Celebrating Poetry Day

Posted by in October's Magazine

Poetry is not just for Burns Day it’s for every day. However the recent National Poetry Day reminds us to enjoy the insights of wordsmiths at any time. This year’s theme is Home: 300,000 poetry postcards were distributed to schools and libraries free for all to pick, choose, send or keep depending on your whims. Pick yours up from Leith or McDonald Road libraries – you know who to send it to.

The Scottish Poetry Library held a massive tea break – mimicking civil servants, that’s you Mr. Holmes – sharing poems with all who attended. If you didnae make it, host one yirsels. At work, school, on the internet or, of course, at home. Pick an auld favourite. I’m partial to Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson:



This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

If you’re going to have a second home you might as well make it the Poetry Library, nip in they dinnae bite! You could make a new discovery such as Edinburgh born Alastair Reid, who writes for the New Yorker, translates Neruda and Borges, and is a poet in his own right. The only bad thing I can say about him is that he’s a Hearts supporter. Do you think his poem Scotland describes our home?

It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
When larks rose on long thin strings of singing
And the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels,
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
Shivered with presences, and sunlight
Stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
The woman from the fish-shop. “What a day it is!”
Cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
As she spoke with their ancient misery:
“We’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it!”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve met that man and woman more than once and I laughed out loud the first time I read this in delight at recognising a weel kent face. I discovered the poem as one of the free postcards issued in 1996 and the author was kind enough to sign it. To be fair to him he was of the opinion that Scotland had moved on since he penned his epistle and he may be right, but you don’t have to go far to find that scunnered outlook today.

Ocht, but that’s a bit exotic I hear you cry. If you think so then I recommend you check out local publisher Luath Press, who produce an excellent series of poetry anthologies touching on the usual subjects such as love, but my favourite is 100 Favourite Scottish Football Poems. Fellow Hibs supporter Alistair Findlay edits a fine series of poems that range from: ‘The Penalty Spot to Postmodernism, Jock Stein to John Knox’. And it has a picture of Archie Gemmill scoring that goal against Holland. What more could you possibly want?

Something closer to home? Okay, how about this? I purchased this poem from the author Mr. Rodney Relax in Leith Dockers Club a few years back – of all the things you imagined you could purchase in the Dockers, I’ll bet a poem wisnae on your list!

Poem fir Leith (LLaith)

15th century sea
farers, stevedores ‘n’
boat builders, th’
ghosts fi th’
past will eywiz
be wi’ us,
if it wizni
fir them thir
widni be Leith.
They call’d it
Llaith, eftir a
river, wiz a
burra ‘i’ Edinbra
fir 87 years,
but fought aw
th’ way fir
its ain identity
bringin’ far awa’
folk ti oor
shores ‘n’ forgin’
O aye yi
may ask, wit’ll
become i’ Leith
in th’ next
five years?
Fir a new
economy has ti
be fir th’
benefit i’ aw
th’ community.
Take a walk
take a walk,
doon Constitution
Street –
look around yi
look around yi.

Now that hits home. Hope you enjoyed National Poetry Day and if you forgot aboot it, git a postcard and send your apologies. You know who to and where. Gordon Munro

Info: Visit The Scottish Poetry Library at 5 Crichton’s Close, Canongate. Or find out more at: spl.org.uk

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