(REVIEW) Glasgow, ed. Ruthie Kennedy, Colin Herd, Tommy Pearson
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,
Text: J. Laing, C.D Boyland
Image: C.D Boyland, J. Laing