New book sends messages of hope in ‘out of ordinary’ times

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Out of the Ordinary is the title of Seil poet and author Kenneth Steven’s new book of poems.

In this time of Covid, it is the everyday sights and experiences that can bring joy, and this collection of poems embraces all of that.

Flights of birds, the stirring beauty of mountains and lochs, day and night creatures, memories of childhood, exchanges of love are touched on within the book’s pages as are poems inspired by ancient abbeys and symbols of faith.

Virus restrictions have seen the disappearance of festival appearances and events, and made impossible for Kenneth to hold an official launch of his latest literary offering, but lockdown has also been a gift in its own way, he says, seeing as he is blessed with a writing studio at home and the ‘possibility of peace on the beautiful Isle of Seil’.

Lockdown did snatch from him the chance to travel to the BBC studios in Glasgow to record a series of essays on Hebridean Islands for Radio 3 and more recently for Radio 4s Poetry Please programme – instead they were recorded from a back bedroom. Anyone who missed them can still find them for free on the BBC’s listen again facility.

Another of the lockdown challenges for him to overcome was how to spread word of his new poetry collection without the usual launch event.

‘I sent out messages to everyone I had ever met, waving a flag for it, advertising flagrantly. I have been able to send out a wonderful lot of signed copies with little letters to people both known and unknown. I realised people were sending the books as gifts, sometimes to folk who were lonely, depressed, on their own, struggling, who loved poetry or did not know poetry and that felt an enormous privilege just being able to write personal letters to them sending a little bit of light and hope.

‘While it has been good having the studio and the peace of it, it has also been wonderful to feel part of a community and to make the darkness for some a little bit less,’ he said.

With bookshops shut for now, copies of Out of the Ordinary can still be bought on Amazon or for £12 including postage by emailing info@kennethsteven.co.uk

Looking forward, Kenneth has also just finished a commission for the Episcopal Church of Pitlochry and the organisers of Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Winter Words event.

Called River Song, his contribution to a three-year project called Shades of Tay, follows the journey of  the river from source to sea.

The work will be delivered at the end of this month, but eager ears waiting to hear it will have to be patient a little longer as the threat of Covid and the restrictions it brings still linger round how this year’s plans for Winter Words will pan out.

‘It will be interesting and exciting to see,’ says Kenneth.