Jim Carruth is Glasgow’s Poet Laureate, but don’t let images of that city dominate your sense of his work. He’s also the poet of rural Scotland, of farming and life on the land. His two poetry collections from Polygon, Black Cart and Bale Fire, are contemporary georgics, suffused with the perennial rhythms of agriculture but acutely aware of the threat modernity poses to them. In both these collections, and in his verse novella, Killochries, the sights, sounds, smells and sheer hard graft of farming come to the fore. They’re simultaneously elegiac and full of life, as aware of their origin on the Ayrshire hills as they are of continuing a literary tradition stretching back to classical epic and pastoral poetry. Here is ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’, a poem inspired by the Brueghel painting of the same name.
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus after Brueghel No, he hadn’t heard a thing what with being up before dawn getting the old horse watered and fed checking on the shepherd after his night in the fields, that boy – head always in the clouds then harnessing up the mare and all day struggling with the heavy plough to keep the horse going to keep the furrows even to finish the field before nightfall with the weather on the change and the wind picking up when would he ever have had time to stop to listen for a flurry of wings, a solitary far-off splash and to recognise it as anything more than a gull. Jim Carruth, Black Cart (2017) Each one of the three sections of Black Cart has a sequence of 'footers' signalling different aspects of the poet's farm. The footer for this poem is 'Meadow'. Carruth writes 'the footers of the first section are named after the fields of High Auchensale, our family farm, they help with the mapping of home.'