Amazing! A lost poem from cult Scottish iconoclast and poet, R.D. Thomson (1923-67), has been recovered from a torn A5 sheet of paper stuck between the covers of an old housewives’ manual on a Edinburgh charity shop bookshelf. A customer was leafing through the book and discovered the yellowing manuscript.
It would have marked a radical new direction for Thomson who abandoned poetry in 1953 to concentrate on his cardboard-abstract installations, which he exhibited to coincide with heavy rainfall, that way ensuring a necessary transience. The poem is dated 1967 and could have been written shortly before Thomson’s suicide that year. The author’s favoured themes are all present – liquid, late capitalism and latent violence – but the writing, while avant-garde for its time, is more compressed and less centred on himself than Thomson’s earlier experiments with the onomastic school.
Here is the poem, which is, as you would expect, without title:
steel gothick, penthouse lagging, this means
bones cooking on the stove beans to sludge
ex tempore coercion the hour of pinafore
off colour shotgun aimless and fragile
spend drift water spill banks of mount caramel
halfway between hubris and superego
trickle down the blossoming weed and root
cannibals kill for scrapings from sugar planes
pink depression a working pipe immaterial
hey mac shoot me shoot me in a frame baby
self consciousness becomes you takes flight
clear case of towelling institutional hidrosis
It seems that a certain Barbara G. McCreadie of the Scottish Literature Project has already condemned the poem as “obscure, pointless and enough to put any child off reading poetry for life.” She’s obviously missed the playfully ironic switches of tone and register, the subtle connections and echoes between the fragmented images and, most of all, the searing relevance the poem has in these days of recession, protest and credit crunch. And the final line is a killer.