GLASGOW’S own Poet Laureate has written a new poem for the city, reflecting on the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

"The Long Bench" by Jim Carruth is a quietly evocative exploration of the emotions being felt across the community during these extraordinary times.

The poem is partly inspired by the parks for which Glasgow is famous, whilst also touching on the poet’s own feelings of temporary exile from the city where he also works in the NHS, and on the universal experience of being separated from friends, family and neighbours.

Carruth, who has been Poet Laureate for Glasgow since 2014, wrote the poem last month while observing social distancing.

Jim said: “These past few weeks mark the longest period I’ve been away from Glasgow in 30 years and I was missing the city but also family and friends.

"For while many of us are communicating digitally over platforms like Zoom, the opportunity to be physically in the company of friends and relations, to just be together, is ruled out.

“The other influence was the fact that Glasgow, the ‘Dear Green Place’, is very much a city of parks.

"An image came into my head of a bench.

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"Two people could sit at either end, but would that be far enough apart to keep within the social distance?

The poignant image stayed with Jim enough to inspire him to start writing.

Jim added: “Could I use that as an initial image to express that longing to meet up again; wishing for everyone to stay safe while looking forward to that time when it’s over?”

Jim points out everyone faces different fears and challenges during the crisis, from bereavement and illness to the pressures confronting key workers and those home-schooling their children.

At the same time, Jim says everyone also shares a longing for the lockdown to end, so we can return to be with our loved ones.

'The Long Bench' has attracted praise from former UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who called it “terrific”, and Scottish musician and author Pat Kane, who described it as “aimed at the heart of now”.

Jim is the third Poet Laureate for Glasgow, following the likes of Liz Lochhead and Glasgow's first, Edwin Morgan, who would have turned 100 this year.

The Poet Laureate for Glasgow is in the gift of the Lord Provost and is managed by Glasgow Life.

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow’s Lord Provost Philip Braat said: “The Long Bench is a wonderful poem and an important contribution to the cultural life of the city during this difficult period.

“Jim Carruth’s eloquent lines will find an echo in the hearts of many Glaswegians at a time when everyone in the city is pulling together to keep each other safe by restricting our movements and social contacts.

“Glasgow’s response to the Coronavirus crisis has been hugely commendable, but inevitably, people are missing their loved ones and Jim’s poem says so much about our shared feelings.

"It also strikes a welcome note of hope for the days when we can come together again with our families, friends and neighbours.

“At a time when artistic expression has never mattered more, The Long Bench is a marvellous example of the power of poetry.”

Throughout the lockdown, Glasgow Life has continued to link people to its services by providing content online although museums are closed.

As chair of Glasgow poetry network, “St Mungo’s Mirrorball”, Jim Carruth has observed a flowering of creative activity among his fellow writers since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Thousands have been joining sessions with Glasgow Museums as lockdown life moves online, downloading books, magazines and music via Glasgow Libraries.

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A record number have also taken part in online fitness sessions.

The charity is behind a campaign to make the city’s People Make Glasgow brand available as window posters to be used to thank essential workers.

In recent writing emerging from the poetry network since the start of lockdown, Jim says he detects an echo of previous crisis eras, although from a different angle.

He added: "There are similarities with the poetry that came out of the last two world wars,” he said.

“Much of the poetry that is remembered from the world wars came from the perspective of those participating in the battle zone rather than those left at home.

"I think it will be much wider this time, taking in much more the viewpoints of those isolating at home as well as those working in hospitals, community settings."

Jim continued: “This is an experience which is shared with every household and that’s a very powerful thing to try and grasp.

"There are millions of individual stories relating to this crisis, but what’s common to each of us is that this is happening right outside our door.

"It’s not something that’s happening in some distant place that we’re all just reading about. It’s round the corner, it’s our neighbours, it’s in our own houses. It’s a strange time, and a very emotional one. As a poet, especially one working in the NHS, I can’t help but respond to that.”

Jim Carruth is the author of numerous collections of poetry. His most recent, Bale Fire, was published by Birlinn in 2019.

the long bench

For the times ahead

when we will be

as if at either end

of the long bench

where distance kept

is love’s measure

and death dances

the space between

when words alone

are not enough

and queued memories

reach out to touch

let longing be a store

of nut and seed

that grows each day

in strange hibernation

readying for its end -

the sharing of the feast.

Jim Carruth