Betwixt of January,
the year’s scantest trawl. The sharking ghost of Anne Boleyn
would raise a shrug. But my ghost would void your bowel.
My ghost would hug you hard – then hug you far too hard.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2012. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editors in 2012 were Zoë Strachan and Louise Welsh.
Just one of a diary of 51 ‘kernel’ poems blending truth and metaphor, this is a gothic gem with an irresistibly sharp edge. Unlike the ‘sharking ghost’ of Anne Boleyn, this ‘haunt’ knows how to scare –we hope the fright is the pleasurable, horror movie kind, but we can’t be completely sure.
‘The Haunt’ is part of a sequence of 51 poems called The Bells of Hope. It came out as a beautiful limited edition book last year from Penned in the Margins, and will be reprinted in my next Bloodaxe collection in mid 2014. For a long time, I said it was not a sequence, but a series of poems, each in a self-invented form (the kernel poem). But as the series progressed, the poems began to connect and it seemed they were all related to my situation of living alone, after so many years of cohabitation. The poems felt like a metaphorical diary. The kernel poem consists of a swirl of truth and metaphor in one dimeter line and three equal, much longer lines. Some of the poems stand alone well; others (including ‘The Haunt’, I think) work better within the context of the sequence. This little poem was the very first kernel poem I wrote. I wrote another straight after. Both were inspired by an article in Fortean Times about the supposed ghosts of famous people who had been executed. There’s a definite echo here of a theme in my long poem ‘Terrific Melancholy’, of the self as a ghost we might both fear and try to embrace.