Tour Recap – Glasgow, Mitchell Library
Glaswegian poet, McGuire, was asked to open the Next Generation Poets 2014 Tour in the beautiful surroundings of his home city’s Mitchell Library on the eve of National Poetry Day. Carrying the mic-stand away from the lectern and setting it in the centre of the stage seemed an apt metaphor for his lively and powerful poetry, which moved from a playful ode to staying in bed, to ‘Glesga Boys’, his many-voiced song of sexuality set in the city’s pubs.
Sam Willetts had the honour of being the first Next Generation Poet to represent the promotion on stage, and begun by lamenting his status as a “junkie-poet”, evocatively stating: ‘I am not a heroin-poet, but a poet who became addicted’. He read eloquently from a selection of poems for a new collection, including an evocative and touching elegy for a friend which begun, ‘So sad, so drunk, I picked a fight with the sea’. Willetts also performed ‘St Columba’s Footprints’ from New Light for the Old Dark, a mystical piece set on the Scottish islands of Jura and Kintyre where, he finished, ‘a saint was rowed ashore/whose weight of purpose sank heel and toe/into the rock as if it had been snow’.
Honorary Scot, Jen Hadfield, gave us a great taste of the Shetland-based poetry across her two most recent collections. After reading from her 2008 collection, Nigh-No-Place, Hadfield voiced how it felt as though written by a different person. The poet went on to explore how important and welcome the processes of forgetting and remembering can be in poetry – ‘whether we can hold onto these moments we don’t want to forget’ – reading from her latest book, Byssus, to an enthralled crowd she thought to be the most captivated she’d ever read to.
Closing the evening was Don Paterson, one of the most renowned and respected Scottish poets still working today, who ruminated on his experience of being named in 1994’s New Generation Poets. After regaling a series of amusing anecdotes – including someone questioning his recent health in relation to a twenty-year old author photograph used to advertise an event – Paterson fittingly read poems from his debut collection, Nil Nil, which had been the recipient of the New Generation honour. His final poem, ‘Bedfellows’, focusing on the remnants of the last incumbent in a rented room, seemed perfectly apt in mirroring the generational quality of the evening, finishing with a haunting voice heard from below his pillow:
there are other ways to leave the room
than the door and the window