May 2021 Newsletter


As lots of our readers will know and experience first-hand, having great ideas and the resources to make them happen are two very different kettles of fish. We’ve been financially supported by some brilliant, quiet individuals in our journey so far, without whom we would never have got this far. However, we’re delighted to say we’ve now also secured Creative Scotland funding which is a game-changer for us, and will allow us to realise our ambitions in a completely different way.

First up, we can properly engage (pay! it’s been a labour of love for a wee while now) some of the fabulous folks who’ve been rowing us along (shout out to the wonderful Julia Sorensen, our newly confirmed Digital Comms Manager, who makes this newsletter every month, among many other things). 

Secondly we can get our festival poets, the ones we’ve been reading and discussing and whose names we’ve been shuffling around spreadsheets for many many months, officially confirmed for our October extravaganza.

So, busy times ahead on all fronts. And just as the pubs are open again too.

Jenny Niven
Festival Co-Director

Creative Scotland Support

For several months, our team has been “keep[ing] good watch always / for that last passage of blue water / we ha[d] heard of and long[ed] to reach”, as Edwin Morgan would say.

In plain terms, we’ve been waiting with baited breath to hear back about our core funding application. Late last week, we finally got the good news! 


“Who says we cannot guide ourselves
through the boiling reefs, black as they are,

push it all out into the unknown!
Unknown is best, it beckons best,
like distant ships in mist, or bells
clanging ruthless from stormy buoys.”

Thanks to our namesake poem, “At Eighty,” for helping us express our excitement, and a great many thanks to Creative Scotland for their core support. Festival 1 is a go!

We’re delighted to say we’ll be recruiting new part-time contract staff to help us deliver Push the Boat Out shortly – please keep an eye on our website and socials for more details. 

So long, farewell, auf Wiederseh’n, adieu!

There’s a sad sort of clanking / From the clock in the hall / And the bells in the steeple too. / And up in the nursery, an absurd little bird / Is popping up to say… That Beth’s headed to the National Library! 

Beth Cochrane has been seconded by the Scottish Poetry Library to PTBO since last summer, coordinating programming and volunteers and bringing all sorts of poetry knowledge to the team. She’s starting a new chapter, though, with the National Library of Scotland as Events & Learning Co-ordinator AND taking up a well-earned residency as Scottish Emerging Writer with Cove Park, so we’re waving a fond farewell.

Huge thanks to Beth for everything she’s brought to the boat in the last few months; please give her a grateful wave when you see her at Summerhall in October.

Poetry in public spaces

One of the big drivers for Push the Boat Out is to see more poetry more ‘at large’, and it’s been interesting to see how often the last year that has been linked to mental health and wellbeing, and processing and coping with what covid has thrown at us. 

Nature writer Elizabeth-Jane Burnett developed a  crowdsourced poem, Spring, an Inventory, to celebrate the currently-in-full-swing spring we’re enjoying. She writes optimistically, yet the pandemic weighs on the writing, as it has on everyone for over a year now:

Fifty-four hopes in the hardwood held   
slow, the hour brightens.

The Francis Crick Institute has spearheaded COVID-19 vaccination research and responses, and it will now house a major poetic exhibition responding to the pandemic. Anyone coming through the building has been invited to write to their experiences of the disease and the role of science in addressing it on postcards which will inspire poets in residence to write work displayed at the Institute and online.

On a different tack, we’re also big fans of poetry colliding with other artforms. Award-winning poet Jay Bernard has collaborated with sound designer Mwen to create an amazing soundscape and game, Tombland, based in Dragon Hall, at the National Centre for Writing. Check it out and hear a conversation with them and PTBO’s co-director Jenny Niven, as part of Norwich and Norfolk Festival, here.

Henry Bell

In the spirit of poetry-sharing, Henry Bell, a freelance writer, editor, and producer based in Glasgow who has won the New Writers Award for Poetry from the Scottish Book Trust and is Managing Editor of Gutter, has given us permission to include some of his work. A big thank-you to him for the following: 

Rat Caught in a Manhole Cover

Rat caught in a manhole cover
you have rolled a natural 1.
Too fat but not quite greasy enough
you are suspended between the sewer
and the stars: easy prey for dogs, cats
or motor-bikes. Dear rat
I do not offer you pity but fellow-feeling,
how rat-like, how human, to dream
of an open road, but find yourself
chained to your dankness. I bet the other rats make fun of you.
Here, have this poem, it is about your courage
your hope, your triumph, the way we see you
full gut stuck in a manhole, straining
and all round the world say ‘aah
that brave rat is me.’

To read more, order his upcoming pamphlet, Inner Circle, which is due out with Stewed Rhubarb in November 2021!

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 your poetic genius: 

  • Razer Cuts is looking for short stories and poetry, 1200 words max, for their next issue, Edition X. Deadline 8 May. 
  • The London Reader is looking for stories, poetry, or art reflecting on the moon. Deadline 9 May.
  • Poeyum, a new monthly newsletter, pays £20 per poem. Send in your work and your bio! Deadline 21 May. 
  • Bridport Prize has contest calls out for poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and novels. Deadline 31 May. 
  • Out-Spoken Press is looking for full collections and pamphlets of poetry. Deadline 31 May. 

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.

Thanks for getting and being here.

We’ll be back next month with more, but if you’re still hungry now, visit us at our socials!

Feel free to get in touch more directly at