With the new Lowland League season kicking off today, Selkirk Football Club and myself are awfy pleased to announce the publication of “Selkirk FC vs the World!”
“Selkirk FC vs the World!” is the end result of the first season of my poetry residency at Selkirk Football Club, and collects together twenty-five poems and short stories I wrote for the club throughout the course of the year. From a Subbuteo league in post-apocalypse Glasgow to the 1930 World Cup Final, these pieces are, I suppose, a wee mind-map to what I think about when I think about football; or, in other words, the whole book is a kind of 200-page paean to the act of being grimly resigned.
Not that I’m done thinking about football just yet, or writing about it, for that matter. But the residency has been a fantastic platform to write about the things I’m really interested in (i.e. post-apocalyptic Glaswegian Subbuteo leagues) and also to learn a bit more about how lower league football (i.e. the vast majority of football played in this or any country) actually happens. Huge thanks to Selkirk FC and everyone involved with for that.
You can pick up a copy of the book here – you can even review it, which would be lovely and make me feel as if I’m not just banging my head repeatedly on the dangerously low overhang of the Selkirk dugout. It’s nicer than macaroni pies, better for you than Bovril, and cheaper than actually going to a game. Best of all, if you buy it this weekend it’s completely gratis. There’s not a lot in Scottish football nowadays which is free, Kris Boyd apart. So you can’t really say much fairer than that.
The Janice Forsyth Show did a wee feature on my residency at Selkirk last week. You can hear it here for the next month or so – it starts 1hr 30m into the show.
What’s been especially good about the residency so far is that it’s crossed the streams a bit in the way that we were all hoping it would. On one hand we’ve had artsy folks like The Janice Forsyth Show wanting to talk about the poetry side of things, and on the other hand there’s been Sky Sports and the like looking at the residency from a football fan’s point of view. That’s been great, and a nice wee challenge, in terms of trying to come up with poetry that’s both interesting and accessible – or at least only moderately boring.
I don’t know if I’ve actually succeeded in that, but what I have done is line up some fantastic poems to appear in the Selkirk match programmes this season, once our pitch recovers from its winter pounding. Transfer budgets are tight this weather, but a good loan signing or two can make all the difference, and I’m fair chuffed that Stephen Watt, Stuart Paterson, Andrew Blair, Lee Garratt, Chik J Duncan and Finola Scott will be amongst those making a guest appearance at Yarrow Park in 2016.
A few points would be nice in the coming months as well, and things seem to be moving in the right direction. We got beat up at Gala in our last outing, but looked a lot more dangerous after switching to a back four at half-time. Preston at home this weekend – it’s winnable. Onwards and upwards.
As part of my residency at Selkirk FC, the club and I have been looking for ways to involve more poets with the team. We’ll be doing a few things over the course of the coming season, but to kick things off we’re starting up a section in our match programme just for poems relating to football.
I’ve always kind of felt like football programmes are the zenith of Western literature, and it’s been a huge thrill to see my poetry published in them this season. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, and so every home programme for the rest of the season we’ll be publishing a different football-related poem from a guest poet.
We have a few guests already lined up, but we’re on the look-out for more, so if you have a poem you’d be interested in seeing published, please do send it in to tommy.clark[at]btinternet.com. In terms of length, 30 lines is probably about the limit of what we’ll have room for. Previously published poems are fine, and if your poem is relevant in any way to Selkirk, all the better. But the important thing (duh) is that it should be directly related to football.
Our next home game is on November 14th, so realistically that will be the deadline for submissions. We can’t offer any payment, but we will send a free copy of the programme to contributors! It’s a fine publication, which can hopefully only be made better by the inclusion of more poetry.
There’s nothing nicer than just happening across one of your own poems in a bookstore, or on a magazine rack. Unless it’s finding one of your own poems in a football memorabilia store. Well, here’s your chance to make that happen.
The final score was not what we hoped for, but there was some good publicity for poetry and for the club this morning, when Sky Sports News profiled Selkirk FC ahead of our Scottish Cup tie against Nairn. I read out some of my poetry, and talked a wee bit about the cup – cheers to Lawrie Dunn for catching a photo of it! Link to full video below: http://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/10006295/scottish-cup-kicks-off
So, that’s the first month of my poetry residency at Selkirk FC done with. Lessons learned:
Writing poems is by far the easiest and least time-consuming aspect of the whole business. I’ve written about half-a-dozen so far, ranging from elegiac poems about past glories and figures like Bob Mercer, to freestyle disses of upcoming opponents. Most of these (so far) have been written to go with a newspaper article or media piece. Sky Sports News, for example, asked me to write a poem for their feature about our Scottish Cup game at Nairn. Now, how many folk are ever going to get to read their poetry on Sky bloody Sports? None, that’s how many. None.
BUT. It’s very challenging to combine writing the poetry, doing the publicity, working in an ordinary nine-to-five job, and doing other writing of your own on the side. Your own writing seems to be the thing that’s most easily neglected.
Still, because of those pressures, a residency is very good at forcing you to identify what you actually want to get out of writing.
Being continually fresh and spontaneous is a lot harder than it looks. I’m the first person to give it the big eye-roll when someone trots out the same old anecdote more than once, but when you’re speaking to a lot of different people who are all asking basically the same questions, it’s really difficult not to just give out an answer by rote. Even as you’re talking, you can feel your silent inner critic sarcastically mouthing your trite little speech along with you and making a yap-yap gesture with its hand. You feel like such a dad.
But the reaction has been fantastic. Ross Anderson, the chairman at Selkirk, told me that more publicity has been generated for the club by the residency than even the signing of ex-Scotland striker Garry O’Connor. Hopefully, there will be more to come, but in the meantime, tune into Sky Sports News HQ on Saturday, when a Scottish Cup segment about Selkirk will be airing throughout the day.