We used to build ships on the Clyde, now we build poets

The Clydebuilt 5 crew: left-right – Ellen McAteer, Mentor Sandy Hutchison, Mark Russell, Maggie Rabatski and Vicki Husband, at St Mungo’s Mirrorball at the Art Club.

The St Mungo’s Mirrorball Clydebuilt Poetry Apprenticeship Programme is an innovative mentoring scheme for new poets based in Glasgow, which has been successfully running for a number of years. It is run by the St Mungo’s Mirrorball poetry network, headed up by the activist poet-farmer and generous promoter that is Jim Carruth. Applications are through the Mirrorball network, which I joined a couple of years ago. I was on the scheme for a year, and am very grateful for it – it has opened a lot of doors for me. Our mentor was Alexander Hutchison. My fellow mentees included Maggie Rabatski, who is from the isle of Harris but has lived in Glasgow for many years. She has published two poetry pamphlets, ‘Down from The Dance’ and ‘Holding’, both with New Voices Press. Her poem ‘Sacrifice/Ìobairt’ is in the Scottish Poetry Library’s Top 20 Poems for 2012, and her ‘Holding’ has been shortlisted for the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award. She writes in Gaelic and English. Vicki Husband, the second mentee, is a graduate of the MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow, who has had poems published in leading magazines across the UK. She has just been shortlisted for the Pighog Press/Poetry School pamphlet competition, and  co-runs a Poetry Book Group in Glasgow with Mark Russell, the third co-mentee, who last year had a poem shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. He also has an MLitt from the University of Glasgow, and is a teacher.

Last Thursday we launched Clydebuilt 5, with the debated name of Pole Star, a 1930’s Lighthouse ship, in the tradition of each group being named after a Clydebuilt ship. We also launched Sandy Hutchison’s long poem-pamphlet Tardigrade, published by Perjink Press.

Tardigrades (commonly known as waterbears or moss piglets) are small, water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs. They are polyextremophiles. (An organism that can thrive in a physically or geochemically extreme conditions) For example, Tardigrades can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, as well as pressures greater than any found in the deepest ocean trenches, along with solar radiation, gamma radiation, ionic radiation— at doses hundreds of times higher than would kill a person and have lived through the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for nearly 120 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce. The lesson Sandy draws from this creature, in whose voice the poem speaks, is to slow down, advice he has given to me as an eager poet starting out, and which he repeated in the inscription to me in my copy. As the creature repeats at the end of the poem, taking on something of Sandy’s musical Buckie Scots, “what’s for ye will not go by ye”.

Tardigrade 2

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About Pedalling Poetry

Writer Ellen McAteer is founder of Tell It Slant poetry bookshop in Glasgow, and a visiting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art. She was a mentee of the Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship Scheme, under Alexander Hutchison, and a singer with the band Stone Tape, as well as a solo singer who won a BBC Radio competition with her song Blue Valentine. She was Director of the Poetry Trust, which ran the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, a director of the Scottish Writers’ Centre, a visiting lecturer at Oxford University's MSt in creative writing, and a member of the core group of performers at the Hammer and Tongue spoken word collective in Oxford. She is a qualified Librarian.
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