsletter  – our call for volunteers, a thinkpiece from one of our most dedicated volunteers, an introduction to another of our team members, a gorgeous poem from Sam Tongue, a list of August poetry events, and more.

The beautiful weather may be slowing your reading eyes, but we assure you, you don’t want to miss this!

*A Lewis Carroll poem. Check it out.

On green conversations and the poetry of the earth: Sustainability and Edinburgh’s Festivals

by Mariachiara Sica

PTBO volunteer Mariachiara Sica has been working hard behind the scenes for PTBO since February. She has worked closely with Engagement & Sustainability Manager Esa Aldegheri and has critical thoughts about the role festivals play in hindering and helping sustainability efforts. Here’s an excerpt of her excellent thinkpiece:

“As I’m writing this piece in the middle of July 2021, the peak of Edinburgh’s festival season is at our doors. After the mess of last year, it has been a breath of fresh air to see festival programmes being released, tickets being sold, people looking forward to enjoying the arts and culture again, albeit on a much smaller scale.

However, as our world hopefully begins to spin in the right direction again, it is also impossible to ignore the news of the past few days of natural disasters happening all over the world, of flooding episodes in the middle of summer, of heatwaves and wildfires. 

With all this in mind, I cannot help but wonder the impact that going back to ‘normal life’ will have on our planet, especially now that the pandemic has given politicians the perfect excuse to repeat their favourite catchphrase – ‘there are far more pressing issues to worry about at the moment’ – in response to everything they don’t want to deal with. …

As John Keats once wrote, ‘the poetry of earth is never dead’. As a result of the environmental crisis we are currently experiencing, an increasing number of writers are dealing with the environment in their works. It is only after Esa, PTBO’s Engagement and Sustainability Manager, told me about this festival’s aims to include sustainability in their programming choices that my world opened to ecopoetics.

For those who are as I was and are unfamiliar with the concept, ecopoetics is a genre of poetry that emphasises the connections between human activity and the environment that produces it. While much of ecopoetics are substantially different from the peaceful musings of the Romantics, ecopoets are witnesses who create records of how much is at stake for all of us if we don’t try to rekindle the connection with the environment that surrounds us, not only in terms of pollution and the climate crisis but also in terms of who we are as a society.

As someone who is deeply interested in the power that art has within activism, having had the chance to get involved with PTBO, and seeing sustainability included in an ever-growing manner in festival programming and curating practices gives me hope that there is a chance, for us, to keep the poetry of earth alive.”

You can read the rest here. Look out for events within our main Push the Boat Out festival program when it launches A MERE MONTH FROM NOW!

Call for Volunteers – Compañeros, we need you!

We will be hosting a three-day poetry festival brimming with poetry performances, installations and discussions in the intricate and maze-like venue of Summerhall. We are looking for volunteers to help us put up, (wo)man, and take down events at the direction of Summerhall staff; greet and direct poets and audience members around the venue; and help out our core PTBO team as needed. We welcome volunteers of every background and ability. No experience is necessary and the rota will be assigned well in advance.

If you’re interested, please send us a note with a brief description of how you’d like to be involved and your availability over the course of the weekend to If you’ve already been in touch, trust that we’ve added you to our list and we’ll get back to you.

Otherwise, we look forward to hearing from you!

You can find the full call here

Introducing: Tuesday McPhail

With our program plans firmly taking shape, realising them as a 3D festival is an art as well as a challenge. We’re being ably assisted on this front but the excellent Tuesday McPhail, who has joined our team with a raft (sorry! so many possible puns) of producing and festival experience.

Tuesday is a Freelance Producer and Project Manager, and has worked with notable Scottish companies such as The Tron Theatre, Vanishing Point, Brite Theatre, Company of Wolves and internationally with the Abu Dhabi Science Festival and Adelaide Fringe.  Prior to this, Tuesday worked as Underbelly’s Operations Manager delivering operational planning for their Edinburgh Festivals. Tuesday came to her career through her background as a cellist, and still enjoys the odd concert performing with orchestras and at weddings.

She does everything program production at PTBO, lining up all of our artists and scheduling and keeping us ducks in our rows.

Samuel Tongue

Samuel Tongue of the Scottish Poetry Library lends us a hand with our programming by day and is part of our programming by night. We wanted to give you a taste of his stunning work since you will certainly be seeing more of him come October, so please enjoy ‘Emergent Properties’, graciously shared by Sam: 


Emergent Properties

a church is enveloped by a forest and the forest
            is the creator and redeemer of the church. the hermits
who disappear into the trees, are trees. every time
             a tree moves it is a brustling prayer.
susurration as supplication. the habit of the tree is its form in the world.
             Heidegger was wrong. no, the stone is not worldless;
no, the animal is not poor-in-the-world; no, man is not
             only world-forming. the stone can be ground and
underground – a negative capability – and the animals are adept at dwelling.
             neahgebur – they who dwell nearby. try not to think that clearing
the forest is a clearing for thought. leave it dark for all the neighbours;
            they are essential. My life and death are in my neighbour and
a church is enveloped by a city and the city
            is the creator and redeemer of the church. the anchorites
who disappear into their cells, are cells. every time
            the bus doors hiss open, it is a shushed prayer.
pneumatic pneuma. the habit of a tenement is its dwelling in the world.
            Le Corbusier was wrong. no, the house is not a machine for living in;
no, the streets do not belong to the automobile; no, ornamentation
            is not a religion of beautiful materials. The tenements can be forest and
bewilderment – a negative capability – and the streets can be recovered.
            différance – that iterative, unrepeatable stranger. try not to think that expanding
the city will end emergence. leave it dark for all the strangers;
            they are essential. My life and death are in each stranger and

August Poetry Events

How we’ve missed those living, breathing airwaves. We imagine you may be as excited as us to see events starting up again! With August being the height of festival season, we wanted to make sure you’re aware of poetry events big and small that will help get you excited for our poetry festival in October.

Music, Poetry, and Silence for Healing – Edinburgh Fringe – Greyfriars Kirk – August 8, 12, 19, 22, 26 – Free

Neu! Reekie! @ Fringe by the Sea – presenting Liz Lochhead, Callum Easter, and more – North Berwick – August 7, 2-4:30pm – £15

Love Poetry along the Royal Mile – independently organised walking tour – August 15, 11:30am-12:40pm – Free

A Toast to the People – a series of brilliant line ups, featuring Hollie McNish, Saul Williams and more – Edinburgh International Festival – August 23-27 – £14 (concessions available)

Horizons in Poetryland

The Scottish Book Trust has made a wonderful list of opportunities for writers in Scotland and we’ve whittled it down to what is most relevant to and accessible for your poetic genius: 

  • Briefly Write Poetry Prize is looking for submissions 10 lines or shorter. Deadline 8 August. 
  • RSL Literature Matters and Elspeth Wilson are running Un/Natural, a series of workshops for D/deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent participants which will run in September and October 2021. Deadline to apply is 12 August. 
  • The Adriatic is looking for submissions on the theme of ‘sci-fi’. Deadline 22 August. 
  • Crow of Minerva, who focusses on supporting student and emerging artists, is accepting poetry submissions until 31 August.
  • The Poetry Archive is looking for video spoken word submissions. Deadline 31 August.

Scottish Book Trust’s full list can be viewed here.

Have you heard our most recent episode?

Listen to our podcast, “A Break in the Waves,” on Soundcloud or Spotify for introductions to or reminders of our favourite poets and to chew on wee morsels of their work.