I'm back from an interesting weekend away in Scotland in Wigtown. If you ever happen to find yourself in this part of the world, you couldn't do better than the warmth and comfort of Brora Lodge, a family run B&B, where nothing is too much trouble and their breakfast is simply the yummiest out.
After a long journey on Friday, Saturday proved to be really sunny: all the visiting poets brought good weather with them. The awards took place in the main hall in Wigtown, and all us prizewinners were pleased to be given a few words by Douglas Dunn, the judge, about how he chose the poems. Quite simply, he picked the ones that he liked best: that were original and that appealed to things he knew in an unusual manner. Douglas spoke of the judging process requiring "monastic conditions" (solitude and a helpful dram) to get through, but that it was an enjoyable honour to read all these poems.
Then, we were all asked to read our poems, in reverse order, as well as the Gaelic winner. Afterwards we were invited to join everyone for a celebratory Angus beef dinner, at the Writer's Retreat, with Alistair Reid, the translator and poet, and all prizewinners, judges and organisers. I felt so honoured to be in such great and illustrious company and I was minded to distraction all weekend by the good folk of the Wigtown festival: Davie, Adrian, Catherine, Ann... I'm sure I've missed someone!
I also had the great pleasure of chatting to the Gaelic winner, Tormad Caimbeul and his beautiful daughter, Catriona, about the pleasures and difficulties of writing in their wonderful language, as well as the similarities to Irish. The craic was mighty, as they say here in Ireland, and it was a great weekend away.
A wee hey-out to Jim, Mora, Rob, Victor, Tormad and Caitriona - so good to meet you all, may you go on to even greater heights.