Bits n bobs


One day last week the postman brought me two nice things at once. On the right is a very arty homemade Christmas card (and eccentric extras) from Sein und Werden editor Rachel Kendall, and on the left is a booklet, postcard and “sestude” board from The Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. The latter was organised by the 26 Winters team (Sara Sherdian and others) and by Lyn Wall at the Museum of Childhood itself. The booklet accompanies an exhibition that runs at the museum until 31st March 2016, featuring poems and reflections from various poets and writers (including myself) inspired by the exhibits at the museum. My topic was board games, and the result can be read in the official 26 Stories Of Christmas advent calendar here  with accompanying blog post here.

Ever heard of Black-Out Poetry? No, I hadn’t either until Rachel Kendall encouraged me (and others) to experiment with it for our contributions to the latest edition of her Sein Und Werden magazine. Frankly, I think maybe I thought it would be pretentious silliness, but only afterwards did it dawn on me that what I had just done was the perfect literary equivalent of the collage in visual art. Basically, you have to go through someone else’s novel, blacking out every word except the odd phrase that catches your eye. The result, amazingly, seems to provide an unexpected avenue down to your deep subconscious, a bit like the Rorschach Test. I chose to black out a book (her decadent Parisian novel “Stranger Days”) by Ms Kendall herself, and the results were three poems you can read, here, here, and here.

In other news, the first review of my ninth book, the short story collection The Sleep Corporation appeared here.  An entry has appeared for the first time in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction listing and summarizing my work to date (or at least those parts of it which could be described as genre), which can be read here.

Finally, those of you looking to laugh at me or with me may be interested to learn that my next public appearance will be on Friday 8th January at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow at the launch of a new anthology of writers associated with The Speculative Bookshop. Details here.

Enjoy your Winter Solstice celebrations.

(oh yes, and another thing: over at the blog I’ve created for my late uncle the poet Alastair R Thompson, I’ve resumed the process of uploading his short stories, starting with The Crofter’s Horse).


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Candle Flame

candle flame


Through all our winter nights
since forebears hidden in the gloom of time
took our fates on fur-wrapped feet
across ice floes to this northern clime
we’ve watched this yellow dancer
seal blubber night clubber
burning tallow enchanting flame
ballerina on the breeze of night
spinning centre of all sight and light
weaver of flickering dreams
both more fragile and dangerous
than she seems
can warm your house or bring it down
roaring red-gorged to feed her greed
or puttering purring like a cat
curled on your lap or saucer
repels the stroking hand with subtle hiss
the sun her mother gave her this
the power to give both life and death
beware her kiss her fatal breath
hypnotically she beats
advances and retreats
swoops, stoops to sweep
our darkest floor on naked feet
her tongues of fire loom
consume our hours with wild desire
whispering of hope and heat
until extinguished purged at last
she relaxes, drapes the room
white phantom ghosts of wax
her tomb.

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Green Tips



In among the giant treesIMG_1873

I heard their message on the breeze

in eloquent whispers far above

how tangled are the roots of love

whose green tips reach to kiss the sun

this mighty wood of which I’m one

drinking knowledge of passing skies

outliving us and all our sighs.

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Dunkeld Trinity

Dunkeld trees


1. Father

Tall trees guard
the half-ruined kirk
a transfigured army
dead-straight, trueDunkeld tower
focused on a longer time
than ours mere centuries litter
mulch to feed their roots
pealing bells, peeling bark
political rumblings
sackings, defilement
passing shadows
their tips scrape blue skies
drink the light of eternity.

2. Son

How tangled the roots
of the tree of love
a yew perched upon
a collapsing bank
shored up with moss-eaten stones
the roots writhe
lose their way so many times
give everything, anything
just to survive
another millennium
the tree will outlive us
it’s only getting started.

3. Holy Ghost

Icy embrace for the eyes
the wide still waters of the Tay
flowing ever backwards
black as time, as memory
irrevocably falling leaves
the deeper current
always returning me
to the ruins of myself
unfinished and unstarted
consumed by nature
tender and fatal
as ivy, as moss.

Dunkeld roots-by Rona

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Sleep Corporation-160815

Next Tuesday, 27th October at 7pm, at Glasgow’s CCA in Sauchiehall Street, I’ll be launching my latest book ‘The Sleep Corporation’ and selling signed copies for a ridiculously low price to anyone sporting enough to come along and listen to me ramble for an hour and a half. The evening will also be a “Masterclass” (ahem… I know, I know, I can’t take that seriously either) and I promise to make it an interesting old look back over my last 8 books, the things I’ve learned and the funny and inspiring people I’ve met along the way. Also poems! And pictures! What’s not to love?

In other recent news, Simon Bestwick interview me here. And an extract from my next novel in progress can be read Bright November in the latest edition of Sein Und Werden Magazine.

Oh yes, and two of my digital paintings, bathing seagull and foxtrot, can be seen and/or purchased at the Makers Gallery in Alloa.

Finally, there were a couple of good late reviews of my novel The Rhymer here and here.

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Leaf Fall

Leaf fall by DT


Side by side on the little bench
among the fallen leaves
in your ruined back garden
we gaze up at the wild autumn sky
the wisps and vapour trails across the blue
and do not hold hands beneath the tartan blanket
because we do not need to.
We are up there together, circling each other
as eagles, in ever tightening orbits.

Beyond the clouds we know the stars drift
the vast universe turning beyond us.
You say it is all an accident, meaningless
even your memories and stories which haunt
and move me so much my heart hurts.
I disagree. I vow to prove it:
it matters, all of it, everything falling
and orbiting like us: towards darkness
peace, resolution, oblivion
you and I enfolded within each other
as all those who have ever loved.

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Gothic cacophony
the vying spires of Ghent
mottled black and grey
gnarled and spiked as lizards tails
weave the woolly cumulus
of Delft-blue skies brushed
by Vermeer and Van Eyck
like a cooling breeze from historyGhent-3
a single crow caws across
the red clay rooftops
the golden ships on every dome
this old town once lord over Europe
the bells ring boom and bust
send not for whom
it falleth as the gentle rain
the enduring memory
of white doves and geese
in the market cages flapping
against the steely good manners
of Belgians. A truck full of
dead immigrants spills
across the newspapers
like black coffee the morning after
so much meat to be had
in this town but not
a drop of milk.


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