A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit New York. I had a story The Boy in an anthology -- Word Jig:New Fiction From Scotland published by New York publisher Hanging Loose Press.
I visited the Big Apple to take part in readings centred on the publication.
In the run up to the visit memories came back to me of a previous trip to America when I was seven. I had an Uncle, Aunt, and cousins living in New Jersey and we visited New York a number of times during that visit.
My memories were vague, more impressions left on a very young mind.
That first visit was the beginning of a lifelong interest in American literature, film and TV.
I shared this with my father who was a big Western fan. Both of us must have watched every episode of the High Chaparral TV programme. I can’t remember either of us watching The Lone Ranger but the images and phrases are in my head.
I’ve lost count of the number of films and TV programmes I’ve watched based in New York and other areas of America. Over time it was that city that grew in my imagination supplanting everywhere else even overtaking the Western.
Still when The Magnificent Seven (and it is when!) is repeated I’ll sit down and watch it for the umpteenth time!
As I write this another memory is coming back to me of my dad and uncles and cousins going to see it on the silver screen! Maybe we did maybe that was an imagined memory!
I wrote a My Scots American Uncle trying to capture something from that early visit to America.
In writing it I discovered that in many ways that first encounter had fused with my own personal myth of America garnered through reading stories and watching TV and film.
This is evident in the imagery and vocabulary used.
filled the screen
of a seven year old
‘Go west young man.
Blaze the trail.’
And did I follow?
‘Hi Ho Silver away.’
When I went back to New York for the reading I found that because of the images already running in my head I felt immediately at home as soon as I landed. I very quickly adjusted to the amazing pace of the city because it didn’t feel like I was adjusting at all.
I had been there many times in my imagination.
I wrote a number of poems, or drafts of poems, while I was there. Also a short story Postcard From New York which was a co winner of the Fish Publishing one page short story competition. So those visits whether in actuality or in my imagination have been very fruitful.
I wrote the poem Arrival when I returned home.
Touched down but still flying
In the city that never sleeps, that is never still.
Landed but still coming down
Over junior league size baseball pitches
Multi coloured doll houses all in a row
Each with their own America back yard.
New York cabbie style.
That is crazy, stop for no man
Or car, style.
‘Where you heading?’ The chewing
Mouth asks in the mirror.
‘ Mid Manhattan, East 51st Street. ’
I say as nonchalant
As I can muster as we swerve into the freeway
To a chorus of horns.
Shaken and stirred.
Blood coursing through my veins.
Through the use of mythic language city that never sleeps combined with my experience of the moment Touched down but still flying the poem fuses my own mythic memory and actual feeling in the moment.
Both poems are different but continue my creative narrative with America and in particular New York. I have written more poems and stories since.
Somehow I don’t think they’ll be the last.