Royal Blind pupil's work experience at the Scottish Poetry Library by Andrew Pettigrew

Posted: 04/09/2019 | Education

By Royal Blind pupil Andrew Pettigrew

Andrew joined the Royal Blind School when he was 11 after losing his sight between the age of 6 and 10 to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Andrew's mum Jospehine says that as Andrew's sight failed he had to use his imagination more. This inspired him to want to be a writer.



The Royal Blind School has given him the confidence to achieve this dream. Andrew has already had some of his poems published. He has written this blog about his recent work experience at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. We hope you enjoy reading it.

“There was a light drizzle of rain in the air as I approached the double doors of the Scottish Poetry Library on the 3rd of June. The trip there had been relatively smooth, my cane bouncing along cheerfully as I navigated my way through the streets and onto buses. With nervous thoughts chasing each other around my head, I walked into the SPL, not realising yet what a fantastic week I was about to have.


After getting settled, I met with Aly Barr, the library's Events Manager, and listened to how events were promoted and organised within the library. It was an interesting talk, and made me realise how much planning it actually takes to make a poetry event work.


That evening, when I returned to the library to watch one of the events Aly had organised, I found I was even more appreciative of the process as it was a very thought-provoking poetry reading (although I could have done with a few less poems about death and darkness).


The next day, I made my way back to the Scottish Poetry Library and started my research project. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to, and I was not disappointed. The morning seemed to sail by as I read through poem after poem on the SPL's website, searching for interesting Scottish works that I could include under the heading 'Political revolutionary thinking'. Unsurprisingly, Burns made several appearances, unfortunately without an accompanying Haggis, but there were many contemporary poets such as Jackie Kay in the mix, too.


After this, I began scrutinising the accessibility of the Scottish Poetry Library’s website and penning (or, more accurately, Brailling) the first draft of my report. As I had to consider the physical accessibility of the building as well, I took to wandering around the library with my long cane, figuring out what could be improved. I did not trip over any books or fall down the basement stairs, so I took that as a reassuring sign.


Wednesday morning dawned pale and rather dismal, and I arrived at the SPL looking vaguely like a rat that had just gone bathing in a swimming pool. A very nervous rat at that, as I was going to have to deliver my report in less than an hour to all the heads of the library. To my astonishment, the meeting went as well as I could have hoped, with everyone seemingly impressed with my findings. I even met a kindred spirit with regards to the overkill usage of emoji's on social media, a rare find for sure.


My second last day at the Scottish Poetry Library was a poetical whirlwind, but in a great way. First, I worked with my supervisor, Hannah Lavery, and produced some interesting poems, one about the connotations of my name and another which  explored sectarianism in a humorous way with the repetitive phrase of 'Whit fitba team d'ye support?'. After a quick lunch, we grabbed a taxi to The Summerhall, in which I participated in a BBC poetry workshop. Not only was this fascinating in itself (and amusing, with my assistant Jackie's excellent signing descriptions), but it was also great fun. For one thing, during the workshop, I wrote another poem, this one about cheese (because you should never dismiss the metaphorical brilliance of the humble cheese). As I had to leave early to catch my bus – a bus that I subsequently missed, owing to no fault of my planning skills in the slightest – I read out my cheese poem to the other participants, and left them all looking a little bewildered.


My final day was spent sipping tea, completing work, editing my poems, and trawling through the library gift shop for an end-of-exam present for my best friend, Ailsa. I also took the time to finish off my work experience log, which turned out to be a godsend for writing this article given my memory resembles Swiss cheese (perhaps that poem is having consequences...). Overall, it was a fantastic week, and I feel I learnt a great deal of the library and, indeed, of working as a poet.”