Glasgow has been cut around
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’)
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.
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 :-)
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
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):
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.
As part of my on-going project of going mad in a good way, I unexpectedly took up art this weekend for the first time in nearly 30 years. Here is one of the results. “Pigeon Industria”, a homage to Glasgow’s atmospheric post-industrial landscape, hence the chimney and cogwheel forms. The palette emulates the wonderful colours found in the feathers of the dear birds themselves. I’d love to paint this on a canvas, maybe add textures of feathers and skin to some panels. Or better still paint it as a huge mural on the wall of a café, restaurant or bohemian design studio. Anyone out there got a nice big blank wall they want to fill? I suppose there’s almost something religious in this, like stained glass church windows. But I’m not religious… other than a spiritual follower of my own philosophy, which is that Gaia, a feminine earth deity, created us and continues to drive the engine of all life. The intersecting lines and curves express that unity and interconnectedness.
THE REFERENDUM YEAR
One hot summer a Soay sheep
a lamb no less, native to St.Kilda
was found wandering the roughest
streets of Glasgow pursued by a fox
and saved by a RSPCA man.
Can there still be miracles in the
modern world? Its dark eyes
regarding the camera with
the classical calm
of a medieval painting, humbling us
with its brave innocence
and otherworldly beauty.
How many times
shall I forgive my brother?
asked Peter of Jesus, Seven times?
Seventy times seven
came the answer.
Scintillating brightness of light
white on the green leaves throwing
swaying shadows on walls as wordless mimes
for none but the early birds like me to see
who lick the quiet streets with sandaled feet
savouring the silence and coolness of dawn
the blue a pristine dome above, sacred
we move in pilgrimage as ants upon this earth
who understand Nature’s urgency
the sun’s brassy fanfare announcing
all the molten gold to come this day
a whole eternity to a butterfly also
a priceless chance to us each instant
if we can just grasp in our clumsy hands
what each tiny thing knows in the core
of its bones and sings of endlessly even
as it offers up its everything
to be burned in joyous sacrifice knowing
from death comes life from shadow light
from forgetting of regret, of risk of pain
of self-consciousness, our very selves:
(the picture inset is “Rooms By The Sea” by Edward Hopper).