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Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 398

Sunday 13 June 2021, 10:44

The ‘conservation nightmare’ of the Ballachulish Goddess

Wit the fuck huv they dun tae ma heid?
I leuk like yon Norwegian wifie wailin oan a pier!
I uised tae be bonnie, wi’ a bit o’ brawn oan ma banes.
Noo I’m jist a rickle o’ banes… aw wizzent!

See yon label – haiverin’ oan aboot me haudin’
some ‘phallic symbol’ in ma haund?
Wit havers! Can theym high-heid-yins no’ see
it’s a spurtle fur ma parritch?

Gif I’d been yon bowsie bugger Odin, or yon
auld bastart Thor (he hud a mooth oan him that wan)
they’d huv ta’en guid care o’ me fur sure!
Wudnae huv let thair tadgers dry oot!

Aw ma bits ur yeukie an’ raw – ah’v been needin’
a guid claw, a guid drouk, a guid shaggin’
fur centuries! Yous look a poustie laddie, ken.
Aye yoo! Dinnae look awa’ – I’ve got ma wee

quartz e’en fixit oan yur braw bahookie
and ma big scrabbilit fingurs’ll be gi’in yoo
an affi guid feel – soon as I bluiter oot this gless.
Whoar ur yous gaun?! I’m needin’ ma hochmagandy!

Char March 

Note: The Ballachulish Goddess was dug up in 1880 on the shore of Loch Leven at Ballachulish, Nether Lochaber from under deep peat. She's been radiocarbon dated to over 2,500 years old. Read more via the National Museum of Scotland (where she’s now displayed): https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/scottish-history-a...

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

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All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 397

Wednesday 9 June 2021, 12:32

Hamilton Roots

Driving along Mill Road, Neil Diamond singing
“LA’s fine but it ain’t home”
I think of home,
and Hamilton is home. 

In my privileged youth I wandered
in the Andes to Machu Picchu 

Watched the marvels of Milford Sound,
Franz Josef glacier,
Teotihuacan 

In later years I walked on the snow
through Prague’s peerless centre,
was washed by mass sprays
from Iceland’s huge waterfalls

But you can keep all these
for I know home and my heart 

Union Street where I grew up
Where my parents lived till they died
Three weeks apart.
The huge chestnut tree
that afforded us a kids' outdoor home 

The back grass where I played so many games
Of football, rounders, athletics.
Ghosts of old friends are there still 

St. Mary’s school and church
People I still meet on the street
from those early days 

There are roots under the pavements
Brandon Street
Auchingramont Road
Almada Street.
My roots are there too,
old friends’ roots
my brothers’ and sisters’ roots
my mum and dad’s 

Ed is in Vancouver
Johnny in Portugal
Andrew, Den Haag
but I think of them
in Hamilton,
brothers here.

The Palace Grounds
where fairgrounds meant candy floss
and endless games of football
and putting 

Roots,
deep as existence
keep you stable
in turbulent times 

I spent four years alone
working around the world
getting to know life
but life is an inner universe
a sanctuary, a place of nurture
and inner needs roots

My poetry does not need Paris
beautiful though she is
my poetry is Hamilton poetry
you may laugh
at Lanarkshire as home
for arts and spiritual strength
but if you laugh
It’s because
you understand neither.

Art is.
Spirit is.
Roots are. 

Global wonders
are formed by local love
spread outwards in tiny ripples 

I soak in Hamilton’s love
absorb it fully
appreciate its strength
 and give it out
to the world
if it wants to accept this gift
of Hamilton roots
to a shared world. 

Martin Stepek

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 396

Tuesday 8 June 2021, 11:03

Point of Sleat

The hard track starts where the road gives out
by the small white church. It switchbacks to a stop
at the empty crofts, one gull on a smokeless chimney,
the cold inlet of Acairseid an Rubh;
then it’s just a thin meandering path
through whin, bright sphagnum, brown peat and reed
to the lighthouse at the Point, the end
where there is nowhere left to go, but back.

Once, at the gate, there was a horse; it lay
against the wall. It seemed asleep. There were no flies;
finches fussed in the grass. The scale of its head
surprised; a fine fringe of hair on the crimped ear,
the eye wide open, bronze and blue as oil on water;
in this empty place, alive with small birds,
a flirt of primrose in the shattered quartz,
a mystery how its dead weight got here.

Another time, a highland man as big as monuments
strode, he said, to the wedding; dressed to kill
with sgian-dhu, and kilt, and froth of lace
below his beard; fluttering in the breeze
that danced with coming snow, a heather spray
tucked in his bonnet-band. The only guest
we saw all that day on the track down to the Point
where no-one seems to live but gulls and sheep.        

And once, as sleet and random fat white flakes
came down aslant the wind and failing light,
hunkered in the lee of the rock, the highland bull
we didn’t see at first; we heard its snotty breathing,
the shift and scrape of bulk; we felt the warmth
of a flank rough as a pegged rug, sensed the heft
of a blunt head, bright horn. It took no notice. That was it.
Once upon a time. No endings at the Point of Sleat.

John Foggin

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

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All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 395

Sunday 6 June 2021, 18:15

The Falls of Shin

It looked and seemed like one enormous
pint of porter constantly pouring itself.
And I stood there in awe drinking this in;
the dark swirling body, the reconstituting froth
and the sheer sound of the stuff
just rushing and racing in spume.
My senses were birling and I had to leave
vowing that tonight, after our meal,
I would order a few sleek ones of my own
to see if I could find the salmon leaping
up to the font to confront the barman
whose hand had spawned this great torrent.

Jim Aitken

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 394

Thursday 3 June 2021, 13:03

Gazing at Arran’s Goat Fell

the lapping of little waves
the sparkling sun on water
brambles ripe – ready to eat
light breeze shaking long grass
blue sky – blue as blue can be
     free from chem-trails

honking geese flying east
cows in a field half asleep
twee-tweet – an unseen bird
gulls white dots on wet sand
misty line of South Ayrshire
     foreground of white sails

the longing to linger here longer
the longing to make a painting

Larry Butler

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

Renga City

Tuesday 18 May 2021, 13:51

A guest blog post by Bill Herbert, of the Dundee Renga -- who StAnza collaborated with in February to create a crowd-sourced renga.

1. Jo (How it all began)

i. The circumstances

The Dundee renga has been going for a year noo, and recently we teamed up with StAnza to extend the idea to a wider (world-wider!) constituency, so this seemed like an opportune moment to reflect on what exactly we have done. Beginning with what, exactly, is the Dundee renga? Well, what it has become is a group-generated collaborative poem based on the old Japanese form, generating twenty brief verses a month and involving around thirty writers from Dundee and thereaboots, posted online for aa tae see at the Gude & Godlie Ballatis website, here.

I like projects that appear to arrive on a whim from nowhere, which are content to use the materials immediately to hand - the punk equivalent of the old Hollywood musicals trope of ‘let’s do the show right here!’ I suspect my affection comes more from the way this feeling of randomness resembles the internal spark of inspiration, but occurs socially, as if already a collaboration. If such projects take off, it feels like this moment partakes of the idea of synchronicity, the apparently meaningful coincidence, after which, hopefully, we can all take pleasure in the way they go on to generate actual meaning.

That’s how most of my collaborative projects have kicked off, from random encounters with future co-editors or co-translators to the political poetry blog, New Boots and Pantisocracies, which arose from a few (terrible) puns exchanged online with Andy Ching, linking Ian Dury with Coleridge and leading to six years of postings so far.

Similarly, a couple of Dundee-based haiku written and posted online by the academic, local history librarian, and folklore guru, Erin Farley, led to us wondering if a geographically-fixed renga could be generated by building an email group and asking them to write a verse a day for twenty days every month. (Yes. It could.)

ii. Background

I first took part in a renga sometime in the late 90s/early 00s when Alec Finlay led a day-long session in the Baltic in Newcastle. I then led another session in 2003 at his invitation as the kyaku, or guest poet, who writes the hokku, or opening verse, when we all met in the (reconstruction of the) Centurion’s House in Arbeia, the Roman fort which sits just across the Tyne from me in South Shields. I remember Eck plugging a kettle into an anachronistic power point to make a pot of sencha, just as he had in the Baltic, but with a somewhat different feel. That renga formed part of a chain written along Hadrian’s Wall, published as Writing on the Wall. My opener was

That gull could be cloud,
Lowry, a legionary:
its wing refuses.

 

I also remember being delighted that we managed to fit in a line of Virgil from Book 9 of The Aeneid as copied out (wrongly) by an unknown Roman child* and found at the fort at Vindolanda: ‘interea pavidam volitans pinnata per urbem’ -- the next lines make it clear that this is a tragic passage about a death in battle: ‘nuntia Fama ruit matrisque adlabitur auris/Euryali…’. (ll. 473–475, rendered in Dryden’s translation as: ‘Soon hasty fame thro' the sad city bears/The mournful message to the mother's ears.’) This was of course in the same year as the invasion of Iraq.

It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that the renga is capable of capturing complex layers of histories and cultures in just this way, the surrounding immediacies and keen observations of several individual minds, and turning them into a singular something, simultaneously capturing and enacting a quality I have come to focus on more and more over the twenty odd years since my first renga: ephemerality.

By that long Greek polysyllable, I’m gesturing at the universe of meanings the Japanese poets contained in terms like okashi (delight), aware (perception of transience), sabi (impersonal loneliness), or karumi (lightness) -- each of which would require a separate article to articulate. But I only mean that, in Larkin’s phrase, ‘Days are where we live’.

A newspaper is ephemeral -- in Greek it is, literally, εφημερίδα, ‘for a day’ - but as a way of approaching the day they represent, newspapers provide a unique combination of major and minor news, cultural summation and trivia, cartoons and games. Indeed, as Erin Farley has admirably discussed, for many years they contained poetry, often (and not only in Dundee) of a politically radical nature. We might read them from cover to cover, keeping clippings of everything that interests us, or we might not. Then the next day we might buy another one, or we might not.

Renga are a sort of newspaper of the soul, but not in the sense of the individual soul - rather, in their attention to both the inner and the outer, to phenomena and epiphenomena, and their grasp of the transformative impact of imagery or vocabulary, they capture the metaphysics of a social territory or milieu or, as here, a city. Whether they report on it or embody it is another question (see part 2).

Read parts two (Ha) and three (Kyū) of Bill Herbert's article will be published on Bill blog.

*But note a possible, less innocent reading here from Peter Kruschwitz.

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