Renovation

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Caught up in the every-moment
fevered minutiae of minutes, seconds
swishing my paint-loaded brush
against the clock, worrying
the dust the money running low
sweat on the brow then suddenly:

All is stilled by the sound of church bells
from St.Andrews–in-the-Square
chiming the hour and connecting me
and us all in our beehive lives
to more ancient time
the slow swing of history’s pendulum
to perspective, loss and conflict
1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart
at the head of a Jacobite army
rested his horses in the square
and looked bitterly upon its steeple
under construction by disappointingly
disinterested Anglophile locals
and proposed, not feeling so Bonnie that day
to burn their city down.

Now other bells at the Tron nearby
ring once a year to honour the birthday
of Donald Cameron of Locheil
who prevailed upon his mercy and better sense
The town went on standing, the steeple complete
the bells struck while the Young Pretender
grew old and drunk and ugly in exile.

Last orders, time gentlemen, please
ghostly armies who’d rather build than kill
who’d rather wine than blood to spill
hold a stone for a wall before a sword
foreswear violence in favour of the word

Perhaps then bells can call us all to order
still speak in the power of their iron
for the forever anonymous, the modest,
the sound and silent men who forged them.

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Close To The Bone

Fox-black and white

Time after time
Our nocturnal fox
Returns his little bone
Like a child’s toy
All trace of marrow long-since
Gnawed from its centre
To our lawn, pathetic, cryptic
Next to the hole he’s dug
Useless, smaller than himself
As if to signal a nascent interest
In crazy golf

But perhaps he’s digging
For something deeper
Like us his goal lies buried
Not in space but time
The memory of his burrow
His siblings and his mother
Someone who cared for him
Beneath the roots of a tree
Long since felled
And fed him as we do now
Mysteriously intermittently

Can a fox feel as we do
Nostalgia, longing for days gone?
And whose loneliness is greater
Without or with
The words to tell?

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Still Life with new publications

Still Life

Oh look. Some new things. My novella “Dreams Of A Dead Country” is out now from Salò press (cover art by Becha), going for only five pounds a pop. The book’s title wasn’t intended to reference Brexit, but seems to be doing quite a nice job anyway right now of poignantly summing up the whole absurd situation in one neat sentence. In fact, this little book is a piece of dream writing, i.e. an attempt to capture exactly that strange and wonderful train of illogicality that dreams all-too-briefly envelop us in before we wake up and return to the boring old world of facts and physics.

The ultimate ‘dream book’ I have ever read is the novel “Hebdomeros” by Georgio de Chirico (that’s right, by a painter, not a writer) and I’ve probably spent my whole career trying to emulate it since I first read it over 30 years ago. It’s not as easy as you’d think, to write like dreams, maybe because keeping a reader engrossed depends on a certain amount of logic and trust, which dreams by definition lack. A kind of tightrope walk then. Why not pick up a copy and decide for yourself whether I’ve succeeded? Some of it is real dreams, some of it is lucid dreams, at times even written in a kind of trance state, when falling asleep or upon first waking. I don’t do this for a game, by the way. My theory is that dreams contain deeper and more useful metaphors than our waking minds can devise or understand. My theory is that this life we live must be understood, but can only be so through the distorting mirror of surrealism, which tears away the veils of over-familiarity which customarily blind our tired eyes to the real truth of the everyday world we live in. Therefore we come full circle. It may be no coincidence that the book’s title (and perhaps even its plot at a level so deep that even I can’t fathom it) references Brexit. That’s what the subconscious does of course, it accesses the past and the future and makes sense of them both and shows us things we didn’t even know we knew.

But enough of this unseemly claustrophobia of self-analysis. Also in my attic photo above is the excellent new anthology of fiction and poetry from Eibonvale Press called ‘Humanagerie’ (nice review here) edited by award-winning poet Sarah Doyle and seasoned Speculative fiction veteran Allen Ashley, in which I have a very nihilistic short story which seeks to reduce human romance to the level of the animalistic in order to find out what’s left over. Not a f**k of a lot, by the looks of how it turned out. Sorry about that. But truth is its own reward in the name of experimentation. The respected writer and reviewer D F Lewis seemed to hate it, but that’s alright, because he likes lots of other things I’ve done, not least of which my most recent fractal novel ‘The Suicide Machine’ from Zagava which he reviewed here. He also liked my book before that, ‘The Fallen West’ from Snuggly Books, which he reviewed here. See folks? Welcome the bad reviews too, it’s all just life.

On the subject of Zagava of Dusseldorf, Black Static Magazine has a good review by Slipstream guru Andrew Hook of ‘The Suicide Machine’ in the latest issue (no.68, here.), which you can see in the inset image below. My favourite lines from Andrew’s very kind analysis might be these: “By forcing the reader to imagine an overall story where in fact there might be none, Thompson authentically writes about memory and through it how we seek to be…  the strength of the book lies in ambiguity, in forcing the reader to think, so we can map our own personal experiences atop the structure and attempt to unravel not only Thompson’s (possible) intentions but also – like easter eggs in a computer game – our own.”

{Update. You can now read Andrew’s review in full on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42959805-the-suicide-machine}

Also, contrary to previous rumours, my next long-awaited novel “Barking Circus” (about Glasgow, art, life, politics and the future) will be published in October this year, also by Zagava. We hope to launch it at Fantasycon in Glasgow. Or as I prefer to call it “Fantasycon Dalmuir”. Now if that’s not another one-sentence poem, plum-full of comic-poetic irony, then I don’t know a herring from a hacksaw 🙂

Suicide Machine_Black Static review

 

 

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Late Snow

Snow Crystal

Such unexpected snow this morning;
try to forget me like the snow forgets
forgets the sky forgets the sun
forgets how water used to run
forgets how green life once
pushed itself up and through.
Fall and form a blanket of forgetfulness
sleep, just let yourself go
all this whiteness is a page, fresh
not the absence of life at all
but its preparation for beginning
again and again this strange world
of life, of women and of men.

Such unexpected snow this morning;
so late and so short-lived
like a fleeting memory of how
snow used to be in childhood
but can never be again.
Snow, sleep, weep, forget
before the grey rain comes
sleep and forget as the snow forgets
itself and becomes only water
like ancient tears of the earth
which of itself can remember nothing
which is why it summons us perhaps
its wistful gift of hope and brief recall
such unexpected snow this morning
as if like it, we’re scarcely here at all.

 

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Ally Thompson Exhibition

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In the two years since the untimely death of my brother Ally Thompson, I have been preparing a retrospective exhibition of his work, which opens next month at the Lillie Art Gallery in Milngavie, Glasgow, G62 8BZ, from 12th January to 21st February. The show will involve over 70 paintings, drawings and collages, some for sale, alongside numerous archival sketches and an extensive slideshow of his life and work. The exhibition catalogue includes a remarkable essay by Ally’s friend and Glasgow School of Art contemporary Peter Howson. Ally achieved more recognition in his lifetime in France and America than he did in his native Scotland, and it is to be hoped that through media coverage and public interest that unjust state of affairs may begin, little by little, to be corrected.

Ally painted in a startlingly diverse range of styles, and his philosophically critical stance towards the empty materialism of our current society set him aside in a manner that led Peter Howson to remark “His work, masterfully executed, is uncompromising and stark in its beauty and he can be regarded as a visionary in the mould of William Blake”.

We will never of course, get over the loss of our brother, our mentor and creative inspiration. To have grown up with him and witnessed his art in process was a privilege beyond words. But as the saying goes, we need to be grateful that it happened rather than merely sad that it is over. Please come along and see for yourself, and help celebrate and enjoy the life and work of a truly remarkable artistic creator. Ally lived for art, now let’s help make his art live for him.

 

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The Suicide Machine

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Copies of my latest book “The Suicide Machine” have just arrived from Dusseldorf from the German publisher Zagava. In terms of format, the book occupies that liminal territory between short story collection and novel, much as my first book “Ultrameta” did nearly 10 years ago. In that sense, I suppose it is a return to my roots, only this time there is a considerable aspect of encrypted autobiography running through it, in an attempt at personal exorcism after some of the difficult stuff I’ve lived through this past decade, such as loss of family members. I suppose this autobiographical streak is also a homage to the late great Joel Lane, whose work taught me the importance of incorporating authentic personal experience into what we write. My next novel “Barking Circus”, currently under consideration by London publishers, will also follow this same formula but incorporating a wider range of science fictional elements.

The brilliant artwork used in the frontispiece of The Suicide Machine is an oil painting called ‘Stay Close’ by artist Pamela Tait, who lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Here is her painting in detail, followed by the back-page blurb for The Suicide Machine:

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“In a decaying suburban house, a narrator tends to his elderly mother while disturbed by nightmarish visions of his deceased artist brother, for whose violent death he blames himself. Hallucinations and conversations tell of possible futures, ambiguous pasts and surreal allegories. Of these the most fantastical of all may be The Suicide Machine itself: the discovery in an abandoned Glasgow villa of a cryptic black device linked to a dissident Russian physicist and his tragic lover, whose rumoured psychic experiments reverberate into the present. Family secrets and the enigmatic boundaries of life, death, sex and sanity all progressively give way and coalesce into an elegiac journey towards hard-won hope from the depths of despair.”

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Arrowhead

11-Fabled ship to otherwhere

Where is it the dead go?
When I look at the moon
or an aeroplane flying overhead
I think of my artist brother
in his white trousers
and best distressed leather jacket
heading off to some event
better than any yet
to receive the ultimate accolade
and applause and I suppose
the sky and the earth give this
don’t they? The sublime embrace
and release for the taut bow
the vector of a lifetime’s longing
this sail across the infinite blue
rolling towards darkening evening
and the absolute landing
among leaves and flowers and earth
where all pain is extinguished
in the arms that catch everything
our unimaginable mother
forgotten except in sleep
found again like a childhood secret
the circle completes itself
and whispers a sigh
like a summer evening’s breeze
which says no tears now
just dreams of
an irrefutable
tomorrow.

The Spirit Of The Hero

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