Only my oldest and dearest friends now remember that I started out as a poet, way back in 1970s Edinburgh. I had been writing poetry from the age of ten or eleven. I found a couple of old notebooks recently, and although the contents definitely wouldn’t be for publication, they weren’t half bad for a little kid. In my teens I was reading Burns, Yeats, Thomas, McNeice, as well as lots of fiction. I read voraciously and constantly and never wanted to do anything else except write.
‘Stop watering your Dylan Thomas adjectives and watching them grow.’
I forget who told me this, but I’ve never forgotten the words. This was one of the two best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given about writing. The other was ‘the only way to write is to write.’ Which may seem a mite trite. But it’s the truth. The only way to write is to write. You don’t have to do expensive courses. Just read a lot and write a lot. You’d be amazed by how many people I’ve known down the years who tell me that they ‘want to write’ but never actually do any writing.
Back in the seventies, I published my first collection of poems with the amazing Andrew Greig – we were at university at the same time – a nice little book called White Boats. This was followed by A Book of Men and other poems, all my own work, this time published by Akros. I carried on writing and sometimes publishing poetry on and off for years although I think a lot of the energy that used to go into poetry now goes into my fiction.
I still write about the Urban Crow from time to time though. Mostly for fun. Soon, I might have enough poems for a small collection. Here he is in Glasgow.
THE URBAN CROW PLAYS IN TRAFFIC
The urban crow sits on some stone hero’s head
watching folk pass below.
He briefly contemplates tweaking off a pair of specs
or alighting on a bald patch or
dicing with death among cars where
a drunk has dropped a takeaway
but decides it would be more prudent to
make for the park where there will be
kids with ice cream cones or popcorn.
He can con popcorn from an infant nae bother
with a wee stare from his beady eye
but he treads carefully.
See they buses, says the urban crow
they’d run you down as soon as look at you.