Friday, April 30, 2010

This Creative Mularky

is taking over one's life. What happened to the care free days and long sunny afternoons drinking hunners of pints of guinness and worrying about nothing beyond how many goals Hibs were going to give away in the last fifteen minutes or whether Lydia's go-go hampster wasn't working because it had run out of batteries or because I'd just stood on it?

Just experienced 2 days of fevered creativity. The sort I do, of course, involving lots of stress and fuck all money.

1. The Tide Machine. You should visit this if you can. it's a crazy and original construction designed to operate as a performance space while simultaneously revealing the secrets of the universe. As you can see from the pictures, it attracted a lot of attention from wet children and fashionably dressed seafood.

2. Creativity day on Thursday at school involved me taking a small group of kids and encouraging them to write stories and poems about the tide. Not content with getting the work done by the end of the day I had the insane idea to get them to make their own books containing the work. I blame Hugh Bryden for this new and sinister instinct.

3. I also have been sewing 'Lost Gardens' on the bus, at the toilet, in my sleep.....
but the book is to be launched tamara at the Bakehouse in Gatehouse and at the Midsteeple on June 2nd. Anyone who cannot attend and wishes to get the book should contact Roncadora at roncadora or press the amended button on the top right. For God's sake add to your cart.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Light is lemon wrung
in slate cloud,
douce on children’s skin.
Their faces are bright
as film.
As time goes,
it’s hard to see them,
they are fast and sleek as fish.
They lurk in the hems
of eyelids with their gurgling,
lure you down
to long forgotten shirt sizes,
half remembered pain.
It is incorrigible
their endless trying
to make sense or nonsense
of everything,
the artifice of children
still conniving with the world.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Up and coming poets. Darcy Carson in the middle, Charlotte Singleton on her right, Naomi Temple on her left

This is a young person's game and no mistake. Spent yesterday sacrificing myself on the altar of poesy.

First of all took 4 charming young women on the train to the National Gallery of Scotland where two of them- Naomi Temple and Charlotte Singleton- were receiving prizes in the ICreate Competition. All the work was read out as the paintings that inspired it were displayed. Absolutely cracking stuff. My highlights were- apart from Naomi and Charlotte- a girl from firhill Edinburgh called Annie Forbes who wrote a stunning and powerful poem about a Tiger Hunt and who won the under 15 category, and Darcy Carson from Wallace Hall who won the 16-18 category. Most of the work, if you'd read it cold, you would mistake for a very gifted and experienced adult writer's. Naomi and Charlotte's poetry can soon be seen in an anthology of poems for the Moat Brae Trust entitled 'On the Grass Cloud'. Some of the young people in this anthology will be reading their work at Dumfries Academy on the Moat Brae Open Night (6.00pm Wednesday 28th April Minerva Hall)

I then returned to see the girls back to Dumfries before embarking on another train north to the Gutter Reading at the National Library in Edinburgh. This was very entertaining, I read and caught up with some old friends like Kevin Williamson of Rebel Inc. Some drink was taken then the 11pm train to Glasgow where, after a seriously painful curry ,I eventually got to bed about 2, got up at 6 and got the train to school. Once upon a time I would have taken this mularky in my stride but I must confess to feeling today like I've been run down by a train.

Two pieces of news: The Lost Garden is out and due to be launched at the Bakehouse on May 1st and the Midsteeple on June 2nd.
and.....the other? It's most exciting but I'm afraid I'm not allowed to tell you for another two weeks.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Following a recent poetry event I had a discussion with another poet from the Nith Valley who had spent the reading chewing the cuffs of his shirt because he thought the work being read was "not part of our culture". This followed something flattering (and probably quite untrue) that someone said at Willie's funeral and it got me thinking about whether we have a responsibility or imperative to write as part of a Scottish cultural tradition, or whether we're part of that tradition no matter what we write. I don't mean this in any narrow nationalistic way, in fact I subscribe completely to the view that Scottish poetry is at its most energetic when absorbing or reacting to different and fragmented internal influences in what someone once described as a "potent concentration of hybrid vigour". It's MacDiarmid's Caledonian Antisyzygy, or MacIllvaney's "mongrel nation" but the implication behind it is that influences are absorbed into 'Scottish' poetry and although that changes the dynamics the poetry remains identifiably Scottish. Does it? And will it always? "How many more reiki therapists from the Home Counties will it take to turn North Uist into a cultural wasteland?" a friend from Stornoway jokingly wrote recently.

People writing in Scots and Gaelic do not have this problem, of course, but those who write in English may. Especially those whose poetry is essentially mapping out an internal landscape. I'm reminded of the fact that many of his countymen choked when Dylan Thomas was described as being a 'Welsh' poet. I feel quite sensitive about this because linguistically I am one step away from Scotland's two languages (my mother was a native gaelic speaker and my father's family were miners from Auchinleck and Cumnock)but write in English.

Of course I write a lot about Scotland, its history, and my place in it. Maybe that does.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Willie Neill

Sad news that Willie Neill has died. Willie was born in Prestwick and came to teaching and literature after the RAF. He wrote powerfully in the three languages of Scotland and was for as long as I can remember the pre-eminent writer in Dumfries and Galloway and one of the best, though too often unacknowledged as such, in Scotland. If we had a Makar as they do in the big cities, Willie would have been in deserved possession of the title, not that he would have prized such a thing, as he said himself.

Such macho stunts a young man often tries
to win an option on the world's approval.
When Nemesis occasions their demise
the issue's hid from them by their removal.
Take my advice, accept the worst of bosses,
stick to the farm, the office, cut your losses.
Posthumous gongs are hardly worth the wearing.
In Hades, the pale phantom's past all caring.

Willie's was a great support to me when I started writing and he will be sadly missed by many. His funeral is in Castle Douglas on Tuesday 13th.