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  • J. Laing, C.D Boyland

(REVIEW) Glasgow, ed. Ruthie Kennedy, Colin Herd, Tommy Pearson

A glitched image of the cover of the anthology Glasgow. The book has a bright blue cover with pink and blue arrows intersecting. It is held by a hand against a black backgroud and a windmill effect cuts through the image.

In this essay-review, J Laing and C.D Boyland converse and journey through the anthology Glasgow (ed. Ruthie Kennedy, Colin Herd and Tommy Pearson) (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2021). The book comprises thirty eight contributors, in twenty lockdown collaborations, which inhabit ‘A Glasgow of the mind’, a site of plastic time and space, and a memoriam to experiences both individual and collective.

Here we all are, in the pandemic after-

dream, grasping for the sense of it all before

it slips away from embodied recall and is mediated into history.

In this plastic time and space, the contemporaneous capture of words

and images, such as the experiences of thirty eight contributors collated in ‘Glasgow'

from a 2019 call out, can be defining . . .

shuttle between on the one hand the close reading on the other hand the big speculation

advises Jane Goldman in ‘WRITING AND TEXT: A LECTURE’, part of her contribution to this anthology.

Yes, we must shuttle between — the small/close and the big/speculative.

Thinking also, in relation to this book and as Jane Goldman

again suggests, about the how

how is the thing composed if

we were to say one word to sum

it all up in that word would be how

how is it made

because here is a book more than usually

bound up in the how of its making . . .

. . . which was formed in the middle of it all

when we were too shredded to know which

filters to apply, now collaborates with the

readers’ memories to cut slices of ‘real life’

as thin as they are thick. Fringe thoughts

and epiphanies, captured on phones and

notebooks and journals and messages,

are the relish that help us chew on the who,

the WTF, and the where are we now . . .?

. . . twenty lockdown collaborations together inhabiting a

‘Glasgow of the mind’. Glasgow being, in the words of

K Patrick/Adrien H. Howard, a posh park, slightly undone, a

quick joke made slow – or for Lucy Cash/Luke Pell — a city

which feels the shape of me . . .

. . . a testament to the role of poetry

in gathering our simultaneously atomised,

macro and microscopically observed lived

experiences into something digestible;

framing the anthology as a surreal-visceral

‘virtual home’ reflecting whatever-it-is

we’ve just come through as individuals

while celebrating ‘poem-ing together’

through the invocation of Tom Leonard’s

unwavering commitment to thigithirness . . .

. . . toggle between, then, these individual

closely held and observed pieces and the shape of the city thus inhabited.

. . . even though the picture of Glasgow

which emerges overall is not, as per Edwin

Muir, ‘a complete picture’. Or that it is not

necessarily recognisable at all times as

Glasgow – the question is whether it

matters that it is not these things? Can

you invoke a ‘Glasgow of the mind’

through works sited in (for example)

Edinburgh or Hong Kong? And if you can

— is this,that Glasgow?

. . . the email correspondence between

Anjeli Caderamanpulle and Joanne Lee,

who at the time lived in Glasgow, opens in

Hong Kong three weeks before lockdown in

the UK where Caderamanpulle is visiting. Her messages to

Lee twang with the familiar from life lived and the news.

Observations on the writing process,

democracy protests and food that is bad for

you yield a relatable and humorous portrait

of disparate urban environments. Insights

come from ‘having someone from the

outside report on situations far away’, when

Glasgow is the far away . . .

. . . that indefinite ‘a’ — ‘a Glasgow of the

mind’ — does a lot of heavy lifting. Shuttle

between these diverse and various pieces and ‘a’ city emerges. A university city.

. . . across thirty-four pages, Jane Goldman

evokes and synthesises the ‘i-i’ academic

voice of Irishman Paddy Lyons, and with

that single verbal idiosyncrasy I’m back in

1980s Glasgow Uni, where the sandstone is

black and he’s telling me that ‘Ulysses’ is a

box of chocolates, you pick from wherever in the box you want to choose . . .

(like this anthology)

. . . Lyons’ influence on Glasgow thinking

and writing imbues the conversations

between Goldman and her fellow poets.

Each partnership has its own stimulus and

images are batons passed from writer to writer

— someone dies ‘eaten by foxes’ followed by lips

that open ‘just like mine’ and Lila Matsmoto’s snap

buttons and raccoon and fast-running water in ‘Trombone’

chime in Goldman’s ‘Tromboon’ in the way that the stuff of daytimes

morphs in dreams. Connections are made across experiences and become

something beyond, and the various iterations of ‘i-i’ take on a pandemic poignancy.

It's a strength of this anthology that space is given to conversations such as this . . .

A city of parks and public spaces. A city with plenty of south and west but much less north and east.

. . . the opening graphic which illustrates the

geographical relationship between the windows

of Rowan Bland, Siam Hatzaw, Alice Hill, Asta Kinch

and Scott Norval also encompasses a soundscape that is

simultaneously a void and a squash of neighbours’ lawnmowers . .

. . . . reminds us, also of the vastly-wider networks of

interpersonal relations simultaneously being made/re-

made/disrupted by the conditions of lockdown, highlighting the

way in which this and other pieces in the book operate as a kind

of signalling across distance, the equivalent of a post-apocalyptic

radio signal being broadcast from an isolated location with no

certainty or knowledge, only the hope that someone, somewhere is listening…

. . . photos, taken we assume from the inside

of writers’ homes, are stripped of interior

context and recall that longing for the close

beyond. In some, tenements across the street

are full of unseen people. Ideas come in

snatches, scraps, then tail off. Phrases and

structures seem to be leading somewhere, then don’t.

Here is a cut-up portrait of ‘the randomness of our need’

that starts and ends with ‘what the fuck?’

At the time of publication, that’s still a valid question

A fearful city — per Gaar Adams/EC

Lewis’story about ‘a friend of a friend who got a

bottle thrown at him by some kid in broad

daylight’ — a story which, in and of itself, is

enough to render Kelman’s Drumchapel a no-

go zone . . .

A crime report, enigmatic photographs,

visceral renderings of sexual encounters, all

clues in ‘Pavilion’ by Tim Knights, Matthew Kinlin and Christopher Owen.

Somewhere between the bus to Parkhead

and Buchanan bus station a murder is imagined. It is a journey through an

un/familiar city, depending on where you’re coming from.

It’s the same fractured space inhabited by K Patrick and Adrian H. Howard,

where a teenager yells ‘FAGGOT’ at a guy walking his dog (‘every letter is given a chance’),

the Finnieston crane is butch and gulls ‘cry out as if somebody has set their wings on fire’.

Gentler appreciations of urban ubiquities such as foxes and street dandelions

and park rhododendrons restore some urban equilibrium

only for it to lapse back into ‘strange-time’.

. . . Greg Thomas/Saskia McCracken’s mining of the “Southside

Memories Postcard Project” stands thrice removed (further away)

from the authentic, individually-identified lives it describes – first

by the anonymization of the original postcard submissions,

second by the removal from the same of their local, geographic

markers (the erasure of street and road names) and finally, by the

curation by strangers on the basis of – what? The attractiveness

of particular phrases/word-groups/word-families, in terms of

their suitability for this, new purpose? Is it, per Anjeli

Caderamapulle’s Hong Kong diary, valuable to have this


. . . colonialism and whiteness as

experienced in Hong Kong leads to

descriptions of ‘a strange mindset’ and ‘not

quite knowing what is colonial/colonised/ours/theirs’.

Conversations both include and question Glasgow . . .

. . . for example, where Shehzar Doja and

Juana Adcock contemplate Glasgow’s

problematic relationship with its former Empire in three sections.

The first is a view through the broken windows of the AT RISK

India Building, as it waits to be reimagined. The second

is a list of metaphors applied to the river which ‘lights up each night

like an amusement park for no one’; this post-colonial, post-industrial Glasgow

is ‘a razed temple’, ‘an abandoned factory’, ‘a plantation’, ‘a rape survivor’

constrained by its shallowness. Finally, in section III, ‘The river walks…’,

Glasgow is ‘Razed. Erased. Raised’. Here is a softer rain-soaked

place of possible and necessary unities and the fabled

Glasgow humour in the shape of the cone makes a bid for

its place in this new song . . .

. . . mediation (and its lexically-adjacent companion,

‘meditation’) is a useful lens through which to view the

works preserved in this anthology (and ‘preservation’

feels also to be pertinent, given the context in which

pieces were written). There are double and sometimes

treble mediations in play, from the selection of

writers/partnerships to the process by which material

has (presumably) been refined and edited prior to submission/publication . . .

. . . intense new relationships with

specifically located physical locations emerge.

A longing for the forbidden greenness of the

hills beyond the city lead Fionn and Eileen Duffy to strange

desires: they dream of sucking stones, and being the

moss-covered-rock known from memes.

They cite a concept called duchas, which is the Irish

iteration of that sense of connection to a place due to

‘descent or long-standing, inherited, instinctual or natural tendency’.

. . . some kind of close relative to duchas is encountered in

‘SKIRTS’. Here, Esther Draycott, Gwen Dupre and Kiah Endelman

Music draw on a range of sources to critique

impossible longings’ deriving from the scopophiliac gaze.

Documentary photography of poor communities in The Gorbals,

including Oscar Marzarolli’s iconic image of three wee boys in high heels,

and Alasdair Gray’s ‘Something Leather’, are straddled by a

powerful female persona for whom ‘the city worn as an outfit’.

Their blend of ekphrasis, photography, academic writing and

characterisation tweaks at the beards of Glasgow’s artistic icons.

. . . we woke up differently during the early

part of lockdowns. People, for a while, held

onto vivid recollections of where the night

had taken them and much of the writing

in Glasgow touches on a rich seam of

fiction deriving from surreal subconscious

wanderings. Other people’s dreams are generally dull,

in the retelling, but some of these peeks behind the

drawn curtains are intriguing insights to a brief period

where people held onto these fragmented ramblings like clues.

. . . the collection aptly ends with Kirsty

Dunlop and Maria Sledmere’s intriguing

blend of stream of consciousness dream

-writing and prose extracted from their essay

‘somniloquy: a little kilo of dreams’ . . .

We tried mostly to listen, wedded to idea of a dream ‘intemporality’: the time lived in dream as a bubble, an ageless space.

This reference toHélène Cixous feels like the crux of the matter, insofar

as it speaks softly but resonantly to the collective dream-state at the time of its writing . . .

. . . sharing the universal through real,

dreamed and fictional particularities is

poetry and, these days, many of the inhabitants

of this city can live here ‘imaginatively’ because

Glasgow has become used to being imagined.

Even if some of these contributors haven’t yet encountered

McAlpin’s complaint in Gray’s ‘Lanark’ about the lack of

artistic representation of Glasgow, collectively they have

captured fragments of the magnificence and Unthank-fulness of the place . . .

This book isn’t that interested in the black

dirt beneath the fingernails of family

history. Which is okay. There are plenty of

other books to go to for that sort of


. . . in the end, this may (or may not) be a

book about Glasgow — but what it

certainly is, is a memoriam to

experiences both disturbingly individual

and inescapably collective . . .

. . . it’s less a validation of the contributors’

connections to Glasgow and the specific nooks and

crannies of this city, and more a celebration of how

the project has contrived creative connectedness

to other people, wherever they might be . . .

. . . it uses a variety of tricks and techniques,

erases and collages, diarises and fantasises in

order to tell its various stories in ways that are

sometimes hallucinatory and other times,

delightfully real.


Text: J. Laing, C.D Boyland

Image: C.D Boyland, J. Laing

Published: 28/10/22


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