Alexander Hutchison was born in north-east Scotland, and has worked mostly as a university teacher, including a lengthy period in Canada and the USA. He is an occasional translator into Scots and English, and (more readily now) a singer of traditional songs. His first collection, Deep-Tap Tree (University of Massachusetts Press, 1978) is still in print. That was followed by The Moon Calf (Galliard, 1990), and two pamphlets from Akros: Epitaph for a Butcher (1997) and Sparks in the Dark (2002). Carbon Atom (Link-light, 2006) and Scales Dog (Salt 2007) followed each other shortly, and Epistle from Pevkos (2009) -- a tribute piece to the late poet Gael Turnbull -- was issued as a pamphlet from Link-light. Another pamphlet Tardigrade (2013) was published by Perjink Press, and Salt brought out his latest collection Bones & Breath at the end of that year.
Alexander Hutchison's website
- An ounce of wit to a pound of clergy
Use the player to listen to An ounce of wit to a pound of clergyPlayer will appear here
- Fleurs de lys
- Goosegogs and Gorcocks
- Hole House farm
- Surprise, surprise
- Switching channels
AN OUNCE OF WIT
TO A POUND OF CLERGY
Let's begin our panegyric: weft of wool
and warp of cotton. Tow a drogue at your stern
so you won't broach to. Abandon your tails
and cheek pouches. For loft, for distance
put the baffy back in your bag.
Who wants this mush of meat and fat: poets
of the pemmican (dried and pounded) school -
with bugger the berry to give it some taste?
Where it's grind me to powders, and cankering
creeds - with never a blink of primrose banks
never a hint of beech woods building.
Strip off your rags and bend the bow.
Get your ordinance full and flowing.
And scrape me rather some pepperpots of potency:
the grains of Paradise, the cubeb, the chili
the cayenne of Guinea, the pods of Sichuan.
Put worms to work, and moles to mark them.
I'd have us smile like a parcel of seraphs.
Not lolloping loose; not dying duckies.
Ladies in sable, come up, come in -
take the weight off your feet, take ease
of all your rasping parts.
Warty newts and fire-bellied toads
continue your aquatic and sociable ways.
Natterjacks of heathland and dunes (your loud
rolling call like a ratchet). Corncrake
of bogland and grasses; fugitive, invisible.
Aspect of all aslip and aslither: things
that tremble, things athwart. Come gastropods
come snails and limpets - sallow, blanch
Things that scuttle, that squeal, or puff
themselves up, or launch themselves through
the air at intruders.
Take root all sprouts of pseudoplatanus.
Protophytes and protomorphs, let's get a move on.
With hooks and burrs and green helicopters.
Set with ardour bright and clear
beams, jambs, lintel and moulding:
an architrave of red-hot promise.
Eager and apt we bristle, we burgeon.
The hand of the glazier puts putty to the frame.
The pastry-cook pounds out his faintest concoction.
Knit up the bones of computation.
Let like kiss like.
Let bright affinity walk
in anklets of amber, in fillets
Not ten go, but twenty posts out of your way.
Cool and open and tempting the vista.
The spiral of the condor vast and leisurely.
The bat at noon (anomalous) in twittering loops.
Let all things fused
Snaps and scraps of quick allurement.
Stone-crop in succulent rosettes
of yellow-pink and crimson-green.
Penetration of the optic:
when all the down-draft of wintry webs
is wafted away.
O, the women in dove-grey
the roundel windows
admitting the light of day.