Glasgow Writers: Paul McCafferty
I first came across Paul McCafferty on Glasgow University’s MLitt Creative Writing Course, where we were both students. From the outset I was hooked on his poetry. Paul is a naturally gifted writer and his love of language and creative ability shine through in his writing, which flows with fine cadence and draws the reader in with its imagery, emotion and questions.
When I was part of a team of students organising The Lit Parade, a spoken word event at the West End Festival in 2012, we were overwhelmed by the large number of submissions received for possible inclusion. Choosing participants proved to be an arduous task but the decision to include Paul was unanimous and on the night he thrilled the audience with his poems. Right after the event he was invited to submit his work to Glasgow University’s literary magazine From Glasgow To Saturn, where his poetry has since been published.
The poems Paul recited at The Lit Parade included:
Listen, which dwells on the death of two friends is his own favourite.
Listen (an extract)
Listen, the almost stopping velvet night
is a perfect blue circle. Quantum hymns of
nearby trees, an entirely other sonata.
Distant cars like harpsichords
pass quick fingers past inky spaces,
cool air rushing outside a bubble.
Listen here, beyond the hours,
the bound and limited clock hands,
the breathing of the great ones,
my two gone friends amongst them…
The Gifts of Silence, also performed at the event was written for a friend who has inspired a number of his poems and Sean, also published on this website, is another moving tribute to a friend.
Paul’s love of poetry was kindled at an early age and he recounts in detail, one day at primary school, probably aged about 9 or 10, when his class was taken to the school hall to see a film of Richard Burton reciting Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. He vividly remembers feeling ‘that something was switched on.’
He recollects writing his first poem in his bedroom when he was aged eleven. In the morning, when he couldn’t find it, his mother told him that his proud father had taken the poem with him to work to show it to his friends.
His father was ‘a great reader’ and frequently sent young Paul off to the local library with requests for certain books and the instruction to ‘choose some yourself’. Paul would then seek out collections of poetry for children.
Through time he moved on to poetry for grown-ups:
‘Still for me when I speak of poets, some of my favourites are those I grew up with: W.H. Auden, Philip Larkin, McDiarmid and McCaig, T.S. Elliot – R.S. Thomas had a massive effect.’
‘There is no finer poet alive today than Don Paterson.’
As a young man Paul moved to Canada and had barely dipped his toe into the country when he won the Toronto Spoken Word Prize, at Reverend Samuel Mud’s Spoken Word Revival. This resulted in him performing at the legendary Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. . He also gained a publishing contract with Insomniac Press, who featured fifteen of his poems in the anthology Beds and Shotguns.
Paul spread his writing wings further when he worked at Proteus writing screenplays. As one of the writers for Irvine Welsh’ film Ecstasy he shared a nomination for Best Writer at Milan International Film Festival, 2012.
With a desire to learn more about the craft of writing prose Paul entered the MLitt Creative Writing Course at the University of Glasgow, and graduated in November, 2012. He found the course ‘inspirational’ – providing him with ‘a renewed impetus to write’.
Despite having suffered some serious health problems including major back surgery, undergoing intensive physio and facing the possibility of further surgery, Paul is forging ahead. A talented musician and songwriter, he has written nine songs which he working on with Jim Byrne, he has a play ‘on the back burner’ and has two novels ‘on the go’.
The working titles of the books are The Catalyst and Endless Procession of Days. At present he is ‘making some headway’ with the latter and it sounds intriguing. The story is about a middle aged man who takes an unusual step when he goes Christmas shopping in Glasgow to buy presents for his family and finds himself in trouble… With elements of dark humour, the downright comic, psychological torture and the supernatural – all helped along the way by Paul’s gift with language, it looks like a cracker in the making.
Apart from his new found relish in writing prose he is also pulling together a collection of poetry and I’m looking forward to publishing more of Paul’s poems on my website.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be hearing a lot more of Paul McCafferty in the future.
Pat Byrne, April, 2013.
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