Workshop Poems

The AHRC sponsored conference ‘Writing into Art’ took place at Strathclyde University and Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery on June 18th and 19th 2013. Among the events that took place was a workshop for poets based in Glasgow led by visiting plenary speaker, Cole Swensen. The poems that are posted below represent some of the work produced in advance of this workshop and constitute responses by the poets to paintings and other artefacts selected by staff at Kelvingrove. The organisers of the conference are very grateful to curator, Anne Wallace and to her staff for helping to facilitate this process. Copyright remains with the poets.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No Rush

After ‘Seascape’, by L S Lowry

Hush                       hush                       hush                       hush

                                                                                               there’s no

          hsur                       hsur                       hsur                       hsur

                the factory gate

                                     never came today

                    the crowds of late

          appointment keepers

                              are nowhere to be seen

                                                            the only

                                                                           thing that’s bigger

                                                                   than the everyman out here

                                             is the sea that sucks

                                                                           the gravel in

                                                                                          the gravel out

                      through tides’ tight

                                             teeth              sky high

                                                                   sun blinds kites white

theres no

       rush                        rush                        rush                        rush

                                                                                                          knowing the

hsuh                       hsuh                       hsuh                       hsuh

Christie Williamson

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fulton’s Orrery

the dull metallic sun
its painted planets
clouds of hatpin moons

all this is just a sketch
a fragment

of a clockwork universe
where gears are gravity
equations solved in brass

this is a miniature
sculpted in spacetime;
it cannot be seen at rest.

Claire Quigley

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In a museum

After the “Honesty Mirror” made by Frances MacDonald in 1896

worn with looking
the mirror is
behind glass

reflections absent
frame without picture
except the light

enclosed by
pewter plants and
women’s hands

fleshless figures
hung with cloth
of metal

tooled faces
maker’s hands

stylized honesty
seeds beneath
pale silvered skin

sexless figures
hair becoming stems

to a seed pod
against the sun

tasteless, scentless
in beaten tin

the ageing, spotted glass
has a photograph’s
silvered grace

lean in and see
your father’s ghost
in a  weathered window

Ellen McAteer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Little Brother                                                                         

(painting by Norah Neilson Gray)

It was done as the sun dipped into evening.

A twist of banknotes, the sticky paper

casked by father’s desk,

a nervous transaction

which faded with the light.

After she’d gone, the musk of her

leeched from the oils.

Don’t touch, I told you.

The wool of your little shirt

softened in my hand, your hair

spun barley-sugar. My milky shoulders

pleased me, yet the finishing

made us dumb.

You tired of our silence;

horses and tin soldiers

trumpeted you away.

Glaze, overworked by time

thickened and blushed,

the roses darkened in our memory.

She said shadows have colours too

but what I thought was skill and fold

seems now to show as tears.

Here, in another hallowed place

chance makes a Mary of me.

Pulls yellow into gray,

and your small forgotten spirit,

high upon a quiet wall,

troubles no-one.

Gillean McDougall

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Violets by Stuart Park (Kelvingrove Museum. Glasgow)

Nothing strange

about flowers

drying in a frame,

I believe I christen these chosen colours,

summer night with an indigo heart,

white of blackthorn blossom,

a lens of vase, in antique lace

and watery turquoise, old petals fallen

in pale funerals of blue.

I relax

towards the edges of the frame

glimpse a fraying of plaster

a curl of aging paint,

I am tired of the pictures in this bland cave,

I am so old in images already

– lost happiness, suffering and disdain,

I want to go out

to the world’s weathering,

to the crumbled masonry of ordinary walls

where salt and wind and rain

yield colours without name,

shapes that are the seeds

of new topographies

– An afterlife, an afterart beyond

these open coffins of thin paint,

the beautiful


of practised eyes.

Geoff Cooper

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A Window in Glasgow

after Windows in the West (1994) by Avril Paton



violet light

softly reflected by neat

sugar-drift of snow


this honeycomb

on the cusp of evening,


stored honey

murmurs in holy


of virtue, value,

models for the faithful.


In the convivial violet glow

guests talk Toshie and Vettriano

charmed by the infinite regress

of reproduced Windows in the West.


We poor shadows on the other side

peeping from a darkened window,

let the artist be our guide,

this is no incidental show.

Come press our noses to the glass;

this is all of honey we need to know.

No one there offers us a glance

yearning outwith the murmuring hive.

Abandon all hope. The honeyed dance

their news of nectar, the honeyed wax and thrive.

William Bonar

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Man In Armour 

(Rembrandt) Kelvingrove Museum


A flame makes a Saturn of my head; its jewels were bequeathed by owls. I still consider them an honour. The honeys of valour ring in my ears like bells, they are sweet as wood-smoke, but I am falling; like a shipwreck for an old river. No spaniel or pomegranate to is here to share my fellowship, the armourer is gone, all his metals, spent.  My arms have turned to vaults.  I see the sun shine for chargers orphaned in woods of buttercups, the soil is so porous for fresh game.


Her inheritance.  Quiet in the rasp of open hours, she thinks Rothko or Klee. Like finds reclaimed from the sea, she scalpels, curious, takes notes to prove our trigonometry.  By strokes, she becomes, wants to become.  Cow hide, black tulip, wet auburn hair.  It is slow work but restorative; like a shipwright’s cautious craft.  A new altar, there are acres of room inside.

Amy Anderson

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