Balloch Open Mic: Charlie Gracie
(Image by Isabel Addie)
Balloch Open Mic has had some very impressive headline acts. Charlie Gracie was our second headliner.
Charlie was originally from Baillieston, Glasgow and now lives on the edge of the Trossachs. His work has appeared in a range of anthologies and journals, with some listed for literary prizes, including the Bath Novel Award, Cambridge Short Story Prize, and Bridport Poetry and Short Story Prizes. His first novel, To Live With What You Are (2019) was published by Postbox Press. His poetry collections, Good Morning (2010) and Tales from the Dartry Mountains (2020), were published by Diehard Press.
Charlie returned to headline for a second time by popular demand. He read from both his collections, ‘Good Morning’, and, ‘Tales from the Dartry Mountains’, with a blend of anecdotes and the gentle humour which underlines his work. What came through clearly was Charlie’s connection with the land.
His mother was Irish, coming from the Dartry Mountains in County Leitrim. The latest collection displays clearly both his Irish and Scottish heritage.
Going Back to Saint Bridget’s Terrace’ his Irish connection was displayed as he re-called his grandmother.
‘Granny at the door of the house, kitchen cloth in her hand
the smell of eggs and potatoes, a tearful hello – ’ contrasting with the present state of granny’s house, ‘ renovated beyond recognition.’
He spoke of the rationale behind his poetry:
‘I explore many of the themes of the human condition: love, life, death. I also have a real interest in nature. My writing reflects my fundamental creative question: what is it that lurks beneath the surface of what we see around us?’
He paid tribute to Raymond Carver :
‘One of the things that really helped me was ‘Fires’ by Raymond Carter. I’d read a few of his but this collection of his writings, often about writing itself, is really focussed. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to do more, to get better.’
Charlie’s poems are all enduring and enriching but his delivery is so matched to his material that it allows the poems to speak for themselves. A quality not easy to achieve in performance. To quote one of our regular contributors, he’s a poet at home with his work, and it was this that held the room rapt in listening. A very rewarding evening of superb poetry.
Charlie spoke about his novel ‘To Live With What You Are’ at a ‘Meet the Author’ event at Fruin Farm. I read the book in two sittings. I was immediately struck by the writing. A pleasure to read a good command of English. As with any good novel I was hooked and eagerly turned the page. About a third of the way down the second page I paused to check if I had inadvertently turned two pages. I hadn’t! Intrigued, I read on and thought I had entered the world of a dysfunctional family but it soon became obvious the people in this book were more than that. It deals with people the majority of us will never have met unless vicariously through the media. It is not, however, a depressing book. It is so well written, almost lyrical at times, that one almost feels sorry for the protagonists. The ending was, for me, unexpected, but strong and definitely thought-provoking..
Charlie has been the Chair at the Scottish Writers Centre and the 2020 Scriever at the Federation of Scottish Writers. His books are worth adding to your collection, if you haven’t already done so and are available through his website. charliegracie.scot
Good Morning, Diehard Press, £7
To Live With What You Are, £8.99
Tales From The Dartry Mountains, Diehard Press, £8.99
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