Poem for September

At The Witch Stones-by Douglas Thompson-210714As if light itself can grow weary
burn out from over-use
too much laughter bring reflective tears
remembered childhood’s endless holidays
seep out as fading photographs
into cold new terms and sober uniforms
see now the subtle yellowing in the sky
the grandeur of summer’s glorious
oncoming death expressed in symphonies
of cirrostratus armies falling tier on flank
upon their swords of melancholy light
no season takes our breath like autumn
nor expresses better our human plight
who begin our slow cascades of cell decay
before even twenty years of youth
have held their sway, so now we see
our misting breath and frost encroach
as warnings of fragility, senility
here is the beauty so well expressed
across the canvas of the very sky
that what we feel in life
is too precious and ingenious
for any God to let it die, have faith
that all that we must lose, have lost
love and friendship, the hopeless cost
is colour, texture of the leaves that fall
to feed new life wherein
there is no death at all.

(the image above is a digital ‘painting’ I did last month called ‘At The Witch Stones’ based on the rural landscape of Baldernock with Glasgow’s towerblocks on the horizon)

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Tonight I voted Yes

Img_0324-reducedI’ve just returned my postal vote for the referendum on Scottish Independence, because I will be up north promoting my novel The Brahan Seer on the day of the vote. This is the blog of a writer and I generally do not want to pollute this space with too much politics, but for this special occasion I am going to make an exception.

We’re told that a lot of Scots have still not made up their minds how to vote, and I hope that some of those people will read this post and find it helpful in coming to a decision. Here is why I am voting Yes:

1. To rid Scotland of the madness of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Nuclear weapons are unusable… always have been, always will be. How can this insanity of the 1970s Cold War have survived this far into the 21st century? If we use a nuclear weapon against an enemy nation with nuclear capability, we will ourselves be annihilated within minutes. If we use a nuclear weapon against a nation who do not have nuclear capability, then we will have committed an atrocity beyond all possible moral justification and endangered Earth’s ecosystem. I want no part of either scenario because I am sane. End of argument. Nuclear fission reactors are not safe. Fukushima blew up. The Japanese are not stupid people. Neither are the Germans. The German government decided to abandon all nuclear technology in the wake of Fukushima. The corrupt British government, beholden to vested interests, after a pretend period of mock review, resolved to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. Why? Because, as we are always being told about nations like Iran, domestic Nuclear power is a convenient cloak for production of the raw material for nuclear weapons. Why all this debate over exactly how many barrels of oil Scotland will produce over coming decades? That financial gain surely pales in comparison to the savings available to any nation which abandons the vast and pointless cost of nuclear weapons. Hence the success of the economies of Germany and Japan post WWII. Any nation that commits itself to hard work by exclusively peaceful means, will prosper. Why are the British political establishment so obsessed with, and wedded to, Nuclear weapons? Two words: British Empire. Because holding nuclear weapons enables them to preserve the absurd fantasy of Britain being a major geo-political power in the world. This pipe-dream has been slowly bankrupting the British State for the last 50 years. This is where Scottish oil revenue has gone, along with making an awful lot of London bankers very rich. Enough is enough. We voted Yes in 1979, but those in power (Labour) pretended we voted No and we got Thatcher as payback. Don’t make the same mistake again, or the world will regard us as the stupidest race that ever lived, who deserve all the political disregard we can get. This brings us to point two:

2. Democracy. Scotland votes further to the left than England. Hence the Thatcher years where Socialist Scotland endured openly hostile rule by a government so grotesquely right-wing that their crypto-fascist leader counted the mass-murderer General Pinochet of Chile among her personal friends. We are currently governed by a coalition fixed-up between Tories and Liberals. Did any of us up here vote for these people? Damned few. Therefore this is currently some kind of colony, politically speaking, governed undemocratically and against its will. They will tell us that the establishment of a Scottish Parliament was designed to relieve that tension, and yet the third choice of “Devo-Max” (maximum political devolution, but still withholding such powers as those required to remove nuclear weapons from our soil) was forcibly deleted from our ballot papers by our current Tory Prime Minister David Cameron. The message is clear from history from the previous examples of ex-colonies like India and Ireland leaving the British Empire: Westminster will treat you with contempt until you negotiate from a position of power. Only voting Yes will give us that bargaining power to secure a new deal for a new nation. Which brings us to our third and final point:

3. Scotland, this extraordinary little nation, invented the industrial revolution and the modern world in which we all now live. For a race of people so contorted with self-doubt and riven with national timidity, we have in fact always struck well above our weight in terms of achievement in every area of human endeavour. Wherever you go in the world you will invariably find that some clever Scotsman got there about 150 years ago and single-handedly invented the tram system or a cure for Cholera. It’s time for a new invention. For Scotland to demonstrate to the planet that our current system of Capitalism, doomed to perpetual boom and bust, doomed to make the rich richer and the poor suffer without hope, is not the only way. It will take a wee while, granted, but if we vote Yes we can take the first steps to constructing a new kind of society within a new nation, one that delivers true democracy for it citizens, banishes poverty, and makes responsible use of its natural resources in a sustainable fashion that will ensure the safety and prosperity of future generations. And once we’ve cracked it, like we did before, we can export that formula to the rest of the planet. We don’t make the world safer by threatening each other, we do it by peaceful trade. We won’t make the world fairer by waiting for the privileged to be nice to us, we will do it be democracy and legislation, by force of numbers, by putting egalitarian ideals into practice.

That’s me done, almost. They say that a lot of people are scared to vote Yes. We all understand fear. What I understand about fear is that the people who feel it most are those who lack control over their own lives, who know deep down that their whole world might be upended tomorrow on the whim of some other unreasonable person, or someone whose interests simply aren’t the same as their own. There’s only one cure for that kind of fear. If you are a teenager, grow up and leave home and get a job. If you are an abused spouse, then leave your partner and live on your own terms as an individual and join the larger community in which you may find support and work. In the words of the writer Helen Keller: life is a daring adventure or nothing at all. She was deaf and blind. You are not. Scotland needs to grow up and take responsibility for itself.

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On the road…

Loncon+InvernessThanks to everyone who turned out at London’s Excel and Inverness’ Eden Court Theatre last week to support the book launches of The Rhymer and The Brahan Seer by Elsewhen and Acair respectively. In the London photo (‘Loncon 3′ also known as Worldcon… full of people in Stars Wars outfits, I nearly knocked over a bloke dressed in full white storm-trooper armour just after this photo was taken by Hannah Kate of Hic Dragones publishers) I appear to be making the mistake of smiling, a foolish affectation which never suits me:-( While in Inverness, as Nick Royle has pointed out, I appear to have caught fire like the poor seer himself (or is it my hand out-racing the shutter exposure?). That’s me being interviewed rather perceptively by journalist Roddy MacLean, or possibly having a karaoke sing-song.

At any rate, I was astonished to find myself signing books for people from locations as exotic as Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Canada and Turkey. The next stop on the late summer mini-tour is Tuesday 2nd September at Glasgow CCA, alongside the talented writer and musician(and fellow bald person) Neil Williamson. Come along and marvel at our reflective craniums. There shall be readings and a general party atmosphere in the bar afterwards.

Oh yes, and there’s been an interesting review of The Brahan Seer at The Future Fire by Kate Onyett: http://reviews.futurefire.net/2014/08/thompson-brahan-seer.html

And one here at Sci-Fi Online by Charles Packer: http://sci-fi-online.com/00_revs/r2014/book/14-08-18_brahan-seer.html

And another review of The Rhymer here by Rowena Hoseason: http://murdermayhemandmore.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/the-rhymer-outstanding-original-odd/

AND (just in, stop press) this 10/10 review (I haven’t had one of this in quite a while) of The Rhymer:  http://sci-fi-online.com/00_revs/r2014/book/14-07-31_rhymer.html

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Poem for August

Glasgow has been cut aroundMechanistic Dawn-by Douglas Thompson-200714
by a buzz-saw and towed south
and moored next to Barcelona
Suddenly we have café life
hot mornings where we might
actually seek out the cool of shadows
in which to sip a cappuccino
And we have our Dalis and Miros:
The maddies stripped to the waist
who suddenly emerge white-butterfly-like
after nine months gestation in drink
and drugs rehab and homeless hostels
toothless and disorientated, staggering
and staggered by the unexpected sunshine
wheeling and cawing like wizened crows
shouting what the fuck on street corners
they speak for all of us.

(the image inset is a mural design/ digital painting I did a few weeks ago called ‘Mechanistic Dawn’)

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An army of me…

Two boxes full of fresh books. For a writer, that is one of those magical moments that almost make it all worthwhile. Almost but not quite. As a veteran of eight books now, I am, sadly, increasingly weighed down by the ultimate futility of it all, the certainty of commercial failure, and the certainty that people shall purchase instead vast numbers of very poor books with nothing lastingly meaningful to contribute to their lives. Oh yes, and sing to the rooftops about how very good those very poor books are. Nonetheless, to know this and still keep going, is the ultimate test, and we are here to be tested, are we not?

In just a couple of weeks, on Saturday 16th August I shall be launching The Rhymer from the Elsewhen Press stand at ‘Loncon 3′ (the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention) at the ExCel centre in London Docklands. Finnish critic Sami Airola has review it here.

A few days after that I shall be launching my historical novel The Brahan Seer from Acair Books at the Inverness Book Festival at the La Scala Cinema within the Eden Court arts complex. American critic Adam Groves has reviewed The Brahan Seer here.

A week or so after that I shall be doing the Glasgow launch of both books (and hopefully even a third one, Volwys & other stories, currently going to press at Dog Horn Publishing) on Tuesday 2nd September at the CCA in Glasgow, alongside Glasgow’s quiet Sci Fi sensation Neil Williamson who will be reading from his novel “The Moon King”.

Another couple of weeks after that and I shall be doing reading events for The Brahan Seer at the public libraries in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, and Tarbert, Isle of Harris on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th September… a veritable Highland tour that will leave me stranded somewhere near Inverness on the night of the referendum on Scotland’s possible exit from the United Kingdom. Note to self: apply for a postal vote soon. And vote yes: the only way to correct the British state’s continuing slide into racist xenophobia, post-empire churlishness, and delusional nuclear power and weapons expenditure.

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Bathing Seagull

To hell with it. I seem to be on a roll here. Here is a digital painting I did tonight inspired by a seagull I saw on a roof opposite my flat in Gallowgate last week, and here is a poem it then inspired an hour ago. Some new dual-media way of seeing seems to be taking hold of me. I suppose I should be sending these poems off to literary magazines and waiting on tenterhooks for six months, and watermarking these ‘paintings’ so I can sell them as limited prints. But I just don’t care. Who can be bothered with unelected cultural gatekeepers whose opinions I respect less than those of the man and woman on the street. Maybe the feedback I’ve had for this blog from folks all around the planet is worth more to me than the uncertain respectability of traditional formal channels. Enjoy :-)
Bathing Seagull-by Douglas Thompson-270714


Look closely
we’ve been waiting so long for rain
and now into the pool on the roof
a seagull dives and dips rotates
flexes wings splashing undulating
endless manoeuvres variations
complications unfurling reaching
every inch of layered feathers
sending ripples out as radio waves
focus on the message. Look closely
consider how fragile and vital
the wings how the slightest
damage might spell slow and painful
earthbound death. Look closely
leave aside all human assumptions
of spurious superiority concentrate
on the feeling of water
relieving heat the satisfying arcs
of flexing muscle sinew
become the wings the beak
pass through the eye of the needle
as through a mirror rippling
to see the world inverted understand
how our roofs and ships amuse them
how voluptuous their freedom
to ascend on a whim
gliding thermals wheeling
above our patchwork cities
breast full to the brim with the joy
and insight of a God who knows
the few casual tweaks on the helical spiral
that make a bird or man
are all merely thoughts beyond words
in so many bodies euphoric deadly serious
the one immortal mind bent on beauty
laughably profound.

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Pigeon Poem…

And now here’s a poem I wrote this morning in a sun-drenched street café, inspired by my painting of last week (I shall be reading this out at The Rio Café in Partick on Monday night if anyone wants to hear it live):

PIGEON INDUSTRIAPigeon Industria-by Douglas Thompson-200714

Seagulls are the souls of dead sailors
my father was told
by war-hardened old tars at sea
Then what about pigeons?

They guard my city’s discarded warehouses
and chimneys like feathery ghosts
prefiguring their own arrival with
the perpetual whistling of wings
their lungs expelling throaty hoots
as living bellows that once fanned
the flames of furnaces and flickered
spark-like through blacksmiths’ dreams
besmirching roof trusses and girders
circumscribing with their flight
the bold geometry of stations and bridges

An army of dead men built my city
for slaves wages mired in sweat and blood
and in my mind their grey overalls transmute
as lead into gold into these pink-eyed harbingers
of futurity, whose dowdy feathers hide a multitude
of iridescent hues as rainbows after rain
the tradesmen’s grandchildren walking
the same cobbled streets now gentrified
and scrubbed up in multi-coloured T-shirts.

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