International Residencies - Liz Houchin in Edinburgh!

30th March 2023

Our International Residency scheme, I bhFad i gCéin, began in earnest earlier this month with poet Liz Houchin taking up her residency in the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. This was a unique opportunity to live and write in a city renowned for its rich heritage of storytelling and literature. Boasting the world’s largest literature festival and home to a myriad of bookshops, as well as the highest concentration of public libraries in Scotland, Edinburgh is a city which celebrates the power of the written word quite unlike any other. This is what Liz had to say about her residency: 

Thanks to Poetry Ireland, The Arts Council of Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs I’ve just spent three weeks in the company of two million poems. The Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh is a very special place for readers and writers—a welcoming, lively hub in the centre of historic Old Town. There’s always something happening, readings and book launches, of course, but also podcast recordings, tours and workshops. 

Residencies are different to retreats, with a greater focus on building connections than quiet writing time, and one of the highlights was hosting the local primary school, Royal Mile Primary. We organised poetry story time with the younger children and poetry workshops for the older groups. Watching eight and nine-year-olds engage with every possible poetic form—from concrete and language to found and nonsense poems—was proof again of how playful and stimulating poetry can be. Creating their own work without rules or boundaries, the children were very willing to take part in a poetry swap with a school in Dublin, with all participants receiving a postcard with poem written just for them. 

I had hoped to meet some of my favourite contemporary Scottish poets during my residency, and on my final day I had the privilege of meeting and recording a podcast with Kathleen Jamie, The Scots Makar (or National Poet for Scotland). Jamie has won almost every major poetry award and her poems and essays, rooted in Scottish landscape and culture, are an important source of inspiration. Together with poet John Glenday we discussed the idea of 'paying attention' in poetry, and read some of our own work related to this theme. It was a stimulating and memorable finale to this wonderful residency, which I’m confident will result in lifelong friendships in poetry.


Liz Houchin lives in Dublin and holds an MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. Her first chapbook, ‘Anatomy of a Honey girl—poems for tired women,’ was published by Southword in 2021 and she was awarded a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to support the completion of a full collection of poetry. Her work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, Banshee,, RTE, iamb, Visual Verse and several anthologies.