Alex Frackleton styles himself, ‘occasional poet’, offering
‘poems for every occasion. ’ He is a performance poet who will
be appearing at the Scotia Bar in March. ' Though he writes
much of his own material this particular poem was written for
him by Ian Faller, and is his first poem in print.
Ah’m an individual - everybody knows.
Fae ma individual heid tae ma individual toes, Wae ma individual weans, an’ ma individual wile, Ah’ve been an individual aw ma individual lite.
See me? -ah’m special, nane o’ yer dross, Nae twelve pints 0’ heavy an’ a piss up a close Or a black puddin’ supper in a black taxi cab, Watch a dirty video an’ gie the wile a grab.
Ah’m an individual — list like youse.
Ah wear individual socks in ma individual shoes.
Ah eat individual sausage rolls piled up high oan a plate, An’ everything aboot me is an individual trait.
Ma words are individual - ah laugh at theyiingles.
Ma lags are individual, cause ah buy thum in singles. Ma signature is highly individual - it helps me sign oan. Ma telephone personality is very individual - ah huvnae goat a phone.
Ah’m wan o’ a kind -wan carat gold.
When they made guys like me they chucked not the mould.
But they kept a few specimens hid up their sleeve - Me, Daley Thomson and Christopher Reeve.
Look, ah know whit yer sayin’, ah see whit yerthinkin’, ‘Whit a handsome individual - but his patter is stinkin’! His haircut, his prolile, his body- unique!
He’s that individual he must be a lreak!’
But noo we’ve goat somethin’ that’s changin’ ma mind, It yer no’ can ma wavelength, yer deal, dumb and blind: It’s called Maggie’s Poll Tax, HER linal solution,
An’ ah’ve goat tae make ma individual contribution.
Ah read it in the paper, the ‘Daily-Kid-You-AII’: There is no society, we’re all individual. So ah cough up lur bein’ me? No way is that right!
And rich and poor should pay the same? -That’s allotta . . .
So we’ll start up a commune, go back to the land,
Join a trade union - united we stand!
Till the Poll Tax, and Thatcher, and the whole Tory ranks Get lrom each individual a massive ‘No Thanks!’
Sian Hayton’s ‘Cells ol Knowledge’ has won the Saltlre Society/Scotsman annual ‘Best First Book’ award. Angus
, Calder, one ot the judges, explain why
he admires it so much.
Sian Hayton’s ‘Cells ol Knowledge’ surprises me more than any other book I’ve read in years. Polygon deserve vast credit tor publishing it alter others turned it down — not iust a new author, but problematic and expensive to produce. A pity that their cover augments the oil-putting ellect at an austere tltle with a plain white cover adorned only by a small photo ol a low arched building in a llat landscape which looks like an erection by some water or gas board warned that its buildings should be aesthetically seemly. Who’d guess that what lies beyond is a beautllully written, richly imagined, highly suspensetul story ‘lramed’ in a way which generates teasing questions and allow at dry
A monk in 10th century Orkney makes marginal comments on accounts sent by an older monk, Selyl, to his Bishop, dealing with a remarkable woman, Marighal. She comes to Selyt’s decaying religious community in Galloway seeking reception into the Christian church. Her strange history, though, raises problems, as do her tears, which are ol blood. Constemation erupts, and she llees, alter she has used superhuman physical strength in an attempt to serve her hosts. Selyl is ordered to track the evil which she represent,s down to its
source and to destroy it.
To give away more ol the story would be to lorestall the pleasure at slow discovery ottered by Hayton‘s cunnineg ordered narrative. Selyt’s is a wonderlul tale, involving a demonic giant with immortal daughters who can
change shapes, and his mighty castle where some technological marvels reproduce the real teats ot Carolingian technology. Others loreshadow hi-tech iust conceivable now, in 1990. It is set- in a vividly realised early-medieval Scotland where Strathclyde Britons lace the incursions ol the Vikings. It makes one take seriously the laith ol the old Celtic church which Selyl and his commentator represent, going down in ruin belore the advance ol Benedictine rules.
Such a mixture at tolklore elements . with historlclty is lound in good tales lor children. What makes ‘Cells ol Knowledge' much more than a lively yarn is the complex ellect created by the younger monk’s annotations. Ollen, these stand in lorthe responses at jaded late 20th century sceptics. He is much more learned, politicised, worldly than the good Selyl - a travelled and troubled intellectual who loresees the doom at their kind ol Christian witness, is worried by the least hint ot heresy, shrewdly dismissive ol popular superstitions, yet credulous himsell in other respects. He tries every which way to make sense at Selyl’s tale, setting it in European perspective, seeking to draw Christian lessons lrom pagan lerials, at last concluding bitterly, ‘My own teaming is certainly thin and truitless. I can lind nothing more to say.’ He is as vivid tor us as Selyl and Marighal themselves.
At times his interrogation ol Selyl’s text produces wonderlul comic sparks- oddly reminiscent ot the exchanges between the Pooka McPhellimey and the Good Fairy in Plano O’Brien’s ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’. (I could make no more honorilic comparison!) But unlike O’Brien’s, Hayton’s wit and erudition aren’t used to send up religion and mythology. ‘Cells ol Knowledge’ is partly, in ellect, elegiac. A paganism in tune with natural torces succumbs to Christianity with its anti-woman animus. A gentler lorm ol the Church is meanwhile being ousted by a more abrasive one. But the book’s vision is also alllrmatlve. Marighal represents the power ol women to rebel, transcend, conquer, without losing essential gentleness. (Angus Calder) Sian Hayton’s ‘Cells ol Knowledge’ is published by Polygon at £7.95.
I W.B. Yeats A. Norman Jeffares (Arena £5.99) Forty years on from his last biog of W.B. , Jeffares has updated and revamped it, without losing his abiding enthusiasm for Yeats.
I A Sense ol Guilt Andrea Newman (Penguin £3.99) Re-issue of the TV tale of
the mediocre writer who has the hots for his best friend‘s women, regardless of age or sanity status. Not as sordid as it promised.
I The Shah’s Last Hide William Shawcross (Pan £4.99) The fall and fall of the Shah of Iran, aided and abetted by the US and UK leading lights.
I Inside Time Ken Smith (Mandarin £3.99) Poet‘s account of a two-year slot as Writer in Residence of Wormwood Scrubs. Prisoners are portrayed as human beings with problems, as Smith challenges the worth of incarceration.
I The Story ol My Wile Milan Fust (Picador Classics £6.99) Obsessiver jealous sea captain tries to find proof to substantiate his suspicions about his wife. Intrigue is as much created by the captain’s psychological meanderings as by the whiff ofinfidclity.
I A Disallection James Kclman (Picador £5.99) Out now.
I Daughters ol Captain Cook Linda Spalding (Bloomsbury £4.99) An errant husband, infatuated with a young girl, as his wife looks on. Darkly brooding.
74 The List 9 — 22 February 1990