Poetry afloat in St Andrew Square



Wring the Scottish rain clouds dry…Ron Butlin

Some hope. It rained of course but the sun shone too so Edinburgh’s new Makar, Ron Butlin, brought the perfect poem to launch Poetry in St Andrew Square: A Recipe for Whisky, laced with all the elements of Scotland’s weather. Come rain, hail, sleet or sun, the poetry garden is now open for business and waiting for you to help it grow…

The next event is on Friday 5 September when a lunch time Personal Poetry Shopper is open and free to anyone who happens to be in the garden at the time. Between 12.30 and 1.30, Reader in Residence, Ryan van Winkle (seen below) will help passers by to find a poem to read to suit their mood. And if it rains, well then, he will just lead a retreat to Tiles.


Kindred spirits
This is the spirit of Poetry in St Andrew Square launched on Monday 25 August by floating poetry on lotus blossomskindred spirits across the water. The opening of the poetry garden coincided with the last day of the book festival at the other end of George Street neatly making the point that creative life goes on even when the festivals have left town. With another nice coincidence both Richard Holloway, chair of the Scottish Arts Council (on the right), and Ron Butlin, the city’s poet laureate, chose whisky as their theme to celebrate the start of a bold new venture in the heart of Edinburgh.

For the first time in 230 years St Andrew Square is full of people. Dedicating the space to poetry, Richard Holloway said, ‘…the wonderful thing about having a poetry garden in a famous square in a beautiful city is the way it will help people to pause for a minute or two and let poetry into their lives.’

This is just the start of a public project led by Ewan Aitken (former council leader and city councillor for Restalrig) with support from the city’s literary groups (see the full list below) as well as Essential Edinburgh, the city’s first business improvement district, and Coffee Republic who host the bustling cafe in the square.

In October the poetry garden will celebrate National Poetry Day and after that, who knows? You can help to decide what happens by making a wish on the poetry postcard in Coffee Republic, or logging on to the City of Literature website which invites you to email them with your ideas to make poetry happen every day in the garden. As the website says, “It is your garden!”

Or in some of the words of the outgoing Makar Valerie Gillies (soon to be displayed in the coffee pavilion)

We wander through your windy mazes,
All our voices are flags on the high street.
From the sky’s edge to the grey firth
We are the city, you are within us.



Poetry in St Andrew Square is supported by: Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, Essential Edinburgh, Ewan Aitken, Coffee Republic, Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Edinburgh Makar, Scottish Book Trust and The Writers’ Museum.

See also the excellent picture story by our own Leith Open Spacer, Nick Gardner

4 thoughts on “Poetry afloat in St Andrew Square”

  1. Pssst, also seen at the launch Councillor Gordon Munro clutching
    100 favourite Scottish Football Poems (we are reliably informed this book is available for loan from the Scottish Poetry Library)

    And his wish for Poetry in St Andrew Square?

    “For Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘ A
    child’s Garden of verses ‘ to be read aloud in the square”

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