Friday, October 31, 2008

My breath is white.
It’s wintertime:
more than weather
it’s the ghost of hunger,
small sounds in the night,
a strangling of light.

I walk through haar,
through the town’s cobbled crust,
past smeared shadow,
mirrors in green glass. As I go,
halos of lamp turn to will o’ wisp,
neon to bone fire.

Moon cracks cloud
and the clock face freezes.
I burrow in a guise
no wraith will recognise,
professional, of Dumfries,
out for an hour.

In my Apple-land
they quietly wait,
souls lost, souls gained,
finger tips on window panes.
I raise a glass to Hecate,
drink, ab ovo usque mala.

Ab Ovo Usque Mala- from the egg to the apple, from birth to death, the circular path.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back Yam.

So I received my ten thousandth visitor while I was getting rattled about Loch Scridain like a frozen pea in a bucket. Thanks to all who dally here.

I am back from the golden Treshnish Isles and the long bleak wetlands of Glen More. What a beautiful part of the world, even in a force 10 when the boat can't berth and you have to hang onto the bar on the ferry with both hands and one leg.

A great night in the Oban Inn with a largely captive but hugely appreciative audience. This has encouraged me to plan Phase 2 of the Tour next Spring. The good thing about 'guerrilla' readings is that you're bringing the stuff to an audience most of which wouldn't dream of going to a poetry reading in their lives. You bring good entertainment as well as showing that poetry is accessible and relevant to everyone's lives. That's my mission statement anyway.

Tobermory not as successful I think due to wrong venue but I know what went wrong there and will avoid pitfalls like that in the future. Back to work tomorrow which will be a shock after such varied shenanigans. Then in 2 weeks a reading with Tessa Ransford at the Bakehouse in Gatehouse where I hope to shift the last of the Hedge. Then Edinburgh with the bold Rachel Fox.

In the next wee while I will lurk more among the curtain hems of Scotland's history and try and produce some more squibs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

back and away

Majorca beautiful and sunny. Gale force winds in Penpont last night but a fine kick off to the Postcards Tour. Off this morning to Oban. Will take some pics and post them when we get back.

Two more of the History pomes written. Here's an obscure one:

Pope Boniface V111 Sums Up the Evidence

In 1301 in the conflict between King John Balliol and Edward 1 of England, both sides were at great pains to present evidence to the Papacy to support their positions: Edward I’s being that the Scots were historically subject to the English crown.; the Scots being that their nation was of greater antiquity than England. Edward 1 was represented by a battery of lawyers, Scotland by one Baldred Bissett whose colourful take on Scotland’s history won over the Pope.

“We have puzzled over these petitions
Not least because both pursuants
speak the same tongues
and possess many of the same dislikeable attributes…
The testimony of the English Crown
is scholarly, deep in genealogy and law
and drawn from venerable sources beyond repute.
Its argument- that the Scots were but a younger
branch of the tribe that migrated to Brittania
after the Roman conquest- has impressed
the lawyers and historians of the Holy See.
Baldred Bissett on the other hand claims,
with no evidence at all, that the Scots
are descended from a daughter of Pharaoh
who, after a heavy night with some Irish sailors
in Ayia Napa, found herself drifting at sea
and later washed up at Lochgilphead
with a strange stone (which later disappeared),
all this while the Romans- to use his own words-
‘were a piss-poor tribe of skanks in mud huts.’
Bissett also claims to have incontrovertible proof of this
but left it in a kebab shop last night in the Piazza Navona…”

Friday, October 10, 2008


A hiatus. Mr and Mrs Shug and the shuglets are off to Spain till a week on Saturday and as the highly volatile Postcards from the Hedge tour kicks off on Monday 2oth there may be little time amongst the mayhem to make blog entries. I have left Theosyphilis Neill in charge of my affairs so please send all enquries, communications, to The Secure Unit, Drumsleet and District Mental Health Hub, Gormenghast Road, Drumsleet.

Anyone remotely in the vicinity of Penpont on Monday 20th, the Oban Inn in Oban on the 21st or the Mishnish, Tobermory Isle of Mull on the 22nd October is welcome to come in and sample artistic delights beyond imagining.

And of course on Friday November 14th from 8.00 pm Rachel Fox and I and a bevy of talented musicians will be entertaining in the Forest Cafe, Bristo Place in Edinburgh. Admission Free.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Frank's Funeral 9/10/08

You were just gone. A
thrush sang, a butterfly passed
softly through the crowd.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Michael Scott of Balwearie

Once called "the most renowned and feared sorceror and alchemist of the 13th Century", Michael Scott was born in the borders in 1175. His life is the stuff of legend . He features in Dante's Inferno as one "who knew how the game of magic fraud was played." He also featured in Boccaccio's writing as one of "the greatest masters of necromancy." More recently Walter Scott featured him prominently in the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel.' Michael Scott is reputed to have split the Eildon Hills, ridden the back of a sea monster and, most helpfully, rid the land of plague by shutting the disease up in a secret room in Glenluce Castle.

The truth seems to be that he dabbled seriously in the occult and in areas of "light and suggestion"(hypnosis? ) but as a sideline. He was in fact a brilliant scholar. He studied in Oxford before going to the Sorbonne in Paris where he became known as Michael the Mathematician. He then travelled to Padua where one of his pupils was reputed to be Fibonacci, and then to Toledo where he learned to read Arabic and came into contact with the brilliant scholars of the Muslim world as well as writings of key figures like Aristotle which had been translated into Arabic but were still largely unknown to Christian Europeans. In Palermo he became Astrologer Royal in the Court of King Frederick 11 with whom he had a great friendship. Before leaving Palermo he predicted the date, time, place and manner of the Emperor's death, details which were later said to have been entirely accurate. After a few years in Germany he then returned to England and then to, it is said, one of the Cistercian monasteries of southern Scotland, possibly Melrose where the turbaned statue beside the tomb above is said to depict him.

Michael Scott of Balwearie

“Every great project in Scotland is said to be the work
of William Wallace, the Devil or Michael Scott
of Balwearie.”: Sir Walter Scott

After his death the legend grew.
When the light was jagged on the Eildon Hills,
a contrast of sun and black shadows,
and heaven seemed poised skewered
on the razor tips of mountains,
his horse, scattering bairns and silencing the bells,
was said to clatter down the road to Hell.
In his grave in seven silver books
were the secrets of light and alchemy
gathered from a journey round the world
on the back of a kelpie.

The truth is scarcely less fantastic.
He walked from Oxford to Palermo,
learned Arabic, found Aristotle,
out-argued the best brains of the day.
On his way home, bringing the Renaissance
to Melrose 200 years before the rest
of western Europe, he stopped in Toledo
to learn the secret of distillation,
of ‘aqua ardens’, (whisky to you and me ).
No wonder among the dubs and moss
and wet sheep, they thought he was magic.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Postcard from Drumsleet

The Drumsleet launch of Postcards was well attended, and many books were sold. The Arts Association Riot Squad insisted that ticketless fans, such as Theosyphillis Neill and MacDuff, watch proceedings on a large screen in the centre of town with the result that the launch was a gentle, arty affair. (Above you can see the scene in Drumsleet's November Revolution Square, and, if you have good eyesight, make out Theosyphillis on the extreme right of the picture asking for a lend of a fiver till Monday.)
The Arts Association also thoughtfully laid on a free bus for senior citizens so that they could come from the many local retirement homes and, in exchange for a small glass of port and lemon, surrender their pensions for the sake of the Arts.
Even my sister, an aristocratic old lady of 96, came all the way from Jordanhill to put a small down-payment on a copy.
Many local celebrities attended including Dumfries' finest Makar, and the lady who, when drunk, can whistle the theme tune from Cats through her nose.
All in all it was a fine event, and merely the precursor for the Postcard tour yet to come. In the 3rd week of october we hit the Highlands! Oban, Mull and the renal unit in Ullapool.