Friday, 3 July 2020

Poems from the Backroom 110: Chris Boyland

I was talking recently about the rise of the video poem, which comprises the core of this blog of course. I was late to the medium and when Robert Campbell Henderson provided film to the words on the 'Blash o God' project last year I was delighted at how the apparent disconnect of word and image he chose really worked. There's a long history of poetry and film of course, which blossomed in dadaist circles in Paris and elsewhere in the twenties and thirties. Man Ray's fantastic ‘L’ Etoile De Mer’ based on a poem written by surrealist poet Robert Desnos, for instance.

Computer and digital technology has allowed for a creative explosion of animated poetry. Tim Burton's first animation in 1982, 'Vincent' was based on his own poem of the same name, in which a small boy dreams of becoming Vincent Price and scares himself to death. Local to me, the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association enabled the brilliant Hugh Bryden to do animated film poems for a variety of D and G poets in 2008, and the form goes from strength to strength. Our guest in the Backroom today is Chris Boyland and his two fantastic animated poems, 'The Letters' and 'The Towers' are linked below.

Chris Boyland was born in Coventry and lives in Cumbernauld. The Scotsman has called him“dream-like, smoky and contemplative”. His poems have been accepted or published by magazines and anthologies such as: '404Ink', 'Gutter', 'The North', 'The Poets’ Republic' and 'New Writing Scotland'.

His debut pamphlet ‘User Stories’ addresses a mixture of intimate and shared scenarios and looks at the public concerns we all have -pre/post-Brexit, pandemicised Britain- through the perspectives of past and present. Its "twenty short pieces are examples of poems that are window panes rather than mirrors, that take as their starting point the writer Hanya Yanagihara’s edict that 'the world outside the self is worth writing about'”.

'User Stories' is available from the independent, Scottish small press Stewed Rhubarb and there is a link to buy this below: Here is Chris Boyland reading 'Letters':

'The Letters', Animated Film here:

'The Towers', Animated Film here: 

Link to buy Chris' book from Stewed Rhubarb Press:

The Letters

Over the town, it rains letters
written on good notepaper
on exercise book paper,
on anything at all
scraps and screeds and tracts
fluttering from the sky, like falling kites
each one anonymous, addressed only, ‘to my love.’

In the absence of names, people make up stories
‘There’s a letter here’, they say, ‘for everyone in the town.’
and they scurry about, trying to find theirs
reading from letters draped over clothes-lines
and lying on pavements.

The wind catches handfuls of paper
and blows them along the streets
unwanted letters lie soggy and bleeding ink in gutters
until men in overalls come and sweep them into heaps
‘Where do they come from’, people ask,
‘who has written these words, these thoughts, these ideas
these lists of things not to forget?’
‘And, why are they falling from the sky?’

I know, but I tell no-one. I collect as many as I can.
Lay them out on my kitchen table, smooth away their creases
and read them and re-read them, over and over and over again.

These are all the letters I could have written
the things I could have said to you, but never did.

(Animated film produced and directed by Sarah Grant, creative vocals by Wils Struthers,
music composed and performed by Fiona Liddell-Thorne, based on an original arrangement by
Jen Hughes, recorded at Unit55 Studios, Cumbernauld)

The Towers

High over the city, at the bottom of the garden
far off in the distance, at the end of our street
stand the ghost towers

Nobody talks about them
but we make a daily obeisance
to their looming presence
that presses on us, like a blood clot on the spine

Families light candles, in the mornings
and at meal-times and place them on household altars
with other charms and relics, citizenship paper
coins and notes, bank statements and and letters from the DWP
to ward off the long shadow, the darkness at the door

Sometimes the charms protect us, often they do not
and we wake in the morning
to see that our neighbour’s house is empty
that our friend is not there to meet us on the way to school
that someone else we know has gone, to live in the ghost towers

We see the spectral tenants of the towers
around the city, in the streets and in the parks
transparent hands outstretched
calling out, reaching out, to passers going by
who mostly, ignore them

After a while, they fade
and fall between the cracks
and no-one sees them anymore

Except at night
when we wake up in our shaking beds
to the cold, bright light shining through the window
and we look out and - there, in the distance
there, at the bottom of the garden, stand the ghost towers
white as salt bleached bone
every window lit up with an electric imprecation
every window with a face, pressed against the glass
and we know, though we cannot hear them
that every face has a voice and every voice is calling

Are we not your brothers, oh my brother?
Are we not your sisters, oh my sister?
Are we not your mothers, oh my daughter?
Are we not your fathers oh my son?

And in the morning, they are gone.

(Animated film produced and directed by Sarah Grant Creative, vocals by Chris Boyland and
Jen Hughes,  music composed and performed by Fiona Liddell-Thorne,  recorded at
Unit55 Studios, Cumbernauld)

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Poems from the Backroom 109: Renita Boyle

Well the Craigdarroch is preparing its beer garden and Scotland is opening up in mid-month so it feels like this strange hiatus is slowly shifting, in actual physical terms and in the mind. The #plagueopoems is going to go on for a wee while longer, till an important anniversary is reached, but it too is beginning to pull up the blinds. We have a great finale in store and several important journeys still to make, however. I hope folk have been impressed by the Dumfries and Galloway contingent- it is my belief that we’re more of a literary powerhouse now down here than we ever were.

On that subject, a word here for a wee writers group that radiates round the anarchic presence of the splendidly cantankerous Gaelic bard Andrew Wilson and his shop Beltie Books in Wigtown. Though it’s three days travel from where I live, I like to call this group a home from home and the quality of its writers has consistently surprised. It’s a haven of warmth, craft and gossip even in the virtual world.

One of its members for a while was a Wigtown Book Festival regular who I would never have seen previously without a chicken costume or a cowboy hat. Renita Boyle has been dressing up and telling stories to weans in Wigtown for a long time and that is just fantastic but we got an insight into a more serious minded poet when she was with us. Of course it’s a theme isn’t it, specially among those decadent French poets, the poet and the clown, the laughing face and the face concealed.

Renita Boyle is storytelling ambassador for Wigtown Festival Company, patron of reading for Saint James Primary in Renfrew and has been Scottish Book Trust reader in residence for DG Libraries.
She has been DG Life Performing Artist of the Year finalist, storyteller in residence with ShetlandArts and winner of Wigtown Poetry Competition Scots category with the very moving winning poem 'Sloe Jen' which is reprinted at the foot of the page. Renita is from Clear Lake, Wisconsin and here invokes her grandmother and grandfather having Coffee in the Cabin:

Renita’s  Website here:

Facebook Site:


Coffee in the Cabin

I wake to the first creak of the floorboards
the rustle of my grandfather pulling on his bibs
the click-click of the buttons on their fasteners
and the muffled slamming of the door as he heads
into the near dawn wet with dew

The pumping of the long red handle draws water
from the well that he dowsed and helped to drill
spills and sploshes until the rust runs clean
and the pail is full and sloshing
on its way back in from the chill

I hear the clanking of the dipper tap its metal sides
peek out from my mouse nest of tied quilts
see my grandmother in her nightie
spark a match and light the stove
fill the coffee pot bring it to a boil

The smell of Folgers drifts out from the big red can
two cups come down from the cupboard one white
the other the colour and shine of a green apple
my grandparents sit at the table
my grandfather filling his pipe
my grandmother filling his cup

I don’t drink coffee but when I migrate North
sense them lingering near their empty chairs
enough to make we want to pour a cup
join them at the table sip their presence

Sloe Jen

Bide til the blackthorn aches wild
wi yon slaw loss o simmer days
heaves wechtie aneath its sloes
fou an ripe an roond
draik wi the cruin o the jenny wren
whase nest be empie nou

Bide til the wee-oors aifter
the first bite o frost appens thair skins
frees a treel o sweetness
intae blaikent gin skies
stains the speerit blae-black wi fledging
lang ago lullabies

Then gaither aw yon grief can bide
frae awantin him hame
preek yon hert wi the shairp neb o a jag
an lat it greet

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Poems from the Backroom 108: Colin Will

Great to have Colin Will in the Backroom today, a fine example of the poet-librarian.

He's in good company: Jorge Luis Borges worked as a municipal librarian at the Miguel Cane Branch Library in Buenos Aires and of course Philip Larkin, who also switched from the municipal library system to the academic, worked in Queens University Belfast and Hull. 

"How little our careers express what lies in us, and yet how much time they take up" said Larkin. I often felt the same, hiding for several decades in the staff toilet in Dumfries Academy and this might explain why Colin came late to poetry, or returned to it late after a distinguished working life. He worked with West Lothian Libraries before taking a science degree and moving to the British Geological Survey Edinburgh Library in 1973 and thereafter to the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh in 1988. He received a PhD and served two terms on the Scottish Library and Information Council, and in 2000 was President of the Scottish Library Association. His skills stood him in good stead to play a formative role in the establishment of two essential institutions, StAnza and the Scottish Poetry Library, both of which he served for a time as Convener or Chair.

His first poetry book was the great 'Thirteen Ways of Looking At the Highlands' published by Diehard. He has since published eight others, the latest, from Red Squirrel Press, being
'The Night I Danced With Maya'. Having had a press of his own, Calder Wood, which published the first collections of many poets he is now Editor at Postbox Press, the literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press, and is himself preparing a new collection of short stories to be published in 2021. He's also an active member of the STEM poets group, which aims to promote the inclusion of real science in poetry. He also plays the saxophone and is a great gardener. He's obviously never heard Michael Longley's words- "As you get older, you get the hang of things, and just when you're getting the hang of things, its time to die." Colin continue to be a dynamo with a great poetic legacy behind him and a fistful of projects still in hand. 

Here he is reading 'Starting a New Normal':

Colin's Website here:


His SPL Profile and three more poems here:

His Blog here:

Starting a new normal

I saw my family at the weekend.
Not all of them of course, the ones
who live in Dunfermline.
The other half live in Germany,
across too many regulations,
jurisdictions and conditions,
and with Brexit looming
like a bad dark cloud.

I see them on the screens
of my computer or my phone,
we correspond by email,
but it’s what we’re used to.
They’ve lived there for years,
and my son’s now a German citizen,
so they’re staying there, dividing time
between Germany and France.

No, this was the Fifers, come to see us
for the first time in thirteen weeks,
and that was something we’d missed.
Did we distance? Did we hell.
They came in the door, the wee dug
first to greet us; they offered hugs
and we hugged, like it was the first hug,
or like we’d never been apart.

An invitation

Do you remember that first glass
of Vouvray? That tingle? A little bit of bite?
My garden’s like that today, everything
opening up. It smells of growth,
as warmth releases little puffs
of energy from every stretching stem.

We’ll walk along the narrow path
so you can feel the forms of leaf
and twig on either side. And then
the lawn, how your steps compress it.
It does no harm; it springs back
after we’ve gone.

Listen to the wind pushing through
the birch trees, moaning in the wires,
notice how the sun’s heat
switches on and off – cloud shutters.
Then we’ll sit, sheltered, and talk,
my cat in your lap or mine,
and we’ll try to make sense
of our separate worlds.

(Reprinted from 'Clear Poetry')

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Poems from the Backroom 107:Katy Ewing

You may wonder why we in Dumfries and Galloway are such a cheerful lot, given we've got one and a half million tons of unexploded munitions sitting off the coast and two sides of the same scone for our elected representatives. I wonder myself sometimes, and here's Katy Ewing to darken the mood further by recalling a previous plague in the region, Foot and Mouth Disease. Never mind, no misery no poetry: 'Le bonheur écrit a lencre blanche sur des pages blanches' as Montherlant said before shooting himself in the heid.

2001 saw the UK's worst ever outbreak and Dumfries and Galloway was one of the worst affected parts. In total about 1,500 farms lost 750,000 animals, culled. Folk recall having to scrub their windows daily as they were coated with grease, fat from the burning animals.  ‘It was a most appalling situation to find yourself in in Britain', someone told me at the time,  'you just didn’t expect it – the Army breaking peoples’ doors down to slaughter their stock’. Seems appropriate then, in the midst of one emotional trauma, to remember another.

Katy Ewing is a writer and artist living in rural Southwest Scotland. She graduated in 2017 from Glasgow University with an MLitt in Environment, Culture and Communication.  She has had poetry, prose and illustration published widely, including in 'New Writing Scotland', 'Gutter', 'Earthlines', 'Zoomorphic', and 'Far Off Places'. In 2017 'The Haunted Land' was published by Blurb Books, including paintings by her mother, Sheila Mullen, and poems by Katy. In 2018 'Poets Republic' published a pamphlet 'Bearings', featuring her and Joy Hendry's work. In that same year she won the Wigtown Poetry Competition's 'Fresh Voice Award'.

She often writes about remembered place, childhood and motherhood and frequently finds herself drawn to the dark and uneasy places in human experience. Katy's writing is deft, deceptively simple and packs a real punch.

Here she reads 'Two Thousand and One':

Link to Bearings:

Katy Reading 'Friday the Nineteenth':

Two Thousand and One

Our second beautiful baby girl
was born in April, fat and pink and healthy,
but would not gain weight.

“Failure to thrive”, the notes declared
in hurried and embarrassed black biro,
but anyone could see she wanted to live;
bright eyes, she smiled, she laughed, she learned,
but she grew longer, got thinner, looked starved.

We could hardly see it then,
what the few photos show.

Gentle midwives became watchful health visitors,
concern turning their eyes from mine,
though they couldn’t tell me what I was doing wrong.

The scales, which four years earlier
had always been a scene of great proud news,
became a cold, hard place of fear
and bright red screams of injustice.

Innocent sheep were burned that spring,
in barbaric heaps, rank smoke pouring
from fields as we drove past.

Walkers had to step through iodine footbaths,
and while the countryside was no-go
we frantically tried to nourish our own, stay hopeful.

The answering machine on a sunny summer’s day,
dad shaken like I’d never heard him,
and mum fallen from the high farm-house roof
onto the cobbled courtyard,
blinded and broken, small as I’d never seen her,
imprisoned in a crisp white hospital bed,
desperate to escape.

Recovery seemed slow and difficult,
the future hard won.

By the time the towers fell in autumn;
a T.V. show on every channel
too shocking to seem real,
and the end of the world seemed closer than ever,
our year’s wounds had already rendered us numb.

The Minister’s Pool 

It wasn’t just the downhill run, 
flung flying along the wooded path, 
that pulled us to the river every summer 
as soon as the trees wore soft green, 
wild garlic flowered, the sky as blue as mattered. 
The water shocking, but survivable with many tries, 
or one brave plunge. 

It wasn’t just the life-thick cold current that tugged us, 
kept trying to drag us to the pool 
across the shallows 
from our chest-deep swimming place. 
The safe place, where soft weed and slippy algae 
cushioned stones for our timid feet
 that curious minnows nibbled, tickled.
The edge was never far. 

It wasn’t just the lurking corner whirlpool of local lore 
that scared the swimming power right out of me, 
the pool’s depth renowned, greater with every telling. 
The cold like a spell to pull me fish-deep, 
as I gasped and fought to keep the surface, 
the dark concealing primal fears, unspeakable 
but with a stronger lure than adults’ warnings 
could hold me from. 

It wasn’t just its safety 
that drew you to the sandstone ledge you’d reach 
if you dared to cross and push and pull 
yourself right out the sucking water 
into the shadow of the massive, ancient, 
overhanging oak tree, to seek a warm spot. 
Exhausted, weed-specked, 
heavy as a new-born.

(Reprinted from 'Stravaig')

Monday, 29 June 2020

Poems from the Backroom 106: Colin McGuire

Colin McGuire has been around for years-I know this for a fact- but doesn’t seem ever to age any, obviously a pact he’s made with dark forces away back. In return for eternal youth McGuire stalks the dark and dodgiest corridors of the human condition employing, as the blurb on his latest book says, 'dark humour and twisted imagery'. Who can resist such attributes? We all lurk in corners but maybe not as starkly or elegantly as McGuire:

'You sit alone, but not lonely and say to air
with the wisdom of nothing: It’s as if my life happened
to someone else. And you take a biscuit and taste,
as all moments, the crumbs of what remains.'

(From 'Zoom')

Colin McGuire is a poet and performer from Glasgow, who now lives in Edinburgh. His poetry on the page is surreal and beautiful but he is known best for his dynamic, engaging live performances.  He won the Shore Poets Quiet Slam in 2014, and the Luminate Slam 2015 and he got to the semi-final in the BBC Fringe Slam in 2013 and 2018. He won the Out:spoken award for the 'film poetry' category and best poetry overall in London in 2018. In 2020, he was an Ignite Fellow Awardee, awarded by the Scottish Book Trust. He is currently working on a book as part of this award. He studies and teaches mindfulness and runs Mindfulness and Expressive Writing Workshops in schools, charities, libraries and community groups.

His most recent collection is 'Enhanced fool disclosure' (Speculative Books, 2018).

Here he reads 'A Small Thing':

His Website here:

Two Poems and Buy 'Enhanced fool disclosure' here:

Five poems from 'The Punch Magazine':

A small thing

Do you know we are so minute
the God's hear our prayers

in the teensiest, helium-pitched
mouse-like voices?

The universe is so small
we point telescopes to look at it.

I have been searching most of the night
for a grain of salt lost amongst the carpet.

Some of the people I care about most
are dust particles on eyelashes.

The stars are insoluble rock salts
I pretend to pick with a pair of tweezers.


Age is being struck by a bolt of lightning
that slows you gradually; the envy of youth
is never having to rush, who speed past drunk
on their own engine, before being struck
by lightning in turn.

Roll on Gran, roll on Sister, roll on Mum, until
the tale end of the night, until the batteries run out,
until the bones creak like a stiff door,
until your voice slows to an aphasic blur, roll on love.

For now you pocket a few biscuits, and turn back
to the living room and the television, the programme
on in a few minutes. Your slippers like a voyager’s
boots carry you on, to that firm chair.

You sit alone, but not lonely and say to air
with the wisdom of nothing: It’s as if my life happened
to someone else. And you take a biscuit and taste,
as all moments, the crumbs of what remains.

Eighty years. The accumulation, to bring me here,
to bring me here, to this conclusion, to sit alone
and watch the television, the screen’s white illumination
a kind of joke, and I am all that’s left of the tree now.

Love stretches as long as a life, before it snaps.
But God have I worked for it, Christ.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Poems in the Backroom 105: Pippa Little

Pippa Little is a Scot who lives in the north of England and is therefore one of our honorary poetry reivers. In the first book I remember seeing of hers, ‘Foray', set among reiving women, she skilfully tread the dodgy path between history and imagination that I like to teeter down myself sometimes.

One of the amazing - sometimes depressing- facets of the #plague is the sheer worth of the poetry involved. There are so many individual voices out there and so many skilful makars. Pippa Little is a wonderful poet with a very finely tuned and unique angle of attack on the ordinary and occasionally extraordinary things that confront us. I do hate to go on about drink in case folk think I’ve got a problem but a poem of hers that has stayed with me is ‘Blotto’ which I reprint in full at the bottom of the page. This is not some superficially skilled sketch of a drunkard but the poetic equivalent of the Vulcan mind-meld, describing with psychiatric precision but also aching empathy the subjects drunkenness as

'my fanfare in your face, my joke against life’s cold
shoulder, in the sure and resounding hope
of what must come, hope in spite of hope'

Brilliance. Pippa Little reviews, edits, teaches and mentors and is a founding member of Carte Blanche women’s writing group. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University where she leads workshops exploring expressive writing techniques to boost emotional resilience in first year students. She received a Hawthornden Fellowship and has won many awards, been published widely in magazines such as 'Ambit', 'Poetry', 'Poetry Review', 'Rialto, 'New Edinburgh Review', 'Glasgow Review of Books' and 'MsLexia', had work featured in anthologies, collaborations, online, on radio and film and has read at festivals and venues across the world, from StAnza in St. Andrews to Mexico City.

Her pamphlet 'The Spar Box', from Vane Women, was a PBS Choice. Other pamphlets include The 'Snow Globe' from Red Squirrel Press, 'Our Lady of Iguanas' from Black Light Engine Room Press and 'Foray', the reiver poems from Biscuit Press, Her most recent full collection, 'Twist', came out in 2017 from Arc and was shortlisted for The Saltire Society Poetry Collection of the Year.
'Overwintering', published by OxfordPoets/Carcanet, was shortlisted for The Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. She is currently working on her next collection. 

Here she is reading 'At the End of Lockdown':

Pippa's profile and more poems on SPL Website:

Six Poems in 'Live Encounters':

At the End of Lockdown

Something has broken/been broken
in me:

today I walked where
rock pools, like eyes,
fill with tears -
alone but for gulls
and sea-glitter:

forbidden touch, skin remembers how to hold
and be held in tenderness
is holy:

the world is very old
and very frail -
I wonder/will it survive us?

Something has broken/been broken:
this slow, quiet letting go
of our pawnbroker’s innocence:

I have dreamed again and again of extinction

and yet the world goes on

even as something has lain down in us
like an old animal/come to its end

multitudes throng the beaches
in these last days of lockdown
oiling their glistening legs
like flies


On Starbucks’ corner hunched against the cold
I’ve been here since the moon was high;
come morning, blow hard into the knot
of my blue hands, I have no hope
today will be more than the old shuttle
between being sober and being blotto.
It’s a kind of leaving without going, blotto:
an easy travelling farther away than cold,
swift and sure as a loom shuttle
I go clean and I go high,
way past being lost or found – in hope
only that one day I shall free this knot,
memory-knot, hunger knot, knot
that’s the opposite of blotto –
if you see me huddled at your feet I hope
you’d throw me more than a blind cold
stare from your important walking, high
above me, on your commuter shuttle:
to and fro you go, slaves of that great shuttle
faster and faster and for what? A slimy knot
you can never shift from your gut. Only a high
ending and a hurrah and I’ll soon be blotto,
my fanfare in your face, my joke against life’s cold
shoulder, in the sure and resounding hope
of what must come, hope in spite of hope.
The north wind’s a blade-sharp shuttle
I’m an impediment to its purpose, cold.
All in the end I’ve got is this ordinary knot
That’s me. Do you know blotto?
Do you know high?

Out cold, high, face kicked to a knot,
small hope of recovery. Found by the airport shuttle, blotto.

(From 'Twist')

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Poems from the Backroom 104: Rab Wilson

It is a total pleasure to have Rab in the Backroom today. He's virtually the last person I had a pint with before the Coronacatastrophe, in the Croon in Sanquhar, a great pub with Burnsian connections. Rab, an ex-collier engineer, is a working class poet from Rabbie's heartland in Ayrshire, and like every Scots poet, and certainly every poet writing in Scots, has had to address or embrace the legacy of his namesake. Rab was ‘Robert Burns Writing Fellow for Dumfries and Galloway Region, has worked with the artist Calvin Colvin on a book of responses to Burns and was Scriever in Residence for the National Trust for Scotland based at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayr. A bit of a Burns scholar, therefore, he's aware of the resonances, his grip on the popular imagination, but also the essential elusiveness of the man and the poet.

'Ah hauf expeck tae see ye staundin there;
thon lustrous ee, that stubborn manly air-
but naw, nae maitter hou we aa micht luik,
ye're anely nou the stuff that dreams are nade oan'

(From 'Whare Burns has Wrote in Rhymin Blether')

Rab Wilson is his own man, a natural and powerful writer and reader in Scots and his themes range across a wheen of interests, historical, political and contemporary, all of which he approaches with skill but also a well grounded sense of humour. Unlike many of his contemporaries too, he is a proud formalist too, a sonneteer.

He has been published in many magazines and journals and performed in all the important festivals including StAnza and Wigtown. He has had several books out with the great Luath Press including 'Life Sentence' and 'Accent o the Mind', 'A Map for the Blind' and 'Zero Hours'. Most recently he collaborated with eminent Scots astronomer John C. Brown in the cross cultural proect 'Oor Big Braw Cosmos', also from Luath Press, a great glorious meld of science, image and poetry. His stalwart work in promoting Scots has stretched from the Holyrood Parliament to regular columns in 'The National'. As an editor, he created the wonderful and seminal anthology 'Chuckies fir the Cairn', an anthology of contemporary Scots writing in Dumfries and Galloway.

Here as his wally dug looks on, is a brilliant reading of  'Radio Radio', 'Somerfield Check Out Number 2', and 'The Greater Sea'.

'Waiting for the Poetry Bus', a great wee film about Rab and his poetry:

Rab's profile and more poems on the SPL site:

Somerfield Checkoot Coonter #2

Harrassed, the lassie frowned,
an shouted oan the Supervisor,
‘Ah weesh they’d mark them mair cleerly,
hou much is this Chardonnay, Wilma?
Is this the yin that’s oan oaffir?’
The wummin ahint me stared,
then the big fellah appeared;
ruggedly handsome,
wi his bunches o flooers,
justifiably embarrassed.
‘If that’s aa ye’ve got,’ she said,
‘jist taik thaim tae the Basket Coonter.
Then added, cheekily,
‘Onywey, ye’re too late!
Valentine’s Day wis yesterday!’
The big fellah wis oan form though,
his face lit up, an pu’in a flooer,
haun’t it tae her;
‘Hen, when ye stey wi me,
every day’s Valentine’s Day!’
an, claspin his tulips,
he cantily mairched oot the door.
Clutchin her prize,
she paused,
an gazed,
eftir him.

(From 'Chuckies fir the Cairn')

There Is Nae ‘Thaim an Us’ ava; It’s ‘Us’.

There is nae ‘thaim an us’ ava; it’s ‘us’,
Thae fowk ahint the wire in Calais’s camps,
Puir Syrian weans wha stegg the road in ranks,
Aa joukin drones oor siller gaed tae coff.
Whiles aa we hear’s the jingoistic guff,
That’s bred upo the playin fields o Eton,
Ilk nicht we’re deaved wi their barbarian bleatin;
Ach, Tweedledum an Tweedledee, enough!
Wha ettles tae breathe free, jist cam tae us,
Anither cog o brose is aa it taks,
Tae lowse the yoke ae tyrants frae yer backs;
There is nae ‘thaim an us’ ava; it’s ‘us’.
Sae steer the muckle pot, fling in a knurl;
Fir tartan kythes the colours o the warld.
(From 'The Scores')


Scroll back from the cosmos,
To inner space.
The mind's micro-structure
Nanoscientists mind-mapping
The brain's hundred billion neurons,
Its thousand trillion connections,
Processing 0.1 quadrillion thoughts per second.
Vastly more sophisticated
Than any computer.
What causes that leap
Across the synapse?
The spark between Creator and Man?
That lets the poet contemplate the rose –
And move the human heart.

(from 'Culture Matters')