Issue 24: Jane Goldman


In Admiration of the Maître

The willingness   to listen for these words    in the now ;
Music   on a wee,    brass scaff .

: in May 2007 I joined Glasgow University as staff and my colleague Professor Tom Leonard took me under his tutelage as a poet. His pedagogy was exemplary—to be in the presence of the language, the story of another being with that other being; to participate in the sign that 'someone had heard the story, and the teller was no longer necessary'. Tom had a lidless gaze on language.

I invited him to lead postgraduate seminars in modern poetry. He would light a candle at the start in recognition of 'the universal human as inclusive and absolute'. The room was spell bound by his performance of 'My Name is Tom' and by his sound-setting of an extract from Either/Or by Soren Kierkegaard, weaving recordings of Tom's younger self with his live voice in the room: 'this pursuit itself is little more than a mood from which nothing results but a knowledge of it'. We were plunged into a virtuoso vortex of mood and language that no one present has ever forgotten. At the close of the seminar he would quietly snuff out the candle.

For the last six years or so I opened our flagship first year course, 1A: Poetry & Poetics, day one, lecture one, poem one with 'the pee as in pulchritude' of Tom's poem 'Poetry'. The course ended in week eleven with Tom himself reading his poems to the students in the lecture slot on elegy, and he always included his two great elegies on his mother – 'Placenta' and 'An Ayrshire Mother'. He brought the house down with his finest manifesto poem 'Being a Human Being'. He was in fact obliged to repeat the lecture immediately having finished it, since the class is so large we have to deliver every lecture twice. For a poet who was so fully present and alive to his words, and to the uniqueness of every context of utterance, this was quite a feat of stamina. And the second lecture was of course always a departure in some respects from the first, and truly moving to witness, especially latterly when Tom was travelling everywhere with an oxygen cylinder. No podcast or recording could ever do justice to the experience of being present in the room.

We are all here because each of us is 'someone who has heard his story', and we will continue to be present, fully present, to exist in the presence of Tom Leonard's language :

how your bone-white pips alice

fall douce soft on hard solstice

sting plunk from a ripe sky

i-i deep in some word caves

minding gaps for breath space

into a stillness of the small hours

seeking unique signs of universal play

i-i am listening for the sweet rasp

of a language that is free and honest

made by someone being free and honest

how even the year's shortest day

cannot hold off the last spasm

how a news announced at six

at ten at midnight still chimes

its bogus phatic communion

with big ben how a legal time

is still said by a man with a bbc accent

follows five short pips then a long one:


how your bone-white pips say:

my name is tom—is not dead


                                                                                                    (12 January 2019)


This Is Just To Say

I have taken

the eggs

that were in

your ovaries

and which

you were probably


for spermfest

Forgive me

they were petri dished

so oocyte

and so cloned


comes infectious



and its opposite

seems true

being indoors

gets sticky it appears career

psychopaths are in charge

replicating deadly

malfeasance surely

blind catastrophe

is at hand

blind catastrophe

is at the wheel


i-i propose

we test

under emergency powers

for the dark triadic traits

yes test and test

track and trace

all those in charge

in the workplace

everywhere test

with my hastily redeveloped

diagnostic kit the all new bio-

psychosocial model for work

incapability assessment based

on my very own policy based

evidence yes the all new bio-

psychosocial model for work

incapability assessment can

now be used to control out

breaks of even the most

malignant of self-serving

callous arrogant corporate

governmental psychopaths

in charge in any workplace

by helping

to isolate

these unfortunate

people who are


lethally incurable




by helping them

from behind the wheel

of blind catastrophe

by helping them

out of the workplace

into welfare

proudly to stand by

harmless at last

in the comfort

of a permanent

universal credit

in total control

over their own

tiny world their



only deepens

Jane Goldman is Reader in English Literature at Glasgow University and likes anything a word

can do. Her poems have been published in Adjacent Pineapple, Gutter, Scree, Stand, Tender, Zarf,

and elsewhere. Her first slim volume was Border Thoughts (Leamington Books, 2014), and her new

collection SEKXPHRASTICS is forthcoming with Dostoyevsky Wannabe.

Copyright © 2020 by Jane Goldman, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.