Good news for everyone planning to take poetry this Spring—Glasgow poet Brian Whittingham is coming from Scotland to be the Distinguished Visiting Poet, and to teach Narrative Poetry, ENGL 393.
Brian’s seven books of poetry cover everything from Clydeside dockworkers (as he was in his youth) to a collection of children’s poetry, Septimus Pitt and the Grumbeloids. A prolific and popular poet in Scotland, Brian is also a playwright, photographer, and talented teacher. We’re delighted that he has been able to leave his teaching duties at the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies (sailors need their poets!) to join us for a term this coming Spring.
Brian’s most recent collection of poems is Bunnets n Bowlers: A Clydeside Odyssey (Luath Press Edinburgh, 2009), a reference to the hats worn by the dockworkers (“bunnets” is Glaswegian for “bonnets” which is Scots for “hat”) and the managers—whose bowler hats characterize the men who don’t work with their hands. These poems showcase Brian’s special skills as a labor poet: dialect writing, storytelling, character building, and conveying a complete world to the reader.
Here's a link to his website: http://www.brianwhittingham.co.uk/
Below are a couple of poems from Bunnets n Bowlers:
THE NIGHTSHIFT MAN
He downed a few halfs and half-pints
in the Seven Seas public bar.
His nightshift chaser
for the shipyard that never slept.
And inside the fabrication shed
like a Stanley Spencer cathedral,
the half-cut nightshift man,
Lilliputian against the funnels
that seemed to touch the shed’s roof,
he shaped and formed the cold creaking steel.
And in between showers of spraying sparks
and blinding flashes of light
a fill of rattle hammer clatter screech and whine,
the nightshift man
played midnight darts,
munches three am makeshift meals,
and stole forty in the cardboard box beds.
And when the job went wrong
her cursed long
into the wee small hours.
And in the mornings going home
to his bed he passed
newly risen nine-to-fivers
with faces as dreich
as the clouds above their heads
blotting out the blue of the sky.
In the QUIET comfortable waiting room
of the private hospital
a guy comes through the door
exclaiming to his colleagues
that both eardrums are perforated,
his claim is looking good
and we murmur our approval,
we’ll screw the bastards
out of every penny they’ve got
we think as we grow more deaf by the minute.
(And if all else fails
there’s always bronchitis
vibration white finger
and I am acutely aware
it’s too late to understand
the implications of
‘Right enuf, wi thae big feet
yi could get a joab in the polis nae bother,
Ach, bit therr’s nae tae worry,
ah’ll get yi a joab in the yards,
yi’ll be fixed up fur life, so yi wull,
fixed up fur life.’
It’s strange: in my head
I can still hear these words being said.