DUNCAN GILLIES MACLAURIN, master of the sonnet, teaches English and Latin at a college in Esbjerg, Denmark. His poetry has been published widely online, and his poetry and song cycle From Moonrise till Dawn will be published as an e-book with audio files by NordOsten Forlag later this year. For Duncan, poems and songs are inextricably related, and he enjoys reading and singing his own work in front of an audience. These rhymed and rhythmical poem-songs show great structural skill, and are clever, knowing, lyrical and funny.
Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
And how old you were when you wrote it?
And what it was about?
The five senses. It was a piece we had to write at school. I wrote five stanzas, one for each sense. The teacher wrote underneath that a sixth one summing the whole subject up would have been a good idea. When I began writing poetry on my own initiative – at the age of 22 – I remembered this assignment as well as my teacher’s advice. I extended his advice and gave the poem an intro stanza as well:
Throw your dream into space like a kite, and you do not
know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend,
a new love, a new country.
– Anaïs Nin, Diaries
a queen and king
in the heart of spring.
First is hearing,
sound so endearing.
Second is sight,
as colour bright
Third is taste
we mustn’t waste
with horrible haste.
Fourth is touch,
and it is such
that it counts for much.
Fifth is smell
casting its spell
on summer’s chiming bell.
Come, drift with me,
and we will be
pleased by memory.
Name a favourite poem or two . . .
John Masefield's "Sea Fever", Laurie Lee's "Home from Abroad", Philip Larkin's "At Grass". When I encountered that one at school I assumed it was written by some long-dead poet, and upon discovering it again later I was shocked to realise it had been a relatively new poem.
. . . and a few of your favourite poets.
Well, Philip Larkin, and Douglas Dunn, and George Mackay Brown and Kenneth Steven.
Do you talk about poetry with your friends or is it a secret part of your life?
I am first and foremost a poet. I make no secret of that, and I’m an exhibitionist about it given half a chance. Having said that, not many people show much interest unless they’re poets themselves, and even then they don’t show much interest. So I guess it’s like an open secret.
Do you write poetry for yourself, or for others, or for both?
The exhibitionist always needs an audience. So very much both.
Is it important to you if your poems get published or not?
Do you think poetry is important in the global scale of things or just a pleasant, indulgent hobby like needlework or trainspotting?
I have no idea whether it’s important in the global scale of things, but for me it’s certainly not an indulgent hobby. It’s a lifeline.
What does poetry really mean to you?
What God means to the religious. Poetry is the rock on which I stand.
Is poetry better than sex?