Rizwan Akhtar, Pakistan, Class of 2014

10706607_10203723166732521_2039756186_nRizwan Akhtar teaches at the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. His poems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry NZ, Wasafiri, Postcolonial Text (Canada), decanto, Poesia (US), Exiled Ink, Pakistaniat : A Journal of Pakistani Studies (US), Solidarity International, Orbis, The Other Poetry, Planet; The Welsh International, Wolf, South Asian Review, Gutter: New Scottish writings, Open Road Review, ScottishPen, tinfoildresses (US), and in Bloodaxe anthology Out of Bounds (2011).

Here is his poem inspired by his time in Edinburgh…

Edinburgh Calls

On granite structures
wooden walls creak as words escape
outside rain sneaks silence
like language it has pauses
cinching vows in smattering sounds
hooded plodding I mount city’s hills
imagining holes in windows
covering my splaying gait
like a sentence needing extra support
after living mistily on pages of history
and a full stop to stare and look around
for a map everywhere alleys creep
on kidney stones a cobbled-pinch
runs through legs
there is some charm in getting tired
nursing crackling bones on benches
alone with a wet pigeon
shouldering luggage the unpaid postman
of dark evenings emerging
from the hazy basin of Froth’s estuary
over Queensferry Bridge
quivering on cables
stroking winds anti-clockwise
a metallic North Sea
spooks primitive music
buses plow through wet spaces
you miss one and wait for the next
out of geographic love.

A. L. Kennedy returns to SUISS!

A L Kennedy visits SUISS

What a night!

Readings from A. L. Kennedy have been highlights of our previous Summer Schools, and so we were particularly excited to be hearing from this esteemed and prolific writer on this mild mid-August eve. Expectations were deservedly high, and Kennedy surpassed these with grace and good humour, reading from All the Rage, her recently published collection of short stories, before answering questions from students.

As anyone who has heard Kennedy speak will know, it takes very little prompting for this effortlessly articulate speaker to commence regalement. And so we were entertained, educated, and absolutely enthralled as Kennedy spoke on the maudlin public images of creative people, the desperate need to improve prison libraries, and the often mystifying decisions made by those designing her book covers!

Kennedy stayed long into the evening to talk to students and sign books, and was even happy to pose for a few photographs! Linden and I were all too happy to take advantage of this…

A. L. Kennedy is just one of the marvellous authors who come to speak to our students at SUISS. This year we also hosted (in order of appearance!) Rodge Glass, James Robertson, Liz Lochhead, Michael Pedersen,  Zoë Strachan, Robert Crawford, Anne Donovan, and David Greig.

Burns Supper and Ceilidh Capers!

Burns Night at Edinburgh's Ghillie Dhu pub

SUISS Burns Night at Edinburgh’s Ghillie Dhu pub


This summer heralded the beginning of a brand new event for SUISS – our inaugural Burns Supper!

Here in Scotland we have a long-established tradition of celebrating our national bard, Robert Burns, on his birthday.  This falls on 25th January, and Rabbie is toasted in time-honoured fashion, with plenty of good company, song, poetry, drink, and tasty food.  Here at SUISS, we think that the ploughman poet deserves to be remembered all year long, and so, during our Scottish Literature course, we enjoyed an unusually summery Burns Supper in the gorgeous surroundings of the Ghillie Dhu – one of Edinburgh’s finest traditional pubs.


Haggis at the SUISS Burn's Night supper

One o’ the puddin’ race, lookin’ sonsie

The night began with a kilted bagpiper addressing the haggis:

‘Fair fa your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin-race!’



After this, we tucked in to some seriously delicious haggis, neeps and tatties, and heard one of the directors toast the immortal memory of Burns.  Students and the two directors sang and recited a selection of Burns’s poems and songs, as well as the work of some other, more contemporary poets.  Well done to all!  You certainly got us in the mood for some very energetic Scottish traditional dancing! Have a peek at this picture of our ceilidh moves…

SUISS ceilidh on Burn's Night

Ceilidh moves from the SUISS team


We rounded the night off with a hearty rendition of Burns’s song of friendship, ‘Auld Lang Syne’.  Many thanks to the Ghillie Dhu for a lovely welcome, delicious food, beautiful surroundings, and a great place to dance!  And thanks also to our fantastic folk band.  We can’t wait for next year’s Burns Night.

Arthur’s Seat Hike!

SUISS students ascending Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat

SUISS trek up Arthur’s Seat


I have now the pleasure of presenting my readers with an original document of a most singular nature, and preserved for their perusal in a still more singular manner. This brutish little scrap, printed on neon paper, laminated, and with a whistle attached, was discovered in atop Arthur’s Seat by happy dogs. I offer no remarks on it, and make as few additions to it, leaving everyone to judge for themselves. And so:




The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified First-Aider:

Written by Himself.

Fideli certa merces.

My life has been a life of trouble and turmoil; of change and vicissitude; of anger and exultation; of health and of safety. My sorrows have all been for a slighted First Aid manual, and my vengeance has been wreaked on its adversaries. Therefore, in the might of Heaven, I will sit down and write: I will let the wicked of this world know what I have done in the faith of the promises, and justification by grace, that they may read and tremble, and bless their gods of horseplay and running with scissors, that the minister of the Triangular Bandage was removed from their sphere before their tears-before-bedtime were mingled with their sacrifices.

The morning of the hike presented us with weathers most disagreeable, indeed, it seemed that our proposed perambulation might suffer that most tragic of fates: cancellation! Yet, as the noon turned to us, we saw open upon her face the hints of a smile, which broadened presently into the sunniest of grins. We commenced our hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat at around four o’clock in the afternoon. And oh how that sweet sun did blaze! Thus, the only inclement precipitation oozed from within: a dreadful sweat clinging to even those hikers hailing from the most infernal of climes. And yet, reader: I hurried them. Since my swift and easy birth at precisely midday upon the due date, I have always prized timekeeping as the highest of virtues, for surely this is what separates man from beast, and at the midpoint we were a good three minutes behind schedule. And again, reader: I hurried them!

Here then, I reveal my life’s most diabolical shortcoming, that which desiccates my happiness and grinds it to a flour most loathsome. We sped up that rock, blasted by heat, and I discovered to my great dismay that I carried no water! No water, reader! What manner of First Aider neglects adequate hydration? A dreadful poor First Aider, to be precise! Me! Admittedly, most of the students had brought their own water, and nobody was particularly bothered as we were up and down the Seat in forty-eight minutes. Indeed, the students were perhaps most disturbed only by my, yes, slightly alarmist and overly animated reactions to discovering, at the peak, no full bottles within my knapsack. And yes, everyone involved got a great view of this fair City, got to know each other a little better, and generally had a really lovely time.

But the WATER! This torment shall weigh me down for the rest of my bedevilled existence!

Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

View over Edinburgh from the summit


Here ends the wretched narrative. With regard to the work itself, I dare not venture a judgment, for I do not understand it. I believe no person, man or woman, will ever peruse it with the same attention that I have done, and yet I confess that I do not comprehend the writer’s drift. It’s probably some sort of a silly joke about a lovely SUISS day out…

Tom Farrington.

James Robertson speaks to SUISS!

James Robertson reading

James Robertson visits SUISS


In week one of our SUISS programme this year, we were absolutely delighted to welcome back one of Scotland’s finest contemporary writers, James Robertson.  James is the author of five novels, including The Fanatic (2000), Joseph Knight (2003), and The Testament of Gideon Mack (2006) – a firm favourite in the SUISS office, and the last text on our Scottish Literature reading list.

James is a well-kent face here at SUISS!  He has read for us a number of times, and is always brilliantly entertaining.  This year he kept us enthralled with a reading from his 2013 novel, The Professor of Truth, and he answered lots of our questions on topics ranging from creative writing, to Scots language, to Scotland’s independence referendum.  Thanks for being so generous with your time, James!

If you feel like reading some of his work, you’ll find a link here to a poem that James read to us at SUISS.  We loved it – we hope you do too!  James Robertson’s ‘The Heron’

Tal Griffit, Israel, Class of 2014


A big thanks to Tal, one of this year’s Text & Context students, for allowing us to post his wee poem about Scotland and the conflict occurring in his homeland.

Tal GriffitState of Conflict

We land,
On the cobbled stone
In a bright old day, a newly born;
With the numerous few, who had walked
Here before,
Wee land, we land;
we sore, Wee sore.



Happy 67th Birthday!

Photo on 2014-06-04 at 13.37 #2This month, SUISS celebrated its 67th birthday with good friends, good fun, and of course, LOTS of cake!!!

Many thanks to Linden for the goodies. Next year we may even remember the candles.

Here’s to a summer of laughs and learning…

2014 Lecture Programme

IMG_0618We are so delighted to have many of our former SUISS Directors on the Lecture Programme this year! They include Dr Peter Garratt who will be giving a lecture on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Origins of Modernism, Dr Emma Lister will be speaking about Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things, Dr Linda Tym on Alice Thompson’s Burnt Island, Dr Karin Sellberg on AL Kennedy and Angela Carter and Dr Julia Boll on David Greig’s Europe.  We also have former SUISS Creative Writing tutors, Eoghan Walls, lecturing on Contemporary Poetry, and Zoe Strachan and Rodge Glass giving masterclasses. This summer is shaping up to be quite the reunion!

Farewell to Nan

DSC03140Many of you will remember Nan Mulder, who was our SUISS Administrator for the past 15 years. Nan was the first point of contact at the summer school and managed the daily running of the office. Nan retired at the beginning of 2013 to focus on her career as a print artist, and after so many years of hosting students from all around the world, she decided that it was time to see the world herself! We would like to take this opportunity to thank Nan for all her hard work and dedication to SUISS.

Diana Finch, Chile, Class of 2011

Diana Finch, Chile, SUISS Class of 2011

Diana Finch (Chile) Class of 2011

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the SUISS 2011 Modernism and Creative Writing courses, after which an extract of my short story Fire was published in that year’s edition of Northern Lights. On my return to Chile, the British school in Santiago where I had taught for many years, commissioned me to write the school history.

The book, The Story of Craighouse School, was finally published by the school and launched in December 2012. As I needed somebody to edit the English version (the book is bilingual English-Spanish), I asked my SUISS tutor, Jane Alexander to recommend someone and was delighted when she agreed to edit the book herself. Although it is a work of non-fiction, it is told as a story, with the founding family as main protagonists against a background of 54 years of social and political upheaval in Chile.

I have worked as a teacher and translator all my life, and would never have undertaken this work if it hadn’t been for the skills learnt on the Creative Writing course and the self-confidence gained as a result. So this is to send a big thank you to my 2011 course mates, SUISS staff and specially to Jane herself and to wish you all every success for the future.