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selected letters 1998

Thursday January 15th ‘98

Dear Joe (Hendry)

Thanks for your letter of a week ago........we are just back from Ireland now. Have just this past couple of days got active again, as immediately after you left I was laid out with a vicious chest bug for a few days, carpetbombed with steroids.

I haven’t got further with the proposal, other than having the to me exciting idea that the project should use a scanner and go straight to compact discs. I could then work simply as I did with Radical Renfrew, with my Maybe and Definitely Yes piles, move quickly, and produce regular discs for distribution albeit hopefully having as the ultimate aim some CD Rom anthologies if not accompanying book or printed material. My thrust I really want to be direct to other libraries, clubs, TUC branches, WEA libraries, cheap I hope sales to individuals, this as far as possible, not taking cues from university or schools as the driving force. The plain if to some unpalatable fact about Radical Renfrew was that it bypassed these, and in its introduction made it plain why it had had to do so and why it could not have been produced under their auspices. Of course the discs could be seen as going into the wider educational institutions, but my excitement lies much more in the function of the public library as something that is a much more democratic educational institution, and where one can feel that one is serving the public in the intention of the project, not “extending the available knowledge about Scottish Literature” or all the other phrases that make me groan inside and feel marginal once again.

So in terms of the academic support you suggest I would want that under reins. Philip Hobsbaum I know would back it to the hilt, he told me he thought the production of Radical Renfrew “made us all look silly” , by “us” meaning the university folk. Philip has always backed me. I think also Hamish Henderson and Tessa Ransford at the Scottish Poetry Library. Stewart Conn is also someone I would be happy to approach. There’s other Scottish LIt Dept people would probably be glad enough to be approached and would be reasonable, but I don’t actually feel the need for them, and would be afraid that the intention of the thing might get sucked over to the academics in a way that as I say would be wholly counter to my conception of what this project actually is.

I must get inventory of what’s there in the Mitchell, to systematise a planned approach through the body of books. But yes, it would have to be based in the Mitchell. Who knows maybe after that it could move elsewhere. But the Mitchell first, to really bust the place wide open. The scanner idea does excite me, I discussed it with one of Sonya’s publishing connections when in Dublin, and apparently it should not prove difficult. Will be in touch after a bit more reflection in the next few days.

 [Plans were in my mind to apply to do in the Mitchell Library Glasgow the work of research and excavation I had done for Joe Hendry at Paisley Central Library that had resulted in Radical Renfrew. I badly needed money and I had the idea to carry on the research I had done in Paisley this time in Glasgow perhaps using a team with me, perhaps to supply clubs, trade unions, schools with CD's as the work progressed in such a big library holding (this was before internet). It never got going, feelers were unsuccessful, I never even got in to see "the cage" where all the books are stored; the personnel had changed in admin with "New Labour" afoot, and the magnificent proven librarian Joe Hendry was considered too "radical" for the job of running Glasgow Libaries when it came up. Before he died he had to content himself with leaving Scotland for Carlisle, of which town he was mayor when he died in 2014.]

 

 


Thursday March 26th ‘98

Dear M

….Things much as merry and sane as ever here just now. Wim Jansen has let it be known that he is not happy with his contract, and is thinking about his getout clause which would allow him to leave the club in June, which may well be after he has got Celtic its first treble in 29 years. The lovely Jock Brown, who I always think of as a hospital manager in search of a hospital, has as the press put it “mildly rebuked” Jansen for not concentrating on Saturday’s game with Hearts. The club “has no plans to tie him into a longterm contract” apparently: earlier there were reports that he and the galoot Brown do not get on with each other.

Elsewhere the Sun, courtesy of MI6 and the New Labour information service, managed to come up with the headline SADDAM’S ANTHRAX IN OUR DUTY FREES, a nice line in cartoon hysteria dutifully taken up by all our fearless seekers after truth here in the free world— apart from one reporter in Channel Five News who had a bacteriologist point out that the bevvy would destroy half the spores right away and that to cause real damage (SADDAM’S PLAN TO WIPE OUT BRITAIN - Daily Record front page) you would need to have sophisticated crop-spraying aeroplanes fly over the cities. Unlikely even from the Great Beast himself. In any case you could grow the stuff anywhere at any rate in most hospitals.

 


Saturday March 14th ‘98

Dear R

            Sorry for the delay in replying to your query about Marion Bernstein. I held off till you should be back in Scotland, but by that time had flu.

            I never managed to get hold of a proper biography of Bernstein. Apart from the information at the front of Mirren’s Musings, there’s a tantalising poem called “Mirren’s Autobiography” in the first volume of Edward’s One Hundred Modern Scottish Poets, Brechin 1880 pp52-53. I had overlooked this when compiling Radical Renfrew, despite my using the series and mentioning it in the intro. From the information it would seem that her disablement was rather more permanent than she gave her readers to believe in the preface to her collection; but as I say it’s a tantalising poem that plays hard to get as far as information on her background goes. It begins:

autobiography

            The mention of different countries taken with the surname might lead one to think of a progrom background somewhere perhaps: but in the few poems that are in the very incomplete run of the Glasgow Weekly Mail in the Mitchell, there’s more of a Christian slant. For instance September 5th 1885, the poem “Coffining the Pauper”, eg

bernstein the poor

            She cites Matthew xxv, and in a poem on February 8th 1879 quotes Romans xxiii and Corinthians xiii. I seem to remember that Mirren’s Musings itself had a deal of pietist stuff that I took to be Christian. She had poems I think against a strike in Govan in December 1878 (all this the Glasgow Weekly Mail) in which she took a sort of Christian anti-conflict line: at any rate I do have a note of some poems that were then sent in in early January from readers, telling her in the polite parlance of the day to get a grip of her holy wulhemina knickers. Sorry I can’t be of more precise help, but hope this is of some use.

 


 Monday June 16th ‘98

Dear H

Thanks very much for the Warren Chalmers obituary. I didn’t know the man, your obituary makes it clear he would have been good to know.

I found the Dublin reading quite hard, sometimes I find it difficult to ratch into a reading when really tired with travel or whatever. Also I think sometimes audiences can be a bit taken aback by the number of givens I tend to brush aside out the way whilst warming up, or trying to. I suppose phrases like “It’s bombing Serbia time again” as intro to a poem, don’t always incline people at a literary gathering to relax. But it seemed to go ok, Theo Dorgan and Peter Sirr seemed happy enough. The reading in Ireland that I did enjoy was in Derry a couple of months back, Jim Kelman and I in a bar called Sandino’s. You know your readings been ok when the barman says your money is not recognised on the premises afterwards. He was saying there were a few people there he hadn’t seen at readings before, including one whom he referred to as “Mad Docherty” who had delivered dustbins once to the City Hall shortly before the bins blew up. Maybe something to do with Mitchell McLaughlin, whom I was told by Sonya’s journalist brother Brendan, began a sentence at a press conference, “As the poet Tom Leonard says”. Brendan obviously thought I would be annoyed, so my laughter was a surprise to him.

Anyway I did enjoy being able to read a new poem for starters in Dublin, it’s always a change to have a new one to be able to read for the first time. The beast enclosed. Did I send you my triptych “for those of us who have to live outside the narrative”? I don’t think I did: if you would like one please drop me a note.

 


Tuesday June 30th ‘98

Dear M

Dublin was enjoyable while J and I were over. It’s strange going to that place on my own steam as a Scottish writer not as the son of my father or the husband of my wife. Good to be able to do that, kind of re-write the place in your own terms. Not that that’s a big deal, but my own West of Scotland Catholic culture of the fifties always had Dublin as a very special place, sentimentalised as if the Catholic community was an Irish diaspora. That’s what annoyed non-Catholics in Scotland of course but it was a vicious circle, the one exclusiveness feeding the other. Echoes of Ulster. I was in Dublin on my own steam to do a reading a couple of years ago, but then I tended to see it as another of B.V Thomson’s places, that was still part of my way of thinking. This time it was just a place to do a reading, though part of its newness, while still familiar obviously, was that Sonya’s mother wasn’t there to be met, which was sad. Last time I enjoyed meeting her in Beuley’s.

It’s really good your getting to move around the world the way you are just now. Obviously you must be working very intensely and in a very focussed way in hospital, but that should make the better for your ability to be open to what’s around you elsewhere, I think. You could be too knackered at times but there’s a kind of transferrence across goes on it seems to me when you really concentrate in an activity over a period of time and you move intermittently or at the end of it to something else. You can want to get out of it to do totally relaxing, nonmental stuff etc, and that’s the right thing to do a lot, but there still can be a good carry-over I’ve found in my own experience. You don’t lose the habit of being focussed right away, nor is it a chore to have it. It’s more of a chore to let it slip.

Will get this prattling letter off to you as it is now in fact the following day, as it were, Tuesday. Am much buoyed up this morning to do with computer stuff, my new wordprocessing programmes are letting me really get to work easily on compiling chronology databases for my own use, to do simply with histories of literature, music and political events. Just getting things sorted out for my own purposes, clarifying things, in a way I’ve always thought about doing since I worked in Smith’s University Bookshop in the midsixties. Also the new programme setup of late seems to have got me finishing some poems again, which is cheering.

…. I have a new feeder on the pipe just to the left of the kitchen window, to which the tits and chaffinches come regularly. As it’s a feeder dispensing whole nuts the tits occasionally break them up on the window lintel before taking them to their nest. The waste ground across the other side of the river where the construction company had to abandon their plans to lay foundations for luxury flats, is now magnificent, a real wild natural place, with all the trees and plants coming to their most profuse in July. So it’s a great habitat for the birds—and also the cats, to put in a note of urban realism.

 

 

Monday July 6th ‘98

Dear Joe

I was really sorry to hear that news about the job. In fact sorry isn’t the word; Jim told me about it when we were on our way back from a reading in Dublin a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t been reading newspapers for a while, so hadn’t got the news when it came out. I was just appalled. You think, No they wouldn’t have the gall to behave like this——but of course that’s nonsense. It’s precisely how they do behave, and frankly I just see all this as the logical continuing progression from the recoup culminating in Blair, after the narrow defeat of Benn in September 1981. What you’ve done and achieved has been, in my opinion, in the teeth of the Labour Party’s long march this past twenty years, of course in organisational terms at the centre of power. Now it’s mopping up time in Scotland, and the SNP are apparently 14% ahead in the polls. Surprise surprise.

Anyway I’ve lost interest even in any forensic analysis of them. I doubt really if I could work in a job in which I had any contact with them. Fuck them all, that’s my gut attitude.

That said, am really enjoying myself at the moment with work on the computer due to updating of certain wordprocessing capabilities. At long last in my life I can really compile chronologies with ease, thus satisfying a desire I have actually had since the midsixties, but always foundered in doing, albeit I am now transcribing even from some notebooks of that period. It’s not about learning dates to digest a structure, but it’s about compiling one’s own tracks through things personally experienced. Bringing facts to the imagination, to paraphrase Shelley’s Defence of Poetry. Am just digesting that the span of Haydn’s 104 symphonies——which I love, and most of which I have——almost exactly parallel the course of Burns’s life: symphony no. 1 from 1759, the 104th from 1795, the year before Burns’s death. And the way people go on about the momentous thunderclap in musical history of the opening of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, but to me the 1786 Kilmarnock edition is at least as staggering——and in the year of The Marriage of Figaro. There’s things to be understood in the concomitant patterning of phrases, and always, always, seeing the development in the context of the growth in capability of the means of production and distribution.

Things are fine here otherwise….

....Stephen is presently cutting bananas in a place called Tully south of Cairns in Queensland. I have informed him of the importance of that name, and filled him in about goals scored twice from corners, and the joke of the time about the waiter seeing Tully with Winston Churchill saying “Who’s that with Charlie Tully?” In fact I still have Tully’s autobiography Passed to You that my brother Eric bought me for Christmas when I was about fourteen, with “To Tom Leonard from Charlie Tully” duly inscribed. Poor Eric had tried to hide the book before Christmas but of course I had noticed that a section of his bed looked to have a suspiciously flat surface under the top blanket, so my feigned surprise on Christmas morning was treated with scorn.

 


Saturday August 15th ‘98

Dear Mr Wallace

I have received from Margaret McAuslan on behalf of the Women’s Rights Education Network, the outline proposal for the project Presentations of Poetry: the proposal I understand is seeking Arts Council funding.

For what it is worth, I would like to intimate my own wholehearted backing for this evidently well-thought out and exciting project, one which I hope will be considered favourably when it comes up for scrutiny. The writers involved - Lesley Benzie, Sandie Craigie, Margaret McAuslan, and Karen Thomson - are poets whose work I myself have very much liked on the page and in performance. They’re also people with an unselfish regard for encouraging the work of others. A book like Different Boundaries of 1995 shows the range of literary activity that people associated with WREN can bring together in a way that other outlets in Scotland simply can’t or don’t presently meet.

It’s the openness of the writing in both form and content that I respond to in much of the work: it has been evident for some time that a lot of the most interesting and worthwhile stuff in poetry being produced in Scotland just now is being done by a wide range of women writers, some quite well known, others less so. (The fact of this is partly what was the theme of the conference event accompanying the readings of five women writers at the day event I organised when at Bell College three years ago).

The project seems to me to be an excellent one, and I hope the Arts Council Committee look on it as such too.

 


Monday Septembe 7th ‘98

Dear Jacqui

I have been ill and out of it for a couple of weeks, am getting back in though in a somewhat drugged state. I fear Annie Pollard got some tetchiness from me for which I apologise to her, a couple of weeks ago. I understand you tried to get me a good equity contract, with the best of motives: it will be up to me to try to get Benefit Agency to waive the National Insurance.

Anyway: I’m afraid my head cannot get round the image business or much else at all just now. I ask merely, as said in conversation, that the programme does reflect that the language thing isn’t about Glasgowness, or Scottishness, or even UK-ness merely in a certain way: it’s about language, culture, status and power within the Englishes. The hierarchies. The one film image I can come up with that seems central to me in my memory, is of a Sherlock Holmes film circa 1944 wherein the film ends with Holmes and Watson in the back of an open-topped car. He’s been updated to fight the Nazis. He turns to Watson and says something like “You know Watson when this war is over we’re going to build a society in Britain where everyone is equal, and no man has privilege over the other just because of their rank.” Something like that. It’s moving seeing a lot of the films of the period putting over that message, a reply really among other things to Lord Haw Haw’s diatribes that Britain was a class-ridden society whose workers were mugs to let the aristocracy etc (in supposed league with the Jews no doubt also) dupe them. Well, maybe the programme could maybe ask in a light sort of way to what extent that has come about. I don’t know.

It was a genuine pleasure working with you and Jennie, I hope you’ll feel free to contact me again if ever you want my co-operation in anything.

Please acknowledge this e-mail, however briefly. I’m not sure if the thing is working properly.

 

 Wednesday September 9th ‘98

Dear S M

I hope you don’t mind that I answer your questionnaire in my own way. I don’t really want to go into all the details of my formal education which you ask about. I’d rather mainly just mention my appreciation now of the work done by my class teacher in my final years of primary school at St Monica’s in Pollok, which I left in 1956.

The teacher Mr Hutchinson I don’t remember much of as other than a quiet and good-humoured man, who by the time I left primary school had enabled me to be very good for my age at writing sentences, reading, and arithmetic. At secondary school, which I won’t name, I am glad also that I was taught to practise writing simple, complex and compound sentences, which can help order thoughts, and to learn such matters as the different ways to use a colon and a semi-colon. I also was pleased to be set fortnightly essays to do at home. But from about third year I disliked secondary school, and was glad to leave it.

It was really Mr Hutchinson though who by 1956 had given me the grounding that enabled me later to be able to read what I chose in trying to make my own mind up about things, and to be able to write what I chose with reasonable clearness. That’s as it should be, and I think of him now as having been a really good teacher.

Yours sincerely

Tom Leonard

 


Wednesday September 9th ‘98

Dear C M

I was interested to get your flyer about your new job and its bit about establishing initiatives to support professional writers in Glasgow.

For years since completing Radical Renfrew at Paisley Library I have wanted to do the same kind of exhaustive retrieval job at the Mitchell. I have mentioned it often to people. I got as far only six months ago discussing ways of how to apply to set up a project, with Joe Hendry, my former boss at Paisley, now in Cumbria. I kept holding back, thinking apart from anything I am probably regarded as a dinosaur beast from the Old Left swamp with some of the people in charge in Glasgow and elsewhere now. So I never got down to pursuing the matter. Maybe you would be interested in discussing it with me as to how I could make such application, if it is worth broaching it in the first place.

Regarding your general points about what I take to be getting writers in Glasgow to do paid work, I along with no doubt many such would like to hear of any schemes. The new version of the Writers in the Community Scheme with all its managerialist guff about putting in bids before the financial year etc has made my usual earnings in that quarter plummet. My work doesn’t go down well in the schools at which that scheme is obviously now directed, with renaming the “Arts Secretary” as the “Education Officer” etc. What I have earned lately has been largely from readings outside of Scotland.

I’m not looking for charity or favours, simply responding directly to your flyer in its own terms. If you think there is a possibility of pursuing the archival course particularly, I would be glad to hear of any suggestions you might make as to how I should go about that. I hope Radical Renfrew has been deemed successful enough to be a reference as to my capability to go about a similar job in the Mitchell.

 


Wednesday September 10th ‘98

Dear R

I’m sorry that I find it a difficult thing you’ve asked. I know I’m a fairly well known face in the little world of Scottish poetry, so it can seem a good idea to get me to act as referee for applications. I usually always do them, with increasing lack of success I have to say, the last two I applied on behalf of were turned down: one of these, who like the other shall remain anonymous, even persuaded me to have another bash, which was like the first attempt, knocked back. I don’t really feel I carry very much clout at all where it matters financially now, if I ever did. I’m over fifty, which means you’re either an academic or you’re deja vu. I’m broke as fuck myself, can’t even get benefit for the reason that I live with Sonya on her vast and incalculable pension. We get by, fine. I have my bits and pieces which usually do add up to bureau money over the year, though through illness I’ve just lost a good wage this week by missing the chance to be tutoring Arvon students in Devon. I might be taken off the list because of it, and it is now about the only way I get decent bread once a year.

All of which is perhaps irrelevant to you, perhaps not. At any rate I know what you mean about a lot of things, the context of moneylessness with poetry. The nub, which is the point of this letter, is that I don’t think I am the best person to argue your case for a committee in the supporting letter asked. The truth is that I think your poetry is obviously technically skilful, the matter of the work is often important in your narrating firsthand experiences that need to be accounted in the body of the culture just now, and are widely missing - but my gut reaction, which is all I can ever at bottom go back to, is that it would be me much more powerful if lots that are in what I think of as a post-MacDiarmid literary Scots, were in ordinary standard English. Or maybe a Scots that was more flexible, and in passing. There seems to me to be a clash between an urgency of personal tone of urgent experience aimed at, and a Scots that in these eyes ears and lungs of mine, are simply not personal, are the attempt at a high register of vatic scots diction that - ach, R I don’t know: opinions like these can seem a fucking insult or whatever. They are not intended as such, and what you are driving at even in the conflict if I have described it accurately, is of course a valid and continuing problem of address in the nature of Scots literary register. I just think you’d be better getting someone who will be more on that side where you’re coming from in the language, from their heart. It’s getting that along with the politics, which itself obviously I have no problems with. Anyway I have to say I don’t feel guilty about saying any of this, I’m trying to express my opinion as truthfully as I can get it. I can’t say any more: if you want the ms back to send it elsewhere, I’ll send it. If you want to keep in touch, do.

 

 Saturday September 12th ‘98

Dear Anne

            Thanks for notifying us of the new address. A year ago at this time we were at Moniack, which was such a good time.I should have been once more in the infamous Totleigh Barton this week, but with illness had to pull out a couple of days before the course was due to start: a bloody nuisance - Sonya and I had hoped to have a break somewhere on the south coast after the course was over. But we’ll still manage somewhere before winter sets in, so chins remain in the up position.

            I hope you’re writing and well. For myself it’s mainly been a kind of poster poem line I’ve been pursuing recently, without even realising myself that it was taking place: it seems to be resolving into a series I’ll call “A Reformation Suite”, all about language as per. It would be good to get them produced properly as prints. Elsewhere in poetry I’m non-prolific as usual, but did manage this growl from the lair which Michael Schmidt has accepted for PN. Don’t know how you find this e-mail caper, I’m only on it a few weeks mainly to keep in touch with my sons in Australia. So long as the folk at the other end of the line remember to switch on their computer now and again, it should work. All the best. Tom.

            for the keeper of the journal 2

 

 Wednesday September 16th ‘98

Dear C

I phoned you there but you were at a meeting. I may be out myself this afternoon, so I’ll drop this off to you.

Not to your surprise, I imagine, I’d rather just skip on the reading in Buchanan Street. There’s places I don’t want to read in, as I live there or pass through, that’s the way I want it to stay - passing through.

It was good meeting you again and having a blether, though I’d rather you just forgot about the business or whatever it is to be called part of our conversation. I’ve wanted to do what I want to do for years, but never saw that as the business of the library until I should think up some way of approaching the inner circles properly. I don’t think this is the time at all just now, that’s obvious: if I come up with some other funding approach in the future fine, I’ll take it from there, then, myself.

What struck me with force is the name you say the heart of the place, the one place that I’m actually interested in, is known as: “The Cage”. Precisely - I couldn’t have found a more exact metaphor for it myself, and for what has to be changed. Hamish’s anthology isn’t enough, good though it is, Radical Renfrew isn’t enough. An unimagined amount of the place’s (by which I don’t mean just Glasgow’s) poetic culture is in “The Cage”, that’s the undoubted point, and the physical means now in new ways exist seriously to start releases, to make things available for people then to make their own histories, their own paths. It should be a nationwide thing. It’s not some eccentric scheme, it just seems so bloody obvious.

Anyway. It will come about some day. All the best.

 

 

Sunday Sepember 27th ‘98

Dear T

Good to hear from you, still burning up the globe. Naff phrase. Nice also to get a letter from someone else who makes a slight apology for moaning. I’ve a feeling my last number of letters have ended up like that to you.

I’ll send Ed and Jenny a card I think rather than email after what you say about Jenny not looking at it frequently. I’ve decided now just to look at and do email on Sundays, after the first craze of newfanglement. I can’t stand fucking Joanna Lumley’s voice breathing out “You hev powst” etc and I prefer my tin box to be my own little private castle of infinite possibility most days of the week without posties trekking in and out. So I’m glad to have it, for keeping in touch with the farflung like this - but for a while anyway it will be only on a Sunday.

Just to remind you not that you need reminding of the Headbangers’ Anonymous state of the Scots Language brigade, I’ll add here the letter to the Irish Times that was forwarded to me by some people over there, and the reply I’ve just sent off. I know I’m going to regret it, they always like to have a good set-to in the papers these people - but anyway it’s done. Whether they publish it I don’t know. I’d copied it for my son, to remind him why it is good he should be on a South Thailand island at the moment, not in Scotland.

This letter was just meant to be a note to say hello back. Cheerio, Tom

                   ***                                 

Dr Bob Purdie, Ruskin College, Oxford. Irish Times Sep 17th.

Sir, It geid ma hert a heize tae see that Irish and Ulster Scots were yaised at the Ulster Foregaitherin. Ony siller it costs is weel worth it. Onybody wha thinks thae twa leids are sectarian suld ken that in Scotland there are Wee Free sermons in Gaelic whilk mak Ian Paisley’s soon lik bairnsang. An the Scots Catholic, Tom Leonard, scrieves in Glesga Scots. As oor great Scottish makar Hugh MacDiarmid pit it: “Will Gabriel in Esperanto cry?/ or aa the warld’s undeemis jargons try?”

Owersettin intil Inglis: It lifted my heart to see that Irish and Ulster Scots were used at the Northern Ireland Assembly. Any financial costs are well worth it. Anyone who thinks that these two languages are sectarian should know that in Scotland there are Free Presbyterian sermons in Gaelic which make Ian Paisley’s sound like nursery rhymes. And the Scots Catholic Tom Leonard writes in Glasgow Scots. As our great Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid put it: “Will Gabriel in Esperanto cry?/or all the world’s unregarded jargons try?”

(Reply sent to Irish Times 26th Sep.)

Dear Sir

More than one of your readers have drawn my attention to Dr Bob Purdie’s letter decrying the allegation that the use of Gaelic or Ulster Scots at the Northern Irish Assembly could be seen as sectarian. He writes that there are after all Scots Gaelic sermons so anti-Catholic they make Ian Paisley’s sermons “sound like nursery rhymes”. And on the other hand there is “the Scots Catholic Tom Leonard” who “writes in Glasgow Scots”.

As one who has not been a Scots theist of any kind for almost forty years, Tom Leonard finds it a little eerie to see himself described still in some Lallans quarters in these what-school-did-you-go-to reductivist terms. I wonder if the “Glasgow Scots” poem that Dr Purdie had in mind could have been my very own nursery rhyme from my sequence Ghostie Men:

baa baa black sheep

 


Wednesday September 30th ‘98

Dear Dr C

Thanks for the proofs, I hope your book goes well.

In case you didn’t see the note in my biography of Thomson - I don’t think it has been noted elsewhere - there is an interesting comment made by James Thomson (“B.V”) as introduction to some English translations he made from the Buch der Lieder and other Heine poems published in the Jersey Independent of March 7th 1862:

It may be worth while to remark that German love-songs are peculiarly difficult to translate into pure English, because abounding in naive diminutives of endearment for which we have no synonymes: hence the best of our dialects in which to render them is that “Doric Scotch” made classical by the glorious genius of Robert Burns. This hint may be of use to others.

To this I added “In modern times Heine has been translated into Scots by Edwin Morgan and by Donald Goodbrand Saunders”. (Places of the Mind Chapter 8 note 32 pp 356-357.)

Donald Goodbrand Saunders I know years ago was at work on a translation of Die Nordsee for which he I think applied for a bursary. I haven’t seen the translations if they were published.

 


Monday December 7th ’98

Dear B

Thanks very much indeed for the two fine Williams magazines. I hadn’t seen the Review before. What particularly interested me were the discussions on sexuality, and the references to Winnicott, who has been someone of episodic interest to me since my teens (I’m now 54).

There are things I want to pursue further in my reading, one being the discussion of voyeurism in relation to sadism and a form of revenge on the mother. I was unaware of that, since I don’t really digest much psychoanalytic matter, despite my occasional reading there.

My own first experience of Winnicott early, pertinent to discussion of Williams, was in the 1958 The Capacity to Be Alone, the infant experiencing the presence of the mother, and “the basis of the capacity to be alone is a paradox; it is the experience of being alone while someone else is present.” More to the point, in relation to transitional objects it seems to me, is Winnicott’s words in Playing and Reality that of “the transitional object” .... “I think there is use for the root of symbolism in time, a term that describes the infant’s journey from the purely subjective to objectivity” - this of sucking-blankets etc. It is this element of time though that seems to me important thinking about Williams and others, especially when one links this to the other wonderful “it is play that is the universal”, and the discussion of “the potential space” between mother and infant. I find this relevant partly to such as Beckett and the Scottish poet W.S. Graham, a favourite of mine, but also to the notion both of the object-poem as a mimetic-kinesis, and on the other hand as a model for (open) articulation shared between reader and writer - Olson’s projective verse essay pertaining; this as distinct from the closed, poem as layered meaning structure (containing approved civic moral philosophy) beloved of so much of that academe whose dearth of interest in Williams you regret. I hope I’m not sounding pompous myself here, I’m just trying to get a sense of what I’m trying to say, which your magazines have stimulated me to attempt. A tentative and somehow crucial to me tangent is where Winnicott talks about breath in The Family and Individual Development, in relation to that point in time where the infant is learning to distinguish between self and other: “Breathing gets caught up in whatever predominates at the time, so that it may be associated now with intake and now with output. An important characteristic of breathing is that, except during crying, it lays bare a continuity of inner and outer, that is to say, a failure of defences.”

Sorry if I’m dragging out my little store of knowledge with which you’re probably familiar anyway. I’m not actually very conversant with psychological literature, but I did write out sections of Winnicott when I began reading him. It’s a pity anyway in relation to the discussion of breath and object, that the Creeley-Olson correspondence stopped with George Butterick’s death. I was waiting on the much-trailed correspondence that included Williams.

Thanks for asking me if I have anything to contribute. I’m afraid I’ve been a bit ill of late and it seems that the capacity to write critical articles has for the moment totally left me. For your own interest or whatever here is a Glasgow dialect poem I wrote about twenty odd years ago for a dialect sequence published at the time. It’s a kind of response turning up the masculine thing a bit into a Glasgow culture perhaps: speshlz= (Carlsberg) Special Brews, a very strong lager popular with those who like to get drunk quite quickly.

jist ti let yi no

 


Christmas Day ’98

Dear Stephen

The bells have just gone midnight…….. we’re thinking of you, wishing you were with us obviously, but wishing more that you’re having a good time with people in the good weather where you are. I’ll just knock off with that for now - and send you appended this year’s silly xmas card from Dad: the references are tosser-literary, ie Iron in the Soul is a novel by Sartre, Chips with Everything was a groundbreaking realist play of the sixties, you probably know Leni Reifenstal as the one who did the arty Nazi athletic films. Anyway, this is what the friends will be getting as a card. Love to you just now Stephen, speak to you soon (we’ll phone you back wherever you phone from). Tom. 

 

THE FAITHFUL CADDIE

Rare and Antiquarian Books on Golf

Proprietors: Tom and Sonya Leonard

wish their customers

The Season’s Compliments

 

Christmas List

 

Are You Standing Comfortably?     The putting Bible. Sixth edition, fully revised.

 You and Your Number Six              That most difficult relationship, fully explained. By the author of Teach Yourself the Dog Leg.

 Iron in the Soul                               A famous French philosopher throws away his woods.

 Chips with Everything                    Wesker’s pioneering study of the Number Nine.

“A landmark in British golfing literature” -   Harold M Pinter.

A Bit of Rough on the Side              Saucy tales from the Victorian links. By “A Gentleman Golfer”.

 Tees Up!                                         The ever-popular “Cardew the Caddie”. A sequel to It’s in the Bag!

 De Sanctis Andrewis                      Pope Pius IX’s legendary trenchant encyclical on the Old Course. Latin only. (1873)

Bunkers Without Suicide                Forty stills from the great Leni Riefenstal’s long-suppressed photographic hymn to naked golfing under the Third Reich. Art? Propaganda? Bunkers Without Suicide includes the triumphal study of Herr Ribbentrop as a son of nature “in complete Aryan mastery over the notorious par six at the Fuehrer’s favourite golfplatz”.

 


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