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Poem of the month - October 2008


(from L credere, to believe)

Alcinous to Odysseus

What can I say? My daughter comes across
you lurking naked – naked! – by the shore
and you have nothing to say for yourself
but some nonsense about nymphs and monsters.

You’ve made enemies of at least two gods
and yet now you ask me brazenly to
provide a ship and crew so you can reach
Ithaca, whence you came. Apparently.

Were I to take an interest in your scheme
I’d need to take a leap of faith, and that –
I operate in the real world, and this
smacks too much of fiction. Make-believe. Still...

Ken Cockburn

from CENTUM (Fremi Books, 2008)

Poem supplied courtesy of the Scottish Poetry Library

 About the Poet

Ken Cockburn

After several years at the Scottish Poetry Library, since 2004 Ken Cockburn has worked freelance as a poet, editor, translator and writing tutor. In 2006 he was the first writer-in-residence for the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland, and in January 2008 he received the Arts Foundation Fellowship for Literary Translation. His new collection On the flyleaf is published by Luath Press.

Inspiration for poem

CENTUM: One Hundred Years of Baillie Gifford 1908 - 2008 is an Artists’ Book commissioned by the Edinburgh investment firm Baillie Gifford for its centenary. The book was conceived by Grazyna Fremi, and features drawings of central Edinburgh by David Faithfull. My texts include a timeline, 'found poems' based on material in the company's archives, and original poems, including a sequence called 'Roots' from which 'Credit' is taken. For 'Roots', I took as the starting point for each poem the etymology of a commonly used word related to finance; 'credit' comes from the Latin 'credere', 'to believe'. The poem is based on the episode in The Odyssey when Odysseus has lost everything, and has to persuade his host to fit out ships to take him home.

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* Scots Poem of the Month
* Scottish Poetry Library
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