Hey everyone, A year ago today poets & musicians gathered with family to say goodbye to our good friend John J Turner Senior.
A shy soft spoken man, John’s stories & poems won him many friends since he was introduced to the Glasgow writing scene in 2002 after the death of his second wife Esther.
The man responsible for this action was his son JJ, a good friend of mine & a talented poet in his own right. Over the years we were to discover where JJ got his talent from.
A regular at many events all over the West of Scotland, such as Tollcross, Larkfield & Ibrox Writers Groups, Bards in the Park, Words& Music at Sammy Dow’s, & until his health got the better of him Glasgow Writers at GoMA . John was well loved & respected within the spoken word community. He was a keen supporter of the Federation of Writers Scotland & his loss is still felt to this day.
He could write in any style from memories of childhood to brilliant anti-war poems such as The Patriot & Did You See Him?. The man had a far greater range of work than he was given credit for, covering as it did topics as childhood crushes which he combined with examining stereotypes in one of his most magical pieces the ballad of Janey McQueen surely the Gregory’s girl of poetry . He also tackled topics such as Judgement& perception of others which he covers in The Harlot. This, in my opinion represents perhaps one of his most moving pieces. He looks at the futility of cultural Nationalism in The Patriot, & in There I’ve Said It Again in he explores the world of Glasgow family parties.
John was a keen self publisher & produced many volumes of his work in small booklets which he would either sell for a small price or give to his writer friends as Christmas presents.
I have many of these Turner prizes & trust me they are far more valuable than anything by Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst.
Though I may be more of poet than a storyteller, John was equally at home in both traditions. Indeed it could be said that he was a storytelling poet.
Sometimes I do have to say I do find I can unintentionally switch off when listening to a story but this was never the case when listening to one of John’s that was always a pleasure. Stories such as Little Billy the boy who believed he was superman could bring smiles & tears in almost equal measure & sometimes both at once.
However, though others may differ in their opinions , I believe it was in his poetry that John Turner’s talents shone brightest. I have listed many of what I consider to his best works earlier but my all time favourite Turner poem, has to be a Pot of Mince in which John recalls being taught how to cook this dinner by his grandmother.
Who needs Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver when our poetic masterchef laid out the easy to follow instructions for this traditional Scottish cultural feast.
Well he could always create a winning recipe with words.
Finally, I hope that the following poem written just after his death will provide comfort to JJ , Debbie & the girls & also to all other family members , & friends who miss John for his writing,his company, & most of all his friendship.
A Decent Man
A grand father
a grand man
a man of his time
more at home
with pen, paper & principles
than he was with technology
which he reluctantly embrace
only when absolutely necessary
kind, but with a mind of his own
he celebrated life
yet often described himself
as a loner
I would prefer to say
he was comfortable
In his own company
a man at ease with himself
Always smart, well turned out
he took pride in his appearance
as he did in his writing
believing, you should strive
to be the best you can
his son & grandchildren
now inherit his talents
as we remember
a decent man
@ Gayle Smith 2012