Biography of Roddy Lumsden
Roddy Lumsden (born 1966) is a Scottish poet, who was born in St Andrews. He has published seven collections of poetry, a number of chapbooks and a collection of trivia, as well as editing a generational anthology of British and Irish poets of the 1990s and 2000s, Identity Parade, among other anthologies.
He lives in London where he teaches for The Poetry School and independently. He has done editing work on several prize-winning poetry collections and the Pilot series of chapbooks by poets under 30 for Tall Lighthouse. He is organiser and host of the monthly reading series BroadCast in London. Between 2010 and 2013, he was Poetry Editor for Salt Publishing, for whom he is also the Series Editor of The Best British Poetry anthologies.
Lumsden is former Vice Chairman of the Poetry Society of Great Britain. He was awarded an Arts Council of England International Fellowship at the Banff Centre in Ontario in 2001 and has also carried out several residency projects, including being poet-in-residence to the music industry and in a five-star hotel and golf resort. He also works as a puzzle and quiz writer and a popular reference compiler and editor. In 2014 he became a regular team member on Radio 4's long running show Round Britain Quiz, representing Scotland alongside crime writer Val McDermid. They won the 2014 series.
Lumsden received an Eric Gregory Award in 1991. His first book Yeah Yeah Yeah was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in the Best First Collection section. His second collection The Book of Love was a Poetry Book Society Choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Roddy Lumsden is Dead followed in 2001, then Mischief Night: New & Selected Poems which was a PBS Recommendation and, in 2009, then Third Wish Wasted, poems from which were awarded the Bess Hokin Prize by the Poetry Foundation. A sixth collection, Terrific Melancholy, was issued in 2011, followed by Not All Honey in 2014.
- ALL YOU PHILOSOPHERS -new-
- TOWNS YOU ONLY PASS THROUGH -new-
- MISS MARTINDALE IN THE OUTBACK -new-
- The Haunt -new-
- ON FIRST MEETING MARGOT -new-
- BAD PLAYERS -new-
- Yeast -new-
- The Young -new-
- Between the Penny Dropping and the Penny... -new-
- Spiral -new-
- Then -new-
- Ornithogalum Dubium -new-
- Season of Quite -new-
- The Shuffle -new-
Roddy Lumsden Poems
She lies in her well-kept apartment above the spick and span cathedral in the heart of the walled city above Manila Bay and she dreams
An inch from the curse and pearled by the evening heat I shake my polo neck and a cool draught buffs my chest. What rises is my animal aroma the scent of blue-ribbon stock the sort a starred chef would ladle from a zinc-bottomed pan to soften and savor the hock he has sawn and roasted for the diners out front who sip at shots of pastis and gnaw around the pits of kalamata olives. My head sits in his fridge: stooping for herb butter, our eyes meet and he touches my cotton-cold face just as once I stroked your cheek in a dream you suffered in a room above the river.
Take this: for nothing here's chiming, vibrating and all this vainglory and self-deprecating just goads at the tender parts, gets irritating. You'll make no advance advocating monopoly on any vocabulary; even cacophony needs the needle to make its point properly. It's true that you find yourself fey and bewitching, yet always you feel that the itch that you're scratching's soothed better by far by bravadoes of bitching. The off-pat flyting, back-biting and threnody you render and throw up, at will, won't remedy the rot of your serenading, lute-laden wannabe. You can't see a barrier without pushing through it; it's a poor pearl of pathos you don't disintuit and you now give a doing when once you'd just do it. You want my advice? Here it is: try removing the self from your argument - gluts of self-loving just pudding the gut of whatever you're proving. That's it on the chin and I'm sure you can take it, but that shadow you're boxing is me, so please break it gently. Best wishes, I hope that you make it.Take this: for nothing here's chiming, vibrating and all this vainglory and self-deprecating just goads at the tender parts, gets irritating. You'll make no advance advocating monopoly on any vocabulary; even cacophony needs the needle to make its point properly. It's true that you find yourself fey and bewitching, yet always you feel that the itch that you're scratching's soothed better by far by bravadoes of bitching. The off-pat flyting, back-biting and threnody you render and throw up, at will, won't remedy the rot of your serenading, lute-laden wannabe. You can't see a barrier without pushing through it; it's a poor pearl of pathos you don't disintuit and you now give a doing when once you'd just do it. You want my advice? Here it is: try removing the self from your argument - gluts of self-loving just pudding the gut of whatever you're proving. That's it on the chin and I'm sure you can take it, but that shadow you're boxing is me, so please break it gently. Best wishes, I hope that you make it.
Hazy Alley Incident -new-
Eugene, OR Girl shouting Oliver! at the top of the cut-through by Jacob's Gallery, you have now entered the slenderest of histories, the skin-bound book I store between my temples; in that mean and moonless city, you must hang fraught in your too-long coat, not a winner, but placed, and in this cutty version of forever, forever calling on your unseen beau, one flake in a limbic blizzard, one spark in the synaptic blaze. And now the rain turns, light but going steady on the Willamette. Along the bank, I lift my pace from devil-may-have-me to heading-somewhere and still your mouth in the haze calling is a ruby carbuncle woken by a miner's head-beam, the reddest berry in the hedgerow, which all but the bird in the fable know not to pluck.
Hard Work -new-
Tricky work sometimes not to smell yourself, ferment being constant—constant as carnival sweat (a non-stock phrase I palmed from a girl from Canada, a land where I once saw this graffiti: life is great). And I have tasted myself, especially when I spilled sinigang all down my arm in a Pinoy workers' caff in Little Manila. I drank sinigang (is soup drunk?) in Big Manila too, with all its dead skyscrapers. Seen myself? In looking glasses or, looking down, stocky as a shift working cop, maybe a Mexican cop full of beans (frijoles, I mean, not vim), paunch full of sopa de vigilia, pulling over a sozzled bus driver. Heard myself speak fluently in my own language, have heard myself too described as hard work (as hard to get through as Scotch broth), though once someone rather bladdered told me I was magnetic. And I may as well admit that I have touched myself (who hasn't?). In a forest, on a train, in New York and Paris with unparalleled handiwork, sinning as I go, merry as an office boy spooning onion soup.
Down in fame's flood, down an alley, down wind of now, elegant in self-denial, an Iron Range wraith junking cue cards, an ideal, an idol before which the Zeitgeist kneeled. Dylan, named for a poet named from an old tale of the child who crawled to the sea, this land is yours: the black plain the needle ploughs from lip to label; be all, end all.
The Damned -new-
Kitten curious, or roaring down drinks in Soho sumps, small hours tour buses, satellite station green rooms, or conked out in the bathtubs of motorway hotels, there you were, with muck-about kisses, sharking for the snappers, before hell opened up for you and weeping sores of after fame appeared, the haphazardry and dwindling after three limelit years, recognized with catcalls, wads of spit, a nightclub fist, the scant camaraderie melts fast, like your flat on Air Street, the Lhasa Apso pups, the wraps and lines of chang, the poster pull-outs, fake tan smiles. It's paunch and palimony time on Lucifer's leash. But for a madcap few who cling, thin soup, one pillow Britain is simmering with hatred, just for you.
Between Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night -new-
Just then, encountering my ruddy face in the grand piano's cold black craquelure, it conjured the jack-o'-lantern moon dipping up over the roofs of the Tenderloin. Only when I have done with the myths— the inner spill that triggers us to flame, breasts so sensitive a moment's touch will call down fever; the dark sea-lane between limbic squall and the heart's harbour— will I picture you, just beyond innocence, lying stripped by a thrown-wide window, letting the cool breeze covet your ardour.
The Beautiful -new-
Into perplexity: as an itch chased round an oxter or early man in the cave mouth watching rain-drifts pour from beyond his understanding. Whether to admire the mere sensation, enough, or hold out for sweeter ornament, vessels of wonder born with that ur-charm of symmetry; lovely ones we ache to prize and praise, climb into and become because they try our day-by-day significance: some of us ugly and most of us plain, walked past in the drowned streets: pearls of paste, salted butter, secondary colors. They drift unapproached, gazed never-selves, blunt paragons of genetic industry. We desire them but cannot want such order. We stand, mouths open, and cannot help stammering our secrets, nailed to water.
Against Naturism -new-
I realise it's not all salad sandwiches at pinewood picnics, endless volleyball. I've heard the argument that talk of shame and how our forebears thought their bodies dirty; how we've all got one. Seen one, seen 'em all. But it's not for me, beneath my double load of Calvinist and voyeuristic tendencies. For me, I have to see the clothes come off: the way a button's thumbed through cotton cloth - a winning move in some exotic game with no set rules but countless permutations - or how a summer dress falls to the floor with momentary mass and with a plash that stirs us briefly as we ply our passion; a hand pushed through the coldness of a zip, three fingertips that follow down the spine to where a clasp is neatly spun undone amidkiss, by prime legerdemain and who cares that it happens once in four and never, never on the first undressing, it must be better than a foreskin snagged on gorse thorns or a cold, fat nipple jammed in the scissor drawer, the bounty and the blessing, the mystery of nakedness reduced till on a par with go-go palaces where goosebumped, grinding strippers strut their stuff in the birthday clothes of backstreet empresses, down on a par with the oncologist who gropes for lumps, the night-morgue man who clips his nails amongst the naked, bin-bagged stiffs. So, stranger, what I want to say is this: if you're to join me in a little sinning (and this is my place up here on the right), please understand I'd value some reluctance, a cold-feet shiver, as in the beginning when Eve discovered modesty and slipped in and out of something comfortable. For there are many ways to skin a cat, but ours is human nature - things come off so rarely. Come in. Let me take your coat.
Against Conceit -new-
Don't say Sir Pigeon in his cobalt bonnet. Don't find among your notes jottings on duvets and blizzards and the page unwalked across black missives of girlhood must be sent off and do not claim the furnace of the universe is powered by human screams. When the dark turns dark or when the bullet lifts a scalp, it is enough to know the lover feels the slap that the world can hear the sharp shout which wakes the cat her claws one inch from the rabbit's bobbing scut.
Against Complaint -new-
After the Yoruba Though the amaryllis sags and spills so do those my wishes serve, all along the town. And yes, the new moon, kinked there in night's patch, tugs me so—but I can't reach to right the slant. And though our cat pads past without a tail, some with slinking tails peer one-eyed at the dawn, some with eyes are clawless, some with sparking claws contain no voice with which to sing of foxes gassing in the lane. Round-shouldered pals parade smart shirts, while my broad back supports a scrubby jumper, fawn or taupe. The balding English air their stubble while some headless hero sports a feathered hat. I know a man whose thoroughbred grazes in his porch for want of livery. There are scholars of Kant who can't find Kent on the map, and men of Kent who cannot fathom Kant. We who would polish off a feast have lain late in our beds, our bellies groaning, throats on fire. We who'd drain a vat of wine have drunk our own blood for its sting. Each of us in tatters flaunts one treasured garment flapping in the wind.
They arrived at the desk of the Hotel Duncan and Smithed in, twitchy as flea-drummed squirrels. Her coat was squared and cream, his patent shoes were little boats you wouldn't put to sea in. People, not meaning to, write themselves in to the soap that your life is, rise or fall in the plot. Seems that they were fleeing from the 1980s much as a hummingbird flies from a flower's bell. These were the times when wine was still a treat and not yet considered a common bodily fluid. You will have heard that the mind works much as an oval of soap turned between two hands. She went round the room seeking lights that could be off without desire becoming love. He spread his arms behind his head, a gesture of libido she misread as test of temperature. Every carpet has its weave and underlay, seen only by the maker, the deliverer and the layer. The year was a dog but the day was as good as a song that ends with a wedding, meat on the rib. Evening was folding over the grid, slick walkers with armfuls of books splendored in dusk's ask. The song of the pipes was eerie as a face pressed to glass, as a basketball with a mouth and teeth. They lay in the glow of the times and talked of how people form a queue to exact or escape love. Each sigh has a sequel, she thought, then he did, then the whole hotel pulsed through that thought. Scandal has an inroad, but you must tunnel out; she rose and stood up counting, all hair and beauty. Though we do not hear them, beneath our own, our shadows' footsteps clatter, they match our dread.
'She was right. I had to find something new. There was only one thing for it.'
She lies in her well-kept apartment
above the spick and span cathedral
in the heart of the walled city
above Manila Bay and she dreams
of the great, ruined cities of Europe:
Vienna crumbling into the ocean,
Warsaw in a plague of frogs and flies
and London, where all the black men
have learned to talk like white men,