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Scots poem of the month - June and July 2006

The Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Whaur the great indoor warks wi hectic discourses entice
the passin trade frae aw the airts, here ithers
press doon on the gress and exotic mouldings
hae their wordless say.

I staun afore 'Reclinin Figure' by Henry Moore.
I think o Michelangelo. The greatest of artists
hae nae thocht to what the rouch stane
in its superfluous shell disnae include.

To brak the marble spell, that is aw
the haund that serves the brain can dae. And this
is perhaps the maist famous piece o sculpture
in aw Scotland

till you think o
-Greyfriars Bobby.

By Duncan Glen
from Collected Poems 1965-2005 (Akros, 2006)

Poem supplied by the Scottish Poetry Library

About the poet

Duncan Glen; Photo: Gerry Cambridge

Duncan Glen was born in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, in 1933.

He was educated at West Coats School, Cambuslang, and Rutherglen Academy, and later studied at Edinburgh College of Art. Following National Service in the RAF as a photographic interpreter, he worked in publishing in London.

At that time he was also researching, in the Reading Room of the British Museum, his first published full-length book, Hugh McDiarmid and the Scottish Renaissance, W&R Chambers, 1964.

He has published many collections of poetry, from Kythings and other poems (1969), In Appearances (1971) and Realities Poems (1980) to Selected Poems 1965-1990 (1991), Selected New Poems 1987-1996 (1998) and Collected Poems 1965-2005 (2006). His Autobiography of a Poet was published by Ramsay Head Press in 1986.

Glen founded Akros Publications in 1965, with the aim of publishing Scottish poetry and literary criticism, and in the period 1965-2006 over 250 publications have appeared under the Akros imprint. These include not only poetry, critical and historical studies, Akros magazine (51 numbers, receiving, from number six, an annual grant from the Scottish Arts Council) and Zed 2 0 (19 numbers to date), but also fiction by, amongst others, Robert McLellan and John Herdman.

In 1974 and 1998 he received awards from the Scottish Arts Council "for services to Scottish literature" and "in recognition of his many years as a publisher and editor and entrepreneurial activities for Scottish literature". In 1991 he received The Howard Sergeant Memorial Award "in recognition of long and devoted services to poetry". In 2000 he was honoured with a doctorate from Paisley University.

For many years Duncan Glen lectured in art schools in England, latterly as Professor of Visual Communication in Nottingham Trent University. He served on the Council for National Academic Awards and from 1977 was a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers. In 1987 he returned to Edinburgh to write and edit full-time. At that time he wrote, as a returned 'exile', many poems on how he viewed Edinburgh and Scotland, including the one selected for this Poem of the Month. He also began to edit the Newsletter of the Scottish Poetry Library and is currently working on no. 47. Edinburgh University Press published his The Poetry of Scots, and the Scottish Poetry Library and the Old Town Trust his Makars' Walk.

He moved to Kirkcaldy in Fife in 1996 where he has continued to write poems. He has also written local history books on his native Lanarkshire and Fife, gathered his Selected Scottish and other essays and enjoyed researching and writing his Printing Type Designs: a new history from Gutenberg to 2000. Making the selection of poems printed in Collected Poems 1965-2005 was a long-term project which he was pleased to see completed when the book was published in April this year.

If you have enjoyed this poem, you can borrow a range of poetry from the Scottish Poetry Library, who also lend by post. Telephone 0131 557 2876 or email reception@spl.org.uk. For an online catalogue, poetry events listings and more featured poems, please visit the Scottish Poetry Library website.

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