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

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