1320Books has found a perfect niche with The Poets’s Box, a pop-up shop in Dundee’s Wellgate Centre specially created as part of the nationwide Being Human Festival. Orginally conceived as a platform for research, understanding and discussion of the humanities, the festival has grown into a national phenomenon and a major winter festival of ‘a the airts’. The chosen theme for a series of events taking place across Dundee is The Aquatic City’, and 1320Books is very pleased to be taking part.
The original ‘Poet’s Box’ was first established in 19th century Glasgow and it quickly became popular as a news hub, a bookshop, a print shop, and a literary venue. Local writers assembled there to exchange ideas, perform new works and print their latest offerings. The idea caught on and quickly spread to Dundee, a place noted for its radicalism alongside jute, jam and mainstream journalism.
The Poet’s Box in Dundee persisted at various premises in Dundee’s Overgate from the 1870s until 1946. It’s reported that there was a hand-operated printing press in the back room and stacks of poetry books on display in the window. The shop also maintained a healthy stock of song sheets, often featuring the latest broadside ballads. The Poet’s Box attracted a diversity of singers and performers and it quickly became an outlet for writers and performers who wanted to self-publish their work.
Dr Erin Farley of the Dundee Central Library’s Local History Department has researched Victorian Dundee’s working-class literary and performance culture extensively, and she is in no doubt that Dundee has lost none of its creative spark.
“There’s always been a strong tradition of DIY creativity in Dundee. We want to celebrate this history and recreate the atmosphere of the Poet’s Box by having somewhere in the centre of the city for people to come and discover new work and have a go at creating something themselves.”
1320Books is a self-publishing venture that sits comfortably alongside other participants in the 21st-century Poet’s Box. For contemporary writers, artists and creative citizens, struggling to be heard there is often no other alternative but to do it yourself.
The Poet’s Box initiative is a salutory reminder, however, that collective action and fixed premises offer the best chance of establishing alternative means of creation, production and distribution. It was radical then and it would be radical now, should like minds once more cohere around common imperatives.
Mr. Buckland, Mr. Walpole and Mr. Young
Around Scotland with the Fisheries Men
with Michael Stephen Clark, 1320Books
Thursday 21st November 2019 3-5 pm
The Poets Box, Wellgate Centre, Dundee