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This Kilt of Many Colours, David Bleiman

Dempsey & Windle, 2021      £8.00

Three things I loved about one poem

The poem ‘The Trebbler’s Tale’ had received much recognition before appearing in David Bleiman’s debut pamphlet, having won the Scots Language Society’s 2020 Sangschaw Prize and the Hugh MacDiarmid Tassie.

While I don’t claim to understand the meaning behind the Scots-Yiddish linguistics in this poem (and I’m not sure that’s expected of you*), I had an immense amount of fun reading and reciting it (this poem begs to be read out loud.)

Firstly, because of the sound it makes. The Scots-Yiddish invited me to put on my very best accent and really wrap my tongue around the rhythm of these lines, which toss and turn with the familiar yet unknown cadences of the language. Its jaunty nursery rhyme quality and rhyming couplets makes this poem accessible to the reader and adds a welcome predictability.

Dreg yer tochus frae the lochan,
scraich the rouch o the mama-loshen,
then, geopocked and gemaisled wi shmutz and wi smot,
Scots-Yiddisher mish-mosh is whit ye hae got.

Secondly, I thoroughly enjoyed poring over so many marvellous words. The poet has helpfully included notes to accompany ‘The Trebbler’s Tale’, although the translations often require further translation! Phrases include ‘mitten drinnen’ from the Scots, and equally complex and lovely lingo from the Yiddish, such as ‘chutzpadik’ (and who can forget the ‘fartoots’ and concluding ‘alter kakker’?) providing a ‘mixter-maxter’ of glorious sounds.

Thirdly, this poem appeals to me because I am in awe of the poet’s intertwining of culture, heritage and language. This is present throughout this pamphlet (as referenced in Maggie McKay’s review, below), all of which is expressed to full effect in the mixed phonetics of this marvellous poem.

*The poet says in his preface ‘The lost and learned languages, sharing a common sound world, yearn to combine, even if it involves a large dose of imagination to recreated the Scots-Yiddish of The Trebbler’s Tale.’

Vic Pickup