Poe profiles: Glasgow-based poet Magi Gibson is currently enthralling readers and audiences with her new book, Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks. What makes her tick?
What was it about the aims of The Poets’ Republic that made you submit your work for consideration?
In the foreword to my new poetry collection, Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks, Helen Lamb describes me as a poet who “kicks ass and heals wounds with poems that are feisty and funny, earthy and tender – and sometimes downright rude.” Given the stated aims of The Poets’ Republic, I guessed we were a marriage made in heaven.
Poetry used to be the voice of the people. How can we regenerate people’s understanding of, and enthusiasm for, poetry as a vehicle for social change?
Write poetry that invites them in. That speaks their language. Too much poetry leaves too many people feeling foolish rather than enriched. It’s a mistake to think that poetry which is clear and accessible cannot also resonate and contain more than instantly meets the eye. We need to raise the status of popular political poetry, give it back its rightful place in the poetry hierarchy.
Secondly the poems must be relevant to people’s lives. But not just providing easy answers, telling them what they want to hear. Poetry can ask the difficult questions. It can be provocative. My poem, Oh Scotland, which has been studied by students in Scotland and Germany and was written at the time of the founding of the Scottish Parliament burst forth from sheer frustration, as did its follow up poem, Och Scotland! after the independence referendum. Och Scotland will be in my new collection, Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks out on April 5th from Luath Press.
Magazines like The Poets’ Republic help poetry be a vehicle for social change too. As do public readings, newspapers and online sites.
What do you consider to be the most significant social issue in Scotland today?
The same as the global issue. The ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Whether you look at it as a Scottish, a UK or a global level it’s obscene. Add to that the blind adherence to consumerism and materialism that society is geared towards and we end up with unacceptable levels of homelessness and children going hungry in the 7th richest country in the world. (Or should that be 8th now? Or 9th? It changes so fast.)
What one other poet would you recommend to readers of The Poets’ Republic?
Polish poet, Anna Swir.
Who should submit to The Poet’s Republic?
Easier to say who shouldn’t. The Queen. Theresa May. Boris Johnston would be out too. And Michael Gove. So with all of them out of the running, you, dear reader, will be a shoe in.
Over to you…
In what public space or media would you most like your work to appear?
It has already appeared on a wall in the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow and as an audio installation there. On a bridge over a dual carriageway in the centre of Stirling, and on National Poetry Day postcards, a Scottish Arts Council Christmas Card, a Big Issue give-away postcard, as well as in magazines, books, pamphlets and online. But what I’d like most now is to have some really good voice/video recordings done. I’ve actually video-ed quite a few other people, and I don’t have any videos of myself reading a poem. I did read Oh Scotland on Melvyn Bragg’s Travels in Written Britain, but somehow or other never received my DVD copy. So I don’t even have that.
So that’s a project for me. I’d like to play with getting some recordings done. My first poetry collection was published in 1992, and there are no voice recordings of me either. I’ll probably pop my clogs and there will be no recordings at all! So if anyone wants to put that right, get in touch!
What is the best piece of writing advice you have been given so far?
I love Adrienne Rich’s observation that “too much already has been buried, mystified, or written of necessity in code.” It allowed me to understand why I write the way I do, and why I want to continue to write in that clear and direct style. As the anarchist poet Paul Goodman advised, “the artistic imperative (is) to make it as clear as possible.”
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read! (Oh, am I really so boring?)
Where can we find you online?
www.magigibson.co.uk and on Facbook as Magi Gibson. Go on, be my friend! And on Twitter as @MagiGibson
Any upcoming gigs or events
- Coastword Festival Dunbar, May 20th, 12.30, Venue TBC
- The Blue Lamp readings (with Belfast poet Matthew Rice), The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen, 7.30pm, Saturday, August 12th, Aberdeen.