Happy 10th anniversary Edinburgh City of Literature

UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network got its start 10 years ago this month when Edinburgh, Scotland, was named the first member as a City of Literature. Since that time, the network has grown to 41 cities (with more on the way), and the Cities of Literature now number seven.

Congratulations to Edinburgh on a decade of literary excellence, and thank you for lighting the way for the rest of us!

Our friends in Edinburgh celebrate the 10th anniversary of their designation with this wonderful poem by Christine de Luca, current Makar, that reserves a line for each of the other six Cities of Literature. The poem was read this morning at a full meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council.

Through the Traffic of Tongues

Ten years we’ve had of trafficking,
of keeping borders open through words,
through discerning conversation,

the hospitality of books. Seven citadels
of literature, all fostered from a dream;
seven hills and heavenscities of possibilities.

Edinburgh: first to light up with literature,
spelled out its heritage and future. That night
in Paris was a consummation, a delight.

We passed the flame to Melbourne:
an ancient meeting place of sign and symbol,
built on gold, a rush of writing, a wealth.

Then Iowa City made the cut; told the world
it had made the sentence behave
and misbehave, recast our myths.

Dublin followed with its Book of Kells,
its four Nobel literary laureates
and a daft Bloomsday every June.

Reykjavik was standing in the wings,
holding its ancient tongue; weighing
its Edda and Saga, its poetic forms.

But Julian of Norwich was stirring in her grave.
Across 600 years we still need the solace of words
that tell us that all shall indeed be well.

Kraków is the seventh hill, the seventh dream:
its word hordes, bulging libraries, its bookshops;
the deep lines on its literary face.

All outward-looking places, all generous,
all built on the topography of words.
Open the book, read, translate, pass on the gift.

This poem, including the title, includes snippets – italicised – from poems by Edinburgh’s three previous Makars; Stewart Conn, Valerie Gillies and Ron Butlin. Also a quote from the Iowa City of Literature website.)


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