Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Poems from the Backroom 52: Sheila Templeton

I know that one problem I encountered recently when trying to write a series of poems in Scots was that I felt my Scots - the language I normally speak - wasn’t Scots enough so I took to the dictionary. But what’s wrong with that? If you want to write in a language you need to know the vocabulary. I feel a bit disenfranchised from the native tongues of Scotland, though with a Gaelic speaking mother and a paternal line all miners from Auchinleck and Lugar you’d think I wouldn’t. I was encouraged strongly down the English speaking line. 'English is the language of the scholar' my mother said.

So that explains why I’m a bit jealous of Sheila Templeton who is immersed in a linguistic tradition more rooted than mine. She is an excellent vibrant Scots Poet writing in the everyday Doric that people still use. "I feel most at ease, 'truer' somehow," she says,  "writing in Scots, though I write in English too."

Sheila grew up in rural Aberdeenshire, and her poems often draw on that early experience and use the Scots from that part of North East Scotland. She is well published in anthologies and magazines.
Her collection 'Slow Road Home' appeared in 2004 and 'Running Threads' in 2006. Her work as Poet in Residence at the Harbour Arts Centre Irvine resulted in two lively, illustrated poetry collections by adults and children, some of which featured on the Itchy Coo website. She was Makar for the Federation of Writers Scotland 2009 to 2010 and that resulted in a first full collection, 'Digging for Light' from New Voices Press. More recently,  'Tender is the North' was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2013 and 'Gaitherin' by the same publisher in 2016. Another collection is due out from Red Squirrel in October 2020.

She's also published by Tapsalteerie Press in the Biggin Brigs series, in collaboration with A C Clarke and Maggie Rabatski in 'Owersettin' and 'Drochaid' in 2019.

Here she reads 'Priming the Pump', a transcript of which, along with another poem 'Midsimmer Eve', is at the bottom of the page.

More Poems here:

An Interview here:

Her Publisher:

Her Website:

Priming the Pump

It squatted by the railway fence round our garden
as if heaved up from iron roots, sturdy
pot-bellied shape, curved spout, long handle.

Caa it up an doon. Gie it aa ye've got.

And I stretched my four year old arms to the sky,
jumped, hung on, yanked, pulled, up and down.
Nothing. No arc of clear water. No gush of sparkles.

Until my father poured a cup of water into its ready mouth.

Gie it anither go.

And this time – and maybe he helped too – water stuttered
then flowed, stream upon stream, filling the two white enamel pails
and the big jugs. Our water supply for the day.
Magic, clear magic.
Just like the filler which never filled, each evening
as darkness dropped, guiding paraffin into fat brass lamps.

He never told me it was called a funnel, my father,
this god who caused water to flow upwards,
paraffin to disappear into gluggy mystery;
this lang chiel who daily strode the heather miles
of railway track, checking for worn fish plates
loose bolts, splintered sleepers – who could stop an entire train
with only two detonators, yes bring its mighty steam rush
to a hissing, grinding, fire-belching halt – in any emergency.
Or even when we just needed milk.

On Midsimmer Eve

I winna seek tae meet my luve
lik ither lasses. Nae for me
the midnicht runes, the folded
fresh plucked rose, garlands
o lang fennel, orpine, green birks
decked wi lilies, the giddy loupin
ower the boon fires. Raither
I wad lie alang the warld's curve
its sweet spine, watch sunset's
lowe dee smeerless in the West
half-grown shinin corn reeshlin
a promise o steepled stooks,
my licht a moth-glimmer mune
– and daur the seelence;
daur tae listen for it, that still
waarm beatin hert happed deep
in aathing we ken o earth.

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