Tom Leonard was born in Glasgow in 1944. He worked as an unemployment clerk and bookshop assistant before two spells at university with a proofreading job in between. His 1984 Intimate Voices including four sequences of Glasgow dialect poems of 1967–79 was banned in some school libraries in Scotland at the same time as it won the Scottish Book of the Year Award. Most of his poetry is in standard English. In the seventies following Bob Cobbing’s encouragement he recorded and performed works for tape recorder, some with narrator/singer and placards.
Some of his political satire was pubished during the miners’ strike in 1984, and while writer in residence at Paisley Library his compilation Radical Renfrew brought back into print sixty mainly working-class poets from the West of Scotland. Then he completed a biography of James Thomson author of “The City of Dreadful Night” on which he had been working on and off for twenty years.
In 2002 he became joint professor of creative writing along with Alasdair Gray and James Kelman at Glasgow University. He retired in 2009, during which year his selected poems 1965 – 2009 was published. Four years later his selected prose followed.
A translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children in which Mother Courage speaks in the language of a West of Scotland working class woman was published in 2013.
This is edited from a public reading at Oran Mor in Glasgow recorded by Camcorder Guerrillas for a DVD that was made in honour of Mordechai Vanunu, who was standing for rector of Glasgow University. The poems in the excerpt from the reading are:
- The Fair Cop
- doon the close
- the enemy without
- First Poster Poem against the Criminal Injustice Bill
- yi surta
- the dropout
- moral philosophy
- a summer's day
- Remembrance Day
- June the 2nd
- In Hospital
Glasgow, late 1990s
Tom writes: 'The recording was made in Glasgow in the late 1990s by someone then compiling a programme for Danish radio about Scottish poetry. He later sent me a tape of nora's place though I don't know if it was actually broadcast.'
Three Texts for Tape
Three Texts for Tape, recorded at home in Glasgow in 1978 using Tom's Teac A-3340S tape recorder.
- from a remote place
- Mahler in Central Park after dark, with ducks
Overlays a number of performances and the title refers to Ives.
- My Name is Tom
The video of “My Name is Tom” presents the descriptive score of nine pages in slides with audio of the twin mono tracks that are played in performance, with miniatures of the placards that are held up in sequence, and the prose sections that are declaimed by the narrator ion stage when the full work with placards, tapes and narrator has been peformed. It was first performed at the Sound Poetry festival held by Bob Cobbing in the Poetry Centre in 1975. The score in this video is that on the pages of the publication of it by Laurence Upton’s Good Elf Press in 1990.
- Nine Variations on Larry's Poem
- Nor shall death brag
A mutltrack variation on Shakeseare’s sonnet 18.
- Six Glasgow Poems (Glasgow: Other People Publications, 1969)
- A Priest Came on at Merkland Street, Midnight Press, Glasgow 1970.
- Poems (Dublin: E & T O’Brien, 1973)
- Bunnit Husslin (Glasgow: Third Eye Centre, 1975)
- Three Glasgow Writers (with Alex Hamilton and James Kelman) (Glasgow: Molendinar Press, 1976)
- My Name is Tom (soundpoem score) (London: Good Elf Press, 1978)
- If Only Bunty Was Here (Radio Play) (Glasgow: Print Studio Press, 1979)
- Ghostie Men (Newcastle: Galloping Dog Press, 1980)
- Satires and Profanities (Glasgow: Scottish Trades Union Congress, 1984)
- Intimate Voices: Writing 1965-83 (Newcastle: Galloping Dog Press, 1984; repub. London: Vintage, 1995; Devon: Etruscan Books, 2003)
- Situations Theoretical and Contemporary (Newcastle: Galloping Dog Press, 1986)
- Two Members’ Monologues and A Handy Form for Artists for Use in Connection with the City of Culture (Glasgow: The Edward Polin Press, 1990)
- nora’s place (Newcastle: Galloping Dog Press, 1990)
- Radical Renfrew: Poetry from the French Revolution to the First World War (ed.) (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1990)
- On the Mass Bombing of Iraq and Kuwait, commonly known as The Gulf War, with Leonard’s Shorter Catechism (Stirling: AK Press, 1991)
- Places of the Mind: The Life and Work of James Thomson (B.V.) (London: Cape, 1993)
- A Letter in Reply to a Request for a poem for a Poems for Bosnia anthology, 'in which The Independent has an interest’ (Cambridge: Infolio, 1994)
- Reports from the Present (London: Cape, 1995)
- Etruscan Reader 5 (with Bill Griffiths and Tom Raworth) (Devon: Etruscan Books, 1997)
- inside looking in (Glasgow: Survivors Press, 2004)
- access to the silence: poems and posters 1984-2004 (Etruscan Books, 2005)
- Being a Human Being (Glasgow: Object Permance, 2006)
- outside the narrative: poems 1965-2009 (Etruscan / WordPower, 2009)
- Definite Articles: Selected Prose 1975-2012 (Etruscan / WordPower, 2013)
- (trans) Brecht: Mother Courage and her Children (Smokestack Boooks, 2014)
- My Name is Tom