Published by Markings Publications
The Bakehouse 44 High Street Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2HP Scotland
www.markings.org.uk with assistance from
ISSN 1460-7166 ISBN 9781901913071 Lead editor: John Hudson Co-editor: Chrys Salt Design & layout: John Hudson Tel: +44131 208 3534 Mob: +447801801204 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Cover image © Silvy Weatherall
Copyright © MMVIII remains with the authors
CONTENTS Editorial by John Hudson
Poetry Piltdown-Man Poem by Mark Farrel La Bohème by Mark Farrel mean-ing by Richard Lighthouse care dare by Richard Lighthouse forget it by Richard Lighthouse The Elect by Tom Leonard The Case of John Clare by Alan Franks The Confession of a Good Wyfe by Sue Whitmore Kingfishers and Dr Freud by Alan Gay Company of Women by Pauline Prior-Pitt On Ice by Patricia Ace Winter & Spring by Mary Johnston Poem by Maureen Sangster Principles by Hazel B Cameron Driven by Love by Tessa Ransford
18 20 22 23 24 25 26 31 66 68 69 70 71 71 74
Poems for Peace Poem by John Hudson Amaranth by Rosemary Baker Battle Hymn of the Republic by Ian Blake Crete by Margaret Gillies Brown Grains of Sand by Chris Considine Strange Meeting by Chris Considine A Poem Aboot Peace by Donald Adamson Knowing No Other Way To Be by Emma Strang A War-Time Education by Donald S Murray At a Time of Crisis by Donald S Murray Stone Relief: Pitigliano by Tom Pow Peace is by Liz Niven Peace Talks by Elspeth Brown Plough-shares into Swords by Vivien Jones Wr i t e‘ pe ac e ’byChr ysSal t
76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 88 89 90 91
Poetry Istanbul by John Hudson Protectit Bird by Duncan Glen
Ravenscraig Elegy by Tom Hubbard Men Like Any Other by G B Young Re mbr andt ’ sEye sbyCe l i aPur c e l l In Memory by Celia Purcell In Memoriam: ASW by Malcolm Ramsay Luskentyre by Malcolm Ramsay Drowned Cow by Stephen Devereux Frozen Pike by Stephen Devereux Homecoming: for Megan by Malcolm Ramsay Mystery by James McGonigal Soundings by James McGonigal Ironing by Mark Williams Heron by Anne Dunford Spring 2008 by Rosemary Baker Fit for Purpose by Rosemary Baker
122 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 140 141 142 143 143
Fiction Willie Kelvin knew exactly the moment he became a conduit for evil. Willie Kelvin and the Tide of Evil by Hugh McMillan 8 Ith adb e e nPe t e rMc Al l i s t e r ’ sc us t o mf o rs o met i met og of o ranho uro rt wo ’ s drinking after school. Pe t e r ’ sCa s ebyHughMc Mi l l an 14 “Atl as t- s o me o newhoc anputmei nmypl a c e ! ” Clowning by Fiona Thackery 102 Idi dn’ tno r mal l yg oi nt ot heFo s s emuc h ,b utI’ dmi s s e dt heb us … Mr Frig by B G McBeth 109 Hel o o ke ddo wnatt h epape rs t i l lc l ut c he di nhi sr i g hth and… Sunrise in Chiran by Lynn Otty 112
Feature:Tessa Ransford 70th birthday tribute
i nt e r vi e wwi t hTe s s aRans f o r dc onduc t e dbyRut hO’ Ca l l ag han Mo r e l l eSmi t honTe s s aRans f or d’ sme t aphys i c s A C Clarke on Tessa Ransford as translator Tom Hubbard on Tessa at Tweedale Court Alan Gay, Pauline Prior-Pitt, Patricia Ace, Mary Johnston, Maureen Sangster, Hazel B Cameron, Shiela Templeton, Angela Black-Brown, Stephanie Green & Lesley Duncan Bibliography & Awards
47 60 63 64 66 75
Angus Calder remembered
with contributions from Richard Berengarten & John Hudson
Reflections on Duncan Glen 1933-2008
with contributions from Mario Relich & Tom Hubbard
Reviews Not Just Moonshine by Tessa Ransford reviewed J B Pick Kissing The Ground by Daniel Lusk reviewed J B Pick Big Pink Umbrella by Susan Millar DuMars rev. John Hudson Reliquaries by Angela Patten reviewed John Hudson Inside Out by Alastair Reid reviewed J B Pick Sang o the Mavis by Margaret Gillies Brown rev. Donald Adamson The Raven & the Lemon Tree by Morelle Smith rev. D. Adamson Voices from Glentrool & Merrick by Mary Smith rev. John Hudson Viewing Point by John Younger reviewed Donald Adamson
123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131
Photography - Images from Brittany Sylvie Weatherall, 10 images Anne Darling, 10 images
The Bakehouse programme of events
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Editorial: Rejecting Yeats After a long day with my fellow editor, Chrys Salt, reading poem upon poem, discussing, rejecting, accepting, exchanging laughter, groans and much delight, I arrived home late, ate and announced to the family t hat“t heonl ygo odpl a c ef ormer i ghtno wi sbe d. ” I climbed the stairs and soon lay down, reaching out for a book by the bedside. Automatically I began to read. Poetry. Stuck in my editorial fastl ane ,Ic oul dn’ tr e adf orpl e as ur ea ndbe ga nac c e pt i ngandr e j e c t i ng,and rejecting, and rejecting. Pointless abstraction, I muttered, then, over-used alliteration, then, meaningless phrase dressed up as meaningful, verbose, confused. It got worse. Workshop exercise, too clever by far, music over meaning.Whoe ve rIwasr e adi ngwas n’ tdoi ngve r ywe l l . I awoke as my wife withdrew the book from my grasp. “Don’ tyoue ve rs t op? ” “Sor r y,Iwasr e adi ngi nmys l e e p. ” “Ihadt hes amebo o katuni ve r s i t y. ” “Whi c hbo ok? ” “TheSe l e c t e dPo e msofW. B.Ye at s . ” She waived before me the volume I was sleep-reading then clapped it shut and put it well out of reach. The experience demonstrated quite a lot, I thought. Next day I told Chr ys .Shebur s toutl aughi nga nds a i dwor dst ot hee f f e c to f“you c ur mudge onl yol dbugg e r ! ” I felt a little bit proud as well as foolish. I had rejected W.B. Yeats! Admi t t e dl y,Ihadnotr e ads ome t hi ngf amousl i ke‘ Sa i l i ngt oByz ant i um’ which I like to think I would accept for Markings if the like of it ever came our way, but even in the selected poems there seemed to me, at the time, to be material that, under non-r e ve r e nt i als c r ut i ny,di dn’ tmaket hegr ade . At least all of you rejected by the editorial team can take solace: you’ r epr obabl ygr e at .Thos eac c e pt e dmi ghtve nt ur et hei de at hatt he ygot c hos e nwhe r eagr e atmandi dn’ tandbuf ft he i rpr i de . But I wonder just how much we read with an eye and an ear set to the sound of the name that wrote the work rather than the poem before us? I remember I used to run a reading group. The members would have no truck with names, often berating poetry that I would bring along by e s t abl i s he df i gur e s .“The r e ’ snopoe t r yi naname , ”o neoft he m wo ul ds ay to me. I ti sane di t or ’ sj o bt omakemi s t ake sandi ns odo i ngunc ove rge ms . At least I hope that you may read some precious works in this issue of Markings, even if W.B. is absent. John Hudson, September 2008
Willie Kelvin and the Tide of Evil
Willie Kelvin knew exactly the moment he became a conduit for evil. It was when greed got the better of him and he put money on his bonus ball in three separate pubs. It came in. 6.6.6. Willie got £147 in exchange for the introduction of a tide of pure evil into the south west of Scotland. Hef i r s ts us pe c t e ds ome t hi ngwaswr ongonSundayni ght .He ’ dbe e n standing at the bar regaling his old pals with his funniest old stories and there had suddenly been the most rank, fetid smell, worse than the worst toilet smells you could imagine, and accompanied all the while by a loud buzzing like flies. “Je e zWi l l i e ”s ai ds ome one , “youc r appe dye r s e l f ,orwhat ? ” Bit by bit his friends had withdrawn, made their apologies and left, even though Willie had been standing all the drinks. He had retreated to a t abl ei nt hec or ne r ,t hes me l la c c ompanyi nghi ml i keadog.“Mus thave be e nt hatke ba b”hemut t e r e d,hol di nghi spa l m upt os ni f ft hede f l e c t e d breath. He swallowed his drink and left the pub to walk the half mile home through the streets of Drumsleet. It was an Autumn evening, the cold nipped his skin. As he strode down the cobbled street, he saw, in the distance, a crowd of kids running along, whooping and cheering. They s e e me dt obec ar r yi ngadummy.“Gui s e r s ”t houghtWi l l i eKe l vi n,al l o wi ng himself a smile at the memories of Halloween and the innocence of youth. He fished in his pocket for a coin or two to give them, then, remembering his personal hygiene problem, ducked into a doorway instead. Kids could be cruel. From the shadowed safety of Poundstretchers doorway he watched them cavort along the road. They were parallel to him before he realised that the figures were dwarves, and that the burden they were carrying was a young girl, bound and gagged. As Willie Kelvin watched, one of the band gr abbe dt hegi r l ’ sf o ota ndbi ti nt oi t .“Mmmm”i ts l o bbe r e d,t he nt he y were gone into the darkness. Willie stood for a moment to gather his senses.
Whathe ’ dwi t ne s s e dwasas t ude ntr ag,ofc our s e ,e ve nt hought he r e we r e n’ tanys t ude nt si nDr ums l e e t .Ormaybei twa sat he at r et r oupe .The local Arts Association had recently appointed several bald women to revitalise local culture, so this could have been a piece of street theatre. Or maybe, and this seemed the soundest notion of all, the girl was on her way to a party. What an effort, finding all those dwarves. Willie Kelvin imagined there was an agency in the Yellow Pages. Shaking his head and forcing a grin in the reflected green glass of the shop window, Willie resolved to return to the pub for a stiff whisky before it shut. He wondered if the dominoes were still on, or whether the karaoke had begun. He was a man on whom economic necessity forced sober habits but he was going to enjoy his little windfall, even if it meant going to day 6 of t heSoc i a l ’ s‘ Re t r ai ni ngf orSuc c e s s ’c our s ewi t hama s s i vehe ada c hei nt he morning. He began to anticipate the smoky warmth and atmosphere of the place. Even the smell had abated a bit. He retraced his steps. A fine mist had come out of nowhere and though he knew Drumsleet like the back of his hand, he hesitated at the top of the Vennel. He thought he could make outt hedul lye l l o wf a c eo ft heChur c hc l oc k,buthewas n’ ts ur e . Automatically turning right along the High Street, he brushed into s ome t hi ngout s i det heOxf am Shopt hathekne ws ho ul dn’ thavebe e nt he r e . The object shifted against his shoulders. Reaching up, he grasped a foot and was left, as it moved, hanging on to an over-size leather shoe. A small, horrified, glance was enough to register a corpse swinging on a gibbet, its mouth and eyes open and staring. Willie Kelvin screamed and the noise echoed down the empty High Street. Somewhere a dog whined, as if in pain. Willie turned and blundered down the Vennel, running blindly in the direction of home. He clattered across the old Bridge, his footsteps ringing in his ears. The orange lights flickered, swam, in the fog. He tried to think of normal things, being patronised by the Social, the football results, Sunday lunch with his mother, but every time he tried, his mind rebelled, and other images drifted in; horses dragging ghastly coaches, the faces of drowned babies, blood congealing on glass. He wheezed up the lane to his flat, the hair thick on his neck. With relief he unlocked the door and flung himself inside, bolting the door after him. He shut the blinds, put every light in the house on, then the heating, then the radio. He sat and poured himself a large whisky and crouched on the floor, shivering. The noise of the river and the world outside receded to a whisper. The whisky burned, then warmed. The radio began a summary of the day's football matches. Willie relaxed a l i t t l e ,maki ngame nt a lnot et oc ont ac thi sdoc t or .He ’ dbe e nge t t i nghi ms e l f really worked up about things lately. He took a deep breath and poured himself another drink.
Somewhere between the second and the third gulp, the electrics in the flat failed and Willie was plunged into sudden and silent darkness. He stood up and looked through the curtains. There were no street lamps. Willie sat down, glass in one hand, the open bottle in the other. As he drank, the darkness itself seemed to change in nature, become oily and viscous. After a minute or two it began to slop about the room, momentarily obscuring the few vague shapes he could make out. Willie began to sweat profusely. There were candles in the hall cupboard and Willie resolved to get them to banish this unnatural darkness. Groping his way through the door and along the hallway, still carrying the whisky, he finally found the door handle of the cupboard and wrenched it open. “Goode ve ni ng ”s ai dade e pvo i c e .St andi ngj us ti ns i deandf r ame di n deep yellow light that seemed to well up from the floorboards themselves was a man dressed in pantaloons and hose. As he bowed deeply, Willie grew only marginally more petrified to discern that his visitor had no head. With gr e atg e nt l e ne s s ,t hef i gur eus he r e dWi l l i eba c kf r om t hedoo r wa y.“Pl e as e e xc us et hel i be r t y, ”i ts a i d.Wi l l i ewashi ti nt hef a c ebyabl as to fhota i r and then suddenly a torrent of noise and light erupted from his hall cupboard and streamed through his front door and down the stairs. He watched a succession of things: creatures, beasts, ghouls, trolls; some images s ohor r i f i ct hatWi l l i e ’ sbr ai nc o ul dbar e l yas s i mi l at et he m.Wi l l i es l umpe d back against the wall, the bottle falling from his hand onto the threadbare carpet. After about three minutes, the cupboard door slammed shut. Instinctively, Willie moved forward to shut the front door. The figure was ont heot he rs i de ,al r e adyc l os i ngi t .“Thankyous ove r ymuc h, ”i ts ai d.“No ne e dt owai tup. ” When Willie regained consciousness his head was thumping but he set off to find some drink anyway. It was still dark but a rind of dawn was f or mi ngove rt hede r e l i c tmi l l s .Af t e rhe ’ dope ne dac anofl a ge randdr unk about a half of it, he took stock. Up to now, the only thing that had been wrong with Willie Kelvin had been his fungal feet: the reason he was signing on, and the reason why he was now, to keep his benefit, obliged to attend dai l y‘ Re t r a i ni ngf orSuc c e s s ’ ,af or m oft or t ur es pe c i al l yi nve nt e df ordol e hounds like himself. Willie had lost his temper on Friday, felt the veins in his forehead throbbing as he shouted at this twelve year old lassie appointed t os har pe nuphi si nt e r vi e wt e c hni que s .I twasoneoft her e as onswhyhe ’ d gambl e dont hebo nusba l l s .“Bl oodyHe l l , ”het houg ht .“Mus ts e et he doc t o rt oday. ”Hewas n’ tgo i ngont hec our s e- they could go to hell. He switched his living room lights off and moved towards his bedroom. As he did so something scuttled under the front door. Willie screamed then slowly unsnibbed the door and, to his horror, the whole ghastly cavalcade began again, except in the opposite direction, whirling through the door and into his hall cupboard in a howling torrent of red and black. Willie shut his eyes
until the noise abated. He opened them just in time to see his cupboard door s l am s hut ,a nds o me t hi nghi tt hewa l labo vea ndbounc ec l os et oWi l l i e ’ s feet. Willie peered down. It appeared to be a human arm, dressed in part of apo l i c es e r g e a nt ’ suni f or m.I twass t i l lhot ,ands moki ngs l i ght l y.AsWi l l i e stared open mouthed, the door opened and a long hand snatched the body par taway.“Idos ove r ymuc hbe gyourpar don, ”s ai danur banevoi c e ,and the cupboard door slammed shut again. Willie did go to his course in the morning; not out of any sense of duty but out of a need to get as far away from the flat as he could. It was day7ofhi s6we e kc our s e ,‘ Re t r a i ni ngf orSuc c e s s ’ .Whe nher e g i s t e r e dhi s attendance the girl looked up and gave a little jolt of fright. From his cursory look in the bathroom mirror earlier Willie could see her point. Waxy faced, slack jawed, eyes like pissholes in the snow and reeking of drink, Willie Kelvin looked more like one of the current inhabitants of his hall cupboard than a man seeking a kick start on the ladder to gainful employment. They were working on CVs that day. One of the fresh faced staff used a flip chart and big fat pens to illustrate the type of CV that wo ul dc at c hapr os pe c t i vee mpl oye r ’ se yeandt he nt he ywe r egi ve ns mal l e r pads and pens to draft their own versions. Willie found himself next to St e vi e ,ani c o t i nes t ai ne do l dl a gwho’ dr e c e nt l yhadhi sdi s abi l i t yal l o wa nc e stopped after a rule change. The older man was already scribbling away. After a minute or two Willie looked over his shoulder. “Chr i s tSt e vi eyouc annaes ayt hat . ” St e vi ehadwr i t t e n‘ Bor n:c anna er e me mbe r ’andaf t e r‘ Educ at i o n’ hads c r awl e d‘ Doc t or at eo fSoc i alAnt hr opo l o gyf r omt heUni ve r s i t yof Baghdad. ’ . “You’ l lne e dt ot akei tmor es e r i o us l ySt e vi e , ”s ai dWi l l i e ,“t he y’ l l s t opyourbe ne f i t ” “Idi nna ec ar e ”St e vi es a i d.“I ’ l lpr oba bl ynomakei tt hr ought her e s t ot hedayanyway” “Howdoyeme an? ” “Chr i s twhe r ehaveyoube e n?Thet o on’ si nt hegr i poag i g ant i c c r i mewave . ” Willie shook his head. “God,whe r edoIs t ar t ?The ybur ne ddo wnMar ksandSpar ksl as t ni ghtande ve r ywi nda ei nt heHi g hSt r e e t ’ soot . ” “Bl oo dyHe l l , ”whi s pe r e dWi l l i e ,hi she ada c hei nc r e a s i ng. “Ant hat ’ snoa’ .Twobobbi e ss e nto ott a ei nve s t i g at ehavevani s he d oaft hef a c eoft hee ar t h,andawho l edor mi t or yoCo nve ntg i r l si smi s s i ng. ” Wi l l i es huthi se ye s .“Havet he yanyi de a …whoi ti s ? ” “Oc ht he r e ’ sa’s oar t so’s t or i e sgoa i n’t her ounds .RoguePo l i s h pot at opi c ke r swho’ vet ur ne dc a nni ba l ,Gr e t nas uppor t e r s . . .onl yt he r e ’ sno e noughot he m. ”St e vi el e ane dc l os e r .
“I fyouas kme ,i t ’ snooft hi swor l dWi l l i e .I t ’ st heApoc al yps e . ” “What ? ” “Thebe as tWi l l i e .66 6.D’ yes e e ? ” Willie did see with great and sudden clarity. 666. His bonus balls. Through greed and stupidity he had delivered Dumfries and Galloway to the Anti-Christ. He was to blame. Willie Kelvin. “MrKe l vi n? ”t heyoungg i r lwasathi se l bo w, al o oko fbar e l y c onc e al e ddi s t as t eonhe rf a c e .Shenodde dathi sbl ankpage .“Ho war ewe doi ng? ”Whe nhedi dn’ tans we rs hemadeal i t t l ec l uc ki ngno i s ewi t hhe r teeth and the tip of a very pink tongue protruded for a second. “Don’ twewa ntaj ob?Dowewantt obei nLi mbof o r e ve r ? ” Wi l l i eKe l vi ndi dn’ ts l e e pt ha tni ghtbuti ns t e ad,t hr ought hel ong hours thought and thought, his concentration only periodically disturbed by loud explosions, sudden sheets of flame, and the screams of the damned as they rampaged through Drumsleet. There was no escaping the facts: Willie Kelvin was responsible for the impending destruction of the town in which he had been born and bred. Everything he was familiar with, the park speckled with dog turds, the threadbare bowling green, the boarded up businesses, the poundshops, the tanning salons, the pedestrian precincts swept by drizzle, the Social... By dawn he knew exactly what he had to do, even if it meant his own death. He rummaged around in a bookshelf, emerging with a thick and venerable tome. He blew the dust from its cover then, steeling himself, awaited the return of the supernatural procession. It came, as expected, in a blast of colour and noise, the headless figure at the rear. “Exc us eme ”s a i dWi l l i eKe l vi n,bo l dl ys t e ppi ngi nf r o ntofhi m. The s pe c t r ei nc l i ne dhi st or s oasi fi npo l i t ee nqui r y.“Iwa swonde r i ng, ”he be g an“ i fyo ui nt e nds t ayi nghe r ef oranyl e ngt hoft i me . ” “Ye si nde e d”s a i dt heappar i t i on,“f orwewe r ei nvi t e d. ” “But . . . ”s ai dWi l l i e ,andatt hi spo i nther e ve a l e dt hel ar g evo l ume under his arm. At its appearance, the figure seemed to recoil for a second. “I ts ayshe r e . . . ”Wi l l i eo pe ne dt hebooka ndhi sf i ng e rt r e mbl e dabove al o ngpas s a g e .Thede vi l i s hl i ghti nt hec upbo ar ds e e me dt of l i c ke r .“I ts ays he r e , ”hec ont i nue ddo gg e dl y, “t hati fIs ub-let the premises I lose my benefit entitlements. And that guests are not allowed to stay overnight, e ve ni nt hes t or ag es pac e s .Ime anIdon’ twantt oc a us et r oubl ebut …” The headless man stroked the space that might once have been oc c upi e dbyac hi n.“Hmmm”i ts ai d,“Is e e .We l lpe r hapswec anmakea n ac c ommo dat i on. ” When Willie Kelvin returned from Rio, sated in every way, though not having put on a pinch of fat or aged a single second, he found that the Tide of Evil had progressed quite considerably. The Regional Council had
declared war on England and the Wellington Boot Factory at the edge of town had been converted to make Poison Gas. Chain gangs of lawyers, dentists and minor civil servants had made excellent progress towards e r e c t i ngt heg i a nts t at ueofWi l l i eKe l vi nt hatwast odomi nat et het o wn’ s new skyline. After a light breakfast of Lorne sausage and Champagne, Willie made his way to the middle of Drumsleet where the Social Security Building stood alone among the smoking ruins of other local government offices. He paused at the door. Through the windows he could make out the filing cabinets and desks, the glum faces sat round a central table and the Fl i pChar t .I tbor et hemot t o:“Re t r a i ni ngf ors uc c e s s .We e kt hr e e . Expr e s s i ngYour s e l f . ”AndWi l l i eKe l vi ns t r odeupt hes t e pst odoj us tt hat .
Pe t e r ’ sCa s e
I thadbe e nPe t e rMc Al l i s t e r ’ sc us t om f ors omet i met ogof oranhour ort wo’ sdr i nki ngaf t e rs c ho ol .I nf ac ti thadbe e nhi sc us t om,f ors o met i me , t ogof oranhourort wo’ sdr i nki ngdur i ngs c ho ol .The s ewe r et hedayswhe n schools were more loosely run, when teachers who were thought of as creative –Peter in his day exhibited ceramics –were allowed a certain amount of lea-way. It was almost expected for an artist like him to keep rum in the filing cabinet and make lewd suggestions to the 6 th year girls as they were glazing their pots. Peter became known as a character inside and outside school. The role took over, though, and, as years passed, there was more and more character and less and less Peter, till what he might have considered his assets, his art, his wit, his genuine skill as a teacher, had withered away and, without recognising it, he had become a serious town drunk, only able to function at the stage between four and eight house doubles. He ended up drinking before work, during work and in the two and a half hours between the end of work and his bus home to Locharbriggs. Once home, he would tackle the solid rampart of Tennents Lager cans heaped up ag ai ns tt hel i vi ngr o o m wa l l .Wome nhadgr ac e dPe t e r ’ shous emanyt i me s –in his day he was a charming and handsome rogue –but not latterly. Peter was presumed to be the father of a lost tribe of children, a few of whom he occasionally acknowledged when he passed them on the street. I suppose the time Peter enjoyed most was at the end of the school day,i napubc al l e dRubyTue s day’ s .I twasar oomy, pl as t i cpub,l i tby huge neon tubes, with a video juke-box and a giant sports screen showing endless rehashes of football matches. It was an under-ag e r s ’pubandonl y got busy about nine in the evening. Peter, and the few folk who enjoyed drinking with him, had the place to themselves. Peter would drink half pi nt sofl ag e randl i t t l edar kr ums .He ’ dr e mi ni s c eaboutpas twi ve s ,bo r r o w
l i t t l ebi t sofmo ne y,t aphi sf o ota ga i ns tt hebi gr e dbr i e f c as ehe ’ dal wa ys carry with him. There was much speculation about the contents of this briefcase, as the idea of Peter taking any work home from school was ridiculous. Some people thought it was full of drink, others ballast. What e ve rt het r ut hwas ,t hebr i e f c as epl aye dal ar g epar ti nPe t e r ’ sl i f eand he was never seen without it. Occasionally the briefcase would take Peter pl a c e shedi dn’ twantt og o.Thebar ma noft heVi cwasonc es t andi ngatt he door of the pub when Peter clattered past, down the steep Vennel, impelled byhi sbr i e f c as e .Appar e nt l yhe ’ dt r i e dt or unf oral a s tpi ntbe f or ehi sbus and gravity had taken over. He belted all the way down to the bottom of the street, over a busy road, and into the river. During this time it had never occurred to him once to drop the briefcase, which gave weight to the t he or yt hati tc ont ai ne ddr i nkr at he rt hanc hi l dr e ns ’j ot t e r s . I nRubyTue s day’ s ,Pe t e rc oul df l o pc omf or t abl yandbe c omer e al l y drunk. When he was in that state he would sometimes become paranoid, bursting from the toilet and berating a completely innocent bystander with awe l lt ur ne dquot at i on.“Thi nke s tt hou”hewoul ds houtatat ot a l s t r ange r ,“t hatIwhoha ves e e nt hef ac eofGo d,am nott or me nt e dbyt e n t hous andde vi l s ! ”The nhe ’ dc omebac kt ohi ss e at ,mut t e r i ngqui e t l yt o hi ms e l f .Mor eus ua l l y,he ’ dj us ts ag,hi ss pe e c hwoul dbe c omes obl ur r e di t was like trying to listen to someone underwater, and he would stagger off eventually, with his red briefcase, to get the bus home. He was well known to the drivers and usually reached Locharbriggs s af e l y.Onc e ,howe ve r ,hedi dn’ t ,andt hei nc i de nt ,l a t e rde s c r i be dt ome , became a kind of watershed in his life. It also cast light on the question of Pe t e r ’ sbr i e f c as e . Some ho whe ’ dc onf us e dt heLoc har br i g gsbuswi t ht heLoc he ndbus , even though they were different sizes and always went in different directions. Peter had had a particularly hard week. The Head at the school had given him a final warning about his drinking and the kids who hung about the street corners of the town had taken to shouting abuse at him as he staggered about. It was a small town and was cruel to those beyond the pale. In short, Peter was about to be thrown to the dogs. Anyway, he got on the wrong bus, went to sleep, and was roughly woken by the driver who turfed him out in Lochend, a little village only about two miles from the town but in a part of the countryside Peter did not immediately recognise. Confused and drunk, he had come to the c onc l us i ont hathe ’ dgonepas thi ss t opont heLoc har br i g gsbusands e i z e d on the idea that a distant group of white farm buildings was in fact the Rubber Factory, a prominent landmark near his home. With only a small hesitation, he set off cross country, in his corduroy jacket and with his heavy plastic briefcase, towards this building which shone white like a beacon against the setting sun.
I twaswi nt e ra nddar kne s sc amee ar l y.Byt het i mehe ’ dgot unsnagged from his second barbed wire fence, his destination, wherever it was, had faded from view. He trudged on, sometimes ankle deep in mud or soil, sometimes sinking in up to his shins. He had a vague idea, he told me later, that if he stopped, or turned back, he would, like some climber tantalisingly near the summit of Everest, lie down and die. On he went. While the stolid inhabitants of the smug little Scottish town were bathing their kids, settling down to watch Coronation Street, stirring their mince, here was a man just out the back engaged in a primitive struggle for survival, battling against a hostile environment and even wilder forces within himself. It was a heroic fight, a final showdown against the forces of darkness, all with a big plastic briefcase and within a sedate five minute car ride from town centre facilities. Distances supposedly shrink but I suppose there will always be pedestrians, driven by poverty or lunacy, trekking through the night, taking hours before they reach home or the cover of the trees. So Peter marched on, as the sun went down, as a little sliver of moon blinked behind rings of cloud like an unbelieving eye. In the darkness he lost direction, retraced his steps, criss-crossed his path, all the time scanning the grey featureless horizon like a mariner too long at sea. Hours passed, he di dn’ tknowhowmany.Oc c as i o na l l yheme tdyke s ,o rf e nc e s ,s hr e ddi nghi s trousers. Then, tripping down some banking, he lost his grip on his briefcase and fell on his face. There was no doubt in his mind that the briefcase had to be found be f or ehec oul dg oon.Hegr ope dar oundbutc oul dn’ tf i ndi t .I twaspos s i bl e t hatt hec as ewass t i l lont opo ft hebankhe ’ df al l e ndown.Hemadeague s s att hepoi nthe ’ dt umbl e dandg otdowno nhi shandsandkne e s .Nos uc c e s s . He wandered off to the left, squeezing the wet soil with his hands, then came back, found he had lost the slope. In panic he strayed too far in the other direction, came across a fence. As the damp seeped in through the scuffed knees of his trousers, he crouched down, tried to think carefully. It was clear he was in a very dangerous situation and that great ingenuity was called for, otherwise he would lose his briefcase and die where he stood. Recalling an old story, he decided that the best thing to do was to rip up his shirt and trousers and knot them together to form some kind of rope. He could then attach it to the fence and radiate from this fixed point, tracing back from the furthest extent to the start, thus covering an entire quadrant of the field. Then he would repeat the procedure from a point further along the fence and so on, till the entire area had been covered. After thirty years of heavy drinking, this idea made perfect sense to him. Besides, the briefcase had to be found. He had a little knife he carried for his pipe and with this he began to hack at his clothing. The shirt was easy, the
trousers less so. He kept his jacket on against the cold and the steady drizzle that had just begun. In this manner he passed about three hours. Knotting the rope was very difficult. He knew it had to be tight and secure to stop him drifting off into the void like some hapless cosmonaut. He fixed it at last to the fence, walked gingerly to the end till he felt the little rope tug, then got down on his hands and knees and began to crawl the first arc. Hemus thaver e pe at e dt hi spr oc e dur emanyt i me s ,hec oul dnâ€™ t remember. He only knew that at last he fell asleep, literally at the end of his tether. The reaction of the farmer who found him was not recorded but could reasonably be imagined. He found a drenched fifty year old man, dressed only in his underpants and a padded jacket, tied to a fence post by what appeared to be strips of rag. The little field had been churned up, like a paddock, except for a small rise of grass exactly in the middle where sat a burgundy coloured plastic briefcase. To the farmer it was a shambles, to Peter, shivering in the brittle light of morning, it looked like a labyrinth, intricately carved, with at its centre a lodestone, an omphalos, the open, e mpt y,br i e f c as ewhi c hhe â€™ dc l ungt oands e ar c he df o r ,f ors ol ong,l i kel ove , like sense, like a hint of meaning in the completely senseless world.
MARK FARREL Piltdown-Man Poem Are you one too? A (supposed) missing link? ( Whydon’ tyoul oo kmei nt hee ye ? ) ( Don’ tbes hy. ) We are brothers, you see. You and me. Down here in the underground sitting scross from each other on this train which is (exactly) (now) between stations. What if we got out right here, brother? A bomb could be set off, say. Some small parts of us could then be lost to be found by future generations. Ourf os s i l sc oul dbei nt hi sve r ygr ound… a filed-down molar or two, or shards of our chemically-aged bones (we are what we eat). And the experts will all agree: Theses ones were imposters… t he ywe r e n’ t ,s ome how… real…” 18
So,c omeon!Le t ’ sdoi t !Wec oul dbe c omef amous ! (If for all the wrong reasons.) What kind of a world is this? But then: What kind of a world has it always been? Substituting a decomposed cricket bat to stand in for the basest of wooden clubs. Who’ ddot hat ? Yeah, hell, forget the bomb in the underground. Aj agge dr oc kc oul dbeus e d… And,ofc our s e ,t he r ear ea l waysbar ehands … oppos abl et humbs … They help one so, to strangle whatonewant s … Why build, brother, when you can destroy? We ’ r eal lonl yc ompos i t e s ,yous e e . Part-ape. Part-human. But no matter what - bogus phoney through and through. ( Ah,br o t he r ,you’ r el oo ki ngatmenow. ) (A nod of the head to you, and, well, I wish you a good day. No, strike that, a great day.
MARK FARREL La Bohème whole fearful trance-l i keni g ht swe ’ ds i tt he r e : “TheHungr yHung ar i an” :our café—the nightmares howling outside (kept away) by only the gaily-painted windows (in reality, of course, byt hebi tofmone yi nourpoc ke t s …) butdi dn’ twet r yourbe s tt ol o s et hatf i l t hyl uc r et ooleaving heavy tips for the Polish refugee who’ dt al kMi c ki e wi c zwi t hus :whe n (and it was February) we had no real roof of our own: But there was always the acid to release our minds, and the booze to warm our bodies, and the sex was always clutching and hopeless and sad: and therefore, for us - at that young time - very good Growing up, slowly but fast enough, for sure: You knew, and told me t hatyouc oul dn’ tbeanar t i s thow terrible a thing to realise at such an age, I refused to even consider such things, so - woul dn’ tbe l i e veyou - insisted that you were good and I think that maybe you were, or, like most, could have been 20
And me - ha - brilliant, this (what a sweet kid) - wanting, yes - to succeed - butunf ami l i arwi t ht hewor ds“ambi t i on,or“e go ” and you - wonderful and lovely you - going at least one better glad enough to simply be and wanting, only - me *** (wherever you are) if you know where to go: where the folk music from Eastern Europe still plays, and where the coffee is the best in town: Have a cup (or two) for me (and maybe, if you feel like it), add a glass of schnapps to that Forwewe r e n’ tqui t es t r e e tki ds , not quite adults but it was always so unreally-r e al ,was n’ ti t ?kind, but sickening too - a glimpse of evil - but a honeyed-evil: just being happy, and afraid andi twast r ul y… alove
RICHARD LIGHTHOUSE mean ing you will never know why this poem means. only that it does. it will stalk you tomorrow. hunt you in dreams. curse you for not knowing. and remain un known. it will say forget it, then wake you at 3am demanding answers. you have none. it will telephone. send letters. whisper at night, do you know? and still, you will not. you will contrive, pretend, falsify meanings. in the end, falling asleep each night. knowing only you do not know.
care dare i no longer care how the moon balances each evening crested between wax and wane. i no longer care how your silken hair teased in moonlight, ripples thru meaning unannounced. i no longer care why buildings stand vertical, swearing at the sky, daring the moon come closer. i no longer care why your heart sings with altitude, making moons dance, longing ever for great care.
RICHARD LIGHTHOUSE forget it if you forgot to write, i am writing to remind you. i made it easy. here is the letter you can return. including words i want to hear. what only you could not say. they could be yours but forgotten like lost mail - returned to sender. remember how i want it said. remember the vowel's demanding texture, to be read. gently lick the stamp then let it drop in the mail slot. precious cargo of words. i am waiting.
TOM LEONARD The Elect one of those with quiet, naturally restrained, insistently monotoned voices with that little self-contained smile, always going on about Respect for History and the Abiding Sense of the Traditional whowantal lpo e t st ohaveas e ns eof“ba s i cf or m”andwhoar e al waysquot i ngYe a t s ’ s“Unde rBe nBul be n”aboutpoe t shavi ngt o Learn Their Trade and not be All Out of Shape from Toe to Top whot hi nkt hi shasnot hi ngt odowi t hYe at s ’ svi e wsone uge ni c s" t hebe t t e rs t oc kshavenotbe e nr e pl ac i ngt he i rnumbe r s ”- “The r e s ul t sa r eal r e a dyvi s i bl ei nt hede ge ne r at i onofl i t e r at ur e ”who complain of people with voices yclept loud, varied, opinionated, upanddown,s howy,t hei ns uf f e r abl y“e nga ge d” ,t hepol i t i c a l j ohnni e s ,t hepe r f or manc ec r owd,t he“ di s as t r ousi nf l ue nc eoft he s i xt i e s ” who hate poets who carry electrical appliances and who cling fast to Ar i s t o t l e ’ sdi c t um t hatapoe ti sapoe ti ns of arast he yhavea command of metaphor whodono twantt oknowal lt hi ss t uf fabout“ t hepageasaf i e l dof s e mant i ct e ns i on”o rbl e t he r sabout“ t hec onne c t i onbe t we e nl owe r c as eandde moc r ac y”orpont i f i c at o r ynons e ns ea bout“t he punc t uat i onofs pac i ng ”and“ t her e ade rbe i ngpr e s e ntatt hes ha r e d poi ntofa r t i c ul at i on” one of them leant over and said to me quietly do you know if the 44 bus still goes to Knightswood
The Case of John Clare Lying asleep in my bed, And supposedly absent from care, I never expected my head Would consider the case of John Clare. But there he was, stood at the window, The face of a ghost in the glass, His breath like the mist from a meadow And his mouth green-stained with the grass. I sat up and probably started As he looked in such dreadful repair. “Nowf r i e nd,don’ tbef r i tnorf ai nt -hearted, “Ti sonl ymys e n, ”s aysJohnCl ar e . Some of his words sounded foreign AndIc oul dn’ tgr as pt he m atal l ; ManyI ’ ms ur eI ’ vef or got t e n, But these are the ones I recall. “Onl ymys e ni nas l opf r oc k “Andt ol t e r i ngmor et hanI ’ ms t e ppi ng, “Lyi ngwi t ht hel ungwor tatBa l doc k, “Nor t hf r o mt hema d-house at Epping. “I ’ l lwr i t eande xpl a i nt ot hegove r nor “Ther e as onsf o rmye s c ape . “He ’ sno tabadmanf oras out he r ne r “ButIhadt obegonef r om hi ske e p.
“Ic omeupbyEnf i e l dandPot t o n “Be t we e nt hel andandt hes ky “Andwhi l eoure s t at emayber ot t e n “The r e ’ sf i nel ongni g ht si nJul y. “If anc i e dmys e l fasapo ot y “Unde rhi ss he l lont hes war d “Orabe ef l yeSl e e pi ngBe aut y “I nt hehe at h-be l l ’ spur pl ehoo d. ” Is ay:“ ButJo hnCl a r eyou’ vebe e nwe l lgone , “The ys t r angl e dt hevoi c eofyourbr oo k, “The ybur i e dyourbodyatHe l ps t one “Andboundyourpo orl i f ei naboo k. ” “ButIdr e ame d, ”s aysJohnCl a r e ,“i nmydoz i ng, “Idr e ame dt hatt heAc t swe r er e pe al e d “Andt hemanor swe r edonewi t he nc l os i ng “AndIbe c amef r e e ,wi t ht hef i e l ds . “TheEar t hwasc ont r a r i l yt ur ni ng “Andt hel andl e s sj oyf ul l yr oa r e d “Li keane xi l e dar myr e t ur ni ng “Tot hec ount r y’ sc ommonsr e s t or e d. “The nIwokei nac r e e poft hehe dge “Tot hec hi t t e r i ngt hr o s t l e ’ ss ong. “Amans ays‘ Thi sone ’ sont hee dge , “‘ Ikno whi mf r om No r t hbor oug h,MadJohn. “‘ Her ove sl i keaJac ko’Lant e r n “‘ Wi t hami ndt ha ti she r eandt he ngone . “‘ He ’ st hef r i bbl i ngf oo lofNo r t hampt on, “‘ Thes c r i bbl i ngl una t i cJohn. ’
ALAN FRANKS “Se e ,t he yhavei tmys ani t y’ sundone “Andgonel i ket hega met ot hewoo d “Ye tI ’ veme tdeQui nc e yi nLondon, “AndCol e r i dgeandHaz l i t tandHoo d. “Andt he yne ve rc oul dhol dmyat t e nt i on, “Nota l loft he s ec l e ve r e s tofme n “Li ket hedi l ac e thueoft hege nt i an “Ort hef r os tal ongPe t e r bor o ug hFe n. “I tmaybet he i rmi ght yr hyme s “Ar egi ve ndownf r om t heGo ds “Whi l emypo ors hannyc hi me s “Ar eki c ke ddi r e c tf r om t hec l ods . “Andwe l lmayyous ayI ’ m unga i nl y “AndBe dl a m Cows l i ppa l e “SoI ’ l ls e ti touts t out l yandpl ai nl y: “Thel and’ sbe i ngt ur ne dt oaj ai l . ” Is ay:“ButJo hnCl a r et ha t ’ sabs ur d “Fo rt hi si st heEngl ands t i l l “OfCobde nandWi l ke sandWor ds wor t h “AndJohnSt uar tLi be r t yMi l l . ” “Andt he r e , ”s aysJo hnCl ar e ,“ i st hec avi l l “Si nc eal ls houl dknowbe t t e rt oday “Thane nga gei nawars ounc i vi l “Asa l ls houl dbepr i s one daway. “The y’ ves quar e dof ft hepl a i nswi t hf e nc e s “Andmor t soft hemount a i nsandmoo r s “Andi nve nt e dar angeofof f e nc e s “Thats e ndsi nnoc e nc eoutofdoo r s .
“Themol es hal lbehange df o rt het r e as on “Off or ge t t i ngt henameoft heki ng “Andt her e dc apt r i e df ornor e as o n “Be yondt hec ompul s i ont os i ng , “Andal ls hal lbet a ke nast r ans por t s “I nt he i ronc ef ami l i arpl ac e “Andt r e ads ha l lbet ur ne dt ot r e s pas s “Andt hegl as st oas t r ange r ’ sf ac e . ” “Ande ve nasEngl andi ss l e e pi ng “Theaxeandt hec ha i nandt hedr a i n “Wi l lmakeWhi t t l e s e aandWe s tDe e pi ng “Asf or e i gna sBone y’ sdomai n. “Sol oo kyourl as tont henat i on “Be f or es he ’ sar oundyouvani s he d “Andhe runbor nge ne r at i ons “Unnat ur al l ys e l f -banished. “Youma ys ayt hatI ’ ma l ldi s or de r e d “Andmybodys wi nktandf r ai l “AndI ’ dbe s tgounr e c or de d “Li ket hepe r i s hi ngofaquai l “Ands t opmymout hf r om mur de r “Andge tmydo s s i t ygone “Atl e as tf o rt e nmi l e sf ur t he r “Upt heYor kRoa dt hatI ’ m on. ” The matter of misplacement We i ghe dhe avi l yonhi m,I ’ ds ay, Like a creature caught in the casement And having to be away.
Then he stepped back from the sill And into the end of the night, Muttering mouthfuls still, Corpse-candle thin in the light. Made, like his name, from the clay But reverting into air – “Andt ha t ’ sal lIhavet os ay; “Nomor ef r om me , ”s aysJohnCl ar e . I went to the churchyard at Helpston Whe r et he y’ vehonour e dhi mi nhi st r ade With the words carved into his gravestone: “Apoe ti sbor nnotmade . ” The rain and the lychen together Had eroded an e so it read As edited by the weather: “Bor nno tma d”i ns t e ad. It looked a little neglected AndIdi dn’ tdawdl et he r e But found myself, more than expected, Considering the case of John Clare.
SUE WHITMORE The Confession of a Good Wyfe Husband, on this chilly night I grasp, for warmth, the bony chest and sinewy shanks beneath your linen shirt though in our goosedown nest we are well-feathered. Your wig fell from its wooden stand, and my nightcap lies empty on the chair f orwe ,t obe att hewi nt e r ’ sc o l d, made haste to reach the comfort of our bed. Long as we can we will preserve this very present warmth, this moment sanctioned by our being born and living through the perils of our infancy into such nuptial bliss and take much pleasure in those of our infants not with God, those babes who have endured to adulthood and infants of their own. A raw wind batters at our casement and the candle gutters; I cover your jutting shoulder, pal eands moo t ha sayout h’ s glowing in the gentle, flickering light. I am content that thou and I dwell now in our mature sufficiency, andt houg hnott ot hepr i e s t ,Imus tc onf e s sGod’ sabs e nc e in such sweet material thoughts. For how could I confess my faith that heaven is but the reincarnation, the echo of such moments till flesh expires and one or the other of us takes our leave? 31
SYLVIE WEATHERALL www.silvart.co.uk
Cap Coz Sun Brolly
IMAGES FROM BRITTANY
Café Chairs, Roscoff
Lobster Pots, Roscoff
Reflections in Water
Rope, Les Glenans
Tessa Ransford: a tribute Contributors Rut hO’ Ca l l aghan Prize-winning poet, Ruth O'Callaghan, hosts three poetry venues in London and is frequently invited to read both in the UK and abroad. Her work, which is published in many anthologies and magazines, has been translated into Italian and Romanian. A competition adjudicator, inteviewer and reviewer, she has also been a reader and compère at Richmond's Book Now Literary Festival. Her collection Where Acid Has Etched (bluechrome) was published in June 2007.
Tom Hubbard Tom Hubbard was educated at the universities of Aberdeen and Strathclyde, and is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow (2004-2007). A widely published and translated poet and literary scholar, he is the author or editor of several books including Seeking Mr Hyde (Peter Lang, 1995) and The Integrative Vision: Poetry and the Visual Arts in Baudelaire, Rilke, and MacDiarmid (Akros, 1997). He is editor of The New Makars (Mercat Press, 1991) and co-editor, with the late Duncan Glen, of St e v e ns o n’ sSc o t l and (Mercat Press, 2003). His most recent poetry collections are Scottish Faust (Kettillonia, 2004) and From Soda Fountain to Moonshine Mountain (Akros, 2004).
Morelle Smith Morelle Smith is a poet, writer of fiction and non-fiction, and translator. Born in Edinburgh, she has lived and worked in France, Germany and Albania as well as Scotland. She studied English and French at Edinburgh University and now travels as much as possible. Her poems and stories are published in various magazines, including frequent appearances in Markings. Her poetry collection Deepwater Terminal i spubl i s he dby‘ di e har d’ .
Also contributing A C Clarke, Sheila Templeton, Lesley Duncan, Maureen Sangster, Angela Black-Brown, Hazel B Cameron, Patricia Ace, Stephanie Green, Pauline Prior-Pitt, Mary Johnston and Alan Gay.
Photo opposite: Tessa Ransford, courtesy of Michael Knowles
Introduction The first poem I had published in a Scottish literary magazine was in Lines Review. It was an important moment for me; this southerner had been accepted –at least 20 lines of him had. The acceptance note came in Te s s a ’ sownha nd.Is t i l lhavei ts o me whe r e .Eve nt he n,wi t ht hi ss ma l l e s t of clues, a few scribbled words, there felt something open and refreshing about Tessa Ransford, something outside what I called then (still do) the east coast coterie. Our paths have crossed many times since. She was one of the first people to accept my invitation to attend and perform at the inaugural c e l e br at i o nsofWi gt own,Sc o t l and’ sne wl yc r e at e dbo okt own.Shehasof t e n appeared in Markings. We have hatched projects that never came to fruition and taken part in many that have. She has always been a great supporter and a great enthusiast. Tessa believes in poetry, in its power to transform, elevate and enchant so when we, at Markings, learnt of her 70th birthday, we were only too happy to create a section in issue 27 that pays tribute to her work. John Hudson
Tessa Ransford: brief biography Tessa Ransford is a poet, translator, editor and cultural activist on many fronts. Past president and committee member of Scottish PEN, she was the founder, developer and sustainer of the Scottish Poetry Library from 1984-99, moving it into award-winning purpose-built premises in 1999. She initiated the annual Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for publishers of pamphlet poetry in Scotland, with the attendant fairs and online sales website: www.scottish-pamphlet-poetry.com and was founder and organiser of the School of Poets 1981-99, and the editor of Lines Review poetry magazine from 1988-98. She has recently been Royal Literary Fund fellow at Queen Margaret University. She was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of the University by the University of Paisley in July 2003. She is a trustee of The Institute of Contemporary Scotland. Her new book, Not Just Moonshine, New and Selected poems (Luath Press, see review page 123, this issue) is published to celebrate her 70 th birthday this year. To find out more visit her website www.wisdomfield.com.
Rut hO’ Ca l l a g ha n interviews Tessa Ransford
ROC: Yoube ganpubl i s hi ngpo e t r yi nt he19 7 0’ sandhavebe e n prolific ever since. What was the poetry scene like in Scotland in those days and how has it developed? TR: In the 1970s the poetry scene was lively with groups such as ‘ TheHe r e t i c s ’i nEdi nbur ghme e t i ngi npubsf ors i ngi ngandr e adi ngsa nd magazines such as Scottish International, which organised big events. Chapman magazine, Lines Review (of which I became the tenth and last editor from 1988-98) and Akros magazine, published by the late Duncan Glen in England, were all encouraging to new writers. I attended evening classes on Scottish literature. However as far as infrastructure was concerned there had been centuries of neglect: apart from the National Library of Scotland and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, there was no collecting, cataloguing or indexing of poetry or systematic bibliographic work. Many major works were out of print. Bookshops and libraries, even university libraries, did not stock contemporary poetry. There were very, very few grants or residencies. Poets were mostly teachers in school or university and mostly male. There was no meeting point between the academic sphere, studying the past, and the pub scene, entirely male. Some small one-man publishers altruistically produced what they could and there were occasional anthologies. I did some research on the state of poetry in Scotland, sending out questionnaires, for the European Commission in 1982 and have summarised this in chapter one of My History of the Scottish Poetry Library which I have completed recently. The research was extremely useful in establishing the need for a Scottish Poetry Library and in giving me the contacts with librarians, bookshops, schools, universities and poets which I needed.
ROC: Howdi dt hef e mi ni s tmove me nto ft he’ 60sand’ 70saf f e c t Scottish writing? TR: I twas n’ tunt i lt hee ar l ye i ght i e st hatwome nbe g ant ot ake r e s pons i bi l i t yf ort he i ro wnwr i t i ngasi twe r e .As mal lwome n’ spr e s s , Stramullion, started up and published some work by groups of women. We had a flourishing festival for a couple of years, 1981-83, funded by the City Counc i li nEdi nbur gh,c al l e d‘ Wome nLi ve ’ ,f orwome ni na l lt hear t s .The n the funding was withdrawn. Women-only writers groups were formed such as‘ Pome gr anat e ’ .Re be c c aWi l s onf r om Ame r i c apr o duc e dabo okof interviews with women poets in Scotland and Ireland. Chapman published s omes pe c i a lwome n’ si s s ue s . The r ewasc l e ar l yf e l tane e df ors ome representative, obviously Scottish, women poets to be exhibited when r e qui r e d.Edi t or st e nde dt oe xpe c twome nt owr i t e‘ wome n’ spoe t r y’about childbirth and menstruation. Ihads t ar t e da‘ Sc hoolofPo e t s ’i n19 81,whi c hs t i l lr uns .I twast he first such workshop (outside the universities) specifically for poetry. It was for practising poets to learn from and teach one another. It was not womenonly. I was once interviewed by a male Radio Clyde producer in 1981, who onhe ar i ngaboutt heSc hoo lofPo e t sc omme nt e d‘ t hats oundsl i keas c hoo l ofl ove ’ .Thi ss howshowpoe t r ywasas s o c i a t e dwi t he xc e s s i vee mot i onand embarrassment. I said that a school of love would be a good thing for many Sc ot t i s hme n,whi c hdi dnote nde armet ohi ma ndIwas n’ tas ke dbac k.My view is that male poets tended to hide behind alcohol to prove their virility andasa ne xc us ef ort he‘ e f f e mi nat e ’ ac t i vi t yofwr i t i ngpo e t r y.Att hes ame time poetry was a male domain and only those women poets who presented no threat were likely to be accepted –i.e. those who kept to their subject, the domestic, the body, children, animals, relationships, not entering the more political or intellectual plane –or those who were protégés of some male. I felt that, as a person, in many ways I had more in common with other poets than necessarily with other women, although of course I have wr i t t e nmuc hf r om myo wns pe c i f i c al l ywoman’ spo i ntofvi e w,f ori ns t anc e a sonnet sequence in Fools and Angels, last year republished in Sonnet Selection from Akros,andt he‘ Me dus aDoz e n’s e que nc e . As soon as the Scottish Poetry Library opened in 1984 we put on an exhibition of women writers in Scotland in the three languages, English, Scots and Gaelic. I remember speaking in 1983 to Sandy Moffat, the artist who painted the famous picture of seven poets in the pub: MacDiarmid, MacCaig, Morgan, Maclean, Garioch, Goodsir Smith, Mackay Brown, and asking him when he was planning to paint seven women poets, (this has ne ve rhappe ne d)t owhi c hher e pl i e d‘ ar et he r e ? ’It ol dhi m Ic o ul dname twenty off the top of my head. I should think we had about thirty in our exhibition. Women of the previous generation had often written poetry but
been embarrassed to publish it, even in magazines, or certainly not under their own names. I myself went back to my maiden name for my first book from an established publisher: Light of the Mind, in 1980 from the Ramsay Head Press. I wrote an essay for Chapman i n19 9 4e nt i t l e d‘ TheCas eo ft he I nt e l l e c t ua lWoman’ ,whi c hs e t soutmyt he or i e sabo utt he s ephe nome na, but I had written the Medusa poems in 1988. A woman is forced to choose between either mind or body. If she claims both, the danger is that her ‘ he ad’wi l lbec uto f fbe c aus es hewi l l‘ pe t r i f y’ me n. ROC: Is the canvas upon which women work perhaps less ambitious in scale than that of their male counterparts? Is the language of male poets mor e‘ mus c ul ar ’t hant hatofwome npoe t s ? TR: This is probably too academic a question for me to answer. But I do know that, as editor of Lines Review, I often had difficulty finding wo me n’ swor kgo ode no ught opubl i s h.Ine ve rc hos ewor kbe c aus ei twas by a man or a woman, but I was aware that less good work was sent in by women than by men. Personally I think it is basically that men are able to find the confidence to give themselves permission to take their work seriously and women find it hard to do that. There was also an attitude to s ki l landt e c hni quei npoe t r yt hatwasas s o c i at e dwi t h‘ mal epoe t r y’andl e d women to think they could just let the words flow or drip. In one academic book on Scottish Women Poets of the last quarter of the 20th century I am not discussed except to be given one line in the introduction, where I am di s mi s s e das‘ s t i l lwr i t i ngi nma l ef or ms ’ .Thes e ns e l e s s ne s soft hi sa t t i t udei s surely apparent. ROC: Is there necessarily a cohesive scene within Scottish poetry or is there a further divide between say Edinburgh and Aberdeen in the north east and, possibly, even more so on the Scottish islands? TR: There are groups of poets in different parts of Scotland and publications issuing from different parts of Scotland and of course, different languages, but on the whole there is plenty of coming and going and mixing and sharing. I think perhaps Edinburgh is seen as a bit too much thinking itself the centre of things, but plenty goes on in Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, the Borders and Galloway, Ullapool, Skye, Lewis and in Orkney and Shetland for instance. In the Scottish Poetry Library in my day we were diligent in working for the whole country and we took a travelling van around lending books in schools, community c e nt r e s ,l i br ar i e sandpr i s o ns .Wes e tup‘ br anc he s ’i nl oc all i br ar i e s .Now computer communication tends to take over, and there is less physical contact I think as a result. However our pamphlet poetry campaign, which
I started after retiring from the Scottish Poetry Library, now in its eighth year, draws poets from all over the country to the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, the pamphlet fairs and the website where we list and sell pamphlets: www.scottish-pamphlet-poetry.com. ROC: Is it possible for poetry to be a means of unification or is it a tool of political persuasion? TR: Idon’ tt hi nkt he s ear emut ual l ye xc l us i ve .Po e t r yne ve r communicates on only one level. It plays a chord not a tune. I believe it should be written with conviction, drawn out of the experiences inner and outer, mental and emotional, physical and psychical of the poet. But the poem is made, as is any work of art, and should therefore NOT be regarded as‘ non-f i c t i on. ’Pos tmode r ni s m hast e nde dt odi s appr oveo fanys e ar c hf or meaning in poetry which has led to its appearing fairly irrelevant to the mainstream of educated people. A poet who captures the Zeitgeist can certainly help to unify people in certain conditions. The Beat poets probably did in the 60s, Eliot in the 40s; Burns and Scott did in their era; Te nnys onandByr one t c .Suc hpo e t sdon’ tne c e s s ar i l ys pe aks of or c i bl yt o subsequent generations when times have changed. ROC: You are obviously very politically committed –one of your projects is to establish Edinburgh as a city of refuge for writers seeking asylum. Could you explain both what this involves and your years as the president of Scottish PEN? TR: I regard myself as a cultural activist not a political activist. I was working as Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Centre for Human Ecology from 2001–05, where everyone was an environmental activist. It was then I realised that I had always been a cultural activist, in the sense that if I am not happy with a situation I try to think of a way to improve it, and then of a way to enlist others in so doing! This is why I started the School of Poets in 1981, the Scottish Poetry Library and all its activities in 1984, the pamphlet campaign in 2001 and joined the committee of Scottish PEN in 2000 after retiring from the Scottish Poetry Library. I had been a member of Scottish PEN and had collaborated on several occasions with Scottish PEN during the Scottish Poetry Library years. International PEN has commitments to freedom of speech and to writers who are persecuted, to minority languages and translation, to women writers, to exiled writers and to writing that helps towards peace in the world. The individual centres do what they can under these basic aims. When I became president in 2003, we already worked on these fronts i nSc ot t i s hPENandhadapar t i c ul ar l yac t i ve‘ wr i t e r si npr i s on’c ommi t t e e .
I went to the international PEN congress and realised that exiled writers were becoming more and more a concern. I came home and suggested we set upa‘ wr i t e r si ne xi l e ’c ommi t t e ei nSc ot l and.Att hes amet i me( 20 04) Edi nbur ghwasbe c omi ngaUne s c o‘ c i t yofl i t e r at ur e ’ .Wes ugg e s t e dt hat Scottish PEN should have its own office. This we achieved in 2005, gifted from Edinburgh City Council. Scottish PEN had had to operate through individuals working from home and meeting in hotels or other or ga ni s at i o ns ’pr e mi s e s .Wea l s owe l c ome dandwor ke dwi t hs e ve r al immigrant writers to Scotland who were amazed that Scottish PEN had no office and seemed so insignificant. I told the council that I was immune to such humiliation but that the immigrant writers were shocked at the disregard for the importance of an international organisation of writers, such as PEN. I then began working with our writers in exile committee and the new city of literature officers to see if we could join the network of cities around the world which offer themselves as refuges for writers needing urgent exile. When I finished my presidency my successor wanted to take over that work. I then concentrated on our educational efforts, which were also non-existent before I became president; I suggested we try to work in schools on the crucial role of the writer in democratic society. This has been pioneered by our Writers in Prison committee convener, Robin Lloyd Jones, with others, and has been successful, though we still have a long way to go especially in finding funders for our work in schools and colleges. I believe that a community needs to support its writers and vice versa. That is at the basis of all I think and do. Writers are workers like any ot he r s .The ys houl dbepr e pa r e dt ohavea‘ pr ac t i c e ’i nt hec ommuni t yand s houl dbeva l ue df orwhatt he yi npar t i c ul arc anc ont r i but e .Thi sdoe s n’ t mean making them teachers or social workers, though they can collaborate in many ways with many other kinds of workers and other artists. When I was about to open the new building for the Scottish Poetry Library and the new Scottish Parliament was also just setting forth in 1999 I set up a scheme to link a poet living in the constituency of each MSP to relate to t hatMSPandwr i t epoe msasar e s ul toft hat‘ t wi nni ng’onanong oi ng basis. The poetry pamphlet campaign I initiated in 2000 has been successful far beyond expectation. It has empowered hundreds of poets, since 2001. Over 300 pamphlets have been entered for the award, displayed, and then catalogued in a special archive in the National Library of Scotland. It has encouraged them to publish themselves independently of the subsidised, socalled commercial, scene, to support one another and market their pamphlets together through the website and the regular fairs. Some publishers of pamphlets have also emerged, publishing their own perhaps and those of others.
ROC: How far can poetry influence international affairs? TR: International affairs are influenced by public opinion in nation states and communities. If those states and communities have a living culture, of which poetry is often the basis (music, art, drama, film often rely on the word at root) they will also be more dynamic in their contribution to world affairs, know what they think for a start, relate what they feel to what they think and be more centred as individuals and groups. Poetry is certainly a vital ingredient of the cell structure of human intercourse in that sense. Culture, which is nothing without poetry, serves society metaphorically in the same way that trees serve the eco-system –balancing, sustaining, life-giving while connecting the above and the below. I coined t het e r m‘ c ul t ur alhus bandr y’i nt hee i g ht i e s .Thi si snowpr obabl ybe t t e r de f i ne das‘ c ul t ur a le c o l o gy’ . While at the Centre for Human Ecology I ran two ten week sessions under the heading Creative Conviction: Can we write with conviction today? I consider that we are witnesses to our times, whether we like it or not and that, as writers, we have to accept our role in that respect willingly, however unpleasant it may become. Indeed it is important to accept this wi t ne s s i ngr ol ee ve ni fe ve r yt hi ngs e e msf i ne ,s ot hatwedon’ ts t andbyand watch freedoms slide away without raising a pen. ROC: When one changes the language one changes the perception of the subject, which gives writers, and perhaps especially poets, a powerful tool. How far is it valid for poems to shape ideas/influence readers? TR: Schumacher, who wrote Small is Beautiful also wrote A Guide for the Perplexed whe r ehedi s c us s e st hepr i nc i pl eo f‘ a dae quat i o’de f i ne dby the neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus. He defined knowledge as adaequatio rei et intellectus: the understanding of the knower must be adequate to the thing to be known. In this sense poems are understood by readers across time and space according to the condition and capacity of those readers, according to what they bring to the understanding. Often a poet writes at one level and it is understood at another, or more is discovered in poems than the author was aware of. This is a very familiar experience for poets, who are often surprised by which of their poems become popular. They c an’ tpr e di c tt hi s .Someo ft he ml i t e r al l y‘ c omet r ue ’manyye ar saf t e rt he y are written. This is because when writing the poet was not in the dimensions ofme as ur abl et i mea nds pac e .I fapo e m‘ s pe akst oo urc ondi t i on’( t ous ea phr as eofGe or geFox’ s ,t hef ounde roft heQuake r s ,r e f e r r i ngt oJe s us )we r e s pondt oi t .I fi tdoe s n’ t ,wemayadmi r ei tbutwedon’ t‘ t akei tt ohe ar t ’ . Wedon’ tmuc hc ar ewhowr ot et hepo e ms( ors ongs )wel oveandl i vewi t h. The best poems are far greater than the personality or success of their
authors, which is but chaff to their kernel. The word idea, comes from dea meaning goddess. Ideas are not ours. We are their instruments. We are the catchers of ideas from the noossphere. But we need discernment, ideas are not all good. That is why we need to educate our own hearts and minds to be adequate to receive the knowledge that is wisdom. ROC: The tools of poetry, metaphor, rhythm, syntactical dexterity, lyricism etc. enable the poet to engage the reader. To what degree do you consciously choose to use such tools and have you ever subverted them to make a political or particular point? TR: No, on working on a poem, if you are practised in the skills, like any craftsperson, you work with the tools necessary for that poem as you go al ong ,notc ons c i o us l ys ayi ng‘ nowI ’ l lus eame t apho r ’l i keas panne ror something. It may go through many drafts and it may require several trials to find the metaphor or the form that is needed to make the poem work as a poem. It has to work as a poem, even if it bears a political speech or message or comment. All art is a balance of thought, form and rhythm. Usually one or other of the three is predominant, depending on the theme, the pattern and the dynamism of the poem. It is difficult discussing this in the abstract. I remember working on a poem inspired by Russian Icons, and the story of their re-discovery after the Communist regime destroyed and forbade them. Also Icons themselves are painted over and over and there is a discovery process, like an inward journey, to find the earliest one underneath. I kept trying to make the poem I wanted with all the levels of metaphor involved. In the end I hit on a form, a syllabic count of six line verses, 6, 6, 11, 6, 6, 11. Once I found that form the poem wrote itself. Also I have used Alcaic, Sapphic and Asclepiadic forms, learnt from translating Hölderlin. These also almost write the poem for you, providing a counterpoint to the meaning by the sound and rhythm of the words themselves. ROC: You are technically a very accomplished poet. Is it necessary to master form in poetry in order to develop as a poet? TR: Is it necessary to master skills in music or painting or dance? Poetry is an art like any other. Without such skills it is babbling verbiage. However the form is the servant to the poem, not the master and the poet is not obeying the form but allowing it to lend its own life to the poem as appr opr i at e .Thi st ake spr ac t i c e .Ic a l lmys e l f‘ apr ac t i s i ngpoe t ’i nt hes e ns e that I always need to practise, that I am in the practice rather than the theory, and that I believe in a practice in the community for poets as mentioned above.
ROC: To which degree does form influence the poem? TR: To a third degree –alongside, rhythm and thought. For example, when translating poetry, which I have done and enjoy, it is impossible to translate the totality. In any particular translation you choose what is most important for that poem –its idea, its rhythm or its form, and while including all these as best you can, you give priority to the aspect of the poem which you think it requires. In making poems of my own there may be similar discernment required but our thought tends to come to usi napa c kag eofwo r dsandi ma ge swhi c hwet he n‘ unpac k’and reassemble. As I said before, forms have their own intrinsic life which allows the poem, almost like a hermit crab, to find life-giving sustenance. ROC: Do you have an ideal reader? Do you make concessions to an imagined audience or is the poem the absolute criterion? TR: Idon’ tt hi nkoft her e ade rwhe nmaki ngapoe m,butwhe n wor ki ngoni tIt akec ar et hatt he r ei snoambi val e nc ewhi c hIdon’ ti nt e nd. Sometimes this is not apparent in the written form but is in the spoken. For e xampl eIt i t l e dapoe m onc e‘ I ngr at i t udet oI ndi a’ ,unt i lIr e a l i s e dt hat whe ns poke ni ts ounde dl i ke‘ i ngr at i t ude ’ .I fIam a s ke dt ogi vear e adi ng,I c ons i de rt heaudi e nc eandc ho os epo e mswhi c hIhopewi l l‘ s pe akt ot he m. ’I al s oal wa yss pe akmypoe msa l o udwhe nmaki ngt he m,t houghIdon’ t c ons i de rmys e l f‘ ape r f or manc epoe t ’ .Idot aket r oubl eove rr e adi ngst or e ad well, audibly, looking up, slowly enough, with the right expression, giving each word its space and resonance. ROC: You write in English rather than Scots –is there a reason for t hi spr e f e r e nc e ?Coul dyo ue l uc i dat eont hemanyc ho i c e sof‘ l anguag e ’ which seem available to the Scottish based writer? TR: I write in English because Scots and Gaelic are not my mother t ongueandIwoul dn’ tpr e s umet ous ur pt hel angua g eoft hos epo e t sf or whom they are. I respect these languages greatly and work hard for them in any cultural work I do. English in Scotland, however, is vastly enriched in vocabulary and mentality by existing alongside Gaelic and Scots. Nowadays, with immigrant writers included among us, we are becoming a truly polyglot community of writers.
ROC: Howdoe st hec ho i c eofl anguageaf f e c tone ’ sc ul t ur a l / pol i t i c a l allegiances? TR: This is not a factor for me, because I write in English. My cultural/political allegiances are based on other factors. However I believe in the importance of minority languages and of diversity in general for enhancing the cultural eco-system. ROC: Amongst your many other talents you are also a translator. Could you please explain the process of collaboration in translation? TR: Ultimately you have to try to see what the original poet is seeing, feel what he or she is feeling and understand what he or she is thinking. If the poet is alive or beside you, you can ask and ask again, trying out images and phrases. If they are not, e.g. when translating Hölderlin or Rilke, you have to do as best you can and consult a native speaker if possible. I was working with Palestinian, Arabic-language poet I yadHayat l e h,whohadt hephr as e‘ youa l l o we dmyc ame l st ol i edo wni n yours hade ’ .Ic oul ds e et hi smys e l fpe r f e c t l yandf e l li nl ovewi t ht hephr as e asame t aphorf orwe l c omi nghos pi t al i t y.I ti s n’ ts ui t abl ef orSc ot l and whi c hhasnoc ame l sanddo e s n’ ts e e ks hade ,butt hei ma gei sonet hati st o o perfect to be changed in any way. Anyone in Scotland can understand that i mag e .I ti si mpor t a ntnott oc ha ng ewhatdoe s n’ tne e dc ha ng i ng,butt o change what is not comprehensible in the target language and to find words for whatever the image is in the mind of the original poet. There needs to be much referring back to the original poet, who will at once see where rhythms or emphases important in the poem have been lost and it will be back to the drawing board again. If I were being translated I would want my ideas at least not to be mis-represented or misunderstood in any translation, nor would I want a totally new form or rhythm to be used from the one in which I made the poem. For instance I would translate a sonnet with a sonnet, though not slavishly in exactly the same rhyme-scheme, or perhaps not even trying to rhyme at all, but fourteen lines and the scansion bas e dont hes onne tf or m.It r yt o‘ doasIwoul dbedoneby’whe n translating! ROC: Onyourwe bs i t eyouar equot e da ss ayi ng‘ po e t r yi npamphl e t f or m hasbe c omeac ut t i nge dgeo fc r e at i vi t yi nSc ot t i s hpoe t r y. ’Coul dyou expand upon this view, please? TR: I believe this to be the case because pamphlet poets need no longer be subservient to publishers and to the Scottish Arts Council, both of whom have to make judgements on other than aesthetic criteria. They have
a limited budget and therefore must control and limit what they subsidise. Poetry without subsidy can be published only by publishers prepared to make a loss, or cover the loss by other more commercial publishing. This hadc omet ome a nt hatt hec i r c l ewasanar r owi ngand‘ vi c i ous ’one :t he publisher would be awarded a grant for publishing the poet who had won a grant or a fellowship or prize, and yet the poet would get a grant only when published. Marketability became the main criterion. I had a book turned downf oragr anti n1 99 8be c aus e‘ t hepubl i s he rdi dnothaveas ui t abl e mar ke t i ngpl a n’ .The r ewasnopoe to nt hepane lwhi c hmadet hatde c i s i on. The publisher went ahead with the book, but subsequently folded up and I was left without a publisher. I decided to explore the way of independent publishing myself, via pamphlets, and to work to change attitudes, so that it became acceptable andnor ma l .I nf ac tIdi dn’ tpubl i s hmyownpa mphl e t sbutwasl uc ky e noughf ort he mt obepubl i s he dbyDunc anGl e n’ sa maz i ngAkros imprint. However I encourage others to make their own pamphlets and wonderful work has been the result. Independent publishing, mutual support, pamphlet readings, the website, fairs and marketing among pamphlet poets has proved a heady mixture, liberating, exciting, immensely varied, malleable to the purpose of any particular collection (e.g. long poems, themed pamphlets, sequences, explorations of various kinds, in conjunction with artwork). The annual modest award to the publisher of a poetry pamphlet (who may also be the poet), in memory of my late husband, Callum Macdonald, publisher of Lines Review magazine and many other books of poems, aims to bring folk together from all over Scotland, and beyond if there is a Scottish connection, and act as a focus for the many activities and efforts which go on throughout the year. For practical reasons we had to limit the pamphlets eligible for the award and the website to t hos e‘ de mons t r at i ngs o mee nga ge me ntwi t hSc ot t i s hCul t ur e . ’The administration, judging and fundraising is all being done voluntarily apart from help in kind from the National Library of Scotland. We receive between thirty to fifty pamphlets for the award each year. Publishing in pamphlet form and in book form are not exclusive. It is not either/or. Pamphlets open another avenue to the hundreds of frustrated andr e pr e s s e dandi nde e d‘ s i l e nc e d’( byt hec omme r c i alt yr annyunde r which we live) contemporary poets, older or younger of whatever language or background. It releases the gates of creativity from the limit and control mechanisms, like sheep escaping from the shearing pens. Readers will decide whom they want to read and writers will learn from the experience and, if serious and committed, will continue on the journey of their art.
ROC: Oneo fyourgr e a t e s ta c hi e ve me nt si syour‘ poe mi ns t one ’–the Scottish Poetry Library which you founded in 1984. How did this happen and how has it functioned since opening? What future developments are proposed? TR: I have written a book on this. I retired at the millennium after the new building was up and running. The process of establishing the Scottish Poetry Library from 1982–84 was one of working from the ground up rather than the top down, and that emphasis continued. We had people support, member support, and we worked in the communities from the start. We ran the library with the help of hundreds of volunteers over the years, and very few part-t i me ,de di c at e ds t af fo nwha tIus e dt oc al l‘ VSO mai nt e nanc egr ant s ’f ors al ar i e s .Wewor ke dasat e a m,s t andi ngi nf oro ne another, each member of staff being responsible for the whole and relating to the other parts of the work, as well as their own speciality. The management committee was also a working and committed one. We received many donations of books and other material. We made our own sound archive from our events as well as buying what was available from other sources. We put on bibliographed exhibitions based on regions, languages, groups in Scotland and abroad. We always had a travelling exhibition made by volunteers on a theme, which we ourselves toured around local libraries. The aim was always to gather, catalogue, index, make freely available to the general public anywhere in Scotland the poetry of Scotland, from the present day working backwards, in any of the languages of Scotland, in printed, sound or visual form and to set that in an international and interar t sc ont e xt .Weal s oa l wa yshadas e c t i onof‘ bac kgr ound’mat e r i a lon history, myth, criticism relevant for a working poet. There was a figure-of-eight feedback balance between the work in the library and the work of the library. The accession policy was to be c ompr e he ns i vef orSc ot t i s hmat e r i alands e l e c t i vef ort her e s toft hewo r l d’ s poetry but as international as possible. (For instance we eventually had more European poetry in one building than any other library in Europe accessible to the public.) We aimed to relate poetry to the other arts and to daily life. Our catalogue, InSPIRe: International and Scottish Poetry Information Resource, was designed so that it could be accessed by topic or s ubj e c taswe l lasaut horandt i t l e .Thi sme a ntyoudi dn’ thavet oknow what you were looking for. This was fundamental to the whole effort. I did notwi s ht o‘ pr omot e ’or‘ advo c at e ’or‘ t e ac h’ .Is i mpl yof f e r e d,ands ai d, ‘ youdon’ tne e dt obei nt e r e s t e di npoe t r ybe c aus epo e t r yi si nt e r e s t e di n you’ .Poe t r yi sf r om t hepe o pl eandt he i rdai l yl i ve s , nots e tapar t .The phr as e‘ t aki ngpoe t r yt ot hepe opl e ’i sr i di c ul o us .We , t hepe opl e ,al r e ady havei t .I thasbe e nt ake nf r o m usandpute xc l us i ve l yi n‘ Engl i s h
de par t me nt s ’orhi dde ni t s e l fi npubg at he r i ng s .Thel i br ar ywasami ddl e ground where every kind of poetry could meet and mingle. No poet was more important than another. Our annual listings were only of the most borrowed books, which were often those out of print! Our van service took booksf orbor r owi ngt os c ho o l s , c ommuni t ygr oups ,o l dpe opl e ’ shome s , wr i t e r s ’ gr oupsandpr i s onsa l love rt hec ount r y. Our festival events were of the highest quality, like chamber music in a chamber music concert hall, with visiting overseas poets, whom we translated if necessary - often also into Gaelic and Scots - and for whom we read these versions while they read their own originals. They were always presented alongside a Scottish poet. We asked them to come to the hall be f or e handt o‘ r e he ar s e ’t het i mi ngs ,t hemi c r ophone ,t hei nt r oduc t i ons .We gave them hospitality for three days. At the other end of the scale we initiated free, unplanned, come-all-ye courtyard readings every afternoon dur i ngt heEdi nbur ghFe s t i val .Pe o pl ec oul dr e adt he i rownorot he r s ’wor k they liked and found in the library from any country or language. Iwoul dn’ tr unc ompe t i t i onsorpr omot epar t i c ul arpubl i s he r sors e t up as publishers ourselves. We provided information on publishers, maga z i ne s ,wr i t e r sgr oups ,poe t s ’bi bl i ogr aphi e sandmuc he l s e .We networked and helped and encouraged and made the conditions for a sustainable, creative poetic culture to flourish. The new building itself grew out of the philosophy and the practice of the eighteen years of work that preceded it. The architect was a one-man firm and unknown, but he had previously brought his students to our library and set them projects to design a hypothetical poetry library. I had therefore written and discussed the brief with him many times. We were blessed in sharing the same vision and in understanding each other. We were also blessed in a very experienced, enthusiastic project manager and a building firm which did not try to exploit us. It was nevertheless an immense task to raise the matching funding for the lottery grant. It took four years to raise £120,000. The building eventually cost £800,000 and was on budget and on time. It was the first building for the arts built with lottery money. It won many awards. It was authentic, unassuming, simple and beautiful. It was the first building on the former William Younger Brewery site. To our surprise The Parliament came alongside afterwards, then the BBC and the British Council, the Scotsman and many hotels and restaurants. I called it Edi nbur gh’ s‘ l e f tbank’ . The Scottish Poetry Library is now well funded and has other aims andpol i c i e st os omee xt e ntf r om whatIwoul df avo urbuti thas‘ move d wi t ht het i me s ’ .I ti sane s s e nt i alpar toft hepr e s e ntl i t e r ar ymanag e me nt mosaic in Scotland and was considered the jewel in the crown for Edinburgh becoming a city of literature.
ROC: How do you see Scottish poetry developing over the next twenty-five years? TR: I ’ m nots ur e .Comput e r s ,on-line poetry, on line sales and communications will no doubt predominate. But I hope that poetry will become more and more accepted as part of daily life and poets as playing an essential role in society. Prizes will - have already to some extent - devalue t he ms e l ve s .Pr i z e s ,hypeandt oomany‘ f e s t i va l s ’ ,s e ns e l e s s‘ mar ke t i ng’wi l l fail. I hope that what is authentic will endure, and new ways will be found to bring poets and people, poetry and life into interactive communion. I hope that men and women who choose to work as poets will not have to apologise for or justify this and that a new kind of covenant relationship between poet and people will be found. I believe the means can be found if you focus your eyes on the aims. Too often in our times bureaucracy becomes trapped in the means and loses sight of - or never knew - its aims. ROC: Obviously this is simply a brief outline of your career and views but is there a further topic on which you would have liked to be able to express your views? TR: Yes, poetry in schools and schools of poetry. But that is too much to embark on now. The tenets and way of operating which I set up in the School of Poets were such that it was self-sufficient and sustainable from the start. When I left at the millennium it has continued and has continued with the same modus operandi and flourished. I now give master classes to individuals, often working on a book or pamphlet collection. Editors seldom serve poets in this way nowadays. Also I think there is a lack of critical feedback for poets. Reviews tend now to be only for the major names and the same books reviewed everywhere, while most others are ignored. Poets need the critics as well as the readers. Teachers and academics, librarians and bookshops also have a creative role to play. But t hi swon’ tj us thappe n.Thec ond i t i onshavet obec o ns t ant l ywor ke df or , like tilling the ground. Then the wealth of culture will flourish, a little wild, mana ge dbutnotc o nt r ol l e d,andt het i l t hpr ovi de d.Il i ket he‘ f i e l d’ metaphor, with both ecological and electro-magnetic connotations. Thank you.
MORELLE SMITH The Metaphysical in Tessa Ransford's Poetry
Tessa Ransford is a prolific poet and her work reflects the wide range of her interests and experience. Geographically, we travel from Japan, India and Pakistan through Europe via Germany and France, to Scotland. There are many references to the metaphysical and esoteric in her work, and I would like to draw attention to just a few of these themes. If we sometimes forget that pre-Christian societies had an awareness of the secret mysteries of life, hidden from the ordinary light of day, yet which can be accessed and revealed via an inner illumination, Tessa Ransford's poetry will certainly remind us of this perennial hidden knowledge. In her writing, she talks of the megalithic peoples, with their stone circles and cairns, pointing to alignments with earth and sky, and of the Greek myths with their contemporary relevance to psychological truth and inner understanding, the Greek word 'psyche' meaning 'soul'. She writes of the Dogon, who knew of Sirius' dark twin star before it was discovered by modern astronomers, of the Buddha's illuminated awareness, of the Christian stories and myths, of the coded mediaeval wisdom of La Dame a la Licorne Tapestries, and of the secret processes of alchemy. Of the megalithic, Tessa writes in An Easter: “Wec l i mbt ot heHol yCai r nupamuddy/t r ac kands t andi nt he bitter wind/ at an altar face of br oke nboul de r s . ” Her Medusa Dozen poems examine the Medusa myth, as well as pointing to the esoteric number 13, the number of annual lunar cycles, and the number of disciples plus Jesus. She writes of the Dogon, in In Praise of Libraries: “I nt hes t r e e tofCa nopuse as tt owe s t /whe r et heDo g onwal ke d, t he i r heads in the stars/From gate of the Sun to gate of the Moon/ the wor l d' swi s dom wass c r o l l e dands he l ve d. ”
And of the Buddha in Buddha in Europe: “TheBuddhaofhe al i nghasc omet ot hec e nt r eofEur ope . ” In Meditation: “ Is i tbe s i deLor dBuddhai nt hepl ane . /Heke e pshi s balanced pose/ upright, and can sleep there,/ hands in the lotus pos i t i on' “ In Kamakura:“Ear t hquake sc annott ouc hhi m butaf l o we rc an/ora bowlofor ange s … Hei snow.Hei spr e s e nt .Hei sahous e , /a mount a i n,ane mpt i ne s s ,ac ompl e t i on. ” From Christian imagery she writes in Rose Window, Vincennes:“The form of the rose is fire/ wreaths of flame like tendrils/ grow from the c o i l e dhe ar t . ” The esoteric, the inner, is inseparable from the earth, nature and the elements, as was known in pre-Christian times. The word 'pagan' is from the Latin pagus meaning the country, and this meaning is retained in the French pays, paysage and paysan. Tessa's poetry is imbued with the imagery of nature, and the inhabitants of the nature kingdoms and with an intense awareness of the seasons. Trees in particular, figure in her poetry. The tree, Ygdrassil, the Axis Mundi, that which holds the worlds together - is a symbol of cosmic wholeness, the reflection of inner wisdom. From Parable: “Aut umnc ame .Thet r e ewasl i ght s o me , /s he da pr of us i onofbr i l l i anti de a s . /Butt hef ar me rwasnof o ol : /‘ us e l e s s ’he de c i de d,andf e l l e dhe r . ” From Three Trees: “Thr e et r e e sgr o wi nt hewi l de r ne s s , /s t ur dy, straight and high, apart and far from Paradise/ with roots and s pr e adi ngbr anc he s , /t hatme e ti nt hes t ar s puns ky. ” From Roundabout Tree: “Is t oppe dbyt womont hsl a t e r /s he l t e r i ng from April showers,/ looked up and saw a dazzling/canopy....of f l o we r s . ” From Future Now: “. . . . . . t r e e sar ee xc e pt i ona lpe opl e / … be l ong i ng fully to earth but living also in sky/ they have no death but only t r ans f or mat i ons . ” Another symbol of inner wisdom is the snake. Although maligned in Christian mythology, in Eastern teachings the snake represents the kundalini, the serpent power coiled at the base of the spine, with its possibility of rising up the spinal column into the pineal gland in the brain, bringing enlightenment or illumination. As the Serpent Ouroboros, it circles the earth, tail in its mouth, the circle being a symbol both of recurring cycles and of wholeness. The coiling or spiralling serpent was the symbol of Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing dreams, and it can still be seen today in the Caduceus, the staff of Hermes, representing medicine, and in the snake encircling the bowl or container, a symbol still used by pharmacists. This coiling, upward spiralling around a container reminds us too of
alchemical symbolism and the transformation of heavy, dull lead (untransformed material consciousness) into bright gold (enlightened, illuminated consciousness). There are many references to snakes in Tessa's work. From Set Loose: “I twasar i t ua l :s nake smus tbeki l l e d/e ve nwhi l e t he ys l e e p,i nno c e nt l yc o i l e d… No wIt akeup/t hec o i l e ds e r pe ntwi t h i t sc r us he dhe ad/ands e ti tl o os et or i ppl et hr ought hef i e l ds . ” From Letter Written from Greece: “Thes l a i npyt hon/c oi l ss l o wl yt o life again./ Despite his lyricism/ sober Apollo would have us slay and s l ayi t / t i meanda ga i n/ f orr e as on' ss ake … /Butt hee a r t hi smovi ngon he ri nwar dt i de . ” From Shadows from the Greater Hill (March 17th): “ Ic a l li nvi gi l / on whichever god or goddess/ can take hold of serpents/ and win their be ne f i c e nc e . ” So we have the images of wholeness –tree, snake, rose window; and the processes of alchemy which result in the transformation into gold or light, as in Alchemical Sonnet: 'Such ores refined in pain may lastly prove/ Gold –in the alembic of our love.' Tessa's poetry is also concerned with applied light –which means taking care of nature, of the environment and of other created beings –in other words, with the love that results from the soul processes of transformation. With applied light it would seem that wounds are healed, trees are nurtured rather than cut down, snakes are respected rather than killed and the ancient wisdom that reveals our cosmic and earthly interconnectedness reveals too that love, not dominion, is the natural law. Tessa Ransford's poetry brims with an intellectual energy and the wisdom of feeling. Many people, myself among them, have cause to be grateful to Tessa, not just for her inspirational writing, but also for her untiring encouragement and support for other writers and for poetry in general.
A C CLARKE
Exchanging Words: Tessa Ransford as a translator Tessa Ransford's name is synonymous with so many positive contributions to the Scottish poetry scene and she is so well-known as a poet that it is easy to overlook her translation work. The work of a translator is by definition that of a mediator: a good translator of poetry must be subservient to the text translated, allowing the author to speak through her, yet at the same time creating something which can stand as a poem in its own right. The task needs tact, patience and empathy. In some lines from her long poem Seven Valleys, Tessa describes how strangers recognise us in a way those familiar with us do not, and 'touch directly the shining essence'. The act of translation is essentially an act of recognition. In her carefully individuated translations of five German poets (The Nightingale Question, Shearsman Books, 2004) Tessa has allowed the highly distinctive voices of poets such as Uta Mauersberger and Elmar Schenkel to be heard and recognised. In her translation work she has done of Iyad Hayatleh's poems in Arabic, in collaboration with the author, she has extended this recognition to poems in language and a poetic tradition much further from English, with delicacy and grace, indeed touching 'the shining essence' of the poems. The translation work with Iyad was part of Scottish PEN translation projects with refugee writers, which had the unique feature that work by the translator was in turn translated into the language of the translated poet. So versions of Tessa's poems exist now in Arabic, a fitting symbol of her work for poetry, for Scottish PEN and for the free exchange of ideas.
A Latticed Lyricism: Tessa at Tweeddale Court
Te s s a’ s70th,andt heSc ot t i s hPoe t r yLi br ar y’ s2 5th: onl ys i xmont hsors os e par at et he m. Te s s a’ sown poetry, and the Library, were even closer to one another. She used to say that the Library was itself a poem. Each of her own best poems reads like it is part of a larger, unwritten one. Te s s a’ sc o l l e c t i on,Fools and Angels,andt heLi br ar y’ s foundation, happened at about the same time. Just before I joined the SPL as its first librarian at the be g i nni ngof1 98 4,I ’ dbe e nr e ad i ngac hapt e ron Robert Louis Stevenson in the book Striving Towards Illustration of Tom Hubbard Wholeness by the Jungian analyst Barbara Hannah. by Claire Hubbard At the SPL I found Tessa - anda l s ot heLi br ar y’ s secretary Billy Wolfe - invoking Jung, MacDiarmid and many others whose ut t e r anc e ss e r ve dt og al vani s et hei nt e l l e c t ualpas s i o noft heLi br ar y’ s growth. As that continuum of poet and cultural activist, Tessa strives to fuse oppos i t e si nt one wwho l e s :note i t he r / or , butbot h/ and( ‘ Igi veyour t hought smybodi l yc o nc e pt i on/De s i r eyouwi t hc ons ummat ei nt e l l e c t i on. ’ ) Tonur t ur et hatLi br ar y‘ i npa r s i moni oust i me s ’wehadt obenotange l s exactly (except, aspiringly, in the non-Christian, Rilkean sense of angels) but we had to be fools, operating with a wise naïveté. Tessa cites harlequin, but should we not be thinking rather of his older, rougher cousin, Arlecchino, that c o mme di ade l l ’ ar t earchetype so well analysed by a good f r i e ndofour sandt heLi br ar y’ s ,t hec ompos e randpi a ni s tRo na l d Stevenson? I recall that battered sofa, in Tweeddale Court, on which the late Robert Greacen sat and chatted. Out of lozenge-shaped patches you embroider the seamless garment, you bind the braids. In Tübingen, where her beloved Hölderlin passed thirty-six years alone in a turret, Tessa spoke of the mathematical concept of latticing, ‘ whi c hgi ve sal aye r e d,mul t i di me ns i o na lor de r i ngofe ve nt sore l e me nt s .
Lattices are a graphic demonstration of the quantum postulate that there is al waysatl e as tonea l t e r nat i vebe t we e ne ve r yt hi sa nde ve r yt hat . ’The r e you have Arlecchino: the dancing intellect, multi-f a c e t e d,‘ mul t e i t yi n uni t y’t oquot eMa c Di ar mi d. By the early 1990s, after many stresses, our work gained fresh momentum from our reading of Patrick Geddes, who had revived Edi nbur gh’ sOl dTo wnandf orwhom ‘ Wat e r t i ghtc o mpar t me nt sar eofus e onl yt oas i nki ngs hi p’ .Ar oundt hec or ne rf r om Twe e ddal eCour t ,athi s gallery/theatre in Blackfriars Street, Ricky Demarco introduced me to the work of Joseph Beuys, founder of the Free International University c onc e pt .Be uyshadwr i t t e n;‘ Whe r e ast hes pe c i a l i s t ’ si ns ul at e dpo i ntof view places the arts and other kinds of work in sharp opposition, it is in fact crucial that the structural, formal and thematic problems of the various wo r kpr oc e s s e ss houl dbec ons t ant l yc ompar e dwi t ho neanot he r . ’I nal lhe r undertakings, Tessa seems to me to almost-echo a fellow native of India: wha tdot he yknowo fpo e t r y,whoonl y‘ poe t r y’kno w?
ALAN GAY Stream of Consciousness on Tessa Ransford What first leaps to mind is her favourite precious stone, emerald. This transforms into a br i ghtgr e e nf l as hac r os sar i ve r .The nI â€™ m somehow plunged into the river reflecting on human capacities and all those submerged forces bubbling in our subconscious, where Tessa believes the power of poetry lies; deep in our souls waiting to be recognised and expressed. This stimulated her vision to create the Scottish Poetry Library and informs her work with Hazel Cameron and the website www.scottish-pamphlet-poetry.com. Everyone has the potential to benefit from poetry and no matter what their background should have access to it and feel free to write it. Publication is not the property of the literati who hold exclusive power over language. In my stream of consciousness I hear Sigmund Freud chuntering in broken English and I am reminded that Tessa, as an accomplished linguist, has made many translations from German. Early years in India and Pakistan no doubt reinforced a strong world view which has strengthened her voice on human rights and environmental issues. As past Director of Scottish PEN, a deep sense of morality fuels her poetry and at seventy her energy burns unabated. So, dedicated to Tessa Ransford - poet, mentor, f r i e nd,whos ee me r a l dbur nst hes t e adi e s t â€Ś
Kingfishers and Dr Freud Please to sit down. This emerald of which you speak is embedded inside your skull, at the back. My notes on your case state that when you a child precognitive were on vacation in Norfolk England, a sun-splashed, blue-green flash across a river at you shot. 66
You say mostly it single candle burns; at work dying to a muddy green. In times of despair it to a glowworm shrinks. Your dreams flood green. Sometimes to radiance it flares to out-blot all thought, as when you in love fell first. When you to Mozart listen it burns bright as a hissing gas lamp. An oculist failed to find a scar on the retina. I see you laudanum sip; on canvas try to paint the problem absent. You try to stab it to death with a paint brush? You think you can off-peel it like a postage stamp? Please forgive. I joke. Mein freund, is clear that you a kingfisher haff got. They strange habits haff to often in the brain nest unrecognized for what they are. An Indian mystic up a shaft of sun stares, so those who kingfishers host too try to rise to the core of things. Your emerald for life will stay. There no cure is. Good day.
PAULINE PRIOR-PITT I nMay20 05anar t i c l ei nTheGuar di anme nt i o ne dTe s s a’ s involvement in the Scottish Pamphlet Poetry movement. I looked her up on the internet and found her article about pamphlets. It was truly inspiring, chiming into my own thinking at the time. Straight away I wrote to her, but the letter and accompanying parcel of books stayed on my desk for several months before I gathered the courage to post it off to such an important writer. Tessa sent such a gracious and encouraging reply. In 2006 we met at the Callum Macdonald Memorial Awards ceremony. In 2007 we shared a reading in Aberdeen. This year 2008 we are reading together again in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I have so much to thank her for.
Company of Women Something comforts in the company of women, earthed in the sharing of our mothers. Daughters born in pain to bear again the cycles oft hemo on’ ss we l l of tidal water at the flood, the shed of blood, motherhood. Forever bound in the guilt of not being good enough but wanting more. We give permission unr ol le ac hot he r ’ sgr i e f , soften the pain, hold the broken bone.
PATRICIA ACE On Ice for Tessa Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, a poem should ride on its own melting. Robert Frost Behind the hog line a woman stands in leather shoes; one sole Teflon for sliding, the other rubber for traction – working in perfect opposition. Stooped low as women do over vacuums, children and tables; knees flexed, spine arched, eyes set firm to the task t ot het a r ge t ,t ot he‘ hous e ’ . Held in the fist forty-two pounds of feldspar, quartz, mica; dense granite quarried from Ailsa Craig, cut and polished to a speckled kettle, which glides over ice like a hovercraft. Frantic, her team-mates sweep. Mini besoms chafe the surface with horse hair bristles, coax the rock along its trajectory, deliver it into concentric circles where it waits to be knocked from its path. Chess on ice. I sit at my desk with my weapons of choice, a keyboard, a screen, a cursor, looking to land on the button. One foot slippy for gliding, one foot tacky for sticking, I mine, cut and polish, working in perfect opposition. 69
MARY JOHNSTON Winter For sax lang months norland fowk thole dreich, dark days an jeelin nichts; nae singin birds in widland leys, nae loupin fish in lochans; nyaakit trees an busses chitter ti keep emsels warm; aathins happit in neive sized flags smoored neeth onendin ondings c oor i e ddo onf orel angwi nt e r ’ ss l e e p wyt i nes un’ sr e t ur ni n.
Spring Bit look see here, a laich lowe kindling e tap o thon knowe heid e simmer sin is tyaavin ti hecht itsel abeen: s naabr e ebr aksuponel oc han’ ss c r e e f neeth e blink o e waatry sun, e fite hap ower e kintraside melts, sypes intil e grun; e sun, nae langer thowless speels up an up in e lift an e hale warld lies lown, buskit in gowden licht.
Glossary:- jeelin-freezing; widland-woodland; leys-unploughed land; nyaakit-bare; emsels-themselves; happit-covered; neive-fist; flags-snowflakes; smoored-smothered; onendin-unending; ondings-snowfalls; cooried-nestled; e-the; wytin-waiting; laichlow; lowe-fiery glow; thon-that(yonder); knowe-hill; heid-head; tyaavin-struggling; hecht-raise; snaa bree-melting snow; screef-surface; fite-white; kintrasidecountryside; sypes-soaks; thowless-lacking energy; speels-climbs; lift-sky; halewhole; lown-calm; buskit-adorned; gowden-golden.
Tessa: Vision maker Laying a foundation For dreams to unfold Outwards
HAZEL B CAMERON
Principles Some take them off at night wear them like business suits. Can trade or exchange them if the price is right. Others have values as part of their skin. Nomat t e rhowt he yâ€™ r et e s t e d, could never discard or deny a moral they live within.
SHEILA TEMPLETON My first memory of Tessa is one Sunday evening in 1999, I think it was. I had gone along to the Shore Poets and I knew nobody at all. I was feeling shy and even more worried that I had agreed to do a reading as a very new poet myself, later in the year. I squeezed in at the end of a booth, then realised if I wanted a drink, I'd have to extricate myself, disturbing everyone. Then this sweet faced woman, unknown to me, turned and smiled, saying 'May I get you a drink? I am just going up to the bar myself.' This was Tessa! I have always been so grateful for this kindness. And want to say so publicly. May all possible good things be hers.
ANGELA BLACKLOCK-BROWN Although I had heard of Tessa as a well-known and respected poet I had never met her until she came to adjudicate a poetry competition at the Edi nbur ghWr i t e r s ’Cl ub. My own poetry had evolved from traditional, end-rhymed stanzas to free verse, but until I experienced the world of the Far East with its monsoons rains and teeming jungles I had never felt I could produce anything which measured up to a literary piece. That year in the early nineties, when I won first prize in the competition, was the start of my career as a serious poet. With the honour ofwi nni ngandac omme ntwhi c hi nf or me dmemypo e m was‘we l l de ve l ope da ndgo i ngpl a c e s , ’Te s s ai nvi t e dmet oj oi nTheSc ho olofPoe t s and submit a selection of poems for Lines Review. From then on I wrote poems which were discussed, honed and reworked until I finished my apprenticeship and produced my first pamphlet, Circle Line wi t hTe s s a’ sf i nalj udg e me ntont hes e l e c t i on.Byt he nIwas working alongside Tessa in the Scottish Poetry Library. I felt extremely privileged and honoured when Tessa asked me to help out in the new building, first as a volunteer and then as a part-time employee.
STEPHANIE GREEN I first met Tessa in the early 80's when I was on a brief visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and looking for poetry-related events/venues. I have memories of narrow stairs leading to a basement room (memory may be wrong about this) crammed with books and having a long chat about the poetry with a very nice lady whose book I bought. This must have been the earlier incarnation of the Scottish Poetry Library. “Foo l sandAnge l s ”by Tessa Ransford was the book and the lady was of course, Tessa. Many years later when we moved to Edinburgh in 1999, it was really nice to see that all Tessa's energy and enthusiasm which I experienced that day had been put into reality with the splendid new building of the SPL. I was new to Scotland but Tessa was already a name that was familiar to me. I am still amazed and grateful for all she does promoting poetry: in particular the founding of Scottish Pamphlet Poetry and the Callum MacDonald Award, for which I was shortlisted in 2005 and which gave me a real boost of recognition and also the introduction to many other aspiring pamphleteers. The community of like-minded people is so important.
LESLEY DUNCAN I first met Tessa when I was asked to interview her for The Herald in the 1990s. The Scottish Poetry Library had not then moved into its new and splendid building, but on that first encounter I was much impressed by Te s s a’ svi s i onandde t e r mi nat i ont os e et hepr oj e c tt hr ought os uc c e s s f ul completion. These characteristics of vision and determination, combined with her belief in the absolute importance of poetry (and an ability to communicate this enthusiasm to others), have also marked her encouragement of poetry pamphlets through the Callum Macdonald Award. Almost single-handedly, it has sometimes seemed, she has raised the poe t r ypamphl e t ’ si mag ef r om t ha tofa ne xe r c i s ei nvani t yi nt oat ot a l l y respectable and acceptable way of circulating the creative work of scores of poets working in Scotland and beyond. The honourable old Scottish tradition of the chapbook lives again. It has been a pleasure to work with her as a judge on the awards from the beginning and to see the quality and quantity of entries burgeoning over the years. And of course she is a distinguished practitioner of the art of poetry aswe l l .Whatwoul dSc ot l a nd’ sl i t e r ar ys c e nedowi t houthe r ? !
Driven by Love I â€™ mi npai nwi t he ve r ys t e p like the little mermaid as I pull myself upstairs who fell in helpless love knee on hurting knee with a mortal prince hip on aching hip forsaking her tail as I crawl into the car her mighty stroke of freedom or put down my weight for two legs and feet in the morning out of bed on which she had to walk until I limber up to move in excruciating pain through the day driven by love driven by her love.
Te s s aRa ns f or dâ€™ sNot Just Moonshine, New and Selected Poems, published to celebrate her 70th birthday, is available from Luath Press. www.luath.co.uk 543/2 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND T 0131 225 4326 F 0131 225 4324 firstname.lastname@example.org
Publications Not Just Moonshine, new and selected poems, Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2008 Truth and Beauty, Continuing Enlightenment in Scotland series, number two, Netherbow Chapbooks, 2008 Conversations with Scottish Writers, No.3: Tessa Ransford, Fras Publications Sonnet Selection with eight Rilke lyrics translated, Akros Publications, 2007 Shades of Green poems on environmental themes, Akros Publications, 2005 The Nightingale Question: five poets from Saxony, edited and translated by Tessa Ransford, Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2004 Noteworthy Selection, Akros Publications 2002 Natural Selection, Akros Publications 2001 Indian Selection, Akros Publications 2000 Scottish Selection, Akros Publications 1998 (reissued 2001) When it works it feels like Play, Ramsay Head Press 1998 Medusa Dozen and Other Poems, Ramsay Head Press 1994 Seven Valleys, Ramsay Head Press 1991 A Dancing Innocence, Macdonald Publishers, Edinburgh 1988 Shadows from the Greater Hill, Ramsay Head Press, 1987 Fools and Angels, Ramsay Head Press 1984 Light of the Mind, Ramsay Head Press 1980 While it is yet Day, Quarto Press 1977 Poetry of Persons, Quarto Press 1976
Awards Honorary Doctorate of Paisley University (DUniv) 2003 Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow/Project Fellow (2001 - 2008) Society of Authors, Travelling Scholarship 2001 OBE 'for services to the Scottish Poetry Library' (New Year Honours 2000) Howard Sergeant Award for services to poetry 1989 Heritage Society of Scotland annual award 1996 SAC Book Award 1980 SAC Writers'Bursary 1979 First prize in jubilee competition of the Scottish Association for the Speaking of Verse (now Poetry Association Scotland) 1974
Poems for Peace In August 2007, The Bakehouse in association with Markings ran a short poetry festival called The Word 07:Peace in which poets from all over the country were i nv i t e dt os e ndi npo e mst ob ed i s pl ay e di npe o pl e â€™ sl i v i ngr o o mands h o pwi ndo ws along the High Street of the small Scottish town, Gatehouse of Fleet, in which The Bakehouse is based and where The Word 07:Peace took place. In issue 25 we included some of those poems when we reported on the festival but space prevented printing the wealth of material we had. In a bid not to lose the legacy from this remarkable event, Markings is now pleased to present a further selection from the po e mst h atapp e ar e di nt ho s epe o pl e â€™ swi ndo wsd ur i ngTh e Wo r d0 7 : Pe a c e .
AMaranth: The Flower That Never Fades And God-the-Poet said, ‘ IAM! ’ So let all poets be AMbitious for His peace. Let us AMaze the world, trading songs of AMity with foes, and making AMnesty with those who run AMok. Let all mortal flesh make cl-AMour for compassion. Ex-AMine conscience and AMaze by generous AMends, and for the dead sing solemn requiems AMid distress, and anthems in the AMbience of love. Let Man-the-Poet play AManuensis: seeking verily the AMaranth: the flower of undying Peace. Sala-AM alaikum! Pax vobiscum! Shalom! ‘ IAM! ’ AMo -— AMas -— AMat ------ AMen.
IAN BLAKE Battle Hymn of the Republic Jack killed a family last night By setting a sleeping house alight. No wyouknowJac k,he ’ ski ndandgo od, And his parents live in your neighbourhood Andt he r ewon’ tbeat r i a ls ot hat ’ sa l r i ght : I t ’ st heEmpi r eofEvi lhebombe dl as tni ght . Bill raped a girl one night in the dark, He ’ snott oof us s yandhedi dn’ tr e mar k Thel ous ybe d,f ori t‘ madehi m aman’ ; She was only brown and Taliban. You’ l lbes hoc ke dwhe nhe ’ sdr unkandr e l at e st hel ar k, Or fixes your daughter up in the park. Tom shot a boy in the midday sun With silver bullets from a hot grey gun. Tom di dn’ tc ar eat wo-cent hoot Whys houl dhec ar e ?He ’ spai dt os ho ot , There in Iraq for a quick bit of war, Then back (if he lives) as he lived before. Vi c t i m’ swr e a t hmake st heVi c t or ’ sc r own. Remember, at night when the blinds are down, Your paid your taxes to send away The boy next door to kill for his pay, Buti t ’ snots oe as yt of or ge t ,yous e e , How to shoot to kill for Democracy. Instead of starting to mutter and frown When you read of hooligans trashing the town, Remember the boy you hired to slay ‘ Te r r or i s t s ’wi t hagl i b“ OK” . Not‘ t hec hai r ’ ,no ri nj e c t i on,norc yani depan, Can obscure the fact that you made the man. “Sowhe nyour e adofOurVi c t or y Jus tpr ayIf or ge twhatyou’ r et e ac hi ngme . Pray for my soul. But above all pray Formyde at h,i nc as eImakeyoupay. ” 78
MARGARET GILLIES BROWN Crete The scent of musk rose by the carob tree; mandolins on the beach; a sea of indigo and you and I at peace with love and life. And then you took me to the cemetery where so many young men dead, ‘ Sl aught e r e d:t hel as twar , ’yous ai d. I took two steps down one tragic lane; saw names and ages, nineteen –twenty one: I walked no further, could not see for tears. It hit me then this cutting off of life could happen to our sons... AndnowIs t r ol li nmor ni ng’ spe ac e f ull i ght ; Skylarks sing, a deer runs through the grain. Butr e al i s et hats ome whe r e ,s o me one ’ ski l l i ngno w. And as I walk know that terror, carnage must give way to talk.
Grains of Sand Gill is supported by her bodyguards Sally and Nicola. They drift across the playground her arms round their waists their arms round her shoulders. She cries in lessons. She is truculent. Shedoe s nâ€™ tf i ni s hhe rhome wor k. She is giving cause for concern. In the bottom of her pencil box her precious spoonful of desert. For her a beach will never again be innocent. Next summer she will be too old for bucket and spade, too old to bury her father in the sand. If he comes back.
Strange Meeting Neither of us was dead, luckily, although your neatly placed bomb was designed to kill, our guns swung up to pluck you out of the air. I ’ ms t i l lnots ur ewhatki ndofl uc kmi newas– to see my friends turn into torches; disfigurements that slide all eyes away. You had the best of it: the high of triumph, t hehe r o’ swe l c ome .Ihadt heni ght ma r e s . You only had to suffer this meeting, myf ac e ,myhands .“So r r y”oneofyourf e wwor ds of English. What locked us in a tight embrace was guilt –my friends, your enemies. I named them to you. Our meeting should have taken place in gothic vaults or the recollected fire, smoke, darkness, not in this homely lounge, with the blue settee, the television set, yourwi f e ’ sc ol l e c t i onofc hi naor na me nt s , youror di na r yf ac e ,dar ke ye st hatdi dn’ ts e e the ship of souls, only the iron target. I came to meet the demon of my night terrors, but you were no more than a man.
A Poem Aboot Peace Peace Laddies hivvin a kickaroon Wi jaikets fur goalposts The hicht o the bar decided by consensus Naebody cares whae wins Peace Lassies wi a skippin rope “Whatki ndofs t oc ki ngsdoyouwe ar ? Nyl on,s i l k,r ayon. . . ” (Ah used tae walk on by them Never let on Ah heard them) Butj i s tasAh’ m ge t t i ngi nt aemas t r i de Wi shimmerin memories O heaven that lies aboot oor infancy Here he comes: Auld Heidie Makepeace (Also kent as Auld Crabbit Face) Mairchin across the playground Intervenin Tae separate twae fechtin weans Se e msl i kewec annaedaewi ’ oothi m
Knowing No Other Way To Be Knowing no other way to be the wind bangs and strikes a tin house down; bombing begins at half past three. Border patrol can no longer see what divides the country from the town, knowing no other way to be. Playing-cards and bullets are free but no-one asks why the children frown; bombing begins at half past three. In a safe place that belongs to me I wonder how it feels to drown, knowing no other way to be. Is it enough to sign a plea to put an end to war, crack its crown? Bombing begins at half past three. Ke t t l eon,i t â€™ st i mef ort e a I â€™ l lwat c ht heaut umnl e ave st ur nbr own, knowing no other way to be. Bombing begins at half past three.
DONALD S MURRAY
A War-Time Education Gaelic has long floated on the breath of my people, though my Grandad at Gallipoli gained grounding in other sounds and tongues. An array of accents sharing English. Aussie. Cockney. Jock. Smatterings, perhaps, of German, French, or Turkish talk. But above all, the deadly banter of rifle-shot. Explosive's exclamations. Grunting of artillery guns. Mortar's murderous song. And of course, the lexicon of human pain. Cries and blood and tears that speak to us beyond language. Sounds that stir the breath of people and come to tongue in times of war.
The first line comes from Dr Johnson's description of what he felt were the inadequacies of the 'Earse language'.
At a Time of Crisis Ir e al l yc an’ tr e me mbe rbutIbe t a name was etched upon a desktop - a faintly pencilled requiescat ‘ Mur dowoze r e .Oc t obe r62’ and someone else had folded a paper plane that flew till it stalled and flopped within some lost corner of the room. And then we played some football round the back with Iain stuck in goals, ‘ Le vYas hi n’ki t t e di nt hebl ac k jumper he always wore to school, a remnant from the woollen shawl hi sGr anhadwor ns i nc eI ai n’ sunc l e had been killed in the last war. Back in class, we played with plasticine, made boats that never needed torpedoes to prevent them staying afloat while Alec drew huge, sprawling flames he foresaw rising from the wood and tyres piled to form the village bonfire where out on edge of field and moor, fireworks would be lit, e ac hr oc ke t ’ swhoos h, e ac hRomanc andl e ’ shi s sands pi t making a shadow flit on the faces of our fathers who’ dal ls e e nwarbe f or e . 85
Stone Relief: Pitigliano On a long rectangle of volcanic stone on the street-side wall of the twelfth century Church of San Rocco, t he r e ’ sac ar vi ngi nl ow relief, easily missed. It shows a nobleman, whos ebe ar d’ sasne at as an inverted candelabra, with arms outstretched and his hands, their tips segmented like fruit, held up to the wrists in the fearsome teeth of two winged dragons. The symbolism of this s t at i cdr a ma ,we ’ r et ol d, “r e f e r st ot hes upe r i or i t y of spiritual strength ove rbr ut ef or c e . ” With peach-stone eyes, cast in the shadows of his brows, 86
the face could be described charitably as“t hought f ul ”.Centred, we might now say. Ce r t ai nl y,t heman’ ske e n to conserve energy to give nothing away. For this is a stand off if ever there were one. Nine centuries later, the Chinese-lanternjawed dragons show no sign of loosening their grip anytime soon; while he is still waiting – wi t houtane ye l i d’ s flicker –for history to prove his case.
LIZ NIVEN Peace is wabbit smiles fae refugees gan hame drawing watter fae yer ain well road blocks taen awa owernicht no bein feart when the door chaps soun o wuid sawin, choppin, biggin plantin saplins fir neist spring deener smells waftin throu gloamin watchin sterns in a quate lift fresh beddin tae dream unner auld man smokin bi the ridd en bonnie lassie rockin the new wean oan the win lullabyes sweet an douce. 88
ELSPETH BROWN Peace Talks Ah telt ya didna ah? Dae ah hev tae tell ya agin? Dinna skelp yer wee bro, Dinna pull his lugs, or dunt him on his nose. He ’ sj i s tawai nyeke n. touch him again ya turnip heid anI ’ l lt anye rbaho oki e aye ,t ha t ’ l ll e a r nya touch the wean agin and its war! War, that's where its leading ya tearaway, ya wee nyaff. Gae on bashing yer brither, son next thing you're drappin bombs. That's enough! Am gonie gie you a lickin. You're nae gettin away with it in ma hoose.
Plough-shares into Swords A coup for creativity in charitable works, let us turn the weapons into tools Even the rhino flanked tanks are melted, great plates loosened, unbolted from the massive frame, standing still now. Stacks of rifles are counted before the engineers unwind their threads and threat, bright brass fittings abound on the ground, alongside dancing springs. Fierce metal made to pierce men and buildings flows into other shapes; a shovel, a hoe. Sun shines, water flows, seed arrives. A silent black man puzzles over a shovel. How will he face his enemy with a shovel? Which Great Power rules by the shovel?
Wr i t e‘ pe a c e ’ …. .
to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima August 6th 2005
Wr i t e‘ pe ac e ’ont hewi ngsofaThous andWhi t eCr ane s . Light your lanterns, set them adrift on the Seven Rivers of Hiroshima. Li ghtt he mf ort hos es oc har r e dt he i rge nde rc an’ tbename d their eyeballs guttering down their cheeks like candle-wax. Light your lanterns, set them adrift on the Seven Rivers of Hiroshima. Light them for the flayed flesh of the disappeared hanging in flags from flaming skeletons of oleander. Light your lanterns, set them adrift on the Seven Rivers of Hiroshima. Light them for children seared to bowel and bone under the black rain who one by one stopped singing. Wr i t e‘ pe ac e ’ont hewi ngsofaThous andWhi t eCr ane s . Light your lanterns, set them adrift on the Seven Rivers of Hiroshima.
Sadako Sasaki, a young victim of radiation sickness was convinced she would survive if she folded a thousand paper cranes. She died aged 12 having folded 644. Her classmates folded the rest and raised the money for her peace memorial o nwhi c hi swr i t t e n‘ Thi si so urc r y .Thi si so urPr ay e r .Fo rPe ac ei nt hi s Wo r l d. ’ Every year since August 6th 1945 lanterns have been floated on the Ota River in memory of those who died in the bombings.
ANNE DARLING www.annedarlingphotography.com
Arrogant Granite: Pink Granite Coast
IMAGES OF BRITTANY
Chateau du Diable, Pink Granite Coast
Door, Perros Guirec
Architectures, Perros Guirec
Bar des Sports, Carantec
Architectures, Pink Granite Coast
Rock Formations, Pink Granite Coast
Rock Formations, Pink Granite Coast
FIONA THACKERY Clowning
“Atl as t- s ome onewhoc anputmei nmypl a c e ! ”Shet hought ,r apt , while the twins giggled to see elephants begging on their haunches for ice cream. “Won’ ti tr ott he i rt e e t h, Mama? ”as ke dLot t i e ,t hee l de rbyf i ve minutes. “Wec anas kt he i rt r ai ne r ,dar l i ng.I ’ ms ur ehet ake sgr e atc ar eo fhi s ani mal s . ”Sur e ,i nf ac t ,t hatt het r ai ne rc oul ddonot hi ngwr ong,he re ye s followed his lithe form moving inside a stars-and-moon robe, quick snaps of an elegant wrist commanding the whip. Tiny tics in his face solicited entire choreographies from great grey beasts that would crush him in an instant if they cared to. His bow was graceful as the hulking troupe padded around the ring, trunk-knotting-tail-looping-trunk: a perfect, arcing finale. Why hadn’ ts hes e e nhi mt hi swaybe f or e ,i na l lt hos eye ar sofwat c hi nghi sac t s ? Volleys of custard pies sailed to the sawdust floor; a frail boy named Ernst was brought from the audience to join the clowning. The twins clapped hands and jiggled in their seats. Adrienne thought only of brandy eyes glinting at elephants - and manila-brown fingers, smooth around a whip. She got one last glimpse as acrobats, contortionists and flying girls tumbled back into the ring for an animated final burst. Dignified in their leaping midst, in celestial robe and funny black pumps, the trainer circled with occasional deep bows. The circus had seemed tawdry, garish before. Now his presence lent it grace. She would have her moment at the Royal Reception to follow - but what to say? Filing past a line-up of sweaty girls in sequins and fishnet-tights, she s t i l ldi dn’ tkno w.Shepr e s s e dt hepa l msofbr e at hl e s s ,c ur t s e yi ngac r obat s , “Honour e d,YourHi ghne s s . ”Shec ongr at ul at e ds oot -faced fire-breathers, but for the elephant-tamer something different was required. She stooped to c l as pt hedwar fc l o wn’ shand,pl umpands quar el i kear ag-dol l ’ s . “Whati nc r e di bl eba l a nc e . ”c hat t i ngwi t ht het i ght r o peac t ,c har mi ng them all with her glowing royal smile. He was next: his cognac eyes, framed with slicks of black kohl, sidling to meet hers.
Adrienne turned purposefully and reached both hands towards him. “Yo urc our a gel e f tusqui t e … speechless, ”c l e ve r l ya bs ol vi nghe r s e l fo ft he need to find words. Hebowe df r ac t i onal l y,hi sf or e he adc r e as i ngi nde l i c a t el i ne s .“Thank youi nde e d,Pr i nc e s s . ”Whi l enotpr e s umi ngt ous ehe rname ,ye ar sof association with her family permitted a degree of intimacy beyond ‘ Hi ghne s s ’ . Her aide, sensing boldness, pressed her towards the contortionists. But she meant to break this sense of monarch and subject, jump the protocol fence distancing her from the tamer. She made herself humble, a s yc opha nt :br e at hl e s s l y,“I ’ dl ovet ol e ar ns o me t hi ngofyourar t …”The aide cleared his throat urgently. The elephant-t ame rs mi l e d, i mpe r vi ous .“I ’ dbehappyt oobl i g e . ” That subtle bow again: midnight silk sliding over his frame. They touched hands once more, smooth fingers resting coolly in hers –just a moment too long. The contortionists now swivelled their eyes at Adrienne: were their eyeballs double-jointed too, she wondered, irritated. The aide hovered and bobbe d,pr ope l l e dhe ra l ongt ot hedi mi nut i vewoma nwho’ de ar l i e rt os s e d herself floor-wards knotted in vertiginous cascades of red fabric. “Whatf e ar l e s sag i l i t y:c o ngr at ul at i ons . ”c o nt i nue dt hepr i nc e s s , smoothing over curious glances with her Marvellous Royal Glow. The twins came skipping from their tour of the elephant enclosure. “Mummy,Mummy,t he ydohuge poo! ”s ai dLot t i e .Thet hr e ebundl e di nt o the limousine while the aide demurred, muttering with background figures: papering over royal misdemeanours, no doubt, stemming the flow of gossip to the wrong publications. He ducked into the car with the look of a man trapped on a fairground ride that made him nauseous. There had been gi r l i s hbr e a c he so fr o ya le t i que t t el i ket hi sbe f or e . Hehope ds he ’ dgr ownout of it. The twins bounced onto his lap as they spun off into the night. Accustomed as she was to getting what she wanted, Adrienne did not delay before contacting the elephant-tamer. Her most discreet bodyguard, grim-faced, read a French detective novel in the car. She, in green cashmere from Milan, flipped back the Big Top tarpaulin at the appointed hour. Dazzled for a moment, she spotted him, dark between hay-bale seats, moving through spotlight pools, half mincing, half masterful in his robe of constellations on indigo. How strange he looks, she thought. His eyes passed up and down her figure, met hers with open audacity. He walked ahead, leading the way. She smiled, more used to nervous scurriers, keeping ever slightly behind her. In the ring-centre he turned to her, eyes brimming with history and pride. She and all her majesty inspired no more fear than the great mass of ordinary folk, and considerably less than a beast of the plains. For close to two hours, Princess Adrienne did as bidden –learning something of the art of taming creatures that might gore you in a moment.
He spoke little. He insisted she observe his eyes and gestures: learning by example the signs and gazes that inspired obedience in beasts. Those irises reminded her of nuggets of amber, flecked with the limbs of prehistoric insects. Of course, transfixed by his leopard lenses she forgot to notice the way of his look and began to irritate him with her attention to all the wrong things. But even that was refreshing - who else dared show her irritation? Hewant e dhe ra l lt hes ameands hekne wi t .Byl e s s o n’ se nd,ni ghtf al l i ng, they were laughing in the greasy glare of the Big Top Burger-stall. La Vie Celebrité snapped her –its ever-present hacks like bloodhounds on the scent. Faithful readers saw their laughing princess in the next issue – leaning over a reflective bollard, munching burgers in a stars-and-moon robe. The caption clarified, In casual mode, the princess enjoys an outing to e xpl o r ec i r c usar t sat‘ Mar o c ’ sCi r q ueSauv a g e ’ . The tedium of social engagements and palace routines increased her impatience for the next lesson to roll around. She waved away her hai r dr e s s e randhi sf i l eo f“ne ws e as on’ sl o oks ”,a bs e nt l yf i e l de dhe r s e c r e t ar y’ si naneque s t i ons .Ar r i vi nge ar l yout s i det hemar que e ,he rai de ’ s imprecations to avoid Another Royal Scandal were met with shrugs and dumb, smitten smiles. She flounced from the car wearing velvet skirt, denim jacket and ruby-stained lips. Less exotic this time in a mustard sweater and ancient cravat, the tamer held the robe of night skies for Adrienne to wear. A whip - as tall as she - leant against the hay-bales. He cracked it near her boots. She startled, “O! ”andl aughe d.Hee xpl a i ne dhowt oc ar r yi tc l os et oanani ma l- never hitting; always letting it know that you could, how to use it as a cue, a rhythm marker, rather than a threat. He shaped her grip around the handle, pulled back her arm; flicked it forwards. His holly-leaves smell was in her mouth as he stood behind her, breathing into her hair. “Comet ourwi t hus .Mype opl ear ee xc e l l e ntt e a c he r s . ” She turned and put her mouth on his, felt his smooth-shaven chin rub over hers. She imagined her aide in the car, his head in his hands. This time, the cameras missed her. The next week, however, despite t hef r az z l e da i de ’ sbe s te f f or t s ,t her omanc ewe ntpubl i c .LaVi eCe l e b r i t é ’ s bewildered readership learned the princess was “s p o t t e dl e av i ng‘ Maroc’ s Cirque Sauvage,’exchanging lingering embraces with animal trainer and head of the famous circus family, Jean-Maroc Mourello, who seems to have her under hi ss pe l l . ”Another royal scandal? She was vaguely aware of the ruckus, though after the last fiasco, she considered herself immune. Her animal tamer was unquestionable, marking her as his like a branding iron on cattle hide. He took her over: her arm lashing to his rhythmic shouts. She knew she would do what he did and go wherever he went. And so, she explained to her twins, cheeks pink from scrapping in the car after school: they would go to live with Jean-Maroc. The girls would
learn all sorts of new things and meet charming people and they would be in a kind of fairy-tale adventure with Mummy. Adr i e nne ’ sPapawoul dnotappr ove ,ofc our s e ,nore ve nl i s t e n.Hi s face, framed in the study window as she departed, was white with rage. His c ur tl e t t e rwi t hdr a wi nghe ra l l o wanc ef ol l o we ds wi f t l y.She ’ dgi ve nup trying to please him anyway. Jean-Mar oc ’ sc ar ava nwasnotwhats he ’ de xpe c t e d:qui t epal at i al inside. The girls squealed, running the length of the hallway, toes deep in soft carpets. In the first month Chantal whined for her beloved nurse, ‘ Baba’ .Butc l e ve rJe an-Maroc had ideas up his starry sleeve to ease her l ongi ngf orMö s t e nandBabaandt hel i f ebyt hel ake .“What ’ st hi s ?Youar e ne e de dhe r e ! ”handi ngc r i ms onbuc ke t st ot hegi r l s ,“Howwi l lmybi g-greyladies-with-the-very-long-nos e se a tt he i rbr e akf as t . . . ”c r ouc hi ng,hedr e w c i r c l e so nt het wi ns ’be l l i e s , “. . . wi t houtmyf avour i t ehe l pe r s ? ”.Andl at e r , “Chant a lmyde ar ,youhaves t arqual i t i e s . ”Shewoul dpe r f o r m,he anno unc e d, c ur l e dhi ghi nane l e phant ’ st r unk. Adrienne was horrified. But Jean-Ma r o cMour e l l o’ se ye s ,s t e adyas ancient amber, admitted neither hesitation nor fear. And so she sat ringside, huddled in stars and moons, sipping chocolat chaud, and watching her daught e r s ’t i nybodi e shoi s t e da l o f ti ngr e atc ur l sofpac hyde r m wr i nkl e s . Unc o i l e d,Chant alc at apul t e dt o war dshe rmot he r ’ sl ap,s que aki ng,bur ni ng with pride. The princess thought of the German verb tables they recited with Baba in Mösten and smiled secretly at these precious lessons they could learn only here. Jean-Maroc was summoning her to the ring. She entered the sawdust moon to study his lancing gazes and bizarre choreography - sure footprints in pale dust. Li t t l eLot t i e ’ sbobbe dhai rs wungass hel a bour e dwi t hpai l so f elephant food in the mornings. Pouring water on compressed mealy pellets, she hunkered down, tongue pressed between lips, to watch them swell. She returned, serious, to the caravan, older with pride and responsibility; Chant als ki ppe dbe hi nd,gi gg l i ngatt hec ame l s ’r uder e pe r t o i r eofs nor t i ng noises. Nights in the candlelit caravan were like a hundred Christmases. The twins whispered new acrobatic routines under the blankets, resisting heavy eyelids. Once they were asleep Jean-Maroc would pour cognac, the colour of his eyes, for her; they crept under gold puckered quilts, watching stars through the skylight. Adrienne rose at five, smoothed her hair, put on rumpled shirts and high boots. She fixed toast for the girls, strong coffee for she and JeanMaroc. Her funny animal-tamer conjured eggs from behind the ears of sleepy girls, provoking giggles. The elephant enclosure was dank with urinesoaked straw: but you had to take the rough with the smooth in this life. She began to miss Baba, who made mornings gentle and smooth; she felt
strange lurchings in her stomach when they hitched up the wagons to move on again - and again. Her lessons were progressing slowly, though she loved the time by his side, just the two of them. He'd square himself behind her, aligning her limbs with the disturbing power of a puppeteer, just as Madame Poignée haddone ,ye ar sag o,i nbal l e tc l as s .Shewor ear i ngmas t e r ’ sr e dt ai l c oat , fishnet tights and boots laced over her thighs. He'd sit then in the front row, his lips open, looking at her legs - for a moment under her command. Back in the caravan, he beckoned her with a flick of the head: sometimes it seemed the lesson never ended. Once he even held up his cup for her to take to the galley, never raising his eyes from the balance sheets as she walked by.Adr i e nnet houghtpe r hapss hedi dn’ tl i ket obeputi nhe rpl a c ea f t e ra l l . Ten months and ten cities distant from Mösten, they neared JeanMar o c ’ sowndus t yc or ne rofEur ope ,ar e g i o nt owhi c hnoRoya lt ourhad ever brought Adrienne. She looked at her girls: little savages with wild hair and torn clothes, abandoning jigsaw-pieces of toast as they ran out in their rubber boots to tend the beasts. In the caravan they somersaulted and s hout e dr i ngmas t e r ’ sc omma ndsate ac hot he r .Je an-Maroc grew pensive and distant, stayed up late with his account ledgers. From Italy, a gossip magazine team came and photographed Adrienne on his lap atop an old costume chest - wearing jeans and mussed, elephant-ke e pe r ’ shai r s t yl e . Now they arrived in the land of his people, who swarmed the camp and spoke in strange dialect. They laughed and slapped backs and drank strong liquor with their feet on the table, then slept in their black cars all day while the twins, pale from lack of sleep, did chores. Jean-Maroc smiled a lot now, willing her to like them. They regarded her with open stares, swigging bottles at the caravan door. She gathered the twins close to her, her little family huddle so separate from the sleepers in their dusty cars. Jean Maroc seemed alien sometimes, not quite one of the snaggle-toothed tribe with their nasal jabbering, but different somehow, preoccupied. Still, when he climbed under the quilts she got him back for a few short hours. One day he took her aside where a broad tree shaded the campground oppos i t et he i rc ar avan,“Cherie,t hi ngsar eal i t t l edi f f i c ul t .Uuhmm…”He gr i ma c e d.“Wema yne e dyourhe l p.The r e ’ snowor kf ormype opl et hi s ye ar :t heaudi e nc e sar enotl i kei nyourc ount r y,youkno w. ” She listened. He laughed, arms wrapped around his chest c ons pi r at or i a l l y,asi fs heunde r s t o od.“Ye s ,s we e t he a r t ? ”s hewaswa i t i ng for the end of the story, the point. “Sowene e d,uh,yourhe l p,Cherie. ”Hi sf e e ts huf f l e di nt hedus t , “Youha veuhr e s e r ve s , hnn? ”Ands t i l li tt ookanot he rmome nt .Hewas looking at her earrings, gold hoops with channel-s e tdi amo nds .“Myc ous i ns c ang e tag oodpr i c ef ort hos eone s . ”
“The s e ? ”Shec ove r e dhe re ar l obe swi t hbunc he df i ng e r s ,“The s ear e Cartier! From my grandmother, and my great-grandmother before her. Now youe xpe c tmet oho c kt he mf ort hi sbunc hof …gypsies? ”Shec l ampe dhe r hand over her mouth, but the word was out - and she had spat it. He gave her a look black with contempt and hurt, and she saw the chasm between them open up right at her feet, though perhaps it had been there all along. She turned to see a battered car idling: a hand with dirty fingernails languid over the rolled window; a toothpick dancing above a scornful, stubbled chin. The driver looked at her indifferently and drove off. Adrienne, trembling, pulled on her shirt with its elephant muskiness, and stepped into her boots. The camels smelled worse in this hot climate, they brayed and rumbled tetchily as she walked in. Dry nugget-food tumbled into troughs, hair and stoor swirling in shafts of sunlight as the animals wobbled to their feet. She cursed as water slopped into her boots, bringing buckets from the standpipe. The princess watched as her savage little girls came cart-wheeling and screeching from the animal enclosures, and knew it was for the last time. They sat on the caravan steps, slumping against each other. She stroked their matted hair and gaunt cheeks. Lottie had bulging little muscles from pl ayi ngont hea c r obat ’ shoops .Howunc a r e df ort he yl o oke d;howt he y ne e de dve r bt abl e sandBaba’ shundr e dhai r br us hs t r oke s . Jean-Mar oc ’ sc l anmus thavebr oughtt het at t e r e d“ Chi ceFamo s o ” magazine discarded in the caravan, open at the photograph of she and Jean on the costume chest. Her downbeat look, his starry arms wrapped around he rmi ddl e ;f ur t he ron,as hotofhe ri nRi ngmas t e r ’ sge t -up.“Ho w r i di c ul o usIam, ”s hes ai ds l owl y,“al i t t l eg i r lpl ayi ngdr e s s i ng-up”.She ' d never shown interest in stable-life and grooming animals - even when she first learned to ride her Kalpazzo. In the mirror, she saw the-Princess-whoran-away-with-the-Circus: grass seeds in her hair, grubby shirt collar - her incongruous earrings. She wondered how she'd fooled herself for so long. Few clothes were worth the packing, ruined by somersaults and slopping-out .The ymo unt e dat a nde mc yc l ebe hi nda nac r obat ’ sc ar avan and stole away, Lottie pedalling behind, Chantal clinging on in the middle. Jean-Maroc, returning around dusk, found her note and cursed his cousins, snoring in their cars, oblivious to his girls leaving him forever. The railway station at the nearest town sold her tickets to Budapest. She closed the curtains in first class 'til the landscape had quite changed. From Budapest it was an easy matter to reach Mösten with her credit card, replacing their elephant-ke e pe r s ’c l ot he swi t hs ome t hi ngmor er e s pe c t a bl e at the airport. The twins slept through the flight, and cried to find themselves back in the arms of their Baba. Little had changed at the palace by the lake. Adrienne knocked ne r vous l yont hepar l o urdo or .He rf at he r ’ sgr uf fvoi c ebadehe re nt e r .She
forgot her fear when she saw him so frail and ill, but ploughed on with her confession of foolishness; his sheepish, rebel daughter. Within a week, the twins were enrolled in the Perpegnac School with ribbons in their hair, Georges Simenon novels in their satchels. Adrienne too had her hair styled, threw away her stained shirts in cooperation with her war dr obeadvi s or ,andde vot e dhe r s e l fe nt i r e l yt opubl i cdut i e s .Whe n‘ La Vi e …’magaz i neappr oa c he dhe rf orc omme nt sa tac har i t yl unc h,s he t uc ke dhe rs l e e khai rbe hi ndhe re arands a i d,“Iwast i r e dofs me l l i ngo f e l e phant s , andImi s s e dmyf ami l y,andMös t e n,t e r r i bl y. ” The very next week, a four-page spread in La Vie Celebrité e nt i t l e d,‘ A Thor oughl yMode r nPr i nc e s s ’mar ke dhe rhome c omi ng.Shot sofAdr i e nne punctuated the text: swinging glossy bags outside Chanel, poised at an easel, in jodhpurs astride her Kalpazzo, though not near the stables. Some time later in his empty caravan, Jean Maroc sighed over his modern princess in a dog-eared copy of the magazine, thrust under his nose by a cousin. He stirred his black coffee, wordlessly. He too, was often tired of smelling of elephants. He leafed through his box of newspaper squares: Jean Maroc chatting with King Gustave; performing for the Jubilee; ‘ af f i r mi ngt hegr e atbondbe t we e nLa Famille Maroc andt heRoya lHous e ’ . He'd studied these cuttings many times in his grieving. For how long had he t oobe e npl ayi ng‘ dr e s s i ngup’–just a vagabond under his starry robe - an occasional diversion for spoilt princesses? He called the cousin back –“I t ’ s time Jean-Maroc got himself a wife –f i xi tf orme ? ”Thec ous i nr a i s e dhi s brow, tried to disguise a spreading smile as a nod of sombre approval, and left. Jean-Maroc stared into his cup. She would be young and fearless and dirt poor –a proud nomadic soul, and she'd ride to the wedding party on elephant-back. She'd wear thin gold earrings –cheap but genuine. He would never wake in the night to pinch himself again. He had no lakeside palace, nor other life, to run back to. Scooping up his yellowing newspaper cuttings he walked, thoughtful, to the camel enclosure. They looked down at him, snorting. He held up a scrap of paper. A rough tongue looped around the newspaper cutting, and drew it inside a cage of stained and crooked teeth. The other camels craned their necks too, and soon were digesting Jean-Mar o cMour e l l o’ sl onghi s t or y of ridiculous royal connections.
B G MCBETH
Idi dn’ tnor mal l ygoi nt ot heFo s s emuc h,butI ’ dmi s s e dt hebus ,and t hene xtonewas n’ tf orf or t ymi nut e s ,i twasr a i ni ng,andt hebuss he l t e r windows were a pile of glistening crystals on the wet pavement. I t ’ sanol dbar ,andi t ’ sde f i e ds e ve r a lat t e mpt sati mpos e d respectability, chiefly because of the die-hard clientele. Unimpressed by such uplifting motifs as railway history, and the Roman Army, the patrons always turned the Fosse back into what it had always been. A dive. Hard-drinking customers can have two opposite effects on a bar and t hequal i t yoft hepr oduc t .I ft he y’ r es t i c kl e r s ,youg e tgoodbe e r ,c l e an, unc hi ppe dgl as s e s ,andaf a i rme as ur e .I ft he y’ l ls wi l lanyt hi ng,youg e tant e at e r ’ spi s s ,c utl i ps ,andt woi nc he sofhe ad.Thi sbarf ol l o we dt hef or me r regimen. The barmaid was fair, fat and forty stone, a Sumo wrestler disguised as a chintz sofa. “He l l o,f l o we r ,have n’ ts e eyouf orawhi l e . ” “Mi s s e dmybus .I t ’ spe r s i s t i ngdown. ” “St o ne s ,i si t ? ” “Aye . ” I was surprised she remembered. I had a horrible thought. Maybe she fancied me. Somebody was standing at my elbow. I checked the mirror, and wi s he dIhadn’ tj us tc omei n.I fI ’ dknownIwoul dme e tGe or di eMul l e n,I would have put up with the rain. He was small. He was over-weight, red-faced, bald, and always seemed to be very, very narked. He waved to the barmaid, making even this everyday action seem belligerent. Geordie Mullen, Mr Frig. “Gi z z abo t t l e ,She i l a.Ac o l donemi nd. ” Ihope dhewoul dn’ tr e c ogni s eme ,buthedi d,i nt hemi r r or ,andhe turned, and jabbed me in the upper arm.
“Whe r et hef r i g gi nhe l lyoube e n,ye rpuf f ? ” Geordie was then father-in-l a wofal adIwor ke dwi t h.I ’ dme thi ma f e wt i me s ,( t oomany) ,andasIhadl onghai r ,t ohi m Iwas‘ apuf f ’ .Hewas the most persistently foul-mout he dmanI ’ de ve rme t .Obs c e ni t i e swe r e n’ t emphasis to him, they were a complete grammatical system of his own. Geordie used them as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, gerunds, even invoked t he m asde i t i e s .Heus e dt hewor d‘ f r i g’ be c aus et ohi mi twas n’ tr e al l y s we ar i ng,anda l s obe c aus ehe ’ sbe e nbar r e df r om mos toft hebar si nWal ke r and Byker for his continuous use of a language that was seventy-five pe r c e nt‘ f uc k’ . That was the limit of his compromise. “St i l ldo i ngt hatf r i g g i n’puf f yj ob? ” “Aye ,I ’ ms t i l lt he r e . ” “He ar dt he r ewasmor ebl adde r i ngs . ” “Vol unt ar y,t hi st i me . ” He performed the sacred rite of the pouring of the Broon, drank half of the glass, and topped up. “What ’ sDi c kl i ket owor kwi t h? ” “Iwor kf orhi m now,heg otpr omot e d. ” “Eh?Fr i g gi n’he l l ,he ’ l lbeane ve nmor es t uc kupl i t t l et watno w t he n. ” “Di c k’ sal r i ght . ” “Al r i ght ?He ’ saj umpe dupf atwanke r .Al wayswas .Wha tour Sandr as a wi nhi m,I ’ l lne ve rkno w. ” Drink, top-up. Shiela was committing murder by bar mirror, pol i s hi ngt hes he l ve s ,g l ar i ngatMrFr i g.Someni ght syourg l as swo n’ ts t ay f ul l ,t hatni ghtIc oul dn’ ts e e mt oe mpt yt hebl o odyt hi ng.Is hr ugg e d. “Di c k’ sOK.Hi m andSandr aobvi ous l yt hi nkt hewo r l dofe a c h ot he r . ” “Obvi ous l y?Obviously? Fr i g gi n’he l l ,i t ’ sPe t e rf r i g g i n’Be ar ds l e y. ” “We l l ,t he r e ’ snowtwr ongwi t hyour face that plastic surgery woul dn’ tputr i ght . ” “Eh? ” I shook my head and drank. “Anyway,di vvi ntt e l lmeaboutmeownf ami l y.Wha tt hef r i gg i n’ he l ldoyeknowabo or i t ? ” He must have been out all afternoon, he was already slurring, and getting worse, his accent broadening. “Yenas oddi n’f r i g -a l l .You’ r et hef r i gg i n’s ameashi m.Di vvi nnaa f r i g gi n’t hi ng. ” Is i ghe dandl o oke dar ound.Nobodybuthi m,meandShe i l a.Idon’ t know why I answered him.
“Ikno wyou’ r eas t upi d,i gnor ant ,f oul -mouthed little tit. I know you’ veg ott hebr ai nsofadung -beetle, the dress sense of a hat-rack, and the manne r sofa nSSc or por a l . ” “Youf r i g gi n’what ? ” Hewaspur pl e .Idon’ tknowi fhekne wwhatIme ant .Maybehe knew by the tone of my voice. “You’ r eas i l l y,mal f or me d,mal adj us t e d,mal adr o i t ,poi s onousl i t t l e homunc ul us .You’ r ec r e e pi ngf i l t h,as i mpl ema c hi nef o rt ur ni ngbe e ri nt o pi s s .You’ r eabo got e dmor on. ” He was very purple. “Youf r i g gi n’what? ” “You’ r eapa i ni nt hena lt r ac t .Yo umakepi l e sl ookl i ket hebe ni s on ofGod.Youmakeme ,ande ve r ybodyyoume e t ,wantt ovomi t .Copi o us l y. ” He swung at me. I moved. He missed. He fell over. Hedi dn’ tmove .Ikne l tbe s i dehi m,andShe i l ac r ane do ve rt hebar . “Be t t e rr i nganambul anc e ,She i l a. ” “I shea l r i ght ? ” “No.It hi nkhe ’ sf r i g gi n’de ad. ” I missed my bus.
Mr Frig by B G McBeth was selected and published through the BDS Write Now! initiative to find new writing talent linked to libraries across the country.
Sunrise in Chiran
He looked down at the paper still clutched in his right hand and read the words that had been crafted in traditional calligraphy by an artistic hand across the centre of the page.
In blossom today, then scattered: Life is so like a delicate flower. How can one expect the fragrance To last forever? Masahiro took a deep breath while the words of the poem burned themselves into his memory. Admiral Onishi had written those words for the men of the Special Attack Mission â€“the Pilots of the Divine Wind. Takijiro Onishi had written those words for him. He recalled the afternoon last November when their base commander assembled his squadron and unveiled the latest plan from military headquarters. It had been decided, he explained, that the most efficient method of inflicting devastation upon enemies of the homeland was to attack them from the sky. The forces had a number of aircraft that were expendable because of their age and condition. One person would fly each plane containing enough fuel for a one-way trip, destroy the given target and cripple the American fleet. The General told his men to close their eyes and, when the question was put to them, to raise their hand in silence if they were willing to take part. Each pilot knew what was being asked of him. They had all been so excited and proud when they discovered that they had, to a man, become volunteers. Masahiro shifted his left foot, pounding it up and down on the tatami matting to regain the circulation in his leg. He was shivering and he had a hangover. Too much sake. It had been some party last night. In fact the last
two days had more or less been a continuous party. The whole squadron had been fĂŞted and pampered ever since their arrival from the nearby army air base forty-eight hours ago. Considering they were at war, Masahiro was astonished at the treats they had pressed upon them. There was nothing in the way of pleasure that had been refused. Women, any number, were on call to entertain in whichever manner any of the flyboys desired. And they were good-looking too. Not just a bunch of hookers and slappers from the streets of Kagoshima, but highclass geishas from Gion. The music, singing and dancing was non-stop. And the food â€“the food was plentiful, delicious and available at any time of the day or night. You just had to ask. And of course, there were oceans of beer, sake, whiskey and even opium for those who felt the need. It was obvious the government thought they were heroes and treated them accordingly. He pulled the cover off his futon, wrapped it around his shoulders and limped over to the window to watch the sunrise. The stars were fading and drawing away from the world and the sky was becoming brighter. The dawn light cast a golden hue over the countryside. The few clouds that passed were floating high above the village. They looked like the paper boats he and his father would sail in Lake Ikeda when he was a child. Across the valley a flock of black-headed gulls swirled in the rising currents on their way to feed on the river. This was an auspicious morning. Masahiro picked up his leather stationary pad from the table near the door. He held it close his face and inhaled; he could still smell its newness. It had been a gift from his uncle when he graduated from university last year. His degree in political science and economics meant little or nothing to him now. It seemed another life. He slid the door open, stepped into his sandals and walked into the garden. His hosts, Fujii and Yuoko Tanaka, had treated him as a son during his stay in their home. Fujii-kun was a blood relative of the ancient samurai who had designed this garden more than six hundred years ago. He still tended it to this day. Masahiro tried to picture the man who had created such a serene and beautiful place. He was a soldier, but not only a soldier. He was also a scholar and a philosopher who, when he was not at war, wished only to be at one with nature. His garden reflected the landscape, with its conical mountains, perfectly manicured bonsai trees, rocks and moss-c ove r e ds t onet e mpl e s .Thes i ghtofi tr e i nf or c e dMas ahi r oâ€™ s determination to carry out his destiny for the glory of his country and his Emperor. He was glad now that he had waited till this morning to write to his family. The air was cool and fresh here in this quiet corner and as he watched a tiny group of cinnamon sparrows quarrelling in the hedge he collected his thoughts.
By now his father would be up and getting ready to go to work in his t i nyof f i c eatt hef e r r yt e r mi nali nKag os hi ma.Asat r e atMas ahi r o’ sf at he r would sometimes take his young son on the fifteen-minute journey across the bay to Sakurajima where they would walk together across the lava fields. They would use their umbrellas to protect their clothing from the black ash that rained down from the cone of the volcano. In his mind he could see his mother. She would be busy in their home at this hour preparing a meal for the family. It would be nothing like the feast he had devoured here in Chiran for Masahiro knew that food had be c omeas c ar c ec ommodi t yandwome nwhowe r e n’ twor ki ngf ort hewa r effort spent much of their day wandering through the markets in search of something to fill the shrinking bellies of their family. Little sister, the baby, the spoiled one, Hiroko with her laughing face bounced into his mind. None of them could resist her antics and anything she asked for was given without resentment. He knew he was fortunate to have been born into such a family. The marriage of his parents had not been an arranged one. They had married for love. He pictured his family and began to write. “De ar e s tFat he r ,De a r e s tMot he r . ” His pen moved across the paper without any hesitation. “Toda yi st hemos ti mpor t antdayofmyl i f e .Toda yi st hedayIwi s h to thank you both, dearest ones, for giving me the gift of life. I love you very much and it is because of my love for you both and for my little sister, Hiroko that I have agreed to give this life to protect you, our country and our esteemed Emperor God. Father, thank you for all the sacrifices you made to enable me to go to university. In different circumstances I would have been able to repay your generosity. Mother, I do not wish to leave you anything of mine because I know you would look at it over the years and weep. That must not happen. You are my beloved mother and I will think of you when I am flying above the clouds before I die. Hiroko-chan, thank you for the doll you sent me. It looks like you. I will take it with me in the cockpit as an amulet. It will help me think of you before I attack the enemy as I go to my death. I have made plenty of money in the army, little sister, and I want you to have it so you can go to school and be educated. Do not waste the money. Use it wisely for education is a wonderful thing. And remember, Mot he randFat he rwi l lne e dyo urhe l pi nyourne wl i f et og e t he r . ” Masahiro did stop writing here for a moment as he pictured the face of his sister once again. He shook his head and smiled, remembering how she used to follow him around the house when he would come home at
vacation time. She was a pretty young girl and would grow into a beautiful woman, of that he had no doubt. “Iam happyandpr oudofwhatIam aboutt odo.Donotwe e pf or me but think of me with love. Come to see me at Yasukuni Jinja on my 22 nd birthday where I am told the rice cakes are very large. I will be waiting to talk to you. Good-bye. Your loving son and brother, Cor por a lMas ahi r oNakamur a ” The young airman put the letter into an envelope embossed with the insignia of his squadron and headed toward the house as he sealed it. He laid the letter on the shelf below the Tanaka family shrine and entered the bathroom. Removing his yakata, he sat on the low wooden stool by the edge of the tub where he lathered and rinsed his body. He washed his face and hair and winced as the wet cloth passed over a gash on his forehead. He had forgotten all about the incident in the restaurant last night. Nowonde rhehadahe ada c he .Thepr opr i e t or ’ sdaug ht e rhadc has e dhi m around the phonograph player after dinner when he refused to dance with her. He had slipped and struck his head on the back of a chair, much to the amusement of the other diners. Another cup or two of sake after the event had eased his pain. He slipped into the bath and sat back for a few moments with his eyes closed. As he opened them again he could see the cherry trees that lined the street beyond the wall. They were in full bloom and the drooping branches were heavy with clusters of fresh, pink blossom. He was surprised by his own reaction to such exquisite natural beauty. He felt a great rush of tenderness and almost overwhelming pride and responsibility for his homeland and its people. In that moment his soul was swept clean of any doubt, disappointment or fear that may have tainted his purity of intention. All concerns dissolved into nothingness. Masahiro felt that he had been reborn. Back in the bedroom he paid special attention to the state of each article of his uniform as he dressed in front of the mirror. Everything must be perfect today. He leaned over and pulled his boots on, tucking the legs of his trousers into the tops of them. Lastly, he wrapped a brand new white s i l ks c ar far oundhi sne c k.Het i e dHi r oko’ sdol lt ohi ss houl de randi thung down looking as though he was giving it a piggyback ride. He took one final look around the room. No, he decided, he would not need anything else. In less than two hours he would be airborne on the sortie as part of Ki kus uiNo. 6.Fl yi ngi napr e s c r i be df or mat i on,knownas‘ t hef l o at i ng c hr ys ant he mums ’ ,hi ss quadr onwoul dbehe adi ngt o war dOki nawaandt he American fleet.
Masahiro knew that his plane was properly prepared and already waiting for him on the runway back at base. Private Maeda, the mechanic who was responsible for making it ready, had recently explained to him how he not only tuned the engine to the best of his ability, he also cleaned and polished every detail on the inside of the cockpit as well. For he felt it was his duty and privilege to turn each kamikaze plane into a coffin fit for a hero. The pilot will approach his destination with great joy in his heart. He will fly under the sun and above the clouds. When he finds his target he will point the nose of his plane downwards, increase the throttle and fall out of the sky like a thousand, thousand cherry blossoms. He will be proud and with his final breath he will call out the names of those he holds dear. He will come to rest on the ocean bed where his body will spend eternity. Corporal Masahiro Nakamura stepped out into the blazing sun and filled his lungs with fresh mountain air. He was ready.
ANGUS CALDER REMEMBERED Angus Calder, poet, literary critic, historian, teacher, encourager and instigator, died on June 5, 2008 at the age of sixty-six.
RICHARD BERENGARTEN Into your hands Complex multifaceted difficult delightful generous garrulous original convivial brilliant larger-than life Angus –when Gowan on the phone said you we r e n’ tve r ywe l l ,Gi de onandIs t ar t e dmaki ng this book to be put into your living hands so a huge chorus would call out on your side –our side –against the silences and forgettings –and through Scotland and the world, friends would gather to salute you in poems –Angus of the quick quirky inquiring kindly mind and polymorphous magnanimous spirit.
Out of our hands Poetry is a criticism of life, wrote Matthew Arnold – to which I, Richard, reply: poetry is a criticism of death. We failed, Angus, to get our book for you out in time because Death took it out of our hands and slung you on its heap before we could get it together. And so our petty gesture of defiant celebration got put in its place, as if crushed and spread wasplike, on a window. Yet these pages are open, Angus, our poems fly out of them. The final grace is ourpoe msl i ve .The yf l yi nal lde at h’ sf ac e s . 117
JOHN HUDSON Encountering Angus Si ppi ngahous es pe c i alc o c kt ai lname d“Empr e s sZoe ”,t hebi t t e r ne s s of which appealed to me in the early evening after the inevitable round of site-seeing in Istanbul, I watched the street below teeming with Aussies and Ki wi s ,he r et o“ c e l e br at e ”Anz a cday. A couple rose on the spiral stairs and joined me on the roof-garden, striking up conversation. A common dislike of the noise below prompted us to share the moment. They had been kept awake the night before. I sympathised. Topics came and went and then the inevitable question came: what do you do? Despite their provenance from Bristol we had things in common. Howe ve r ,Iwass t i l ls ur pr i s e dbyoneque s t i on:“yo umus tknowAngus Cal de r ? ” My fellow traveller, it turned out, was brought up with Angus and they had remained life-long friends. We exchanged Angus stories, celebrated his wit, anger and passion as well as his talent and, eventually, I was brought up-to-date on his health. It had declined considerably. We said our goodbyes without exchanging much in the way of pe r s ona li nf or mat i onbutIc oul dn’ the l pt hi nki nga boutt hec o i nc i de nc e which seemed so appropriate and that, combined with images of the city, began to form into a poem which I noted before leaving. Several days after my return I received a mysterious email that be g an,“Ar eyout heJohnHuds onIme ti nI s t anbul ? ”Ihadbe e nt r a c ke d down in order to let me know that a volume of poetry was being collected and published with the greatest possible haste in honour of Angus, and I was also asked if I had something to contribute. I went to my notes and spent several intense hours working them up into something presentable. Sadl y,t heant ho l o gyhasappe ar e do nl yaf t e rAngus ’ sde at h.
Istanbul for Angus From off the Sea of Marmara a ferry skirts our rooftop, sails aboveThe odo s i us ’wal landbe r t hs along the glitzy Bosphorous.
You, my Toll Cross Horace, haranguer, scholar and best of all, poet, sharp as flint and kind as soap, deserve this bright Byzantium. How strange to hear your name among the domes of Constantinople – a stranger, chance-met, idly mentions, conjures you in mac beside me. You’ dl ovei the r e ,har bourt og ol ds mi t hs , jewelled saints and jewelled whores; it deserves you as its conscience, vizier and cracker of crowns. Journeys end strangely, old ghost: I foresee a ship set sail, float above palaces, thread minarets, a trail of phosphor bound for the Black Sea.
The anthology of tributes c e l e b r a t i ngAng usCal d e r ’ sl i f eandwo r k,wr i t t e ni nSc o t s , Gaelic and English, entitled For Angus, is published by Los Poetry Press, Cambridge, CBI 3LS, email email@example.com, edited by Richard Berengarten and Gideon Calder. It includes contributions from John Agard, Cecco Angiolieri, Richard Berengarten, Sheena Blackhall, Sean Bradley, Tom Bryan, Peter Burnett, Gordon Brown, Moira Byrne, Gowan Calder, Gideon Calder, Fiona Ritchie Calder, Kate Calder, Rachel Calder, Robert R. Calder, Gerry Cambridge, Stewart Conn, M. C. Conway, Cairns Cr ai g ,Fr e dD’ Ag ui ar ,Jenni Daiches, Christine de Luca, Eunice de Souza, Colin Donati, Bill Dunlop, Douglas Dunn, Terry Eagleton, Sally Evans, Alistair Findlay, Bashabi Fraser, Eddie Gibbons, Michael Glenday, Alasdair Gray, George Gunn, Christopher Harvie, Diana Hendry, Joy Hendry, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Tom Hubbard, John Hudson, Alexander Hutchison, Amadu Khan, Norman Kreitman, Al Lauder, Tom Lowenstein, John Lucas, Alexis Lykiard, Brian McCabe, Derrick J. McClure, David McKail, Hugh McMillan, Aonghas MacNeacail, John Manson, Jack Mapanje, Robyn Marsack, David Morrison, Helena Nelson, Grace Nichols , Liz Ni v e n,Ro na nO’ Do nne l l ,To mPo w,Wi l l i amPr o s s e r ,Te s s aRans f o r d,Ma r i oRe l i c h, Alan Riach, James Robertson, Dilys Rose, Anthony Rudolf, Alex Salmond, John Sampson, Heather Scott, Arabella Smith, Donald Smith, Morelle Smith, Ray Smith, Marin Sorescu, Michael Standen, Tin Ujevic, Landeg White, Hamish Whyte, Rab Wilson.
REFLECTIONS ON DUNCAN GLEN 1933-2008 As a poet, Duncan Glen's greatest commitment was to writing in Scots, and furthering, as he saw it, the revolution in modern Scottish poetry brought about by MacDiarmid. Starting with his 1964 book Hugh MacDiarmid and the Scottish Renaissance, and continuing with his many interviews with the combative poet which he conducted over the years, and published as pamphlets and articles, Glen very nearly became a Boswell to MacDiarmid's Johnson. This comparison would have certainly annoyed the crusty old anglophobe, but possibly amused his young disciple at the time. If Glen never wrote a biography of MacDiarmid, it was perhaps because he was beaten to it by a poet and critic with a temperament much more like MacDiarmid's. Yet Glen, who died of a stroke in September, and only a few months after the publication of A Festschrift for Duncan Glen at SeventyFive, edited by Tom Hubbard and Philip Pacey, was always very much his own man. It was, moreover, in his poetry, with its very distinctive voice, that he developed a much more relaxed cultural stance than that of his great friend and mentor. On this matter, he was perhaps a touch too defensive in his Autobiography of a Poet (1986): 'I do not push Scots writing for any nationalistic reasons but simply because it just happens to be a fact that some form of Scots remains the mother tongue of the masses of Lowland Scots and therefore it follows that if all had equal opportunities it would be the dominant social literary language of Scotland.' Accordingly, Glen in his poems transformed the Scots language into a kind of plainspeaking, perfectly natural way of voicing what it is like to live in the modern world. Often, the titles of some of his best-known poems signal such an aim. To take a few at randon, here are some from his Collected Poems (2006): 'My faither', 'John Kennedy, steelwarker, 1939-1975', 'Dresst to kill', 'There is none like her', and 'Ducks on Blackford Pond, Edinburgh'. For Glen, writing poems in Scots wasn't part of a political agenda, or at least not as a way of making ethno-linguistic distinctions but more a way of redressing class inequalities. He was also particularly sensitive to landscape, and could write equally well about urban Scotland and its countryside, nor was he a stranger to philosophical meditation, one of his best in this vein being 'Talkin to Descartes'. He certainly minded his Scottish forebears in the art and craft of poetry, but to this reader at least a fusion of what William Carlos Williams (one of his poems is 'To William Carlos Williams') did for poetry in his quest for an American vernacular, and the conceptual rigor of a Wittgenstein characterises his poems at their most effective. He alludes to Wittgenstein in the very title of 'That of which we cannot speak'; he knew, moreover, that true poetry cannot be confined to any politicallymotivated boundaries. As he put it in his autobiography: 'But poems come essentially from areas beyond all obvious geographical or personal or intellectual sources. They come from areas of our psyche of which we have little or no direct knowledge or understanding'. As editor and publisher of Akros for many years, from 1965 to 1983, he certainly published poets who wrote in Scots, including Robert Garioch, Tom Leonard, Alastair Mackie, Liz Lochhead and many others, both established and newcomers, but he also devoted space to the likes of
MARIO RELICH Norman MacCaig, George Mackay Brown, and Iain Crichton Smith. His was an unusually 'open door' policy for a poetry editor, but with an unerring sense of what is worth publishing, and in friendly rivalry with other periodicals like Lines Review. Akros was beautifully designed by Glen himself, the source of such creativity being his teaching of graphic design and related subjects in Preston and Nottingham; on his retirement in 1986 he was appointed Emeritus Professor of Visual Communications at Nottingham Trent University. In his own words, the title of the magazine came about as follows: 'The name is from the Greek root meaning "highest and furthest out", as in the Acropolis', adding that 'I also chose the name for the suggestion of cutting across cliques and not least for the look of the word which I could see with my typographer's eye as a fine logotype.' He also designed the newsletters of the Scottish Poetry Library, and for the last few years edited Zed 2 O, which came out more irregularly. Yet to list some of his many achievements gives little indication of what Duncan Glen was like as a person. I can vouch that he was always on the lookout for new writers, whether critics or poets, or indeed both. He was certainly instrumental, to add a personal note, to how in the seventies I began to have a strong interest in and writing about Scottish poets when studying at the University of Edinburgh as a postgraduate from Canada. Robert Garioch was writer-in-residence at the University then, and his informal classes on Scottish literature were a welcome respite from the rigors of academia. After seeing some of my poems, he introduced me to writing reviews, and the occasional poem, for Akros. That I wasn't in any way local was not an issue for Garioch and Glen. They were interested only in good writing. As his very first collection was entitled In Appearances, it is not inappropriate to include some words about what Duncan looked like. He was a snappy dresser, but not ostentatiously so, and his well-cultivated beard gave him the look not quite of an Old Testament prophet, but more that of an Ezra Pound on a good day. Robyn Marsack in The Herald obituary mentioned that ' ... he did retain his fine bearing to the end, and if he lost his ginger tint, he was neatly bearded and his dress - often including a distinctive bow-tie - suggested the elegant designer he was.' Tom Hubbard, in The Scotsman, included this anecdote: ' I once put it to him that if there were a spectrum in poetry from the laconic Emily Dickinson to the expansive Walt Whitman, he veered more towards the former. He protested that he belonged "with the bearded one".' At the Scottish Poetry Library book-launch of the Festschrift, which is when I last saw him, he reminisced with some bemusement and a self-deprecating shrug, seeing the funny side, at the feuds which seemed to bedevil some Scottish literary figures in the sixties and seventies. At the time, though, as Hubbard put it, '(t)he jovial, easygoing Glen was forced to reveal himself to be as feisty as the best of them.' I have chosen to end with his poem 'Protectit bird' because it is, and with some irony, very much about many concerns of today, yet it also harks back to the animal fables of Robert Henryson, one of Scotland's greatest Renaissance makars. Here it is:
Protectit Bird Pass the word I'm a protectit bird. They're setting girns for vermin Like stoats and their kin; The fox is huntit and shot doon And aw to keep me safe and soon. Pass the word I'm a protectit bird. You micht say august And that is surely just. Aw is for my health And a pairty on the twelfth!
TOM HUBBARD Ravenscraig Elegy
In Memoriam Duncan Glen 1933-2008 Cave and turret: silence with presence, And an eldritch echo across the Forth. Ten years since we walked to lunch at the Man in the Rock, Discoursing of books and pamphlets: daftness and laughter. There were labours past and to come, Above Dysart harbour, which welcomes its children home. Nature unknowingly saves for us her artefacts: The stone seat by the path, the twisted tree where a girl plays with her dog, So from the flux and flummox you rescued song. Thegul l â€™ sc r ya ndt hewave â€™ sl apunmaket or e -make themselves, as your long Stravaiging halts, resumes, and re-enacts. Ravenscraig Park flanks the Fife shore between Kirkcaldy and Dysart, and is near the final home of Duncan Glen. He and his wife Margaret returned to Fife in 1996.
REVIEWS Not Just Moonshine by Tessa Ransford Luath Press www.luath.co.uk ISBN (10) 1-906307-77-6 ISBN (13) 978-1-906307-6 £12.95 review by JB Pick Te s s aRa ns f or dwr i t e s :“Myf a c ei sasymmetric/ the right side full and smiling/ the ot he rf i e r c eandde t e r mi ne d. ”Po e t r yhasbe e n her constant companion as she lives through this cold, windy, word-loving country with its three languages and its long tradition of argument, and much of that poetry is full and smiling; but it is her fierce determination which has extended the reach of poetry itself, through a School of Poets, a poetry journal, the Poetry Library, and a poetry prize. She has fought for these in turn over many years. The burden of the struggle can become heavy. “Api e c eofwo odIf ound,ar c he di nt oayoke / and trying felt it fitted to my neck/ straitly across my shoulders, each end lying easy/ mi s s hape nt omys hapeandf or me df orme . ” “Wel i ea l o neatni ghtandhope /f orc o ur a gei nt hef a c eo fe ve r yda y. ” Her essence lies in the fact that she does indeed find courage in the face of everyday, recording joy and love, but also pain, loss and grief, breaking out oft hes t at es hede s c r i be sa s“t hes e ve n-wa l l e dc i t yofl one l i ne s s ”t hr ough her ability in all circumstances to seek light, while remaining open to the wo r l da nddodgi ngnot hi ng.Shee nds“Ol dFo l katt heFune r al ”,“Wedr i f t away, eyes water, scarves/ pulled tighter/ leaves few on the branches/ and ourhol di sl i ght e r , ”e xt e ndi nghe rs ympat hyi nt ohi s t or ybygi vi ngwor dst o t hewi f eofWi l l i am Bl ake :“Myl ovewal ke di nawi l ddomai n/If o l l owe d him as best I could/ beyond the boundaries of brain/ half credible, half unde r s t ood. ” Te s s ai snotc ont e ntwi t ht hi ngs‘ hal funde r s t o od’ ,ande xpl or e se ve r y form of philosophy and belief which comes her way. There are almost 200 poems in this book, and all she meets is recorded, often with the most straightforward simplicity - “ Myc he s thur t swhe nIwa l kf as tuphi l l ”- to poems of meditation and lines of understanding, extending comradeship to t r e e s ,whi c hs hede s c r i be sas“e xc e l l e ntpe opl e ”,andaBuddhi s tl i z ar d whi c hkno wse no ught o“f l i c k/t hef i e r yt ong ueofe nl i ght e nme nt . ” There is no better line to end an account of Tessa than her own words: “A‘ ye s ’t ot hef ut ur ehast obeobs t i nat e ”.Ye s .
Kissing the Ground by Daniel Lusk. Onion River Press ISBN 0-9657144-3-8 $12.95 review by JB Pick A poem is a vision, alive to the poet, which the reader is asked to s har e .Thevi s i onhas ,i nt hepoe t ’ smi ndandhe ar t ,ame ani ngwhi c ht he poe mi sa ne f f or tt oe xpl or e ,andi fhe ’ sl uc ky,makec l e ar . Daniel Lusk is not a poet to skate over, appreciating his skill and accomplishment –the ability to focus imagery, unite disparates, use language with grace and power –and pass on to the next amusement. We ar ec ompe l l e dt oc opewi t ht hef a c tt hathe ’ ss e r i ous ,andi nc onve ni e nt enough to demand close attention. Behind what he writes are thoughts unsaid, a depth of hidden feeling, perhaps conflicts unresolved. The words he uses are never clumsy or obtuse, yet each poem poses a puzzle. We ’ l lt r y‘ Re l i g i oni nanAg eofBi c yc l e s ’ .Whate xac t l yhasr e l i g i on to do with the poem? And why should bicycles come in? I believe that he is writing about the reception of refugees or immigrants into the U.S.A. Or is it about the ceremony of baptism at puberty? Or both? “Whydi dnoo net e l lusaswec ame /outoft hee c ho i ngbapt i s t e r y shivering/ with the shock of cold water in our ears, the shock/ of salvation, whowewe r e ? ”I st her e f e r e nc et o‘ s al vat i on’ar e f e r e nc et or e l e as ef r om t he country of origin, or to the full religious rite, or again, both? The poet goes on:“. . .whats or r owwas he do ve rus ,s t andi ngbar e f o oti nt hede ac on’ s anteroom, a clutch of wretched birds,/ hair pasted to our foreheads and our beaks dripping redemption on the old wood./ Knowing nothing could be the s ame . /Whydi dt he yno tgi veusane wnamet ol i f tusup? ” Ki ndpe opl eac c e ptt he m,t aket he m home ,andhewr i t e s ,“Thi si s what I owned –myf at he r ’ sang e r ,mot he r ’ sl ong s uf f e r i ng–at war with me . ”Andhee nds“Iam l i s t e ni ngt omus i cl i ket hec r i e sofbi r ds–it is hard/ t odanc et obi r ds ongs .Whowo ul dt r y? ” How much remains unsaid? How much is realised? What is said may be unsayable. We cannot look at the questions raised by each poem; the astonishments which occur every page show clearly that Lusk is a poet of rare talent.
Big Pink Umbrella by Susan Millar DuMars Salmon Poetry www.salmonpoetry.com ISBN 978-1-903392-74-42 00 8€ 12 review by John Hudson Profound experience can generate great poetry but it can generate self-indulgent rambling. The poem is in the poetry and when combined with profundity we, the readers, are moved. Susan Miller DuMars Big Pink Umbrella evinces such theory with poetry that is at times electrical, fizzing and crackling across the empty spaces of dread, loss and apprehension, and at others mere proof that an MA in creative writing enables you to build a poem out of very little that truly matters. “Wi nt e r ,Eggs ”i sones uc he l e c t r i cpo e m.Thegat he r i ngofme mor i s e d fragments, slowly revealed narrative, syntactic sidestepping and imagery build to a shattering revelation and a carefully constructed metaphor for the way we preserve pain in memory. “Mor ni ngKi s s e s ”c apt ur e swe l lt hel i t t l ee c s t as y,a l mos tmys t i c a l , t hatwec a nf e e laf t e rpe r s onall os s .“Si l kSc ar f ”,t oo, r e l at e st oamome nt (or desire for one) that steps outside the ordinary into the exciting, mysterious world of uselessness. The book falls into two parts, the second opening with a poem of new de par t ur e ,“ToSyl vi aPl at h. ”I ti sr i s kyi nvoki ngwr i t e r ss oi c oni cand troubled but Susan Millar DuMars treads her own tightrope with sureness and poise while avoiding showy gestures - all prayer and no pretension. The second part has a focus outside the self, often towards the figure of“t hehus band” .“MyHus band,t heGr e atPo e t ”( f i r s tpubl i s he di n Markings 25) is affectionate look at a man and husband where DuMars ge nui ne l yc r e at e st wos phe r e sofi nt e r e s t ,whe r et he“ I ”oft hepoe tandt he being of another share the stage in happy partnership. Likewise the poem that gives the book its title. The juxtaposition of t hought sa bouts e l fandot he rar equi t et r ul y“s i ng i ngi nt her ai n”. This new-found happiness in another is, however, underscored by the i ns e c ur i t i e st hatt hr e adt hef i r s thal foft hebo ok.“Supe r mar ke tSe l ve s ” (also published Markings 25) closes the collection and returns to the self in a big wide world. “Ic an’ ts e et heuni ve r s e /whe nI ’ mi ns i dei t . /Al lIc a ns e e /i st hea i s l e I ’ m on. ” A collection is more than a loose assemblage of poems. DuMars knows this and provides us with a work of sustained focus that reveals the self in appropriate measure and eventually transcends personal concerns for the concerns of another and, ultimately, the reader as well.
Reliquaries by Angela Patten Salmonpoetry www.salomonpoetry.com ISBN 978-7-7745-6867-7/ 978-1-903392-62-1 review by John Hudson “Re l i quar i e s ”i sanuns we r vi ng l yf o c us s e dvo l ume ,o nei nwhi c he ac h poe m pr e s e r ve sapar tofPa t t e n’ spas t ,he rupbr i ng i ngi nSout he r nI r e l and and her life with her parents, sisters and friends in a poor part of a poor country dominated by Catholicism. Shewr i t e si nt hepoe m“ OurBr e at h”,“ Weknowt ha tt hi si st he meeting-pl a c e /ofours har e dvul ne r a bi l i t y”,andt hi s ,i fanyt hi ng,i st he truth of the collection. The book begins with the poet remembering an event at the age of eight and it finishes with a stark unveiling of death, “…l e t ’ sc al l /agr aveagr a ve . ”Be t we e ni sas e r i e sofmome nt swi t hhe r mother, who cannot pause for breath when talking, her father trying to unde r s t and“hi sl e ngt hy,baf f l i nge xi s t e nc e ”,he rs i s t e r s , f r i e ndsandt heodd relative in a restrictive and traditional society. She moves on to her migration to Vermont, her own children, and her current relationship. Havi ngr e j e c t e dgo dandonl ys ave dby“Andr e wCar ne g i e ’ sr e d-brick l i br ar y”,t hepoe thasr e pl a c e df a i t hwi t hme mor y.Thepr e s e r ve dpi e c e sofa s ai nt ,s uc hasStAnt hony’ s“bl a c ke ne dt ongue /l yi ngt he r ei nt hegl as sc as e c ur l e dl i keal i p”ar ema de ,t hr oughr e c a l l ,i nt oar tt hatl e ndshe rme ani ng. The humanity is profound even if, at times, the reader may feel that Patten is trying hard to prove a point by sheer prodigality of production. She writes with ease and wit. Her imagery flows naturally and fluently, she can change register without jarring, she avoids cliché and usually finds the telling phrase to unmask the truth of her subject. She will make you laugh, smile and frown. She will move you when you encounter, t hr o ughhe rwor ds ,t he“pr oofo ft hel ove r s /t he yhavebe e n”,t hel e t t e r s be t we e nhe rmot he randf at he rdi s c ove r e daf t e rhe rf at he r ’ sde at h. Is it all a little too fluent? Could not many of the poems be shorter, be a little more fashioned, employing rhythm and rhyme to greater effect? Reliquaries, after all, are often highly ornate caskets constructed to hold the vestiges of a past and holy life. Angela Patten, whose work I should add first appeared in Markings in 1998, is a seriously good writer with serious intentions which she realises engagingly.
Inside Out by Alastair Reid Selected poems and translations Polygon ISBN 978-1-84697 069 £14.99 review by JB Pick Alastair Reid was born in 1926 in Whithorn, where three cultures lie buried, leaving stones for company. He left the stones and churches and became a man of words and places, dusting off Scotland as soon as the Navy and the University of St Andrews would allow, dwelling with empathy and attention in France, Spain, the Caribbean, Central and South America and inevitably the U.S.A., finding himself staff writer of the New Yorker, posting unexpected reports from unexpected corners of the round world. Hewr i t e si napo e m‘ c hang e , c hang ei swhe r eIl i ve ’a ndhegoe s where words take him, so words may yet bring him home to this ancient land of quarrels and legends. Above all, and below all, he is a poet, and poetry is the most difficult of literary disciplines, for words are rooted in many dimensions, and demand an inner attention only possible when the poet is struck awake. They may arrive from the depths of nowhere, or the immediacy of s ome whe r et oc l a i mt hee xac t ne s soft he i rpl a c e .The yc an’ tbec ompe l l e dt o behave. Al as t ai rRe i d’ spoe msar epos i t i vea ndaut he nt i cwho l e s ,al i vewi t h people, things seen and realised, and the liberation of surprise, as words al i ghtl i kehomi ngbi r ds ,ore xpl or ene wc ount r i e soft hemi nd.‘ Wor ds ’ ,he wr i t e s ,‘ l i kewat e r ,mus tbeus e dwi t hc ar e . ’The yar eus e dt o owi t h af f e c t i on,br i oandr e s pe c t ,maki ngmus i c ,r e ve a l i ngme ani ng,‘ t he as t oni s hme nto fl ove , ’a ndawor l d‘ t hati nt hatmome nt ,c at c he sf i r e . ’ Since home is where words are, the change central, the poet gathered languages, in which he dwelt, and the second half of this book consists of translations at once bold and sensitive as he explores opposites –the e l us i ve ,s i de waysBor g e s( ‘ i nt hes ubs e que nts hado wsofot he rki ngdoms t he r ewi l lIbe /wai t i ngf ormys e l f ’ )andt hehe ad-onNe r uda( ‘ outofbl o odI c ar ve dmypo e ms ’ )s howi ngusani mpos s i bl ef e atc o mpl e t e d,r i c hwi t h phr as e sofhi so wn‘ gr adua lg al l e r i e s ’ ,‘ wande r i ngbe ne at hawave r i ng moon’ ,‘ t hec ar e s soff i r ei nt her oughc ol d. ’ This book will compel recognition of Alastair Reid as one of the most significant Scottish poets of the last fifty years.
Sang o the Mavis by Margaret Gillies Brown Poetry Scotland –Windfall Series ISBN: 1460-681x (W1) £3.00 review by Donald Adamson These poems are generous: to those they portray, and in the rich descriptions they provide. They are mainly good humoured, though with excursions –poetically welcome –into regret and loss. The good nature of the poems challenges the reader to find an equivalent mood: feet up, a glass of malt, a putting aside of dissatisfactions. And the poems themselves work best when they are not gulped down; for there is a uniformity in the patterning that becomes pronounced when the collection is read as a whole. Often there are twenty lines or so of exposition, followed by three or four lines of summing up; it was this latter aspect that I found least satisfactory –the explicitness in the way the reader is intended to interpret the poem. Perhaps the images could be left to do more of the work? However, I note that these poems would work well at poetry readings, when the experience is purely auditory. There are poems here which approach a more mysterious realm, and ar et hebe t t e rf ori t :‘ Wat e r s he ds ’i sone ,‘ TheRi ve rChi l dr e n’ano t he r . I liked the poems in Scots. The vocabulary and phonetics of the language moves the poet (perhaps any poet) towards toughness, thing-ness. Thus ,i n‘ Sur r e nde r i ng ’wehave‘ s c ar t i nmakne e so nt hes t ane s ’ ,andi n ‘ Robi n’wehavet hebo xwhe r et he‘ we l de rc hi e l ’has‘ par ke dhi sgog gl e s ’ . There is good, warm-hearted writing here. It feels almost churlish to l o okf or war dt oabr oade ni ngoft her a nge .St i l l ,I ’ dl i ket os e et hepoe ms including a modicum of sourness, wild humour or sheer daftness; to see the poe t‘ r at t l i nghe rs t i c ka c r os st hepubl i cr a i l i ngs ’ .Thepo e t i cr e s our c e sar e there that would allow her to do so.
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The Ravens and the Lemon Tree by Morelle Smith Poetry Scotland –Windfall Series ISBN: 1460-681X (W5) £3.00 review by Donald Adamson On the evidence of this collection, Morelle Smith writes few truly weak poems, and few weak lines. The poems have a fine sense of flow. Yet there are great differences in the pieces included. Many are travel poems: a ge nr et ha thasi t sdange r s ;pl a c e sbe c omes ubj e c t st hepoe t‘ ought ’t owr i t e about –a si fones ai dt oo ne s e l f‘ t hi si sAr l e s ,s oIs houl dwr i t eabo utVan Go gh’ .If i nds omemi s mat c hbe t we e nt hea s s oc i at i onst hate xi s tf ort he writer and what is transmitted by the poems. Nor did I take anything from the prose-poem texts from which the collection takes its name: to me, more raw material from a creative writing journal than finished work. I found a very different perspective in the remaining poems. Mor e l l eSmi t hi snotaf r ai dt ot a c kl ebi gs ubj e c t s .I n‘ Re me mbe r i ngt he Sunl i ghtont heGar de n’s her e ac he st o war dsame t aphys i c sbas e d, apparently, on a synaesthesia of light and time –not quite successfully in myvi e w,buti nt r i gui ng l y.‘ Fo ot pr i nt sonaTi l e dFl o or ’wo r ksbe t t e ri n conveying the experience poetically. Ot he rpoe msar ee xc e l l e nt . Il i ke d‘ We tEdi nbur ghNi ght ’wi t h its touch of self-mo c ke r y,and‘ Moo nBag’wi t hi t se xt e nde d,pl ayf ul c onc e i t .AndIwasde l i ght e dby‘ Ni ghtVi s i t or :Al mo s tMi ds umme r ’ ,whi c h draws on John Donne, T. S. Eliot and John Burnside to convey a wholly individual atmosphere, of evanescence, of something not-quite-graspable. He r epe r haps ,i sMor e l l eSmi t h’ smos taut he nt i ct r a ve lpo e m:ani nne r journey into night, twilight and dreams. The collection is worth having for this poem alone. I like poets who play with ideas, trying different approaches, taking risks. Morelle Smith has real ability and I want to read more of her work.
Voices from Glentrool & Merrick by Silvana Maclean and Mary Smith available from Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association Gracefield, 28 Edinburgh Road, Dumfries DG1 1NW review by John Hudson This well designed small brochure represents a much larger project celebrating the history and landscape around Glentrool and South West Sc ot l and’ shi ghe s thi l l ,TheMe r r i c k,whi c har ef oundi nt heGa l l o way Forest Park. The commission for the work came from Scottish Natural Heritage and the project was managed by DGAA. Designed by weesleekit ltd., whose director, Steve Kirkpatrick was responsible for the Markings logo, the presentation is as much a work of art as the poems and prints contained within the 16 pages of the booklet. Everything is in shades of grey and the paper is cream, however some of the images move too close to black. Atmospheric? Perhaps this is what the artist, Silvana Maclean intended. The poetry takes on a big subject, the changing cultures and landscapes of an environment. Mary Smith does an evocative job but too readily comes up against the sheer limits of language when dealing with s uc hhuget i me s c al e s .Theope ni ngpo e m“ Co l l i s i on”l i t e r a l l yc o l l i de swi t h this problem in the opening sentence. “5 00mi l l i onye a r sag ot heI ape t usOc e an/be g ant oc l os e–s l o wl y. ” Ge ol og i c alt i mer e s i s t ss uc hadve r bsas“s l o wl y”.Tobef a i rs headmi t s this a few lines later. “Tr yi ngt oa bs or buni ma gi nabl et i mes pans /wet e l e s c opet he ye ar s …” Theope ni ngofMa c Di ar mi d’ s“OnaRai s e dBe a c h”mi ghthave proved a useful, if difficult, model on how poetry and geology can meet. So much of the writing becomes telling rather than showing, even if it c ompl e me nt sMac l e an’ si mag e s .Thi ss e t st het oneandt e c hni quef ormuc h oft hewr i t i ngt hatf o l l o ws :“anc i e ntoakwoo ds ,c e nt ur i e so l d”( Ba l anc i ng Act) uses pleonasm to no effect and lists of objects abound but then we see t het r uewr i t e ri nhe r ,asi n“Los ti nt r ans l at i on”. “Onc e ,pe opl es poket he i rmaps . /… Onc e ,pe opl es po ket he i rl and/ andwha ti tme a ntt ot he m. ” Still telling, yes, but moving through territory where the poetry connects with the passage of time and we hear the evolution of a landscape through the words that denote it.
Viewing Point: Fifty poems by John Younger Bayons Books ISBN: 0-9521224-1-3 £5.00 review by Donald Adamson Born in 1930, John Younger was an artist and teacher of art until blindness ended his career in 1967. Yet the pathos in these poems exists in compassion for others, not in self-pi t y.Oneo fhi sf i ne s tpoe ms ,‘ Thanks , Sub-s t at i on1 9’de al sdi r e c t l ywi t hbl i ndne s s ,butaf f i r mat i ve l y, c ommuni c at i ngane wwayof‘ s e e i ng’t ot her e a de r . Younger is a poet who can be savoured by older readers because he looks back at a life lived, appreciating its ironies, both the inevitabilities andt her andomne s soft hi ngs .I n‘ Evi e ,Eve ,Eva,Eve l yn’hef ol l o wst he life of a school-mate down the years, meeting her at last in a supermarket, ‘ t hef i xe dc hanne l soft hos eai s l e s ’ .Nori sYoung e raf r ai dt of a c ehor r or s ,as i n‘ Somuc hSi l e nc e ’abouts ome onewhoc ommi t t e ds ui c i de : t hec us hi on ‘ s t ai ne dwi t hvomi t ’t hat‘ Ic oul dn’ twa i tt obur n’ .Andi n‘ Whi t eSat i n’he confronts the death of his sister from tuberculosis: the letters found af t e r war dst ha ts howe ds he ’ dhad‘ s e xwi t hano l de r ,mar r i e dman: /unt i l t hec oughi ngbe g an’ .Ye tYounge ra l s ot ake sde l i ghti nc omi cs i t uat i ons :I liked the sexy description of the match with a naked American Football l adi e s ’t e am ( ‘ Ve r s us ’ ) ,andt heaf f e c t i o nat ee vo c at i o nsofl e c t ur i ngt o unwi l l i ngori nc apabl es t ude nt s( al e s bi anc oupl ei n‘ Tut e l ar ye xpe r i e nc e ’ , andi n‘ Las tEs s a y’anappar e nt l yunr e c e pt i ves t ude ntwhone ve r t he l e s s wo ul d‘ l ovet odomyc o ur s eag ai n/knowi ngt he nwhats heknowsno w’ ) . Younger does not set out to dazzle with imagery or language, but can bes t r ong l yat mos phe r i c ,asi n‘ Shor t e ni ngDays ’ : Summer cooling, this is the time of sleepy wasps lurking in curtains or crawling on window sills or underfoot where, dying, they sting... Above all Younger is a poet who takes the reader with him on a journey of thought, arriving at unexpected destinations. I recommend this collection.
G B YOUNG Men Like Any Other Balthazar tried to pull out; waiting for his ship, he said, butweal lkne whe ’ dbe e nwai t i ngmor et hanf or t yye ar s . I fhehad,Iwoul dn’ thaveg one :aut umnhasi t sownpr obl e ms , wandering for weeks on camel-bac kwas n’ tonet oadd. Melchior pressured us, saying the caliph would be cross ( weunde r s t oodhi sme ani ng)i fwedi dn’ tgo ,s owewe ntthough it was clear he picked us because among the old, the wise, the nearly retired, we were most dispensable, and as ambassadors to no one in particular hewoul dn’ tr i s kame r c hantwi t has hi pr e a l l yc o mi ngi n. Of course, when we arrived, mindless with boredom, having no idea how a bright spot drifting over sand could pick one special house, we took pot-luck. The r ewasnot hi ng ,po orpe opl ewhoc oul dn’ tpa yt he i rbi l l s . Wel e f tt hec al i ph’ sg i f t s- I hate to think of the trouble i fwe ’ dt ake nt he m bac k,andt he y’ ddot os e tt hel adup. Buthe r e ’ st hepoi nt :af t e rt r ac ki ngt hatdamne dl i g ht , ame r c hantwe ’ dpa s s e dbe f or er odeupt os ay it shone over the three of us as much as anywhere. Which was how we concocted a story to placate the boss and explain, unsatisfactorily, where the gifts had gone. Me l c hi oral wa yss ai dhi snameme ant‘ ki ngofl i g ht ’note ve nhal f wayapti fyou’ vebe e nl uc kyandne ve rme tso we used his secret meaning and satisfied the court. I just wanted to say we were sorry that not being honest and taking the easy way caused so many problems later on.
CELIA PURCELL Re mbr a ndt â€™ sEye s Many years ago, we lived together in a small room. Our place had charm, with spotlights up above and this portrait I will never forget, of a man whof ol l owe dmye ve r ys t e pt hr oug hRe mbr andt â€™ se ye s . He knew the pair of us intimately. Felt the brush of each towel against canvas and even disappeared at intervals from kettle steam. Other times, he became so frank in his gaze, my own would drop discreetly to sun pool on our bedspread where I leapt at night between sheets after drying. He was always there, this guy, the veritable arms giver and probably a God fearing man too, in his hose and doublet. Pity I would often think, he had been given such a morose countenance, those extended legs like stick insects and that frightful superciliousness. Then when you came in, fogged by alcohol, things got a lot worse. Our third party witness to piss of the century and the mad woman upstairs bellowing for Willesden, who never had a stitch on. In retrospect, I bet my man still stares tenants down from his dusty nail, eyes like chestnuts on trail of fornication as if he were judge and jury. But I kind of miss him now, for being around at moments of vital evidence when you hurled your suitcase at the door and a porcelain splinter fell off somewhere, to find itself in my thigh. Truth is, man up on the wall became for moments almost soulful with his promise of a white handkerchief. We had a thing going, no doubt about it, though of course he never moved the game plan much. One hell of a beard, I remember. I wish he had taken my arm, made sedate bow to my curtsy. Days would have come again when our waltzes were perfect, when summer was back and flowers swung approvingly at us from a great height. I might even have asked his name. 133
In Memory Her voice comes to me early sometimes when I wake on a sunny day, as if she is no further than the room across passages, calling my name. Softly at first, I hear floorboards move and it could be her up first thing with some monologue dressed in high stilettos. Or blinds caught by breeze from open windows so that chimes accompany this eager prising for light, busy through an avalanche of clothes. Strange how many sounds follow on routine â€“ thuds from below that are surely her too, the kettle ready against permanent background noise of radio. I remember those short fingernails often painted scarlet and because reasons for working were not understood, t al kt o okonphi l os ophi e sI â€™ dne ve rhe ar dof . Last days those were, though we hardly knew it then, or how talk needs succour and how precious life is. Now I listen to her voice closer than I ever did before, as if some hidden mantra will lift my spirit from a place bereft. Fresh sounds intrude to carry me on. But she is there still, bright with peculiar descants and making history in the old room, her daily orchestra about to commence.
MALCOLM RAMSAY In Memoriam: ASW Often I confess you irritated me with you dour shambling ways, and your determination to resign yourself for days to a glowering mood as pronounced as the bearskin hat you used to wear, come rain or shine. Yet, when coaxed, you had a wonderful gift for mimicry, and your eyes soared with fun as you imitated those earthy Dundonian cleaners: broad in accent, broad in beam, broad in bust, armed with a ready supply of dry humour, mopping the floor there in the hospital corridors, where your wife took such endless weeks to die. Ah, dear God, if only their gruff ministrations and coarse speech could have wiped away your grief as well; but that was beyond all reach. You did not feel any hope, any light. Sometimes the broken heart resists all help; even when it has lost all other strength to fight. Later, when I saw you coming, I never knew if I should dodge away, or stand my ground. Your burdens weighed me down as well, so, selfishly, I often took the long way round to save myself. But that was then. Iwonâ€™ tne e dnowt omaket ha tgui l t yc ho i c e . I â€™ l lne ve rs e eyouc omeagai n. And now I find I knead the bruise you left. Is something lost? Or something found? For me an unexpected sense of loss. For you, I pray, your sorrows downed. 135
Luskentyre Thedyi ngmanâ€™ sl as tde s i r e was to be able to return once more to his native Harris; to hobble down to the shore and see his West Highland Terrier chase the sticks that he threw; to hear the seabirds call in songs unchanged since the time he first knew he belonged to that place; to walk slowly along the immense deserted sands of Luskentyre, and gaze out on the shifting colours of the endless sea; to feel the strong scouring wind afire on his ashen skin; to watch the waves come steadily in, as they always had, and to sense the sand being sucked out, then washed in, then sucked out, then washed in.
Drowned Cow I â€™ ds e e nawagt a i lf l i t t i ngaboutonape r c h Of black and white a bit further downstream. As I neared it, my oar stirred some enormous Stench up out of the weeds. And lifted, slightly, a crust of Friesian fur That was all that survived of its hide. I cleaned some weeds aside and stared along The grey meat and the white bone that sloped Down through the clear water to a vast pale cloud That lurked beneath the lily shadows, Its flanks lit by the glint of grazing fish As the unwanted sunlight caught them. As I drifted along, I could just make out The legs, dangling straight down as if it Still stood as it must have done, thirsty on the bank, Gazing at the luscious water. The stink was making me retch so I rowed away. I took a last look back and saw her head-on. Below the little island of fur her skull rocked gently In my wake, the dropped jaw lifting and falling.
STEPHEN DEVEREUX Frozen Pike We ’ dne ve rs e e nt her i ve rf r e e z ebe f o r e And walked across it to the other side While men and women skated or dragged Kids in sledges like a scene from Breughel. We found a narrow dyke frozen to its roots, Each reed stiff and separate like bristles In a broom. Something blacker and greener than the ice Was held between the frozen stems. We broke off The reeds where they stuck through the ice to get A better view and glimpsed a four pound pike – Fins extended, tail tensed, as if about To swim away. Had it been sleeping there As the water solidified from above Or had it waited in ambush, felt the mud Stiffen, but kept still, its instinct too strong To give itself away? With a rusty broken spade and a bit of slate We dug down. Did we think that we might Find it alive? Or did we imagine Dragging it dead onto the snow heaped bank, To show how we had understood the world Better than it had? Thei c ewoul dn’ tgi ves owet hr e ws t ones l abs Into the hole. Some hidden fissure gave And we broke through. But where the fish had been There was only more ice. A bit more green And blacker than the rest, maybe, but no Fins, no spine, no grinning jaws, no skin. We stood back to see if its shape was still In the reeds, somewhere where we had not dug. But it was gone. 138
MALCOLM RAMSAY Homecoming: for Megan It was not until I laid your place for dinner, - making three, instead of two that I realised how intoxicated I felt that you were almost back home; that, and leaving the letter for you to lie unopened, knowing that you would now be able to read it for yourself, this very day, at this very table. Strange how even moments so sublime and liminal are enfleshed in the dailyness of life. The aroma of resurrection wafted not on argument or fable, but in knives and forks and spoons; and in the eggshell blue of a foreign aerogramme label, that waits, in certainty, for you.
JAMES MCGONIGAL Mystery Tr e e st ookt hewi nd’ sf i nge r pr i nt s ,andgo ds threshed in those whorls –caught! Mystery leaked from leaves like poetry, the subtlest motion round a rooted point, that sound of one tree swaying in a crowded wood. Andwhatnoi s edi di tma ke ,howl i kear i ve r ’ sbr e at h, howdi f f e r e ntf r om t her ai n’ spe r s i s t e ntque s t i oni ng? No,Idon’ tt hi nkwehe ar d.Andi twon’ tber e pe at e d. We should have moved closer in –could easily have like birds into their chosen shade. Not now.
Soundings Pine trees and rowans swayed as they took the measure of light from night into morning. Not a bird could be heard among riverbank leaves: the smell of blood drives them away. Look up –the last star is pointing which way to go along the hill, above the dark within the dark valley, its river uncoiling like hair. So whistle your own bird-thrapple tune to the air. Where the last man fell a spring is still seeping from eyelids of grass somewhere near here.
Ironing Always there, waiting to be done. It reproaches me. But today I Begin it like a meditation, slowing down To the sweep of each line As the iron glides and smoothes, Moving beyond the drudgery of it to this Fully opened present: the room wide with sunshine, The varnished floorboards gleaming. Above the sharp edges of the town The sky is dissolving into itself with a slowness I follow and make conscious. Each time I pause, tilting back the iron, I create high up on the wall a honeycomb of light As I carefully put away this folded minute.
Heron Hunched in peat brown water, ragged, with piercing eyes, you remind me of a teacher who years ago, gifted me love of poetry. Fine grey hair, slicked down, slate blue tweed jacket topped long grey flannelled legs. Head, twisting on a scrawny neck, fought restrictions of stiff collar and tie, while sharp eyes sought out wrigglers and dreamers. Fastening their attention, he captured hearts with words and fished for imagination.
Spring 2008 Twelve ducks on a pond blue sky beyond an island to nest onedr akewho â€™ sar a ke - we all know the rest.
Fit for Purpose Shoes should always fit the feet but lingerie should fit the occasion.
The Bakehouse & Markings Magazine Programme of Events December 2008 to May 2009 December 6
Gerry Cambridge –poetry and music Poet, photographer, musician, editor and critic
Alan Riach Ce l e br at eBur nsNi ghtwi t honeofSc ot l and’ s liveliest poets and scholars.
WN Herbert From enfant terrible to literary statesman? Find out where former Dumfries and Galloway Writer in Residence is today.
Vicki Feever Established as a leading voice on Scotland's literary scene, Vicki Feever returns to Galloway.
Launch of Markings 28 Thene xtout i ngf oroneofSc ot l and’ sf or e mos tl i t mags. An evening featuring a host of talent. Performances start 7.30pm Tickets £7.50 (£6.00 concs) 44 High Street, Gatehouse of Fleet, DG7 2HP
01557 814175 email@example.com The Bakehouse is a performance space dedicated to poetry and the spoken word. It aims to promote interest and skills related to writing in Dumfries and Galloway through events that give local writers an opportunity to hear high quality work; opportunities to read their own work; workshops that provide an opportunity to share new work and obtain feedback from group leaders and other writers and a partnership with the co-located arts magazine Markings. The Bakehouse is a company limited by guarantee without share capital with a membership of individuals committed to the arts and a voluntary management committee.