A distinguished Scottish poet visits an equally distinguished artist in this genial memoir by Fraserburgh-born George Bruce.

It comes from Today Tomorrow, his Collected Poems, which span, impressively, the years 1933-2000 (Polygon, £14.99).


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It was 3.30 in the afternoon, mid-November,

and I was calling on Bill Gillies

(Sir William Gillies, R.S.A., R.A. etcetera);

'Come in,' he says 'We'll have soup.

You won't be drinking and driving

so we'll have sherry.' Didn't like

the idea of the combination, but

the lentil soup was hottering

on the stove so there was nothing for it

but swallow it with the sherry.

There was a painting on the easel

of Temple, the village where we were.

It didn't look like the rainy street

off which I'd just come. In it

the moon was up and silvering

the length of it, pavement, tarmac road,

squat houses, and touching up

two black trees, winter trees,

but each twig starting from its branch

as if Spring were in it. I looked out

the window. Nothing like the painting.

No glimmering windows along the street.

He was stirring the soup. He didn't look up.

'I catched a painting last night.'

I could see him casting on the Esks,

North Esk, South Esk, Leithen Water, Falla.

How many paintings got away? 'Soup's ready.'

How many poems slip back into my dark sea?