Thursday, 23 July 2015

10 weeks, 3 prizes, 1 apology

Long time, no post (again). In my defence, getting my 1 apology in first, I've not been on top form physically and have been busy with all sorts of things on the domestic, political and academic fronts. Which makes my 3 prizes both surprising and especially gratifying.

It started on Monday 18 May with the annual Words & Music at Sammy Dow's Mayfest poetry competition. After several occasions as runner-up, I finally got my name added to the Hugh Healy Trophy. (The venue has now become Lebowski's — more on this later.)

Next up was the Faith and Unbelief poetry slam (sponsored by Hillhead Baptist Church) as part of the West End Festival on Saturday 27 June. No photographs were taken of this event so I reproduce the winning poem below.


Jimmy Savile took my virginity.
It was 1979.  I was five years old.
But my hopes were big and my hand was bold
when I wrote to that white-haired divinity.
I worshipped this being with his benevolent banter.
There was nothing that couldn't be fixed by Jim.
My prose was a prayer to be heard by Him
who was up there with Jesus and Santa.   
It was my first proper letter on Basildon Bond.
I waited two years for the man to respond
and to wave his cigar like a fat magic wand.  
I was faithful and fond for this fantasy father.
Switched on to his presence, I clung to the dream
that my clumsy request would be read out on screen
and that, somehow or other,
I would see myself instantly there on the telly,
with my best friend Luke, having been granted – for one day –
superhero powers, which we used in our play
to turn hard men to jelly.  
I waited two years for the man to respond:
the Superman mantle would never be donned.
I grew wise – but not quite to how much I'd been conned.   
Back then, I was blond, small and innocent-seeming.
I was eager for adults to talk to and trust.
In those days, so much was just never discussed,
could be likened to dreaming.
I was told I could stay as the toy shop was shutting
by a man we all knew as the kindest of sorts.
Decades on, I recall the descent of my shorts.
At the time, I said nothing.  

And finally, on Saturday 4 July, I got to perform in Paisley (around the corner from where I used to write adverts and play a recurring comedy character on 96.3Qfm, or Q96 as most people remember it, when it was based in Lady Lane). I was competing at the inaugural Sma' Shot Bigshot Poetry Slam as part of Paisley's Sma' Shot Day celebrations (commemorating a milestone in industrial action and workers' solidarity). The slam was even mentioned in a motion to the Scottish Parliament. Chuffed. :)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Make RAUM for some poetry tonight

Tonight sees the launch of the first issue of RAUM, a new Glasgow-based poetry magazine. Come along to The Poetry Club to celebrate and see some very fine poets doing their thing. Readings from 8.30pm - 10pm, music and drinks afterwards. The theme of the first edition is "Ephemera" - it will be over before you know it.

Carly Brown, Anthony Daly, Leonie Dunlop, Jim Ferguson, David Ross Linklater, Donald Marshall, Ashby McGowan, Calum Rodger, Elodie Amandine Roy, J A Sutherland, Stephen Watt, Chris Young

Thursday 11 June, 8-11pm
FREE - all welcome
The Poetry Club, SWG3, 100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow G3 8QG

Thursday, 30 April 2015

On the streets and between the sheets

After a long break (dominated by studying, politics and dodgy health), I have two exciting pieces of poetry-related news!

1. This Sunday (3 May), I will be performing on the streets of Glasgow as part of Hidden Sexology. Organised by ConFAB, in collaboration with a small team of sexologists, this is a walking tour complete with powerful poetry (you have been warned). 

SUNDAY 3 MAY, 14.00, 15.00 AND 16.00 
(booking recommended:, 07811 394 058) 

An animated walk through Glasgow’s familiar sights and hidden sites, with poetry that evokes smells, atmospheres, heritage, memories from the traces of sexual encounters among forgotten people. Inspired by sexology themes, six acclaimed poets perform at six sites of romance, sex and violence.

Poets: Anita Govan, Donna Campbell, Agnes Torok, Chris Young, Robert Anderson, Mark McG. 

Walks last approximately one hour. Please dress for the weather and contact in advance if you have access requirements.

Part of the Sexology Season:

2. Greetings from Glasgow, published by Red Squirrel Press, has been shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. I will be reading at the National Library of Scotland at the award ceremony, when the winner will be announced, on 14 May.

Monday, 13 October 2014

I wish to propose...

Hurrah! Today it has been announced that the first same-sex marriage ceremonies in Scotland will be held this Hogmanay, with conversions from civil partnership available from 16 December. Now all I need is a partner...

I wrote the following poem almost exactly 22 years ago. Though supremely on-topic, it is now no longer what one might consider "topical". Hurrah!

I wish to propose...

I wish to propose
that we spend a few days,
a few nights,
a few years

I wish to propose
that we live in a haze,
in a fog,
in a mist

I wish to propose
that we save for a ring,
for a rock,
for a home

I wish to propose...
but I can only do that:
propose what we cannot achieve.
Let them see us; let them believe
I wish to propose.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Positively No

This looks set to be my last poetic offering before the polls open in the referendum. Should Scotland be an independent country?

Positively No

No is a powerful word.
It stood alongside my grandfather and fought the fascists
as opportunistic nationalism swept through Europe.
It did not appease; it did not acquiesce.
No knew that the right answer is not always yes,
no matter how convinced and optimistic other people are.

No is defiant word.
Not afraid to make waves,
it teaches us to swim against the current to reach surer conclusions.
No knows that going with the flow exposes us to greater danger downstream,
obstacles, turbulence and passing predators,
where the banks become less secure
and our footing can be readily washed away
at the mercy of rapid fluctuations.
No is prepared to direct its energies upwards
towards broader channels and temperate pools.

No is often a kind word.
Gifted in an embrace, it holds the hand of those we hold dear
when it would be cruel to stand aside.
It does not idly scaremonger
but it alarms when there are real risks too important to ignore.
No has the strength and composure to resist initial resistance
and insist that facts should be checked,
that assertions should be challenged,
that consequences should be considered.
It does not deny choice
but it does not desert its duty of care.
No is not about scoring points.
It seeks to avoid “I told you so” so long as any friendship remains.
If it is not believed,
and it turns out our loved ones have been deceived,
it will at least make it easier to sleep while we grieve.

No can be a positive word.
It can look your partner in the eye and see a way forward through the tears.
It does not write off three hundred years
of give and take
in favour of giving up and taking umbrage.
Neither does it condemn irreconciled parties to a closed sentence –
rather, it invites a new conjunction: no, but...; no, and....
It is not the end of the story
but the turning point.

To turn to the question at hand, do we want to erect invisible barriers
that change partners into neighbours, neighbours into strangers,
strangers into rivals, rivals into enemies?
Do we want to abandon our place on the world stage
and leave our diminished commonwealth to be scavenged by big business?
I choose not to “make a difference” by withdrawal.
Subtraction is a negative operation.
No is a positive answer.