Saturday, 16 October 2021

Scotstober: Days 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16

Five more Scots words for you to discover through poetry and song for #Scotstober - a celebration of the Scots language. 

Scotstober Word of the Day 12: 'stramash' - meaning an uproar or a disturbance. Poem by J K Annand who was mostly known for his children's rhymes.  

Street Talk

There was a rammie in the street,

A stishie and stramash.

The crabbit wifie up the stair

Pit up her winda sash.

“Nou what’s adae?” the wifie cried,

“Juist tell me what’s adae.”

A day is twinty-fower hours, missis,

Nou gie us peace to play.

“Juist tell me what’s ado,” she cried,

“And nane o yer gab,” cried she.

D’ye no ken a doo’s a pigeon, missis?

Nou haud your wheesht a wee.

“I want to ken what’s up,” she cried,

“And nae mair o yer cheek, ye loun.”

It’s only yer winda that’s up, missis.

For guidsake pit it doun.

Day 13: Word of the Day 'dour'. One of the most well known Scots words, meaning 'hard, stern, sullen, gloomy'. Marion Angus' poem captures that grim atmosphere in her poem 'The Tinker's Road'. Here's a link to her collection by the same name, well out of print. 

The Tinker's Road

The broon burn’s speerin’,

Frettin’ a’ the wye,

“What gars ye gang,

Auld Tinker’s Road,

Whaur there’s naither fouk nor kye,

“Kirk nor croft nor mill,

A’ thing lane and still?”

But it’s aye “Haud on”

Wi’ the Tinker’s Road

Fur the far side o’ the hill.

Stannin’ stanes gloomin’,

Grim an’ straucht an’ dour—

“An unco place for a Tinker’s Road

On sic a ghaist-rid moor!”

Ghaist or witch or de’il,

Stanes o’ dule an’ ill,

It’s aye “ Hing in ”

Wi’ the Tinker’s Road

Fur the far side o’ the hill.

The black thorn’s maenin’,

“O rauch winds, let me be !

Atween ye a’

Ye’ve brak ma he’rt,

An’ syne I canna dee!”

Weerin’ til a threid,

Smoored wi’ mosses reid,

The soople road wins ower the tap

An’ tak’s nor tent nor heed.

Day 14: 'stookie' - a plaster cast. Word of the Day 13: 'stookie' - a plaster cast. I found a lovely wee poem by Angela Blacklock-Brown on the StAnza Poetry's Poetry Map. So happy to share this site, not only because one of mine appears on there. A great site with some amazing work. 

Ben Gulabin


Snaw crooned ben

toorin abuin,

still as a stookie,

nae wun skirlin.

Hairst's gowden chaff

keeks thru the white

an the brig, quate as the sabbath,

stauns wi the gates snecked ticht.

Day 15: 'lowp' which usually means to leap or jump as in the English equivalent lope, but I've most often heard it in Glasgow used as an expression of pain 'mah heid is lowpin'. Here's a lovely tune by the singer-poet Sheena Blackhall who uses a North-Eastern version of Scots often cried Doric.

Braes o Skene

Tune: Plooman Laddies

Fan first I cam tae the Braes o Skene,

The corn parks they stood thick an green.

Chorus: Noo ferm rigs, they growe hooses gray,

Anither change comes wi ilkie day.

The milkin kye gaed frae park tae byre,

An Hillie’s wids fed a lowpin fire.

The bramble buss fulled the berry pan,

The chaumer bed held the orra man.

Noo cottar bairns they hae roved awa,

An swallas bigg in the kitchie waa.

The toon creeps oot like a swallin tide,

Haps steen an lime ower the kintraside.

Fin lost I cam tae the Braes o Skene,

The fowk war gaen an the fermhoose teem.

Word of the Day 16: 'grue'. A new word and a new poet for me today. The DSL seems to mostly define grue as a shudder of fear or cold. This beautifully wrought poem Pietà by Alastair Mackie uses Scots with scalpel precision. A contemporary and friend of George Mackay Brown, the Orkney poet, Mackie's life was tragic and inspiring. You can read about his life here. It's especially interesting his reaction to how schooling beat his Scots out of him.


Her face was thrawed.

She wisna aa come.

In the trams o her airms

the wummin held oot her first bairn.

It micht hae been a mercat day

and him for sale.

Naebody stoppit tae niffer.

His life bluid cled his breist

wi a new reid semmit.

He’d hippens for deid claes.

Aifter the boombers cleck

and the sodgers traik thro the skau

there’s an auld air sterts up –

bubblin and greetin.

It’s a ballant mithers sing

on their hunkers i the stour

for a bairn deid.

They ken it by hert.

It’s the cauldest grue i the universe

yon skelloch.

It niver waukens the deid.

Monday, 11 October 2021

More Scotstober Fun: Days 10 and 11 - Older examples of Scots

A reminder of the word list here for Scotstober, where Scots words are explored through writing. 

Word of the Day 10: 'sprauchle' - means to move slowly and awkwardly or a person who does so. I have to admit I hadn't come across this poem before and struggled to find anything. It didn't help that it could be several ways. As Scots fell out of use and Scots speakers discouraged from using it because it was seen as uneducated or coarse, it became primarily a spoken language. This is reflected in the spelling which is erratic because people spell it how they say it. 

Even the Scottish Poetry Library didn't have an entry that used sprauchle, so I did some deeper internet diving and through the DSL (Dictionary of the Scots Language/Leid) found a poet called Henry Scott Riddell (1780-1870) who wrote a poem that used the word in a song. Even the poem was hard to find, buried in an internet archive.

Geordie Tair’s Courtship


Air — "Willie was a wanton wag"

A wilfu' man maun hae his way,


At least, if he's like Geordie Tait,

Ae night when lately he wad gae


To court his curlie-headed Kate.

The rains rushed doun spate after spate,

• And murky were the moorlands grey.

Yet manfully he took the gait —

A wilfu' man maun hae his way.


He thocht to loup the Bogle syke.


But landed in it to the chin,

And seiched, and said, Do as ye like.


Ye canna cool the love within.

Near was he borne out-owre the linn,


Ere he gat spraugheled to the brae ;

But then, my sooth ! how he did rin ! —


A wilfii' man maun hae his way. 

And if you're interested in the song he based the words on here's a wee link

Day 11: 'bourach'. I knew the word, meaning 'a mess, confusion, a crowd', but finding a poem wasn't that easy. It's hit mainstream media lately as it was used in politics as 'clusterbourach' to describe an absolute mess, as in Brexit. But finding it in a short Scots poem. I branched out and found it in a translation by Robert Forbes in the mid-1700s of Ajax's Speech from Ovid's Metamorphoses, describing the moment when his men settle down to listen to him. 

The wight an’ doughty Captains a’ 

Upo’ their doups sat down; 

A rangel o’ the common fowk 

In bourachs a’ steed roun.

The use of bourach here is brilliant because it shows the disorganised mess of the common soldiers beyond the Captains - an English translation describes it as "when the captains were seated, and the rank and file were standing, in a circle, around them". 

I think the Scots does so much more, using bourach.

Little is known about Forbes other than he was a hosier based in London, but what this wee stanza reminds me, and I think it's often forgotten, that Scots used to be a language used broadly enough that it needed classics translated into so they could be understood by those who could read, Gavin Douglas' translation of the Aeneid for example in 1513.

I'm really enjoying all this research, it's been a while since I've read older versions of Scots. 

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Scotstober - Days 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9

More Scotstober words and poems. I've found most of my poems through the Scottish Poetry Library, a great resource of all Scottish poetry. I hope you're enjoying this taste of Scots as much as I am finding these poems, many of which I've never come across before. 

Word of the Day 4: shoogle - to sway or wobble. Stuart A Paterson uses the word and lots of other physical and perfectly descriptive words in this whimsical, but recognisable moment. 


This morning, as the 372 shoogled
through Carsethorn, hirpled
wabbit past the kirk and through
dreich smirr hoyed down from
droukit braes above, I saw
a coupit yowe in a kelpit lea,
beelin-eened cuddies lean over a hazelrawed
dyke to lour at me, a fug of speugs
loup out of nowhere on
a whigmaleerie of peerie wings,
imagined I heard a lintie sing beyond
the engine’s pechin skreigh,
thought waukrife of a wattergaw,
time prismed to language’s muckle flaws
& need for a never-ending breenge,
thirlt to the whyles forfochen
adventure of it all.

Day 5: 'eldritch' - ghostly, unearthly. A short but beautifully poem by Ken Sutherland.

The Vixen 

The vixen skreichs I the wuid
at the hinmaist o’ the day;
thon’s an eldritch cry
frae the day-daw o’the warld
yit souns for us this nicht.

It hauds intilt oor desires, oor hopes,
forby oor benmaist fear.

It’s you an me alane my luve
aye seekin ane the ither,
it’s dreid unchancie weird
micht thwart oor socht thegitherness.

I’ll ne’er faddom my luve for you
mair nor the tod kens his desire,
gyte for the vixen.

Day 6: Word of the Day 'dreep - to drop is how I've always heard it, as from the top of a wall, but it has many other meanings according to the DSL, including drip and drippings. Walter Wingate has a lovely poem 'A Night's Rain' which gives  great imagery it. 

A Night's Rain

The thunder clap may clatter –

The lichtnin’ flare awa’:

I’m listenin’ to the water,

And heed them nocht ava.

I canna think o’ sleepin’:

I canna hear eneuch,

The sang the trees are dreepin’,

The music o’ the scheugh!

And ‘neath the roof that’s drummin’

Wi’ mair than rhone can kep,

Wi’ faster fa’ is comin’

The plop upon the step.

My famished flowers are drinkin’

In ilka drookit bed:

An’ siller blabs are winkin’

On ilka cabbage bled.

And in my blankets rowin’

I think on hay an’ corn –

I maist can hear them growin’:

We’ll see an odds the morn.

Day 7: I've heard 'skoosh' used in various ways, a bottle of fizzy juice, a spray of water, but also something being very easy. Matthew Fitt's poem plays with the onomatopoetic sounds of Scots, including 'skoosh'. Matthew's a strong voice in the Scots language through Itchy Coo Press with its Scots versions of famous children's books and rhymes and through his own writing. 

Fireworks aff the Castle

Fireworks aff the Castle


Bairns in the library


Cans o Irn Bru


Fitbaw in the playgroond


The snaw blaws in fae Norroway

And nips your TAES, TAES, TAES

We go skitin on wir sledges


The rain comes doon in buckets


Your teeth is sair fae sweeties


You’re oot wi pals and aw the time


But when awthin’s wrang and no goin right

Jist go and tell your MITHER

When awthin’s wrang and no goin right

Jist you coorie in wi MITHER

Day 8: 'Dreich' meaning wet, gray, miserable weather. Jackie Kay was Scotland's second Poet Laureate, our Makar. And this poem captures that sense of loss one feels after leaving a home through the lens of losing one's language. 

The Old Tongue

Jackie Kay

When I was eight, I was forced south.

Not long after, when I opened

my mouth, a strange thing happened.

I lost my Scottish accent.

Words fell off my tongue:

eedyit, dreich, wabbit, crabbit

stummer, teuchter, heidbanger,

so you are, so am ur, see you, see ma ma,

shut yer geggie or I’ll gie you the malkie!

My own vowels started to stretch like my bones

and I turned my back on Scotland.

Words disappeared in the dead of night,

new words marched in: ghastly, awful,

quite dreadful, scones said like stones.

Pokey hats into ice cream cones.

Oh where did all my words go –

my old words, my lost words?

Did you ever feel sad when you lost a word,

did you ever try and call it back

like calling in the sea?

If I could have found my words wandering,

I swear I would have taken them in,

swallowed them whole, knocked them back.

Out in the English soil, my old words

buried themselves. It made my mother’s blood boil.

I cried one day with the wrong sound in my mouth.

I wanted them back; I wanted my old accent back,

my old tongue. My dour soor Scottish tongue.

Sing-songy. I wanted to gie it laldie.

Day 9: 'kail' - meaning cabbage, often used in 'kail-yaird/yard' referring to a small garden, but also to a romantic ideal of Scotland in literature, of quaint, wee villages and rural romantics. Here's a Burns poem that exemplifies this style.

There Grows A Bonnie Brier Bush

There grows a bonnie brier bush in our kail-yard,

There grows a bonnie brier bush in our kail-yard;

And below the bonnie brier bush there's a lassie and a lad,

And they're busy busy courting in our kail-yard.


We'll court nae mair below the buss in our kail-yard,

We'll court nae mair below the buss in our kail-yard,

We'll awa to Athole's green, and there we'll no be seen,

Where the trees and the branches will be our safeguard.


Will ye go to the dancin' in Carlyle's ha';

Will ye go to the dancin' in Carlyle's ha';

Whare Sandy and Nancy I'm sure, will ding them a',

I winna gang to the dance in Carlyle ha'.


What will I do for a lad, when Sandy gangs awa?

What will I do for a lad, when Sandy gangs awa?

I will awa to Edinburgh, and win a penny fee,

And see an onie bonnie lad will fancy me.


He's coming frae the north that's to fancy me,

He's coming frae the north that's to fancy me;

A feather in his bonnet, and a ribbon at his knee;

He's a bonnie bonnie laddie, an yon be he.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Scotstober: Poems and Writings in Scots, Days 1, 2 and 3

I studied Scottish Literature in Glasgow. I still love and try to read as much Scottish writing as possible, but I also really enjoy writing in Scots, one of Scotland's national languages. I can read most modern Scots and even some of the older versions, but I can't speak it naturally. I usually know the words to use, but it doesn't sound right when I say it, my accent is too forced, so I pepper my language with the occasional word. I asked a teacher yesterday if they were puggled and then struggled to find another word to explain what I meant. 

I do occasionally write in Scots when I feel the voice of the poem suits. I've been working on one this week, so when I noticed on Twitter yesterday the trend of #scotstober to encourage the use of Scots and one poster had added a poem in Scots that they had written I thought it was a good chance to share some of the poems I loved.

I didn't realise at first there was a list of words we're working from, so at first I just posted any Scots poem I liked, but now I'm setting myself the challenge to post writing in Scots on Twitter every day in October using the word of the day. Here is link to the 'rules'. If you want to join the challenge proper, the idea is to use a Scots word in a poem, flash fiction, a joke, anyway you can. 

But as I have a few projects on at the moment, I will just give a taster of Scots writing here. I wish I could say more about each writer and poem, but hey hoo. Dictionaries of the Scots Language is where to go if you need help understanding any words in these poems. 

@Lenniesaurus is a good feed to follow on Twitter to learn a bit about Scots. It looks like she'll also be doing her Scots Word of the Day based around the list. She's also a great wee poet herself, so check out her links to her videos. 

Day 1: First poem is by Hugh MacDiarmid one of my favourites who helped bring around the renaissance of Scottish literature and the Scots language. 

The Eemis Stane


I’ the how-dumb-deid o’ the cauld hairst nicht  

The warl’ like an eemis stane

Wags i’ the lift;

An’ my eerie memories fa’

Like a yowdendrift.


Like a yowdendrift so’s I couldna read  

The words cut oot i’ the stane

Had the fug o’ fame

An’ history’s hazelraw

No’ yirdit thaim.

Day 2: Violet Jacob, an Angus poet and novelist.

The Field by the Lirk o’ the Hill


Daytime an’ nicht,

Sun, wind an’ rain;

The lang, cauld licht

O’ the spring months again.

The yaird’s a’ weed,

An’ the fairm’s a’ still –

Wha’ll sow the seed

I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill?


Prood maun ye lie,

Prood did ye gang;

Auld, auld am I,

But O! life’s lang!

Ghaists i’ the air,

Whaups cryin’ shrill,

An you nae mair

I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill –

Aye, bairn, nae mair, nae mair,

I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill!

Day 3: Word of the Day is nicht - night. I've come across this Franco-Scot poet Paul Malgrati and I love his modern take on Scots. 

Afore a Nicht Oot

luvebites o efternoons

wither unner tweed;

souches o Lapsang Souchong

sing in the storey;

tirrivees o kettle hae skived

oot o mind;

lust bakes shortbreads

ablaw the stove;

it feels like the door cuid jar an let bee bops o banter ben.

I've spent this weekend creating a zine from scratch in 48 for the Helsinki Writers Group for the Zineton event. 48 hours from getting the prompt, writing the work and designing and editing the zine. It's probably pants and I'm not sure if the PDF will even work, but hopefully something will be usable. It will hopefully be exhibited at events in Helsinki, Turku and Tampere here in Finland and online on the website. We'll even get some paper copies. Really stressful and challenging. The Group was great, getting work in on time and helping with proofing and design ideas. I can't wait to see the end result. 

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Take One: Recording Poetry

Autumn has hit Finland hard. I love it in the now, but it's always the upcoming season that dampens my enthusiasm for windfall apples and cool mornings. However, we're glutting on crumble, spices, the changing colours while we have a chance. 

Yesterday, I recorded a new autumn poem with my writers group, Helsinki Writers this weekend as part of a Superwood Festival project a local university has organised. It's one of a series of poems my group is providing as audio for a forest walk. I was nervous about professionally recording. It's almost ok in my quiet house with no one watching, but reading in front of my friends and a handful of students was a bit nerve-wracking. But it's a well-paid gig, so I jumped at the chance. It was a lot of fun to work with the other writers and come up with separate poems on a similar theme that worked with each other. I'm excited to hear the final project. 

Even though it was a bit strange to hear my voice played back to me, they made it sound pretty good, even in the raw form. And the experience wasn't that scary. My poem was one of the longer ones, but I managed to get through it twice and had one small mistake early on for each of those versions, so it wasn't too bad. They managed to take one line out of one version that was said with better emphasis and put it in the other take which was better overall. So I'm happy with my end.

It was interesting to write a poem that I knew would primarily exist in audio form, to think about what I could say easily and what could be understood from sound alone rather than the words on the page. I made a lot of changes once I started to practice reading it aloud, words and phrases that became tongue-twisters next to each other, images that would be lost unless given space to breathe. Hopefully, it will work, but it's hard to know until hear the poems next to each other, cleaned up.  

My writing group is brilliant, we've been sharing our drafts, conferring on proofs, offering advice, working out running order. We're all from different backgrounds, so we had one person with more experience in performance, myself and another writer have a bit of experience in reading work (though I'm not good or comfortable with it) and some complete beginners, but we all managed to do a great job and have fun. I've been talking for ages about having a workshop on reading your work, so hopefully this will happen so we can take advantage of more chances like this. I'll hopefully be able to link to the recording once the event is over. 

Other positive notes, one of my poems is appearing in the new edition of the The North magazine. The North is one of those established magazines I've been trying for years to get into, so I was chuffed when they accepted one of my recent poems. There are so many established and new names to check out in each issue, I can't wait to dip in.  

I'm equally pleased to appear in a newer magazines like issue 2 of the new Glasgow-based magazine Wet Grain. Smaller magazines offer less well-established writers a chance to shine, so I never rule them out. I like being involved at the beginning of what may turn out to be a big name later on and to follow writers from early stages in their career, but I've been around long enough to do that. lol. 

I've also had a poem published in the university-themed anthology The Worst Best Years published by Acid Bath Publishing. Fun to remember those distant times, good and bad though it's somewhat a relief that they are over and I can write about them without the stress of living them.

I'm excited to see what else this season brings. Enjoy September in its colourful glory. 

Saturday, 21 August 2021

The Sealey Challenge: Days 15, 16, 18 and 21

I'm definitely not able to keep up with a book a day for The Sealey Challenge, but I've read more poetry this month already than I've read in the last year. So a successful attempt for me. I maybe need to do something similar with some of the poetry magazines I get as I can never keep up with all the reading for them either. 

It's been storming here after such a dry summer, we've been flooded with so much rain. So it's nice to curl up with poetry in the evenings after work as a way to wind down. 

Day 14: Remember, Body by CP Cavafy. I loved reading The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell once upon a time and Cavafy was mentioned many times, so I picked up the Penguin Classic mini-edition just to get an idea of what his poetry was like. 

This is a collection of short, mostly erotic poems, all tinged with a sense of longing and despair at the passing of time and the loss of loved ones. I love 'Painted Things' where he admits that sometimes he's discouraged by writing and just wants to sit and think about love.

Durrell's collection of novels echo Cavafy's Alexandria and his feeling of desperate and often forbidden love. Cavafy has lovely little touches of humour and a deep sense of the history of Alexandria running through his poems which lift them above just mere love stories. This little collection makes me want to explore more of his work.

Day 16: inside looking in by the brilliant poet and teacher Tom Leonard. I was lucky enough to have Tom read and critique my work when I first arrived in Scotland. For me, he was the epitome of Glasgow, rough but warm, honest but brutal. My work needed his sharp eye, and pen and it was a watershed moment for me with my writing and with my relationship with Scotland. 

This little chapbook was published in 2004 by the now defunct Survivors' Press as part of their daemon series. He was a first-class poet with his own style, tight, often humorous often written in phonetic Glaswegian Scots. His voice often directly addresses the reader, often harshly, demanding attention, but some of these poems are more tender than others I've read, settling down to sleep with his wife or watching women knitting. 

This chapbook is no longer available, I managed to grab one of the last copies when the editor was having a clear-out, but his collection Intimate Voices is a brilliant one to start with, but it looks like it is also out of print. His work really needs to be republished. 

Day 18: The Weight of Oranges by Anne Michaels. Rich and dense, metaphor piled on metaphor, Michaels' poems cannot be read quickly. They are long and heavy and need time to be digested. She is a poet highly aware of the poetic in the smallest moments, in rain, in different tones and textures of light, the lisp of the wind. Her poems often address an unknown speaker, so I feel a sense of disassociation as I adjust to the new scene and character, but then I become submerged in their voice and images. 

I came to Anne Michaels through her novel Fugitive Pieces so poetic and tightly written, it has the same sense as her poems, of sifting through time, memory and the layers of a connection between the speaker and the person addressed. 

I need to spend more time in these poems, to catch each image as they build upon the previous and to delve into the places the poems create. I never feel at ease in her work, aware that I am missing something, but I continue to return to them in order to find my way. 

Day 21: Nobody by Alice Oswald. A heady mix of mythical and modern-day imagery, aeroplanes and styrofoam floats on purple seas, dawn waking rosy-fingered behind net curtains. I loved Greek myths when I was young and really enjoyed the the current retelling of Circe and Achilles by Madeline Miller, so this 2019 collection by the Oxford Professor of Poetry caught my eye. This book-length poem plays with the stories of the poet from 'The Illiad' who was to spy on Agamemnon's wife, but then was abandoned on a stony island which allowed the wife to be seduced with the tale of Odysseus and his faithful wife from 'The Odyssey'. The poem is punctuation free, line breaks shifting across the pages leaving large white spaces and images that seem scoured by tides.

The sea is the strongest character in the book, its moods set the tone, but the poem says 'the sea itself has no character just this horrible thirst' and that feeling is strong throughout the book. The speakers feel like a true nobody of wives and poets, gods and sailors, it's never clear who you're listening to. The poem feels at once ancient and new, jumbled, found in pieces on some beach. I've just discovered that the book was meant to go with a collection of watercolours by William Tillyer, but I don't have that version. Shame really, as a quick internet search shows that they would really expand the poem. A captivating read.

Personal note: I've had two poems published by Fevers of the Mind poetry and art blog recently which has a nice mix of writings and reviews. I've also had a concrete poem in the second half of the current issue of streetcake. Not my usual style but an interesting experiment. 

Saturday, 14 August 2021

The Sealey Challenge: Days 9, 10, 12 and 14

I spent the weekend with my writing group at a Writers Retreat. We booked a big events cottage in Eastern Finland and drove up on Friday after school. It was amazing that we managed to get 11 people together after such a difficult 18 months. We spent time sharing our work, talking about various writing issues and some time writing, but most of all we spent time laughing and sharing. It was very much needed. 

I didn't do any reading over the trip, but I'm back on the horse with #The Sealey Challenge: Day 9: Glimt av opphav - Glims o Origin by Christine De Luca, , a Shetland poet. Christine's poems are in the Shetland dialect of Scots and then translated to Norwegian by Odd Goksøyr. Christine gave me this collection when she visited Helsinki a few years back promoting a project because I speak some Norwegian and have studied the Scots language in university. I really enjoyed reading these poems out loud, in Norwegian and Shetlandic, seeing how the languages are so closely connected. Her poems examine the overlapping of the two cultures as in 'Thule Revisted'/'Tilbake to Thule' where Norwegian sailors arrive in Shetland to the delight of the locals as well as various characters, places and cultural highlights of the islands. The poems range from their geological beginnings to modern day, even beyond Shetland. 

I love that Christine doesn't shy away from mixing science and it's language with that of history and old myths, bringing Shetland into the modern age with a generous nod to its origins, hence the title. The poems are rich, linguistically, images and sounds evoking the place, the people and their stories. Beautifully crafted.

Day 10: Richard Hugo, The Right Madness on Skye. I read this book decades ago and brought it out of my loft a few years back, but hadn't gotten around until now to reread it. Not quite fitting the idea of buying new books, but I can't afford that many books just now.

Richard Hugo has an amazing sense of place, I loved his book on writing The Triggering Town which focuses more on his method and connection to location in his poems. This collection wraps his poems around the spirit of the Isle of Skye, connecting with the living and dead inhabitants, so spending time on the island in Scotland allowed him to do just that on many different levels. 

He explores Skye's history, mythology, geography, the despair still felt after the Clearances, the love of Gaelic and mysterious Celts. The image of a strange woman often pops up on the periphery of his stories, looking on in warning like Cassandra, knowing too much, but never listened to.

His poems often feel rambling, like he's chasing their ideas through the landscape until he can get to grip with them. But then he's sharing their truths with you over a whiskey. Hugo was one of my favourite poets when I was in university out in the Pacific Northwest where he was originally based and I now remember why. His honesty over his struggles and fears with his writing, his life and life in general feel so sincere and at times heartbreaking. This was a lovely reread.

Since school has started back with a rough bang, I'm turning to my collection of chapbooks I've received as part of Hedgehog Poetry Press's Cult of the Spiny Hog I joined a couple of years back. For a yearly fee you receive copies of all the books the Press publishes, and also free entry to any competition. 

Day 12: Before it's too late by Sarah P Thomson. I'm tired with my first week back at work, so I'm going for a shorter chapbook published by @hedgehogpoetry

I've always said I'm not a great fan of poems that work with strict forms, but I found the way the poems in this chapbook use repeated lines in villanelles and pantoums and other forms really mesmerising. How the same line repeated two or three times changes the meaning of that particular line,but also the lines around it, giving them more weight or reversing their intention entirely. Thomson's poems tempt me to want to try more of these styles, to create such elaborate layers. She touches on many subjects, but the title links them all together beautifully.

Day 14: Taxus Baccata by Patricia M Osborne. Another Hedgehog chapbook that I received as part of their Cult subscription. It's worth joining. Taxus Baccata is a collection of nature poems focusing especially on birds and trees. Osbourne examines disparate beauty and savagery of birds, magpies cannibalising a flock-mate, a swan mother and the decline of ancient trees. She mixes mythology with slow, detailed descriptions of yews, oaks, swans and seagulls. Her rich language drips with colours, textures and movement. This book is a delightful read.

In other news, I have had a poem published in Stand Magazine. I recently came across an old notebook where I kept track of my early submissions and according to that I first submitted in Stand in 1996. It's taken me all this time to have some work accepted, but I'm overjoyed it's happened and with my poem 'The Perfume of Rain' which I particularly love. So a proper dream publication.