Monday, 27 January 2014

Burnsed Out

A Monday morning, and just finished my stint at one of Scotland's newest festivals, the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries, reading McTaggart and some possible extracts from this book on the Saturday and then, along with the poet Stuart Paterson, doing my own poetical response to the Bard on the Sunday. In between times, I was whisked by Burns Helicopter to Gatehouse for a poetry reading there. Great fun and liver bashing all round. 
 The parade in Dumfries, involving lots of weans who had created their own masks and giant puppets and formed their own drumming bands, was lively and dramatic and the town was buzzing in spite of the fact that for the second year running the weather did its worst to screw things up. To my eyes, most of the faces were locals delighted to be having acts like Big Country and Dick Gaughan on the doorstep and thrilled to see the town coursing a wee bit with unusual electricity. All three of our events had strangers and some kent faces in the audience and went well . Sometimes the creative life seems compelling. Sometimes.

On Sunday's events we read our poems by Burns and about him. Because I’m twisted and had just heard that a fellow poet was on a beach in Africa having been flown out for a ten minute role in a Burns Supper, I read my poem Suppertime

It’s that time again:
erubescent men are boarding planes
to Fiji and Azerbaijan.

They will blow east and west
on airs of malt. The world will be
necklaced by these ambassadors

preaching love of literature
and other stuff they say
they understand, or even claim

their nation has invented,
things like passion and equality,
humanity and pride.

Avoid them if you can
They come from a country
so stuffed with hypocrisy and cant

it explodes like this once a year.
The rest of the time
these man are sober

rotarians. Unionists. And that apart,
wouldn’t know a poem
if it bit them on the arse.

After that we rolled up to the Globe snug and witnessed Jane Brown, currently President of the World Burns Federation as well as the Globe's landlady, reducing the whole experience of a burns supper into manageable, and profitable, ten minute packages. I was totally impressed, and after it, felt compelled to read poems to a couple from Lochgilphead, even after they were clearly bored.

The Big Burns Supper is an attempt to regenerate a town whose unique association with  Scotland's most charismatic artist has always seemed to me both a curse and a blessing, and do it through art. It seemed to me, and mine was certainly not a scientific survey, that the community or at least a part of it was enjoying it hugely.

Maybe it was guid scots drink.

O Whisky! soul o' plays and pranks!
Accept a bardie's gratfu' thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor verses!
Thou comes-they rattle in their ranks,
At ither's arses! 

Fortune! if thou'll but gie me still
Hale breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill
An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will
Tak a' the rest
An' deal't about as thy blind skill
Directs thee best.

(Guid Scots Drink)

Under the influence of strong drink, and under the roof of the man himself's favourite pub, it was hard not to be suffused by a general bonhomie and believe maybe that in the face of all the evidence, it is actually comin yet for a that.

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