Aye Write! - Alistair Findlay

Alistair Findlay

Poetry in motion

Doug Johnstone talks to Alistair Findlay, the footballer-turned-poet behind a new collection of verse

On the face of it, football and poetry are not obvious bedfellows. The Tartan Army enjoy a good singalong but they’re not renowned for their linguistic prowess or their gentle poetic insights. Likewise, you can’t imagine a Poets XI mastering the 4-5-1 formation.

But one man is seeking to change all that. Alistair Findlay is a former professional footballer and acclaimed poet. Last year Findlay edited 100 Favourite Scottish Football Poems, an eclectic and intriguing collection brought together for Scottish publisher Luath.

Featuring Hugh MacDiarmid, Norman MacCaig and Edwin Morgan, as well as work by contemporary poets like William McIlvanney, Ron Butlin and Jackie Kay, it’s far from being an obscure niche book, and it brings home the dramatic and emotional potential that’s latent in the beautiful game.

‘The poetry is a mixture of stuff about the game itself and work which uses football as a metaphor for politics, warfare and all the rest of it,’ says Findlay. ‘For me this clash between the allegedly high cultural form of poetry and the popular cultural form of football is fascinating.’

Findlay is well placed to examine this interface, having been on Hibs’ books in the 60s (he was Bill Shankly’s first signing there), and also being an established poet, his 2003 collection even being called Sex, Death and Football. For this event at Aye Write! he has gathered like-minded souls together for an evening’s entertainment which should appeal to fans of both camps. That’s the plan, anyway.

‘Fans of poetry and fans of football shouldn’t be as afraid of each other as they have been in the past,’ says Findlay. ‘There are still barriers, and it will be interesting to see if this book moves things along a bit. In the introduction to the book I explain to poetry fans what football is all about, and likewise to football fans what poetry is about. Maybe in the future I won’t have to do that.’

Football Poems hosted by Alistair Findlay, Mitchell Library, Sat 8 Mar, 6.30pm.

Aye Write! Glasgow's Book Festival

Aye Write! remains committed to celebrating Scottish and international writers and writing. The 2018 programme includes Maggie O’ Farrell, Val McDermid, Brett Anderson, Professor A.C. Grayling, Evan Davis, Shami Chakrabarti, Graeme Obree, Jo Swinson.

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