Jim Carruth, 2015 Recipient

Jim-CarruthJim Carruth was born in 1963 in the West of Scotland, and grew up on his family’s farm near Kilbarchan. He has had six well-received pamphlet collections of poetry since his first, Bovine Pastoral in 2004. He has won both the James McCash poetry competition and McLellan poetry prize and was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2009. In 2005 he was one of the founders of St Mungo’s Mirrorball, the network of Glasgow poets which he chairs. He is also the current artistic adviser for Stanza – Scotland’s International Poetry festival. He has been involved in many poetry projects, including editing an anthology for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and having his words etched in stone as part of Andy Scott’s Kelpies sculpture. He was appointed Glasgow Poet Laureate in July 2014 in succession to Liz Lochhead and Edwin Morgan. His most recent collection Prodigal won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2015. In 2015 his verse Novella Killochries was published.

Publications

Books

Killochries  (Freight Poetry, 2015)

Pamphlets

Bovine Pastoral  (Ludovic Press, 2004)
High Auchensale  (Ludovic Press, 2006)
Baxter's Old Ram  Sang the Blues (Ludovic Press, 2007)
Cowpit Yowe  (Ludovic Press, 2008)
Grace Notes 1959  (Dreadful Night Press, 2010)
Working the Hill  (Mariscat press, 2011)
Rider at the Crossing  (HappenStance Press, 2012)
Prodigal  (Mariscat Press, 2014) winner of the Callum MacDonald Award

 

Selected Poems from Recent Work 

The man who wanted to hug cows

On his good days, he’d walk out from the village,
lose himself in country lanes, drawing blood from brambles
or stare across fields mumbling to himself.
They called him professor though no one knew his past;
the postman brought rumours of separation and breakdown.

When first asked, farmers said no.
One relented, pointing him to a quiet Friesian.
‘Seemed harmless enough’ he told his neighbour later
but he watched him closely from the gate that first time,
uneasy at the nervousness of the stranger.

Left in peace, for long afternoons
he’d cling around folds of the heifer’s neck;
whisper an echo in the beast’s dark ear,
her big eyes and soft rough muzzle would turn to him.
Slow-motion slavers and heavy breath fell across his face.

To those who listen the farmer’s wife still recalls
finding him asleep in the grass – a smile within the herd;
his head resting on thick-haired warmth,
lulled by the rise and fall of maternal ribs,
the beat of a larger heart.

Black Cart

Time’s wagon ever-onward driven

Alexander Pushkin

The stook building had finished early that day
so all of us jumped a lift on the miller’s big cart
discarding thin shirts in a pile behind the driver.

Harvest’s favourite sons bronzed and bawdy,
we stood at the back shouting on passers by,
toasting our handiwork with sickly warm beer.

Under a big sky Johnny sang something coarse
and we bellowed along proud of our own voices,
confident of tomorrows, as if we owned the sun.

Some cursing an old Clydesdale’s slow rhythm
raced ahead of the cart impatient for the ceilidh
while others stayed on through a sunset’s glow.

Beyond Harelaw the mare laboured on the brae,
strained on its breast strap; the dray shuddered
and empty bottles rolled across its wooden floor,

boards stained with the dry blood of dead beasts.
We crouched down quick, clung on to the sides,
felt then a first shiver and reached for our shirts.

Passing those unmarked crossings and road ends,
the horse slowed on its journey but never stopped
so Johnny, his song long silent, must’ve slipped off

unnoticed, and the others too when their time came,
like orchards’ ripe fruit, dropped soft to the ground,
disappeared fast down dirt tracks and narrow lanes.

Those of us that remained pulled our knees up tight,
our thin joints stiffening in the moonlit glint of sickle,
our whispers drifting away on a winnowing breeze.

Storm clouds rolled in to snuff out every dead star
until there was just me huddled by the driver’s back
the darkest mile left to go and too late for the dance.

 Explore Jim Carruth’s website

 

A brief comment from Jim Carruth about being in Greece, in 2015

Greece – where do I start – first of all it has taken thirty years for me to come back to this country – Odysseus returned much quicker and I do feel guilty. I arrived on the day of the referendum on the bailout agreement and left as they finally agreed a deal. Those two weeks were full of conversations with wonderful people in difficult times. Hard too not to feel uneasy about chatting to our guides who described with passion the glory of the ancient sites when their own future is so much in doubt. 

I feel guilty too that I have been content to date to have conversations in my writing with classical writers rather than to seek out conversations with the living. All that has changed – my notebook was filled as much by Greece today as the ancient sites we visited. I was taken early on by a talk on the idea of Heroism in ancient times at the Olympic conference and later in the Garden of Heroes in Messolonghi marking the terrible exodus from the city in the 19thcentury, but it is the heroism today shown by all the people that I met and how they approached the everyday challenges of life that will stay with me longest.

What perfect hosts – So generous, so welcoming, so many memories. Thirty years was thirty years too long - counting the months until my return.

 For more information on the awarded pamphlet, click here.

Jim-Carruth-Prodigal