Winter landscape, Renfrewshire: watercolour by my father.

Poetry forum

For more than 15 years I've had the pleasurable responsibility of choosing a daily poem for The Herald newspaper. And I hope this new website may offer a little additional airing for new writing as well as loved classics.

Contributions from old friends and new voices will be welcome.

They should be sent to mail@lesleyduncanpoetry.co.uk and should be of reasonably modest dimensions!

There will be no payment, but, I hope, the pleasant possibility of being read not just in Scotland but in far-flung places, thanks to the reach of the internet.

To introduce Poetry Forum, here are new pieces by some of Scotland's leading contemporary poets. There is no single theme, though Jim Carruth's dreamer has spring in her steps and Tessa Ransford's thoughts seem especially appropriate to nature's mating season. Keith Murray's banner is a gallant one to raise in all seasons.

Diana Hendry and Hamish Whyte share feline subject-matter but treat it with their customary individuality and charm.

Rab Wilson's poem - written in Scots, though he is equally eloquent in English - celebrates the ordinary folk who are central to Stirling's and Scotland's history. I'm very touched that the poem is dedicated to me.

My thanks to all the poets for their contributions.

One Furrow

by Jim Carruth

The dreamer with the moon
on her shoulder
kicks off her shoes

by the ploughed field,
picks one furrow
lets her bare feet

step out the length of it,
the curve and rise
and depth of it

sensing in small tremors
fellow travellers
on the move

tunnelled journeys,
the purpose of worms,
the focus of mole.

Jim Carruth's first collection Bovine Pastoral was published in 2004. Since then he has brought out a further two collections and an illustrated fable. in 2009 he was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and won the James McCash Scots Poetry Competition. Last year he was one of the poets showcased in the prestigious Oxford Poets 2010 anthology. (see www.jimcarruth.co.uk)


by Tessa Ransford

All has been said
of love in Spring
what more can I add?

Yet springs this new Spring
and loves this new Love
each time a new thing…

new powers to prove
new selves to discover
new pathways to rove

and find a true lover –
this Life must require
repeated for ever…

but human desire
is to choose where we go
no longer entire

in knowing we know
the spirit-creator
insurgently moves

for we are the creature
who knows that it loves

Tessa Ransford (www.wisdomfield.com) has been a poet, translator, literary editor, and cultural activist on many fronts over the last 40 years, having also worked as founder and director of the Scottish Poetry Library. She initiated the annual Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for publishers of pamphlet poetry in Scotland and has held Royal Literary Fund fellowships in recent years at the Centre for Human Ecology and Queen Margaret University. Her Not Just Moonshine: New and Selected Poems was published in 2008 by Luath Press.

The Eloquence Will Come

by Keith Murray

The eloquence will come
when the dust settles
in this world of too much hurt
liberty and freedom grounded
but the eloquence will come
if we listen to the words
the sweetest music
try and develop that first note
hum it all day long
cadence its highs and lows
its twists and turns
its pure river clarity
be polite as polite can be
be as fluent as the map of the world
flying like a flag in the wind
folded out and bright and bold.

Keith Murray's poems have appeared in Radical Scotland, Leopard Magazine, Open Space, The Herald Poem of the Day, Pushing Out the Boat, and There’s a Poem in My Soup. He is a member of various poetry groups in Aberdeen, and runs a small press, Malfranteaux Concepts. April sees the launch of Poems in the Wind - a new poetry quarterly for Aberdeen. He also publishes the annual Poems for Armistice Sunday booklet.

A Street Incident

by Diana Hendry

And our morning routines on hold
as a fire engine eases down
our narrow street. No smoke.
No fire but we’re held at the window –
like all our neighbours – as a ladder zips up
to the roof and a crane’s launched after,
arcing into the sky, setting a platform
for two firemen (small as Lego men
in their yellow helmets) who now aloft
peer down one of a row of chimney pots.

First it’s a rope dropped down, then
a long-handled instrument that looks
like something you’d use to roast chestnuts on
and eventually – one hour? two? – they push
down a blanket. Smallest fireman leans over
the pot (conjurer and rabbit comes to mind)
and hauls out a fluffy white (now black) cat.
We clap and cheer. Fireman acknowledges
his audience with a bow. Cat, safely boxed,

descends. But what was it thinking of,
this daft moggy, spending a night on the tiles
then thinking a chimney pot a new kind
of cat flap? My partner says that long-haired
cats are not as bright as their short-haired
fellows. So a soppy cat, this one and lucky
to live in a country soppy about pets.

We go back to our morning tasks cheered
and loving. So shines a good deed in a naughty world
I think, wondering how many it would take
to redeem us, redeem us, redeem us.

Diana Hendry has published three collections of poems, the latest being Late Love & Other Whodunnits (Peterloo/Mariscat), and a pamphlet, Twelve Lilts: Psalms and Responses. She lives in Edinburgh and was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Edinburgh University 2008-10.


by Hamish Whyte

(1) Hi Luigi

Luigi, tiny tabby, six weeks old,
newest cat in the street,
snuggled inside Rae’s fleece
up the steps to his new home
where he has a basket beside the radiator
and balls of wool to chase -
doesn’t know yet he still has to duke it out
with Lucky, Gizmo, the fluffy one that sleeps on cars
and, laird of the cobbles and everyone’s pet, Banksy.
Not to mention the dogs.
For the moment, though, he’s King Kitten.

(2) Ta Ta Luigi

Short stay kitten
no time to make friends
off again
to a home
that needs an absence
name he’s given
whatever he may become -
Edinbugger or even Weegee -
we’ll remember
his bounce and pounce - Luigi.

Hamish Whyte's latest collection is A Bird in the Hand (Shoestring Press). He has edited many anthologies of Scottish poems and prose and runs Mariscat Press, publishing poetry. He is an Honorary Research Fellow, Scottish Literature Department, Glasgow University.

Sma Fowk

by Rab Wilson

(fir LD)

Makkin oor wey up the brae o the Abbey Craig,
sheltert neath braid-leafed auld aik an pine,
cloods rollin drumlie ower the Stirling plain,
shot throu nou wi weird crepuscular licht,
wha’s shafts cam stabbin throu, lik blades o swords;
we courie briefly frae the blaudin shooers.
The monument tae Wallace towers abuin,
whaur frae its braithless heicht the vital grunnd
is seen; the anvil that we aa wir stampit oot oan.
Be’t Stirlin brig; else fawmous Bannockburn –
the lairds an nobles ne’er won Scotland,
but thaim unsung, forleitit in the past.
Ye maist can see thaim; hauberkt, helmed an greaved,
haunds raxin fir thon relict o Monymusk,
whiles in ahint, oan Gillies Hill, sma fowk;
ragabash waggoners, weemin an boys,
whaes heid-lang chairge aiblins taen the day?
Thon’s the eemage aye-an-oan that bides;
‘Gyff fredome failyhe’ – but oan that day it didnae!
Later, bi the auld mill lade we daunder,
Chartershall, its plaque lang worn wi eild,
up past the Boolin green, the battlefield,
we pass an meet an mingle wi thaim yet,
‘sma fowk’ juist bidin oan that unkent day,
whan pusht ower sair they’ll gird their claes aince mair,
tae rise agane an ettle tae the fray.

Ayrshire-born Rab Wilson writes in English and Scots. His ‘owersettin’ in Scots of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was published in 2004 and his first major collection, Accent o the Mind, in 2006. A second collection, Life Sentence, followed in 2009. His latest, A Map for the Blind, was launched at this year’s StAnza festival, which also screened his poetry-led film documentary, Finding the Seam, an elegy for Scotland’s mining industry. In 2007 he became Robert Burns Writing Fellow – in Reading Scots, a new post created by Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association and the Scottish Arts Council. He is currently working with NHS Ayrshire and Arran, setting up a creative writing post within an adult mental health setting.

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