16 December 2012


It's nearly the end of the year. Time has passed, as is its wont.

For now, as this is likely to be my last post until the New Year, I'll leave you with the poem Andrew Motion longlisted for the Rialto prize, which is a favourite of hare-lover (and painter) Claudia Massie. This poem is also dedicated to her son, Luca.

Baud is an old word for hare. When I lived on the Carse of Stirling they were my constant familiars. Here's Durer's famous 'young hare':


Everyday child a muckle band of bauds crouch flatly in a private ring
chucking & staring across the carse, or do such strange other things

now that winter is dead & their forms unfrozen. One lanky baud lopes
up the tarmac & stares glassy-eyed into the fenced-off garden & mopes

before cantering off bandy-hocked - two months before the same baud
was hungry & wistful in the heaped up snow, never closer then the ford

that crosses the old carse road a way north, cutting icy blades with his teeth.
Just so the muckle band creep to the fence & when folk are within their reach

race together to a new private ring & dance outside human grasp, long legs
& ears jerky like the wind that spring has quickened. Then silence. Time lags.

They take to their forms, switch them daily. The private rings disperse or die
& the bauds drop leverets on four feet & tell them to run. The old bauds cry

& settle into their last shapes but the wee bauties scratch & gallop & grow their
magic quickly, they want in to the ring; they learn to keep the secrets of air

& body quiet inside, then flare sometimes blue like a harebell's autumn flame
as they run with the passing ghosts that blur beside them & no-one can name.

02 October 2012

The Rialto/ Scottish Review of Books/ Literary Dundee/ Screech Owl: Autumn 2012

I recently reviewed the elegiac, mysterious 'The Old Ways' by Robert Macfarlane for the Scottish Review of Books. I explore the appearance of ghosts and the spectral nature of wayfaring that Macfarlane recognises along his way, and if you feel so inclined you could read that here.

I've also got a poem coming out in Literary Dundee's most recent anthology. The Dundee Literary Festival is well worth a look - loads of interesting folk will be there, the Makar Liz Lochhead being one of them.

I was inordinately chuffed to have my poem 'Baud' longlisted for the Rialto (with the RSPB) and their 'Nature Poetry Competition'. I once wrote a very rude poem about Sir Andrew Motion, so am glad he has decided my more recent poems are not quite so bad. May that never show the light of day.

Grant Tarbard at The Screech Owl is already clocking up an impressive bunch of poets - George Szirtes, Rob A. Mackenzie etc. The poem I wrote for Edwin Morgan is on there now - it is called 'The Gypsy Principle'.

There are a few good online poetry sites out there now - some established, some newer. Helen Ivory's 'Ink Sweat & Tears' is well-regarded, prolific and well-presented. She published my poem 'Wyoming' a while back. This is turn led me to meeting (virtually) the lovely Josephine McCorcoran who runs 'And Other Poems' - she has an ever-growing selection of excellent poetry that is well worth a look at. My 'Astrology' is also there.

30 May 2012

Magma 53

I've got a new poem in Magma 53, edited by Rob A. Mackenzie & Kona Macphee - you could buy it here if you were so inclined

23 May 2012

What a Card!

I am a massive fan of science fiction novels. One of my favourites is Ursula K. Le Guin's novel Left Hand of Darkness, which deals, in part (although in typical Le Guin style the scope is much wider) with questions of gender. The main character comes from a neuter society where gender has no bearing. I found this book incredibly enriching. Imagine my joy when The Artist, whilst turfing out books, handed me a few science-fiction novels I hadn't read (like all science-fiction readers I am a consummate geek and will usually have read the ENTIRE SERIES said book belongs to fifteen times). 

One of the books was A Planet Called Treason by Orson Scott Card. Imagine my further joy when the main character, a virile, war-mongering male, grows breasts and is cast out from the kingdom. I was hoping for another gender-questioning marathon to brighten my day. I haven't quite finished it yet. But whilst checking out Orson Scott Card's info online I notice his words in a recent article:

"The dark secret of homosexual society -- the one that dares not speak its name -- is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally."

He is a Mormon, like Mitt Romney - also 'shaky' to say the least on gay rights.  I am going to finish the book but that has sucked the enjoyment right out of it. I'm wondering if an author's opinion on social, political and cultural questions outside of their novels should really affect us as readers? It does me, I have to say. 

There's a anti-wideboy rap song (I forget the name) that says something along the lines of: how strange it is, that we listen to James Brown's love songs whilst he in his spare time beat the shit out of his wife (I think it sounds better rapped, but Blogger don't do sound effects). Makes you think twice about getting down to a Brown song. 

Ach, who knows. But if you are not put off by any of my leanings, head to the Scottish Poetry Library website and check out 'Soldier II', held by Roddy Lumsden to be one of the top twenty poems of the year. Who am I to disagree? I would like to make it clear at this point that I love ponies and rainbows, if that helps. Mr Scott Card would not approve - but Liz Tayor and Joan Collins most certainly would.

02 May 2012

Mary Beard is the Thinking Person's Thinking Person

Mary Beard is all. Samantha Brick & AA Gill - shame on you. AA Gill I met your Dad once, he was a gentleman. You, it seems, are not.

10 January 2012

A Cold Eye

Despite Scottish poet Richie McCaffrey's recent suggestion that poets should read as much poetry as possible, sometimes it is a relief to return to one solid mind, much revered, consistently instructive. Although Richie is right, of course. I especially appreciated his assertion that poets should always read and support the journals and magazines they submit to. In my guise as editor of New Linear Perspectives, I once received a submission from an American poet who shall remain nameless. Shortly after, an NLP e-newsletter was sent out, whose mailing list said poet asked in no uncertain terms to be removed from. I suggested he stay on the newsletter mailing list if he expected his poetry to be considered for publication. He sent back an e-mail in large font, blue ink, which said "Fuck you, asshole". This comment itself was poetic in its way - shame that feisty sentiment didn't find its way into his poetry.
   Back to the point; one solid mind. I often return to Michael Donaghy's poetry. Gutter published my geeky paean to the man last year. He was once my teacher at an Arvon Foundation course in Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath's old place in Yorkshire. I didn't really know him, he wasn't a friend. He was like a hero at the time - I was only 15 or 16. He has become even more of a hero since, as his image grows, expands, mystifies with time. More of him in a moment.
   I've been discussing with my friend the Artist the merits of activism recently. A lot of middle-class acquaintances seem to be taking the world's problems on board and saying something about it. Part of the discussion pointed toward a feeling of embarassment - an almost cringeworthy nature - to some of these outpourings from privileged westerners. However, another side of the argument centred upon righteous anger, and a feeling that there was a need to express it in some way. At the moment I feel myself leaning more towards a sensation of indignation, but the problem still remains - how to express that. Certainly, I am no political poet; the likes of the extremely erudite George Szirtes have fought for, and stand blazing, on that platform. But there is no harm in attempting to express this indignation through poetry. This all sounds wishy-washy, I know, but there is a deeply old-fashioned, very British spirit at work (perhaps even a sort of guilt) that disallows activism on the premise that is rather infra dig. De trop, as I said sniggeringly to the Artist. But it isn't really, on second thoughts, a time for sniggering. Everyone has the right to speak out. Should everyone speak out? I can't answer that question. However, poetry as an artform is bound to pose a series of questions, and create a platform at least for speculation.
   Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland recently published one of my poems, about the London riots of Summer 2011. Later she sent me an e-mail suggesting I send it to Alan Morrison of The Recusant, a socialist poetry journal, who are about to release The Robin Hood Book, an anthology of poetry and writing that takes its name from the "Robin Hood Tax". He duly accepted it, and also one of my father Willie Giles' poems - he writes his 'end-of-capitalism' blog The World According to Willie here. These poems could at least be a way for 'kith and kin', as Morrison puts it, to question actions they feel may be unjust and thus place the argument in the public sphere.
   Michael Donaghy wasn't a political poet either. He was too wise, perhaps. Too fun. He saw beyond mere politics to a subtler fabric that binds and undoes the universe. However, his poem 'Blinder' has a sinister tone that encapsulates a current world counternarrative. It is as suggestive as it is menacing.
   Who is the dark prince, "standing in the shadow of the sun?" "He is a great prince, taking the form of a thrush,/ He made the market. He makes it crash". What a horrifying figure; a latterday Colossus ("And he is big. Oh, he is global") - disguised as something rather appealing. He knows exactly what we are up to, "and has already read and censored this":

He is bright foam on the wave,
sustained cold fusion in a plasma cocoon,
and incurable virus, a pocket watch.
His eyelid opens and he snaps it shut.
He casts a cold eye. He eyes you up.

from Blinder, Michael Donaghy

That cold reptilian eye is a suitably nightmarish image and I think a successful way to suggest that something's not quite right. No answers. No blatant flag-waving. Just under-your-skin, in-your-bones imagery that may lie dormant momentarily. It may just wake up.