After my reading on Friday night at Tchai Ovna, I went to a fundraiser for Eirene Houston’s latest project, the Cuban Way. With expert auctioneering, ornaments and kitchen goods were snapped up, with the second half set aside for clothes and jewellery. And poems from me.
I read two poems from the set I’d taken with me (at a pound a head, on a two for one basis). Then there was a number of requests for “Red”, a poem of mine which had earnt me a place on the William Soutar shortlist in 2006 (ish), and gained, although I hesitate to mention it a kind of cult status.
I had no copy of the poem, and no way of getting hold of such a thing – so I left the assembled to it, and went off in search of verse. It was an interesting process. I remembered the beginning, and some lines verbatim, others as a word or two in four or five. Parts of it probably didn’t make it into the Otago St edit at all (I haven’t checked).
The original poem had a very predictable metre, which perhaps made it more accessible. It was also one of those poems that just seemed full of rhyme, even when you weren’t trying. The version I knocked out with the help of lashings of vino rosso and more Blackwood’s Gin than was good for me ended up being a bit looser, probably rougher round the edges (I certainly was by the time I’d finished it).
But there was an insistently exploratory mood to the ad hoc “Red” which the original lacked. I’d be loathed to describe either of them as “better” than the other, but it was instructive as to how my writing had grown in the intervening years.
Another request was for a poem I’d written for mein hosten’s office warming party, probably not long after “Red” was made (maybe even before). This was quite late on, but over the past couple of hectic days hauling sun daft kiddies around the West of Scotland I’ve found it again.
I remember writing about it in my essay for “Identity” from North Ideas (mine was on Identity and Exile). The intended audience was non Shetlaen spaekkin, and I’d started writing it in English, but at the line “Keys thrown away” I was physically incapable of coping with how wrong the words felt in my mouth.
So here it is, for mein hosts delectation and for yours –
Dese fower waas irna big eneoch
ta hadd de in fur lang
but locked in here
wi da key bellt awa
du’ll be free tae explore
da magical realm o dy imagination.
An dere, du’ll fin truth
faur strangir as ony God.
An dere, du’ll fin treasure
faur richer as ony gold.
An dere, du’ll streetch da leemeets
o dy mind, sharper as a thorn
on a flooerin rose.
© Christie Williamson 2012