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Poetry - Love and Revolution

Love and Revolution - Poetry of Alastair McIntosh

"He howls his poems like a wild man" - Nizlopi

 

a.  About the collection

b.  Reviews

c.  The introduction

d.  10 Poems - a selection

 

Love and Revolution is the title of my poetry collection from Luath Press, Edinburgh, published 4th September 2006. The Introduction and a taster of three of the shorter poems are given below. Details of forthcoming performances (sometimes offputtingly and wrongly known as "readings") are on my itinerary. I've pasted in a representative sampling below - not necessarily the best, but ones that stand alone well. 

You can order it direct from Luath Press, from Scotland's radical bookshop WordPower, or from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com (£7.99/$14.95 r.r.p., 96 pp., ISBN 1-905222-58-0).

The work was collected over the previous twenty years. Much of it was written while I was engaged in the struggles documented in Soil and Soul. While that book told stories, offered analysis and explored history, this one shares the inner spirituality that integrates working for transformation in the world with the eternal search to know the passion of love in all its meanings. 

Recent pieces of writing in the collection include two longer poems: The Forge explores identity, belonging and mythology in the political context of Scotland's land reform and the people of the Gigha have requested to hang a copy of it in the island's hotel. And Homage to Young Men was written at the request of the chart-topping folk hip-hop duo, Nizlopi, of JCB Song fame. It was first performed with them in January at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow and, subsequently, to audiences of up to 3,000. 

Nizlopi's new mini-album, ExtraOrdinary, was simultaneously released with Love & Revolution on 4th September. The last track comprises the Homage performed as a crazy rant with the boys of the band. This mini-album is available from Recordstore. There's  also the text of the Homage and a BBC radio interview about it available online here

This Homage was, of course, a one-track wonder from the one-track mind of a fake rapper! I just can't take the late nights anymore! But do, please, enjoy at your leisure, as with a good malt whisky - Love and Revolution. And let me add how delighted I am that the cover uses the work of Rhona Mackinnon, a young photo-artist from the Isle of Harris, with a composition from her home village entitled, River at Bun Abhainn-Eadar, Harris. 

Reviews of Love & Revolution

"I read the brief introduction to the collection in my little wooden cabin at Cae Mabon and was amazed by the number of powerful ideas the author had fitted into this short piece." - Philip Carr-Gomm, Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, 2009.

 

 "… a remarkable spiritual articulation of life’s universal journey, from departure, through initiation to return… Offering beauty, passion, harmony, humour, love and revolution, but most of all love." - Alan Hobbett, Good Company, 2007.

 

“From the quiet solitude of a winter’s night to passionate love, these verses touch on many aspects of life’s journey.” - Scots Magazine, Dec 2006.

 

“I asked Alastair to get up and rave with us because he is my favourite author. He is a poet, a thinker and a doer. He seems able to link us to our past, to the land and to the spiritual core that is the essence of life and art. We need people who dare to speak these truths more than ever now… He howls his poems like a wild man.” – Luke Concannon, lead singer in Nizlopi

 

"It addresses what the mythologist Joseph Campbell identified as the tree stages of all great stories (and life itself): departure, initiation - running into troubled waters - and return, when the hero brings back gifts and blessings to the community.... McIntosh delivers harsh social criticism with a poetic voice." - Sam Phipps, The Herald (The Guide, p. 11), 9 September 2006.

 

"It is easy to see how Alastair has already developed such a wide audience, spanning from Christian and Pagan groups to rock stars and geologists.... To add to these accolades, this reviewer would describe his most recent work as thought-provoking and enigmatic. Unlike many poets, Alastair gets his points across clearly in each of his works - and steers clear of the 'airy-fairy' over-sentimental tendencies of many writers..... moving modern poetry ... intriguing and touching .... Despite the fact that Alastair no longer lives in the Western Isles - he now stays with his wife in the 'Hebridean' quarter of Glasgow, Greater Govan - his poetry very much reflects the Isles." - Maggie Taylor, Stornoway Gazette, 31 August 2006, p. 12. 

 

"There is love, despair, humour, and existential pondering. There is a challenge to the churchmen of Scotland, a eulogy to a lost friend, love notes to Scotland, to the Goddess, the cosmos. There are exhortations and blessings to magicians, musicians, bishops or lovers, to anyone who's trying to 'rise to vocation's calling'. If you've ever felt a little lonely, a little out of step with the world as you try to live out that calling, then these poems are written for you, to let you know that you're not alone." - Deb Curnock, Movement, Issue 125, spring 2007, p. 29.

 

"[A] marvellous book of poetry... Thank you once again for ... the pleasure your writing has given me and so many others." - Tim Smit, The Eden Project, 23 Feb 2007.

 

"AMENEM: Thought for the Day rev is new rapper for chart-toppers ...  the prof was proof that age was no barrier to communicating with young people." - Paula Murray, Daily Record, 16 Sept 2006

 

 

Introduction

I think Joseph Campbell was right when he said that all great stories share a common theme. There is the departure, when the fresh-faced hero sets out on life’s journey; the initiation, when she or he hits troubled rapids; and the return, bringing back gifts and blessings that help to sustain the community through the process of eldership.

Such is the path of any one of us who rises to vocation’s calling. We gradually open out to a life that is greater than our small, egocentric selves. As Campbell concludes: ‘The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.’

This calls for nothing less than understanding the real nature of magic. It means seeing our activism, whether it is social or ecological, as spiritual articulation.

Guns are too callous, bombs too ruthless, and knives too blunt to cut the darkness of these times. Our activism demands a poetry that holds out for nothing less than poesis - a participation in the beauty of making and re-making reality.

Such calling is to an incarnate politics - to spirituality rendered carnal, being engaged with the flesh and fabric that forms our world. That is why love and revolution must be erotically inseparable. That is how we transcend the nihilism of Mark Twain’s observation that ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ For this spirituality constantly renews the face of the Earth and of weathered humankind.

To work with such forces in a world that is largely oblivious to them inevitably makes one feel, as Ben Okri puts it, that one is transgressing. In writing Soil and Soul, I was somewhat able to protect myself behind careful wording and impeccable referencing. But that is less easy to achieve with writing poetry. Here, then, is the underlying naked passion unveiled. It is an offering for all who dare to tread life’s elemental ways. Lonely, perhaps, you roam the paths of love, but not alone.

 

10 Poems - a representative selection from the work

 

Extinction

 

Have you heard the cry of the curlew?

I tell you –

I would rather we lost

the entire contents

of every art gallery

in the whole world

than lose

forever

the cry of the curlew

 

Murdo of Assynt 

 

I took you to hear the unknown Assynt poet

with tales of tigers crossing by the Forth Road Bridge

and more humanity engrimed upon a finger

than knaves and chancers scrape from all their privilege

 

And there we found him lying in a doorway

up an alley taking shelter where they go to share a fag

crashed out amongst the boxes and the bottles

huddled embryonic in a frozen sleeping bag

 

And let us pay respects to Murdo, love

let us eulogise the witness that he rhymes

bard from off the croft cast out on stony ground

canary down the mines of these our troubled times

 

Boating in Maine

 

Some things you never lose

like when David took us sailing

sharing thoughts of poetry and form

and rowing back the tender to the pier

I twisted oars in symmetry of perfect counterpoint

an exquisitely executed turn

gliding with precision into dock

 

He remarked, impressed,

    and I confess a pleasing swell of pride

the thought that skill from Hebridean boyhood held its edge

    thirty years along

        this western bank

            the Great Atlantic

 

Some things you never lose

like rowing a boat

drift angled, crosswind, no great hurry

we’ll arrive, my dear, when time ordains

with strength of arms and keel of oak

as oars dip softly through the diamond sparkle of each wave

and lapping clinker rhythm dapples dancing over larch

and fathomless the melody of currents in my soul

soaring with the poetry of knowing you from inside out

singing to myself from outside in and turned back round again

at being seen by you, desired by you…

… it is your love that I’m in love with…

some things you never lose

 

 

The Forge

 

What is the point of land reform

so that remote communities

can be preserved

as threatened cultures

at a massive social cost

to the nation as a whole

of teachers, doctors, police and ferry services

when most of those raised native from such soil

are now so few and only have two kids

who’ve mostly moved elsewhere to stay

their burns and braes seductive now

to ever-higher bidders from away

with little thought or want for joining in

God’s rhythm of the crofters’ passing day …

and most who ‘ever mattered’ here

are dead or spread or going gone

the beauty of a people’s life

strewn like cemetery flowers

and even markings on the land

are fossils fading down the years

with only gales and rain to carve

a soaring waterfall, of tears?

 

 

Either we turn our faces to the wall

burn out, sell out

or jumping from the bridge

choose at least the honest statement of

heartbreak hotel’s check-out …

or else we muscle down

    roll up our sleeves

        and dig from where we stand

to shovel ruddied muddied ores of melded human sand

and stoke the glowing hearth anew to smelt and skim and pour

a precious shimmering stream refined by sense of place and ancient lore

(like hodden lead ripped off in time from round the ruin’s sill

and fired until it crumbles to a freshened mercurial rill)

then on the ringing anvil to a meteor shower of sparks

we strike the tempering ingot, dreaming new and old hallmarks

and hammer out the beauty, of the braided crofting way

which is our greatest export, to this world that’s gone astray…

and that’s the point of land reform

    in the politics

        of today.

 

 

(Also published in The Crofter, journal of the Scottish 

Crofting Foundation, No. 73, Dec. 2006, p. 5)

 

 

 

After Culloden

 

 

 

The Highland Clearances

hard recruiting sergeants

Scottish regiments for English battles

potato famine

later economic dearth

and half a million Scots

            not to mention Irish

                        directly or by circumstance

                                    driven from their land

 

As was for the Iraqi Kurds

            so was for the Gaelic ones

‘You see,’ said the Iranian scholar:

            ‘We are looking at a common history’

an archetypal commonality

of suppurating colonisation

perpetuation and re-perpetuation

broken emigrants breaking First Nations

                        hunting Aborigines, indenturing Africans

                                    Calvinist Apartheid

                                                oppressed turned oppressor

                                                            lowest common denominator of brutality

 

And England !

You carver-up of nations for perpetual advantage!

Divided self’s divide-and-rule worldview

Yes, you, England !

dear England

you too were cleft within your soul

viscerally cauterised

much further back in time

by Roman and by Norman yokes

            of robber barons

lords of war and land

 that laid you low

 

But still I sense your taproot yet

to winnow from the karmic curse

Winstanley’s England , Blake and Mary Webb

Benjamin Zephaniah and Elizabeth Fry

and George Monbiot in the Manchester Guardian

and even a Great Chain

of Liverpool Bishops

grooving with Jah people

in their struggle, their desperation

their elation and their elevation

 

And did those feet on green and pleasant land?

Of course they did!

Aye … England

Sill writhing in the birth pangs of your great vocation

See you, England

Jerusalem England !

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Walk

 

 

The yellowed aspen flutters to the ground

in rocky crag the eagle’s wing unfurls

rowan berry splashes mountain red against the sky

spider’s web awaits to catch a moment in your eye

 

You who have no names for all the glories you behold

no science or sharp analysis, nor levers of control

I watch you linger gazing into limpid tumbling pool

loving more than gold the fleeting gravel gathered there

 

And did you hear, my love, the murmured word last night

of Aborigines who dream the land and walk its way and say

that White Man lies and walks with lies held out before his heart

and this is why he talks his walk and talks and talks to such excess

 

But in your skystruck face, I see no lie

 

 

 

 

Scotland

A person belongs

inasmuch as they are willing

to cherish and be cherished

by a place

and its peoples

Gaelic Translation by Maoilios Caimbeul  

        

Alba

 

Buinidh neach an seo

fhad ’s a tha iad deònach

tasgadh is a bhith air an tasgadh

leis an àite

agus a mhuinntir 

 

 

Lithogenesis of Feminine  

 

‘All is lithogenesis’ - MacDiarmid

 

 

She needs the space to form herself

release gas bubbles from that molten lens

plutonic settling into how She comes to pass

traversing eons of Tardis time

and slowly cooling

stratifying

differentiation and

distinction uttered incarnate

and wondrous is this process to behold

and crystal is this tender gem

 

And did you know

that crystal structure

plucks its strength

not from pristine spotlessness

but from minute impurities

that interlock the lattice layers

amongst the sparkling molecules

an elemental fortitude

out of adoption born?

 

Ah!  the ingenuity of being igneous

this sister, mother, lover of the world

no wonder wise men whisper

in Her footsteps

‘holy – holy – holy’

knowing that

there is no god but God

 

 

 

Epiphany

 

I love the way you gather us beneath your wing of prayer

I love the lightness rightness even the right-on-ness

the way you pray the way that lovers do it

spume of fiery lava melding merging

spiritual tectonics … and do you know that

I-just-tripped-out-on-your-eyes …

the kindness lines

that radiate around your eyes

the light of God almighty

shining in Your eyes

 

Wife

 

kissing you

is like kissing

a bed of flowers

but this is what every bed of flowers

has ever aspired

to be

 

 

 

 

 www.AlastairMcIntosh.com

28/07/2010

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