NEW POETRY APRIL-MAY 2020 SELECTION: MAGI GIBSON, JOCK STEIN, AND BRIAN BEATTY
MAGI GIBSON has had five poetry collections published, including the popular Wild Women of a Certain Age. The National described her latest, Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks, as “A joy to read”. A new collection I Like Your Hat will be out from Luath in November 2020. She’s won several writing awards including the Scotland on Sunday/Women 2000 Poetry Prize, has held three Scottish Arts Council Writing Fellowships, has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, and Writer in Residence in Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art and Glasgow Women’s Library. Poems appear in many anthologies, including Modern Scottish Women Poets, Scottish Love Poems (both Canongate) and The Twentieth Century Book of Scottish Poetry (Edinburgh University Press). Currently she edits The Poets’ Republic.
JOCK STEIN is a piper and preacher from East Lothian, locked down but not yet up, and grateful to all those who deliver to the well-over-seventies. His most recent books (2019) are Swift and The Iolaire (poetry), and Jock’s Journey (memoir and, inevitably, more poetry), and he has just finished writing poems on all the psalms for a PhD at Glasgow University.
BRIAN BEATTY is the author of the poetry collections Borrowed Trouble, Dust and Stars: Miniatures (Cholla Needles Press, 2019 and 2018), Brazil, Indiana: A Folk Poem (Kelsay Books, 2017) and Coyotes I Couldn’t See (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). His writing has appeared in numerous print and digital publications, including The American Journal of Poetry, The Bark, Conduit, CutBank, Dark Mountain, elimae, The Evergreen Review, Exquisite Corpse, Gulf Coast, Hobart, Hummingbird, Lake Country Journal, McSweeney’s, Midwestern Gothic, The Moth, Museum of Americana, NOON, Phoebe, Poetry City USA, The Quarterly, Seventeen, Southern Poetry Review and Two Hawks Quarterly, among others.
MARGARET WATKINS, PHOTOGRAPHER 1919
Growing up in Canada you feared, not
being eaten by a bear, accidentally shot
by hunters gone berserk, or falling through
the jagged ice of a frozen lake, but rather
the horrendous thought of being
‘domesticated to death’.
Years later, safe in Greenwich Village,
you took aim at your kitchen sink, caught
the light on its seductive rim, smooth,
creamy as licked-clean bone, zoomed in
on the brass tap’s rude protuberance,
its unleashed gush, snapped and trapped
its spumous rush on silver gelatin.
What was in your mind that day you rammed
the wood-stemmed dish-mop in the round
hole of the overflow? Adjusted it to poke
just so, at the rakish angle of a jaunty cock?
Did you know you’d make – a century after –
another woman rock with laughter
at your wicked joke? I like to think you loved
your photographs to shock. I like to think
you said, drawing coolly on a Russian cigarette,
‘Why all the fuss? It’s just a photo of a kitchen sink.’
This sink’s rolled enamel rim, sensuously curved
like a lover’s shoulder blade. Three hens eggs, perfect
ovals on a softly textured cotton towel. A sudden drop.
Those eggs! Brown, off-white, white-not-quite.
Metaphor? For what? The ego of the artist?
Femaleness? Fragility? Or might
they represent the quickly ticking time
bomb of your own fertility?
Such early morning stillness
in this shot, yet…
one tug on the dangling
waterfall of cloth and oh
Domestic Symphony would
into that aching
Did you wake one morning, blink bleary at the sight
of unwashed dishes from the night before, sigh –
then in a flashbulb moment think – there’s art
in this! Right here. This kitchen sink!
Milk bottle, water-filled, scum-topped, a china
cup, an unwashed bowl, rim-chipped, a striped
milk jug, a soaking pastry brush, a… phial?
Why surely that’s a witch’s implement? And see
that curious kettle spout, curved as an old crone’s nose,
peeping in at the photo’s edge, gasping at the mess,
while looming on the wall the kettle’s shadow, mad
as a fat round moon, an evil twin, rocks with joy
at what one critic, outraged, called this
‘celebration of dirty housekeeping’!
And you exhibited at the Annual Salon
as Still life composition. Kitchen Sink.
While others sought the mirror of a soulful lake,
the drama of a deep-etched cliff or angry waterfall
to test their skill with this new art, you stayed
inside, calculating shadow, angle, light,
handling silvered plates, fragile negatives,
rocking stop baths, mixing noxious chemicals,
a woman happy in her kitchen after all!
A to Z
acrostic seems a little lower case for God,
belittles one whose letters only spell a word,
cannot bow before the majesty,
describe the beauty or the glory,
evoke those intimate connections
firing all things seen and unseen,
gilding star and season,
hearth and holy heritage.
I will bless you every day, my God and King,
just as on weekday afternoons, the synagogue
kept psalms like this in service,
line by crisp and careful line,
marrying grace and greatness,
never close to running out
of verbs and other
parts of stunning speech,
questions left behind this craft of wonder
reaching for the sky, complaints left wailing
somewhere in the wake of praise. A
tapestry of miracle is rolling, scrolling
underneath earth’s tragedies, adding
value unsuspected without faith. If
Wallace Stevens could invent so many
extra things about a blackbird, how will
you, my God, approach the
zenith of your poetry?
A Granny’s Tooth at Port Seton
I thought of the old lady
on the Bellany canvas
as I cradled the router
in my palm, felt it stroke
the warm wood, steel
on skin, as hard and soft
as a cat’s paw.
the tooth was ancient,
firm as the hills
across the Forth,
full of the old wisdom.
The tooth had eyes
for the fashions of oak,
the curves of rosewood,
the marks of mahogany.
sharp set for the groove,
a blade as fierce
as her memory
of water crashing
on the boat shore
where the men
did not come back.
A ‘granny’s tooth router’ is a narrow
plane used by joiners to cut a groove.
Turn a corner
in this cemetery
in Edinburgh, Scotland
and there stands
a stone monument
honoring Scottish-American dead
of the U.S. Civil War.
Poor William Duff,
the lone burial
beneath the memorial, I read,
died in poverty —
old world or new
the most patriotic and liberating
that can kill you.
All works published by the Glasgow Review of Books are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and the journal reserves the right to be named as place of first publication in any citation. Copyright remains with the poet. http://www.glasgowreviewofbooks.com