Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Poems in the Backroom 93: Joy Hendry

When my hair was much longer- mind, given the time in lockdown, not much longer- I remember going to Joy Hendry’s house in Broughton Place to get a box of ‘Horridges’, newly printed by 'Chapman', taking them round to the Barony, buying a pint, ripping the box open, and piling them up on the table, revelling on the way the publight reflected glittering on their surface. It was a great moment. Joy Hendry, my guest today in the Backroom, was the first publisher of a book of mine not to go bankrupt and the list of folk published by the New Writing Series in ‘Chapman’ reads like a who’s who: Janet Paisley, Dilys Rose, Magi Gibson, George Gunn, Lydia Robb, Colin McKay, many others. It was a brilliant series, a spin-off from one of the most important literary magazines in Scotland,‘Chapman’, which stretched to more than a hundred issues from 1971 and provided a platform for poetry, review, essay and criticism. Each issue of 'Chapman' had a book’s worth of reading. As well as showcasing new talent it highlighted in an intelligent and insightful way the Scottish greats.

‘Chapman’ was the work, pretty much, of Joy Hendry. She was involved from 1971 and editor from 1976, and her own work as a writer took second place. Her role in the literary firmament was large:  in addition to 'Chapman' she played a key role in the creation of the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish National Theatre and many other such projects.  She also worked widely in the public arena, as lecturer, broadcaster, critic and reviewer. In 1990 Perth Theatre produced her play on poet William Soutar, 'Gang Doun wi’ a Sang', published by Diehard 1995. In 2005 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. In 2019 she was given a Saltire Society ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ award.

Joy suffered a sustained period of weakness and bad health but has gradually been writing again, and in the last few years, her work has appeared regularly in magazines and anthologies, in particular 'Poetry Scotland', 'Freak Circus', 'Poets Republic' and 'The Darg' – an anthology of poetry in the spirit of Hamish Henderson, marking his Centenary in 2019. It was a pleasure for me to edit a pamphlet of her and Katy Ewing’s verse for the 'Poets' Republic' 'Bearings' series which was published in 2019 and is one marker of Joys resurrection as a poet. She’s now looking forward to producing her first ever solo volume of poetry, very soon.

Here she is reading the long and excoriating poem, a response to our times,  'Loved Ones':

Article in 'The Herald' on Joy and 'Chapman':


A lecture on 'The Literary Magazine in Scotland':


The amazing 'Chapman' Archive:


Loved ones
Loved Ones

The expression on the lips
Of the Blond Bombast who
Steers our wayward tiller
Lodged itself with a shuddering thud
As he announced too late a stop
To all our daily philanderings with trade
With buildings and bridgings
With learnings and unlearnings
With meetings and chatterings
With mixings and minglings
With shoulderings and counsellings
And even cold-shoulderings left
Out there in the cold.

Yes, proudly, at the late unveiling
Of the plan to keep the Cuddy cosy and warm
Secure in his stable, locked up
Not quite two metres from the nearer from the nearest
Unravelling bay of hay -
He looked us all straight in the heart and warned, compassion to hand,
That some of us were
Going to lose
Our loved ones.

Strangely moving, that phrase,
Loved Ones, on the lips
Of one more familiar with
Balling and blundering
Shoving and hustlering
Spluttering and posturing,
If not downright bullying.
He looked us all in the eye of the soul
From the sole of his soul
That Some
Of our Loved Ones
Were going to die.

It's not just here
In this strange and unruly backwater of the heaving Atlantic,
But right across the quivering, guttering globe
We hear that phrase,
Our Loved ones,
Our Loved Ones,
are going to be lost and
gone - forever -
From a blonde and favoured, skeely and steely politician who knows how to turn a good phrase
If not when to lock stable doors.

I have grown to hate that mantra
As even those well grown in rhetoric intone it, sanctify it, incense it, waft it about, dust it off and down, sanitised daily
To keep it bright and clean.

What of, what of, I cry
From the darkest corner of my troubling heart
What of all those
And there are many, too many to point at or name
Cast out, without a loved one to name
Those deloved by all whose touch they long for
Those so beaten that they dare not love
For fear of yet another cold-shouldering, You-Turning-Away,
The ones with address books empty
Or long cast away

Maybe, like the New Zealand killer who no longer deserves a name,
We loved-ones the world o'er,
Busily not-brithering each other,
Need this blue-eyed Lockdown
Perhaps to earn again the right to the name
Loved One,
And to learn again, maybe for the very first time
How to love a one.

But, clouds come, with black rain
The horse vanished from the stable long ago and visits pastures new with a mad, red eye
And the locusts fly high and far.

And, in millions of unseen corners
Huddled in singular blankets
The Unloved.

Black Orchid

Black orchid:
your mind like the owl waits
for the setting of the sun.

You are a full moon on a dark loch
a drop of water on a leaf
glistening in the wind
Your hawk eyes scan the moor
for a flutter of the bracken
and your eagle wings are poised to fly

The quotidian ritual is no use to you –
the daily grind, the diurnal pattern
– it’s light years you ellipse
with a falcon’s flight

The orchid is no daffodil,
obedient to the sun’s mundane routine.
The black orchid will wait
for the moon’s rays light
through the time-worn perfection
of the stone circle
to pierce the chink
in the sepulchre door,
a laser on that singular stone
in the darkest of all tombs
in that holiest of places
for but a second in the year’s turning.

Many moons can pass
before there is no cloud in the sky
or the heart, no shadow before the door
there is no pattern, no predictability.

You will wait, bare-breasted, wide-eyed,
for the right time to move.
I looked up last night
and saw the full moon preening herself –

black orchid, the door is there
the moon forbears and a leaf
trembles in your hand.

(From 'Bearings' )

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