Gorbals Library – Glasgow
Today I gave out the poem ‘Playing House’ by Tessa Berring, which is featured in the new anthology, makar/unmakar: twelve contemporary poets in scotland (Tapsalteerie, 2019). I went to the Glasgow launch of the book last week, and was really impressed by all the readings. I chose this poem because I love how every line seems to change direction. Tessa has also just had her first collection, Bitten Hair, published by Blue Diode. When I met her at the reading, she offered me her copy for free but I (foolishly?) said I wanted to buy it to support a fellow poet. It is in the post!
As the man who asked me for a lighter said, it was “pure baltic” standing outside Gorbals Library today, so I didn’t think I’d be able to stay out long enough to give out all of the poems. He found a lighter in the end, and took a poem after originally refusing: “because you’ve got my respect”.
My ears got very cold, but I managed to give out all the poems. I met Jim, who read the whole poem to me out loud, surprising himself with every line, and considering the meaning before going on to the next. When he got to the end said: “oh marvellous!” and asked me why I was giving out poems and if I’ve ever had hot spun sugar in my face (read the poem!). I said it was just something I did in my free time, in case someone wanted to get into poetry but didn’t know where to start. This set him off: “oh I’ve read poetry!” He then started to recite by heart the entire works of Robert Burns.
One man seemed apprehensive and refused a poem on the grounds that: “it’s giving away paper, you see?” I told him he could recycle it afterwards but he wasn’t convinced. Another said no before I’d even finished offering, but when I was unlocking my bike he came back up to me and said in a flurry: “I would like a poem. I’m really sorry for saying no, that was really rude. It all happened so fast. What’s this all about then?”
I’d like a golden apple, or a red one
or I’ll cry
(this room is tiny
when covered in snow)
did you hear about the woman
who bound her face
in hot spun sugar
as a protest against everything?
we could do things too
like breathing in, then out
oh my God, oh my God
you’d really love that, wouldn’t you?