GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Stuart A. Paterson is an award-winning poet in Scots and English. He lives in Kirkcudbrightshire after returning to the area in 2012 following 14 years of working in north-west England. An Ayrshireman of long descent, he founded and edited the international poetry and prose review ‘Spectrum’ from 1989 to 1996. He was given an Eric Gregory Award in 1992 from the Society of Authors, recognising the UK’s finest poets under the age of 30, and a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary in 1993 to spend time travelling and writing in France and Greece. Most recently, he was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship from the Scottish Book Trust, enabling him to spend November 2014 working and writing in the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing in France. He was appointed the Scots Language Society’s Virtual Poet-In-Residence for 2015-16.
Stuart was the Scottish Arts Council Writer-In-Residence for Dumfries and Galloway from 1996-98. A booklet of work, ‘Mulaney Of Larne and other poems’ was published by the University of Leiden in 1991 as part of their ‘Scottish Writers’ series. His first full collection, ‘Saving Graces’, was published by Diehard in 1997 and short-listed for the Saltire Society’s First Collection Award. He was one of the new generation of Scottish poets featured in ‘Dream State: The New Scottish Poets’ (Polygon 1994/2002), for which he wrote the title poem. He’s also had work featured in ‘Scottish Literature in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology’ (Scottish Cultural Press), ‘A Year in Poetry: A Treasury of Classic and Modern Verses’ (Random House) and, more recently, ‘Scotia Nova: Poems For The Early Days Of A Better Nation’, (Luath Press 2015). His work has also appeared in The Herald, The Cambridge Journal of Comparative Criticism, The Long-islander (USA), Australian Poetry Journal, Chapman, Lines Review, Lallans, The Poets’ Voice (Austria), New Contrast (RSA), La Brita Esperantista and many other publications.
Stuart A. Paterson
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: August 2015
AT DOUGLAS HALL
Twice daily the tides are here, sometimes
breenging shoreward like an army
of small, mad angry locals,
at others, creeping in on tourist feet.
They are their own beginnings & endings,
stories that tell themselves, borderline ballads
of loss & finding, war cries or sobs
or occasional lullabies, all midnight
& moonlight, tender vessels of tiny waves
bringing shallow white words & drifting
tributes ashore, washed up at
the very end & very start of it.
That sound outside, near Sandyhills bridge,
along Barnhourie Burn, a high wild wailing
winding down to a long low growl of echo,
has me up in my chair, neck hairs tight.
You’d tell me it’s a heron out on the scope
for sprats, perhaps a dog fox losing its head
to the vast dark freedoms of a Galloway night.
Part of me wishes you here with your
brush-off urban logic, dismissing
superstitious whims of banshees, bogles,
shades, you who are out there, somewhere,
unaccounted for too.
Yet part of me thrills, the part
still too unsure to rise & draw the curtains,
like a vole forced into the bright
desperation of winter moonlight
on untrammelled snow, fearfully
seeking proof of something other
than its tiny self on the go,
trembling, held somewhere terrible
between warm safety, hunger
& the old need-to-know.
Last night I saw red in the sky’s
angry fanfare, fiery waterfalls
belching through black cloud,
my upturned white face
catching cold rays of sun,
my hands in my pockets, blue
& sore from clenching
against thin fists of merciless wind.
Eyes streaming & looking
over to Cumbria, caught between
somewhere neither England,
Scotland or me, I felt
for a second like a tiny
tattered flag, battered & blown
to bits, ‘til all that remained
was a ragged hand unclenching,
stretching out fingers to
colour the sunset blue.
HIGH TIDE AT SANDYHILLS
That night, when everything was full,
the moon, the flaring bay & me,
all was possible, beautiful.
I could have swum to St. Bee’s
in minutes, made for Maryport,
washed myself up in England
before the pub doors closed,
tide-bright & thirsty on the strand.
As it was, I floated a mere hundred yards
on gentle waves to a stake net pole,
driftwood on a fluid mirror of stars,
full as the universe, pin-pricked with holes.
The wind has slapped my face & suddenly
it’s not June or July but still November
inrushing past the helpless memory
of months uncoloured, harder to remember
except as monochrome. The trail of days
each nerve can’t help recalling quickly entered
but won’t feel end, an hour hand of always,
crawls on to what might be a void, or centre.
Impossible … to think of forest floors,
grey fields of mud now, carpeted with bluebells,
the last of May gone yellow with the gorse,
whole beech-boles sanded in with asphodels,
holt-wintered otters ploughing through the spate’s
late Spring, a riverbed churned to life.
In watching them is shown what compensates
for drab & dreich – a pair now grown to five
pell-melling back & forth, the bitch & dog
I knew last autumn re-emerged, returned
with young, wound up onto another clock,
the hour hand past the tip, the lesson learned:
that every darkness keeps a little light.
The wind has slapped my face, brought to the skin
a colour in the cheeks too briefly bright,
a colour nursed like tiny flames within.
Scanning barcodes of Galloway evening sky,
last minutes of pink light limping weakly out
unanswering westward, in reply
I hear the oystercatchers shout
their mad fast movements down the coast.
If asked who or what I’d been previously,
I might answer, enigmatically,
basking shark, red kite, stravaiging minstrel,
last of the havering Wigtownshire Picts,
wishing & inventing perhaps
for anything other than now & this.
Looking in I really feel none of these,
no claw through coiled flesh, fin through riptide,
savage tribute, towering cliffs, moss-bearded trees.
Looking out, I see blind night behind
& racing in front, the singing wings
just visible, purposeful, making
last dashes before the big light goes out;
pasts & futures caught
between that final, tiny sunburst
& the long beyond of doubt.
"Galloway and the Solway, its tides and winds, its ebbs and flows, its times and timelessness speak themselves in Paterson’s poems. He isn’t so much writing poems about his environment as allowing it to speak for itself, and himself becoming identified with it."