SIXTEEN OCCASIONAL POEMS
ON WHAT OCCASSIONED FOREGOING VERSES
Alasdair Gray © 2005
1990 the heads of print workshops in
I used two houses in the winter of 1990-91, one rented from Glasgow District Council, one by the woman I married. That made her home mine too, so I soon had as few as most people.
In April 1994 we went to Galway Literary Festival and enjoyed quiet afternoons in an uncrowded, unhurried pub with many intricate little corners. Blows can never be evaded for long and one will inevitably kill us, but in the snug of that small drinking shop and bedroom of a small hotel I felt that between blows enough peace can exist for life to be good, if addiction to peace is avoided.
people have lived during the twentieth century than in the whole half million
years before it, and more have been violently killed. The largest killings were
in wars started by capitalist empires and by single party dictatorships. After
1950 several states created and maintained by violence ended without violence
destroying them: the British and
The start of the Jewish Genesis and the Christian Saint Johnís Gospel that expands on it have been used by people in authority to suggest that the order of the universe derives from dictatorial words of command: an idea loved by those who want to be obeyed and many who like obeying them. Existential philosophy opposed that by saying the universe that generates us has no order by the order our own minds decide to impose. This view, though perhaps bracing for brave souls trying to change a crushing state of mind or society, may have led to the woolliness of some Postmodern theories. My wee poem suggests order is a pattern unfolded in simultaneous material and mental events, and neither has priority. No doubt this idea too is liable to corruption.†
1995 I attended a conference about links between visual and verbal art. It was
I remembered Popeís Dunciad. This described fashionable criticism so divorced from common sense that it snuffs out the Word that Saint John said was the light of the mind, thus returning the universe to that earliest state which Jews thought a dark depth and the Greeks a mere chaos.
The first seven lines of this poem are quotations from the start of
Philip Hobsbaum wrote a bitter, funny poem in the voice of someone interviewing an applicant for a teaching job. The applicant is rejected because, though an experienced teacher, he has also written books. My poem ends by paraphrasing the end of Philipís, which uses the conventional phrase ending most business letters in English.††
POEMS 9-15 INCLUSIVE
These seven poems were suggested by the titles and images of prints by Ian McCulloch. They were written in August 1998 for Ianís book of prints, The Artist in His World published by Argyll, of Glendaruel.
TO TOM LEONARD
excepting god as the energy, form, matter of the universe and believing all religious
beliefs are partly true, I dislike the division of god into father, son and holy
ghost: a division I feel too human and masculine, yet also too abstract and theoretical
to imagine. In October 1999 I was delighted to read God the Tree in translations
from the poetry of Rilke. Rilke imagined a sixteenth century Russian monk who
speaks of godís Italian branch having an unusually sunny growth compared with
the Russian branch, which none the less has its own unique growths. The brought