CREATED in the middle of the Covid pandemic, Scotland’s newest poetry festival was launched in a spirit of defiance.

“There was this idea that even though the world seemed to be stopping, we had to keep going – we had to do something to celebrate our amazing, vibrant contemporary poetry scene,” director Emma Collins told the Sunday National.

This resolve is reflected in the festival’s name, Push The Boat Out (PTBO) – the first line of the poem At Eighty by the late Scots Makar Edwin Morgan.

And the enthusiastic response the festival has generated appears to demonstrate that the land of Rabbie Burns still has an appetite for poetry.

“Scotland has always been a place of poetry,” said Collins. “It’s an expressive medium and it helps us understand the world around us and our place within it and I think Scotland has definitely been a seat of that.”

Yet even she admits she is amazed by how quickly the festival has grown. Its third edition next month has more than 50 events featuring almost 100 performers with some already nearly sold out.

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“The poetry scene in Scotland today is amplified and lives both on and off the page,” Collins said.

“It’s multicultural, diverse and modern in its themes and topics. It’s unconventional, inclusive, contemporary and, I think, this is reflected within this year’s programming and in what PTBO sets out to do as Edinburgh’s international poetry festival.

We have a fantastic line-up this year and I think we are a really welcoming festival and that is one of the reasons we have been embraced so quickly.

She added: “We are trying to celebrate the multifaceted nature of poetry in Scotland today and harness new ways of celebrating words. We are really looking at it as something that everyone can enjoy and find a way to come into.

“Sometimes, in the past, poetry has maybe been seen as something that is a bit elite and something that you had to be educated into understanding but actually poetry speaks to people in all different kinds of ways.”

Collins pointed out that Burns wrote in Scots, using the language of people around him which was part of his appeal.

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“I think hearing poetry in your own vernacular perhaps makes it feel much more welcoming and something that you could also do,” said Collins.

“For example, the spoken word theme in Scotland has really taken off in the last 10 years and is more rooted in an oral tradition, with people coming to the stage as themselves and speaking in a very accessible way that is still skilled, thoughtful and often looking at really vital issues.”

As well as recognising Scots and Gaelic poetry, the festival is increasingly showcasing poetry written in British Sign Language and the programme also encompasses lyrics, rap and hip hop.

Running over the weekend of November 24-26 in Edinburgh’s Summerhall, the festival, supported by Creative Scotland, includes poetry readings, discussions, new commissions, singer-songwriter circles, music hybrid events, dance and hip hop, poetic cocktail-making classes, film screenings, beach walks and workshops.

Events include a celebration of the poetry of songwriting with Hamish Hawk, Karine Polwart and Inua Ellams, while Bemz, Dave Hook and Queen of Harps will lift the lid on their songwriting process by sharing the backstory to their songs in a Song Exploder event. Multi-instrumentalist Dizraeli will take a look at human creation and connection in their event, Animal Noises.

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There are newly commissioned features from Ever Dundas, Harry Josephine Giles and Iona Lee in a darkly gothic night of poetry and original music composed by David Paul Jones – as well as newly commissioned performances from Imogen Stirling, Alycia Pirmohamed and Ross McCleary in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland.

There is a look at the politics of poetry with Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey, Yvonne Reddick’s urgent climate poetry, Kim Moore’s feminist poetic and the poem-stories of William Letford and Dawn Watson. The online programme includes international poetry stars Meena Kandasamy and Tishani Doshi.

“This year’s programme is a true showcasing of contemporary excellence, with modern, charged, alive, joyful and celebratory events that are also vehicles for important and vital discussions,” said Collins.