essoI’ve written about inspiration a few times on these pages. In fact, since restarting this blog and posting about my publications, I’ve written about it in some detail, convinced as I am that this is something anyone other than myself would be interested in reading.

When people ask me where I get my inspiration, I used to joke and say I get it from a little shop on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. The thing is, that’s not even my joke. I think it’s Iain Banks’ joke. Proof, if ever it was needed, that inspiration doesn’t come easy to me when I have to steal someone else’s joke about the source of inspiration.

The reality is, inspiration is everywhere and perhaps my problem isn’t so much in being inspired but more in recognising I’ve been inspired.

The two poems published today on Northwinds came to me in two different ways but both could easily have been something I did precisely nothing with.

I had to drive past the house that became The House of Too Many Things about fifty times between October and December 2012 before I finally got the message. People decorate their homes, gardens and yards at Halloween and Christmas, but this particular house took it to the extreme and had soon garnered the titular nickname by me and my family. At night, it must’ve easily been the brightest thing in town and the whirring of its electric meter must’ve been among the loudest. It seemed like there was hardly a square inch on the property that wasn’t occupied by an illuminated inflatable something or other. During the day, though, it was a far sorrier sight and it was this contrast that finally slapped me across the head and kept doing so until I wrote something about it.

The other poem – Esso Roadmap of New England (1940) – is about exactly that. It was a map that was given to me for my birthday in 2011 by my then girlfriend, who is now my wife. I love maps. I love old maps. But what I didn’t realise was how much I loved the stories that are held in the musty smell and in the creaking folds that threaten to snap like twigs when the map is laid out. There’s something about history soaked into paper that appeals to me. Whose hands had this map passed through to get to me? But again, I used to be quite happy to leave it like that, to be satisfied that these stories would exist only in my head. This 71 year old map, predating America’s involvement in WWII, conjured up thoughts of a very different age, of when maps were actually used and useful, during times of boom and bust. In the end, I really couldn’t not write about the person I imagined to be the map’s original owner.

Northwinds is a new publication for me and one that impressed me very much when I was scouting for places to send my work. The quality of the content is matched by a wonderful look and feel, from the ease of navigation to the black & white photos of its contributors. It’s an ezine that has already made it to my favourites list and one that I know I’m going to visit time and again, even when I don’t have an urge to read my own name. And on a kinda interesting “it’s a small word, isn’t it” type way, Issue 5 features the work of Mercedes Lawry, a name that will be recognised by regular readers of a certain Waterhouse Review.

You can find both poems by clicking this link: