September Newsletter (originally published 3 September 2021).


It is somehow already September which means that our inaugural festival programme is imminent. For environmental reasons, we’ve chosen not to publish a printed programme, so details of all of our shows, our amazing roster of poets, and all the other weird and wonderful festival delights we’ve lined up for you, will be at your fingertips, online, in a matter of days (September 8th to be exact).

We know you will be on tenterhooks! But in the meantime, mark your calendars for Push the Boat Out 2021 for October 15th – 17th, and please forward this email to the friends you’re bringing to the festival so they can sign up and see the programme too. Go on, even the ones that say they don’t like poetry. We’re going to change their minds.

Festival Accessibility

While we’re thrilled about the prospect of hosting in-person events come October, and while we are planning for most of our events to be held in the ‘traditional’ way, we realise that online and distanced events made arts and culture more accessible to people with certain disabilities, chronic conditions, and other limitations. We lament that this increase in inclusion was brought about as a side effect to so much global suffering, but understanding these lessons and maintaining accessibility is important to us.

So, although we’re a small and new outfit, we will be streaming and BSL-interpreting as many events as we can. Some will be streamed live during the festival and others will be made available after the fact.  We’re working with our venue Summerhall to make sure accessibility in-person is very high on our priority list – information is available here and will be detailed alongside ticketing information when our program is released on September 8th. We’ve also worked hard to try and keep the ticketing cost of our festival as low as we can, and included free events and activities where possible; these events will be clearly marked in our programme.

If you have further ideas or requirements to make our festival more accessible, please email us at We would like your feedback on other things we can do to make your participation in Push the Boat Out International Poetry Festival a reality.

Pàdraig MacAoidh / Peter Mackay

We’re very excited about the final stages of our putting together our lineup, and a number of poets have provided some poem excerpts from pieces to be included in our program with which us to tantalise you. This first piece, in Gaelic then English, is from poet, lecturer and broadcaster Pàdraig MacAoidh / Peter Mackay:

Am Bùrach

Dhèanadh na Ròmanaich bùrach agus theireadh iad fois ris,
ach uaireannan chan eil dad a dhìth ort ach bùrach:
am faireachdainn ’ud gun robh thu seo uaireigin roimhe
ach gun chinnt’ cùin no ciamar no carson.

Dh’fhàg sinn dùthaich dhuibh agus rinn sibh bùrach dheth.
Air neo: dh’fhàg sinn bùrach dhuibh agus rinn sibh dùthaich dheth,
ach chan eil e gu dìofar cho fad’s a tha bùrach gu leòr air fhàgail
gus tè bheag a ghabhail. O Thìr nam Beann ’s nam Bùrachan,

gus am bi sinn beò am bùrach seo a-rithist: slàinte!
Isd – cha robh am bùrach a-riamh air bhruidhinn an seo.

The Bourach

The Romans would make a bourach and call it peace,
but sometimes all you need is a bourach,
that feeling of having been here, before, though
not sure when or how or why.

We left you a country and you made a bourach of it.
Or we left you a bourach and you made a country of it –
ach, it doesn’t matter as long as there’s enough bourach left over
for a wee dram. Slanj va! Land of hills and bourachs,

lang may your bourach reek!
Wheesht: the bourach was never spoken here.

Ellen Renton

The second excerpt we *need* you to read is from poet, performer, and theatre-maker Ellen Renton: 

The Mound 

   / I was told that the streets show themselves / patterns on a dropped
roll of cloth / only stopping for the sea / and I saw it / in my own way /
grey and blue / glass and headlights /   / I recognised the car’s rude
swerve in the dark /   / A friend visited and did what I’ve been
holding in / as if we were living in the film version of the city / where
anything could be said / he clutched his chest as if the view might just
see him off /

Michael Pedersen

The third and final excerpt is from Michael Pedersen, poet, playwright, and pop song composer of Neu! Reekie! infamy. He is also the capitano of the PTBO project all these poets have in common. Here’s a tasty morsel of his poem, ‘Edinburgh’s Fallen’:

Edinburgh’s Fallen


From undefeatable gladiators flaunting
weaponry to clapped-out greyhounds
hiding a limp. When they blew-up
the Power Station thousands revelled,
climbed hills, took to beaches & boarded boats
with picnics; countdowns swelled, misfired
looped back—the beans kept jumping until
BOOM. First fire-dust rifled its gut
like popping candy fed to the swans,
then the chimneys crumbled inwards,
embraced like drunk friends falling
laughing. We surveyed from a verdant
summit, toasted it as Hogmanay,
snogged, watched again on YouTube
with a soundscape in slow-motion—
spectral voices mooing as the bricks
unzipped, disappearing behind a powder.
The last opal of smoke the dragon issued
saw it choke on its own ash.

The High School met a more shameful demise,
stripped down in stages over an aeon:
robbed of its cape, finger bones broken.
Gouged by metal claws until lower
than a double-decker bus,
loose wires fraying in wind ugly
as unfair grief. All the dignity of a tiger
in a cage at a cocktail party;
a crab launched at a rock.

Cockenzie was handed a queen’s sword
to fall on. Portobello died a death of
a thousand cuts. I’m not saying
I’d switch them, who am I to condemn
the heart of a heretic, it’s enough
to be here when they’re not.

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: 

  • MONO. is looking for poetry submissions on their theme ‘sanity’ to do with dark humour, satire and brutally honest reflections on ordinary life. Deadline (midnight) 1 September.
  • Submissions for Gutter Magazine are now open. Deadline 24 September.
  • Verve will be back for 2022 with submissions on the theme ‘beginnings’. Deadline 30 September.
  • Scottish PEN has opened submissions for poetry and prose for their ‘diary’ issue. Deadline 30 September.

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