Norman Bissell

NormanBissell-119x150I write poetry, essays, fiction and reviews which have been widely published in literary journals, books and newspapers and I’m also an experienced teacher and lecturer.  My poems have appeared in The Scotsman, Cencrastus, Classwork, island, Luing Newsletter, Open World and Scottish Book Collector, the booklet Circles and Lines and the books The Reckoning, Making Soup in a Storm (New Writing Scotland 24), The Dynamics of Balsa (New Writing Scotland 25) and the Scottish island poetry anthology These Islands, We Sing.

My first poetry collection Slate, Sea and Sky, A Journey from Glasgow to the Isle of Luing, accompanied by photographs by Oscar Marzaroli, was published by Luath Press in January 2008. It received daily national press and radio news coverage and has been critically acclaimed by the former Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and other poets.

My articles on cultural issues and book and music reviews have been published in The Herald, The Scotsman, the Scottish Educational Journal, The Keelie, Cencrastus, Chapman, Edinburgh Review, island, Northwords, West Coast, Classwork, the Luing Newsletter, Northings, in the books The Reckoning and Grounding a World: Essays on the work of Kenneth White, and in the papers of the Scottish Trade Union Research Network.

I’ve read and spoken at many festivals and cultural events including Celtic Connections, Changin’ Scotland, the Nairn Book and Arts Festival, Glasgow’s Aye Write Book Festival, StAnza International Poetry Festival, Edinburgh’s Ceilidh Culture, Lismore Music and Literature Festival Taproot, the Belladrum Festival, the Islay Book Festival, Wigtown Book Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

I was fortunate to be a student of Kenneth White’s at the University of Glasgow back in the 60s and at meetings of the Jargon Group he introduced me to radical thinking on culture and society which changed my life.  Twenty years later I tracked him down in Brittany via the Sorbonne just as his work was to be published again in Scotland. I set up the Open World Poetics group in Glasgow in 1989 to discuss a wide range of ideas of a cultural nature which were influenced by White and others and to enjoy weekends in the great outdoors mainly at Allershaw Lodge near Elvanfoot.  With Joe Murray, Gerry Loose and others we published 3 issues of Open World magazine. I was at the founding meeting of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics in Edinburgh on Burns Night 1995 which Tony McManus initiated and led until his death in April 2002, and decided then with others that the Centre should not die but continue to grow. I became its (unpaid) director in August 2002 until the present.

My degree is in philosophy and history and for 17 years I was principal teacher of history at Braidhurst High School in Motherwell. I have also lectured to undergraduate and post-graduate student teachers at the former St Andrew’s College of Education and the University of Glasgow, and at the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning. From 1996 until 2007 I worked as a full-time EIS Area Officer providing advice, representation, and training to EIS members working in nursery, primary, secondary and further education in much of west central Scotland and in June 2010 I was awarded the Fellowship of the Educational Institute of Scotland in the special category ‘for signal service to education.’

I now concentrate on my writing from my home on the Isle of Luing in Argyll where I was Vice-Chairman of the Isle of Luing Community Trust for 8 years. I have completed a feature film script and Barnhill a novel about the last years in the life of George Orwell for which I received a Creative Scotland artist’s bursary. It has received favourable reviews in The Herald on Sunday, the Sunday National, the Morning Star and The Ileach.

My other interests include ecology, natural history, walking and chess, having once played for junior Scotland in the Glorney Cup.

My website and blog is at I can be contacted at, at Facebook or Twitter.


Sometimes here
it’s hard to tell
the sound of the wind
from the sound of the waves
or the sound of the waves
from the sound of the rain
or the sound of the wind
and the waves and the rain
from the sound of my breath.