I Didn’t Think I was a Poet and Then I Did
This summer I had my first poem published, in Stone Going Home Again (New Writing Scotland 28). This was one of those little occurrences that seem to set off a minor quake of events in your life; things that don’t seem like a particularly big deal to others but which propel you forward in new and interesting ways.
I’ve written poetry in the guise of notes for prose for quite a while. It never occurred to me that I was writing actual poems, or that I should send them anywhere. This changed when I was really struggling with a short story about two blokes who miss Kilmarnock F. C.’s momentous Scottish Cup victory in 1997 – it just didn’t work as a story. I even tried to write a script around it. Then I realised I was writing in lines and the lines made a poem. And when I read it aloud it sounded like a poem. I liked it so I sent it off to NWS.
At the launch of the book in Blackwell’s I met a few interesting people, poets mainly. There was lots of talk of readings and writing/performance events, and I thought ‘aye’. It seemed to me that my poetry should be read aloud, in public, in a real voice. At the post-launch pub I got speaking to the enthusiastic folk behind the Forge of the Wordsmiths events. We talked about the possibility of me reading, and a while later we arranged it. In the meantime I had been writing new poems – short, immediate poems about the kind of landscape I always write about: the shady crossroads between the rural and the urban, the corners of parks and playing fields that humans just skid into sometimes.
The idea of reading these poems was thrilling somehow. After spending a couple of years writing a novel, the relatively instant creation of my poetry was refreshing. So much so, that I wanted to write one without paper, for the first time, and to read it at the event in Glasgow. So I composed it in my head on Friday, edited it in my head on Saturday, and read it on Sunday. I did cheat slightly by scribbling it onto a page before the event – I guess I didn’t have the balls of steel required to read from memory! Nevertheless, I’m really glad I did it, and extremely appreciative of the kind FotW folk to give me their stage. It brought the voice of the poems out of my mouth and into the air. Better out than in, eh?