Another old school book.
A subject I enjoyed a lot when I went to secondary school was elementary geometry. Used to like working out different ways of solving a problem beyond the first-discovered evidently “correct” one. I remember once when we had been told the solution in class to a set problem and I proposed my different way of solving it, the teacher said my final proof was what we would later find was called proof by analogy.
These elemental geometric shapes remind me of my triptych “For those of us who have to live outside the narrative”. And the pleasure I felt when one of my sons told me that when he grew up he wanted “to study shapes in nature.”
Nationalism and charismatic leaders 1936 - 2014
Tickets are now available for the staged reading of my translation of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children which will be held at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow on Saturday April 5th. The event will begin at 7.45 pm and will be with professional actors directed by Tam Dean Burn. Tickets £3 can be booked online or by telephone here
The book of my translation has now been brought to publication by Smokestack Books. Copies from the first week of March will be able to be bought from the publisher's website and I will put the link here in the journal when that happens.
I have put up the excerpts of my verse sequence so far on the current situation regarding Westminster and Scotland here
At last, after two years of political vacuity from politicians and journalists in Scotland; of ubiquitous displays of rhetorical posturing and counterposturing; the debate about Scottish independence has begun.
It is nothing to do with “self” determination, and nothing to do with imperialism; nothing to do with “accents of the mind”, nothing to do with the Scottish Enlightenment—which happened after the Act of Union; nothing to do with whether Protestantism and Presbyterianism represented the triumph of lateral diffused democracy over hierarchical centralised Catholicism—though that is a matter worthy of thought.
It is nothing to do with “the Scottish character”, nothing to do with a “desire for fairness”. It is nothing to do with gender, nothing to do with “the Nordic model”. It is nothing, even, to do with “the people of Scotland”, whoever those are, or the country of Scotland—a country which will exist and does exist as an independent topographical entity, with culturally distinct history and traditions as all countries have. No-one is disputing that Scotland is a country.
But the Chancellor George Gideon Osborne has finally dragged even the amorphous spineless principle-less Labour Party with him to a publicly shared position; that the debate, as any on a national independence must be unless it is a potpourri of irrelevances: the debate is on the organisation of state governance—and that, in the twenty first century, means an argument about the nature and provision of capital.
So the debate about Scottish “independence” has finally begun. And at last I am genuinely interested—now that I no longer feel alone.
The magazine Post interviewed me about a month ago and the interview has now gone online here
Things planned for March to June.
March 14th Reading with Sean Burn, Julie Johnstone, Luke Hall, part of series of Caesura readings Artisan Bar London Road Edinburgh.
March 20th Swedenborg Hall Bloomsbury Way London. Reading with poet Nicholas Johnson and John Healy author The Grass Arena
April 5th Staged reading of my translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children, Tron Theatre Glasgow.
April 6th. Staged reading excerpts from my translation of Mother Courage with discussion including myself and Tam Dean Burn about the play and current military politics. Mitchell Theatre Glasgow.
May 28th or 29th Giving a talk at a University of Glasgow Postgraduate conference called Protest. Beginning of details with call for papers here
June 29th Reading at Shore Poets venue Edinburgh.
Self-determination in art. Independence of mind. Nationality an irrelevance.
Photograph of grandson Alex with me on Xmas day.
Tom Raworth’s ongoing “notes” page on his website is always worth checking, and some of the old work he has been putting up recently is for me a delight. I think for instance of the two artist sketch pads he filled about thirty years ago that he has put up as free pdf downloads. It’s so great that material like this, which I think of as being the intimate and inventive spirit of poetry itself, is now through the internet able to be made available to all by the artist simply sitting at home, no publisher, no hassle, no “Oh we can’t possibly produce that without great expense.” The downloads are there in the entries for December 17th and 13th. If you haven’t been to Tom Raworth’s notes page here before, it’s worth a long browse.
Xmas day present 1958 from my brother Eric: signed copy of Passed to You autobiography of Celtic player Charlie Tully.
Published nine years before Celtic won the European Cup, among things of note now is Tully’s description of the weekly wage in 1958 when Celtic along with Rangers were the best-paid team in Scotland. “My payslip and the payslip of every first team player at Parkhead is £16.” It went up to £19 if they won, and £17.50 if they drew. Tully says “the average wage of many labourers I know is £10; with overtime they can make it £15.” But Celtic players had to look smart and do things in the public eye. “After taxation, food, clothes and shoes (for the children as well as yourself) rent, light, gas, smokes and entertainment, the men who are cheered and lauded on that glamourous football field are probably in as much of a financial struggle as anyone else.... Most of the fans think footballers are loaded down with money. They couldn’t be more wrong.” Tully said the players’ union wasn’t strong enough.
Asked to send a preface to my version of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children that Smokestack are publishing in 2014, I have sent this.
Scan of my contribution to a Glasgow University student magazine called Nik around the end of the sixties. Foolscap pages xeroxed and stapled.
In the diary entries, “p.t” was gym, (physical training) which would be called “p.e.” now. The Tiger and the Adventure were popular weekly comics. I no longer have the diary, but an online search shows Celtic beat Kilmarnock 1-0 in a Scottish cup replay on Wednesday February 23rd 1955. Must have been Ash Wednesday.
The Latin is from the early 13th century Interfectio Puerorum (The Massacre of the Innocents) a mother Rachel lamenting the murders by Herod: “Alas! Alas! Alas! How shall I rejoice, when I see the dead limbs; when I have been so distressed through the whole core of my being? Truly the children will make me grieve unendingly.” The complete translation from a 2007 performance can be found here
The tables at the bottom are from Suicide and Attempted Suicide by Erwin Stengl, published by Penguin in the mid-sixties.
Some time ago the Derry poet Paul Laughlin emailed my website with a collection of poems he was gathering for publication. He had dedicated one to myself, a political poem using the exam question scenario as conceptual frame.
I liked the poem and the collection overall: its spareness, intellectual-emotional feeling, and the sense of a writer in dialogue with themself in language towards the concluded object; not somebody setting out with a conclusion to lay it on you or fit an object into it. A sense of integrity in art in other words, which is always refreshing.
Now that the collection has been published I asked Paul Laughlin for permission to put a couple of the poems up in the journal here. Not as claiming to be the best in the book, just as two examples of aspects, political and personal, the book is able to present. I thank him for permission.
Paul Laughlin’s The New Accord is published by Lapwing Publications of Belfast. You can buy it as a downloaded ebook for £5 or have a hard copy sent you for £10 here