14 Nov 2014

Glasgow Flourishes by Calum Rodger

Calum Rodger, who was most inexcusably omitted from 2014's collection of the 'new generation of Scottish poets' called Be The First To Like This, has proved himself more than able not just as a writer, but as a commentator and interpreter.  In his collection Know yr Stuff, Calum Rodger demonstrated numerous applications of the poetic art to many different ends, playful, minimal, expressive and emotional. 

Glasgow Flourishes is somewhat different and is a single poem, presented as a limited edition handmade book from Tapsalteerie in Aberdeenshire.

Glasgow Flourishes is an ambitious poem, but one that is easy to grasp.  It may be an early attempt by Calum Rodger to place his poetic roots; more than any other art, poetry and poets are often linked to a certain place.
The city motto Let Glasgow Flourish, registered at the Lyon Court in 1866, is a curtailment of the text inscribed on the bell of the Tron Church cast in 1631: Lord let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising thy name. There is no mention of St Mungo in this booklet and nor is Glasgow Flourishes a re-working of the old tales that the city tells of him.  Instead Glasgow Flourishes breaks away from these images so that new associations emerge, with a new vibration and impact, not explicitly connected to the logical connected meanings we are used to.

Calum Rodger's argument is that the city lives in 'stone, souls, songs and syllables' and Glasgow Flourishes constructs hopeful tunes as he mines this idea, exploring the four elements of Glasgow's crest, the tree, the bird, the fish and the bell.  

These images, known well to every Glaswegian, are suddenly carried to the point of the most extreme gestures and sensitised, and used as antennae used to pick up an new domain of sources and memories; brought alive in other words. The fish for example, draws on the image of schools of artists, among other things:
If the fish never swam, then it never fed
Nibbled on the coral of culture till its grey scales turned red
Inflamed with music, art, song and staying up
Way too long past bedtime.  We have seen schools form
Under dreich Sauchiehall streetlights, been borne along
By wild nights, scorned the too unruly, but truly
Also played the fool ourselves under the stars of the Glasgow School.
Earlier this week we saw the launch of The Evergreen from The Word Bank in Edinburgh.  Both The Evergreen and Glasgow Flourishes seem to point to the regeneration of art by being beautiful  objects as well as books.  Already the poetry of the webpage and the print-on-demand pamphlet have become a commonplace.  We're not saying that good poetry can't be found on webpages and in print-on-demand books.  We're just saying fuck them, already!  The screen is such an irremediably passive way to read and even produce poetry, compared to the concentration on small and personal audiences as Glasgow Flourishes and these well-made books represent.

If poetry is not a game, if it is indeed a reality, the problem that a poem like Glasgow Flourishes solves is how we can restore poetry's standing as reality by reaching a wide number of people in a manner which suggests that every word is also an event.  These events are the new connections that Calum Rodger makes in this thoughtful poem.

In the meantime, please keep checking the Be The First to Like This book and website, just to be double-plus-sure that they really did miss him!

Calum's website is ALL REAL CULTURE IS FREE