Tuesday, 27 August 2013

RON BUTLIN: The Edinburgh Makar visits Orkney

I first met Ron Butlin at Glasgow's Aye Write Festival where we were both reading from our recently published novels. His was called Belonging, a novel that captures extremes of cold and heat in the landscape and explores the turbulent weather of human relationships at the edge. I loved the book. 

Ron Butlin is one of those writers difficult to categorise. Equally successful across a variety of genres, he is an award winning novelist, short story writer, opera librettist and poet, recognised internationally and closer to home where he is Edinburgh Makar - or Poet Laureate.

And his road to this position is an interesting one. Here is an extract from a biography on his website:

"At sixteen he hitchhiked down to London where he did nothing for a while (he saw The Stones in Hyde Park, went up in a lift with Paul McCartney - such was life in those days). In quick succession, he secured the positions of valet-footman, barnacle scraper on Thames barges, computer operator and city messenger. Finally he became an associate member of a rather dismal and forgotten pop-group for whom he wrote song lyrics. In less than eight months, and on the strength of two records and a B-film, he retired for good. Without music, his lyrics did their best to become poems.

After drifting around abroad for a year or so he returned to a life of intense unemployment. This was when he began to write in earnest. Over the course of several years he did very little else. Eventually, however, the Government decided it was time he made a meaningful contribution to society and, as an incentive, stopped his dole money. Spurred into action he became a male model - for students at the Edinburgh College of Art. As well as broadening his social life, this allowed him to sit and do nothing for hours on end, leaving his imagination completely free. His earliest published poems date from this period."

"There are more people writing poetry than reading it, and precious few buying it," he says. 

Which is why he learned to 'diversify' and turn his hand to all sorts of writing. Unsuccessful as he characterises his early days writing pop song lyrics, it must have been a worthwhile apprenticeship, because he has since written several libretti for Scottish Opera. His most recent book of poetry, The Magicians of Edinburgh, has run into several reprints.

Of his book, The Sound Of My VoiceIrvine Welsh said: 'One of the greatest pieces of fiction to come out of Britain in the 80s' 

We are delighted to say that Ron Butlin is visiting us in Orkney next week.

Ron Butlin
7.00 pm
Wednesday 4 September
MacGillivray Room
Orkney Library & Archive 


To book your place 
Phone: 01856 873166
E-mail: general.enquiries@orkneylibrary.org.uk

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