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Bad Shepherd

Robert Crawford: James Hogg, 5 April 2001

The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. VIII: The ‘Spy’ 
edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 641 pp., £60, March 2000, 9780748613656
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... George Buchanan’s over-the-top ‘Elegy for Jean Calvin’. The volume remains high in some of Robert Fergusson’s sophistic-performative street-talk, Burns’s on-off, rip-roaring ‘Tam o’Shanter’, MacDiarmid’s last trump blawing ‘tootle-ootle-oo’, Edwin Morgan’s Loch Ness Monstering ‘Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok ...

Love Poems for Alice with Old Cars

Robert Crawford, 25 April 1991

... In the new dream I give you a big-radiatored 100-miles-on-a-gallon-of-water steamcar Exported by the White Sewing Machine Co, Cleveland, Ohio. You scoot with aplomb Through Alexandria to Loch Lomond past the indigenous Argyll Motors Factory with its built-to-last Stone car over the door. People call you odd, Determined, unchaperoned, ‘fast’. Your wheels cover Scotland, familiar and intimate, Tin-Lizzying Right up Ben Nevis, mass-produced, Laughing with the dash of the woman driver’s TS1, first car in Dundee ...

Under the Sky

Robert VanderMolen, 20 April 2006

... How it was, after the babies, One week’s vacation at the shore During late July, trying to isolate A hummock of time in which to be dazed, Beer in the mug, the slant of sunsets, Fried chicken seasoned with sand. All of us thinner, sweat-dried, more prone To anger. With a housecat prowling Through dune grass . . . And they made a film of it. I’ve forgotten The name of the one who played me ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... spangles of diamonds, / a sparkling cover for earth’) to the carnivalesque Scots of Robert Fergusson, who hymns ‘Caller Oysters’ and harangues ‘the Principal and professors of the university of St Andrews, on their superb treat to Dr. Samuel Johnson’. When Fergusson rounds on his former teachers he subjects their Scotophobic guest to a ...

Weathering the storm

Robert Blake, 18 October 1984

Lord Liverpool: The Life and Political Career of Robert Banks Jenkinson, Second Earl of Liverpool 1770-1828 
by Norman Gash.
Weidenfeld, 265 pp., £16.95, August 1984, 0 297 78453 6
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... the current prime minister to overcome his father’s opposition to his marriage? The answer is Robert Jenkinson, second Earl of Liverpool and eighth baronet, whose maternal grandmother, wife of a Nabob, was Eurasian. He is one of the neglected figures of history. Yet he was prime minister for 15 years from 1812 to 1827, till in February at the age of 56 he ...

Coming to France

Robert Crawford, 17 November 2005

... after the Latin ‘Adventus in Galliam’ of George Buchanan (1506-82) Badlands of Portugal, bye-bye For ever, starving crofts whose year-round crop Is lack of cash. And you, fair France, bonjour! Bonjour, adoring sponsor of the arts, Your air’s to die for, and your earth’s so rich Vineyards embrace your warm, umbrageous hills, Cows crowd your pastures, glens gabble with burns, Broad, open meadows fan out fields of flowers; Sailboats go gliding down long waterways, Fish throng your ponds, lochs, rivers, and the sea Where, left and right, your harbours greet the world With open arms ...

The Road to White Cloud

Robert VanderMolen, 23 April 2015

... Tumps of fish rotting He couldn’t sell The yellow yard of a cabin I’d gone to a party With friends Who slipped off Among cypress, sometime Before morning, When I was rousted To go down to his boat, And chug up the channel, Nauseous Baiting hooks with Anchovy * I once rowed Across a private lake Angling for bluegill The cedar skiff painted Maroon with white oars, An easy conversation With water Then to a road house * Somewhere in Ontario (Parry Sound, Penetanguishene?) Granite rounding up Through a glassy bay, Gulls, dragonflies, A thin woman in a vest At the edge of shore: By the end of the war We ate cats, called them Roof rabbits A gnarl in her accent Her small son Had a growth on one eye A day or two later I was with circus trucks Transporting The scent of elephants And mud From one farm town To the next * Following arrows To Newfoundland, Florida, Oklahoma And farther west * Sitting behind My buddy Henry Two locals Were discussing Total depravity ...

A Bear

Robert VanderMolen, 31 July 2014

... As avidity circulated about the soccer game A bear lingered, nosing among the spruces, Under damp boughs, sampling scents, perching Briefly on a stump, while remaining curious, Until, on impulse, it stepped out on its hind legs, Causing the playing field to empty in a hurry, As in a monster film from the 1950s, a fog Of silence filtered in or should I say descended – Not far from the sculpture park and gardens Closing their gates, the globes twinkling out, An attendant with a flashlight swinging his Keys, almost like someone from Victorian London Or gas-lit New York, seemingly taciturn, a man (now a Midwesterner wearing thick glasses) Who’d be heading home to sit with pleasure Beside his fire pit, sip his cider, puff cheroots, In the small meadow of his yard, fringed By ash and elm, few lights of neighbours I woke that morning, he told me, recollecting A quayside in Nova Scotia, where I mused Into the mud at low tide, grubby after camping, Because I no longer had a home or wife, short Of finances ...


Robert Crawford, 24 January 2008

... Hi I’m Lois I’m lonely I live near the motorway on Lewis Want to chat with me? I love chatrooms You might have seen me on TV I’m really feral I’m twenty-one I love chatrooms Want to chat with me? It’s so hot here I love Paris I used To dance there I’ve just washed all my hair Hi I love existentialism Want to chat with me? I temp as an a ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 20 March 2003

... Ferrari Student poser, presbyterian swami, When Being and Nothingness ruled the Kelvin Way, I rebelled by carrying a rolled umbrella To lectures. I never finished La Nausée. Chaperoned through suburbs by my virginity, My act of Existential Choice was pie, Beans and chips at Glasgow’s boil-in-the-bag Student Ref. Couscous? I’d rather have died. Nightlife was homelife, the tick-tock soothe Of a bowling club clock, long darning needles’ hint Of suture, so homely and sharp; Each birthday, a wrapped after-dinner mint ...

Two Poems

Robert VanderMolen, 9 October 2003

... Sand Water muscling to shore at twilight, Muscling over her ribs, the water so warm For September. Thomas Paine said, We just couldn’t stay boys (regarding the colonists) Or something to that effect. Ladybugs gather, covering a pear, Gulls screech about the deserted lighthouse. How agreeable to discover Someone loves you, or even later, That you’ve become a fixture In someone’s stable of influences ...

Like the Feeling of Butcher’s Paper

Robert VanderMolen, 13 May 2010

... Sometime later he was hit By a train – head lowered in the cold, Somewhat deaf by the age of 50. Not so repentant as startled, As in a movie where the dying man Gazes at some bird or cloud But still wouldn’t go to church Even if he could be carried. Among those middens of doubt Escaping seemed like a robust plan. But he didn’t know precisely What she was talking about ...

Three Poems

Robert Crawford, 24 June 2004

... Measurement Nine and Seven, one by one, Lay face down on a home-made skateboard, Hauling it forward, inch by rope inch, Into the Tomb of the Eagles. Seven glissaded down Maes Howe’s Five-thousand-year-old chute, Walked unbowed down its entrance passage Whose stone slabs weigh forty-five cars. Nine chased Nine with dog-track speed Round Orphir’s circular kirk, Dropped down rung after midnight rung Metres into Wideford Hill ...

Two Poems

Robert VanderMolen, 7 October 2004

... Toucans Meanwhile in Costa Rica the volcano smokes Toucans glide down to the banana plantation – For the moment everything is relaxed. It is snowing in Michigan, but I’m thinking Of the newspaper story in September, Two parrots building a nest on a silo In Montcalm County – Guido points out Alulu shadings above the coverts, Assuming I’m a birder ...

Two Poems

Robert VanderMolen, 16 June 2011

... Interlude I don’t believe she married him Because he was in the fish business Remarked Lois, which quieted The ensemble some From upstairs. An old Leonard Cohen tune It was unfortunate the Attorney-General was involved, If at a distance Lois was the sister of the AG Her husband puffy and long on anecdotes The banker at a bank that defaulted In the spacious woodlot behind the house Fireflies began to glitter Then flying squirrels, visiting birdfeeders A government vehicle sidled under a linden He should have joined the Coast Guard As his mother had wished Skin On the art museum steps A man in a wormy cardigan sprinkled salt ...

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