Mining Poems or Odes won the BAFTA Scotland award for best short documentary in 2015. It’s 11 minutes long. You will say you don’t have time. Save the link and come back to it. It’s that good. His accent, his passion, his story, the cinematography – all hypnotic.
“The Scottish poet Robert Fullerton is a former shipyard welder who was an apprentice when he found his love of books thanks to his mentor. Like its subject, Mining Poems or Odes finds beauty in language and in the docks of Glasgow Fullerton’s thoughts on mining and lyrical readings of his poetry with scenes from the Govan shipyard’s distinctly working-class milieu.”
Here’s a large chunk of excerpts from the documentary:
“…And it merited being read again. And all of the sudden, I know what the book was about. And that was a flash moment, way back then. Put the helmet down wondering and lift it knowing. I’ve read that 30 times since. That was your education in the yard. It wasn’t in a library. You didn’t join and get a card. Someone stuck a book into your pocket…You learned off really rough older men…taught me the industry of life. The job of working on yourself. What was going on there was the production of the human spirit. So that was one of things in the shipyard that as we go on in life, I remember. It made a hole in me! Boom! But now when I’m writing it comes back to me…
If you watch a thousand sparks cascading, they’re all wee thoughts or possibilities or ideas. And if you could think like that. I learned to write under a welding helmet. Didn’t know it at the time. Now it’s as clear as day. All the fireworks you saw pouring out of places, it made it otherworldly. So your thoughts became like that. It’s the perfect thinking laboratory. Perfect!
I honestly think that any thing you think later in life after being a welder, you were serving your time at the thinking behind that glass. You’re looking into darkness, as a matter of fact in the reflecting glass all you can see is your own eyes. So when you come back from that to logical thought or the book you were reading, or a bit of poetry, you have experienced that idea of wild imagination.
But the helmet’s off now, and I look at myself a different way. That’s life to be looked at. This is the wonderful thing about both these trades. They are both done solitary and in silence.
A lot of the things that I write, I just put any words in to get the structure of the thing done. Then you start paring away at these words and finding the right word. Finding. That was a word I had in one of the sonnets I’d written. Finding. And then I had searching, looking for, all these words. It turned out to be mining – what a word. Mining.
Imagine going down into the dirt to find a word that you’re going to elevate up into poetry. That’s mining for me. Digging in. Trying to get the proper word.
Head. Heart. Pen and paper. These are the tools of my trade now. It’s the most powerful place for me. Because you see what you write. It’s a vision that become manifest on the page. It’s everything I’ve got. And for me…They’re almost sacred. Words. They’re the tools.”
~ Robert Fullerton, Mining Poems or Odes. The welder-turned-poet who fell in love with words in a Glasgow shipyard