Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Calderwood Press, 2007 -  £4.00 (including CD) www.calderwoodpress.co.uk

You can order these stories without the CD—but don’t. Unless you’re a natural to the tongue, you need the author’s voice reading the tales aloud to animate them. Once you hear them, the Doric (the Scots of North-East mainland Scotland) becomes a living reality, and an aural feast to any lover of language.

 

 

The five short stories share a common focus in that they all exploit Biblical allusion of some sort, although the setting either is, or at first appears to be, contemporary. Each is a dramatic monologue, a speaking voice telling a story from the inside. ‘Kieran an Aidan’ tells the story of the fall of man and Cain’s murder of his brother—and the teller of the tale is Eve herself. ‘Kennt His Faither’, the title story, has a former friend tell the tale of Joe, ‘the son o a toun jyner’, who takes up with “a boorach o fowk smitten wi releegion” and on a visit back home allegedly turns water into whisky at a local wedding. In ‘Five Airches’ a no-good, unemployed alcoholic meets a “preacher mannie” who sorts out his whole life with one handshake. And so on.

 

 

The delight of the telling is in the language, as well as the wry observation of ordinary people. In her preface, Sheena Blackhall suggests that the tales “are shortsome bit fu of virr” and she’s right. How could anyone not fall for a September moon described as “a gowden penny in i glimmerin howe o i night keekin throu i haggertie-taggertie cloods”? (There’s a detailed glossary at the back so you can check out words you don’t know.)

 

But there’s much here that is universal both in expression and sentiment, not least the mother of a boy who has died far away from home, and who cries out to another mother—Mary herself—“Hoo mony mair sons killt afore e warld comes til its sense, hoo mony hert-sair mothers like us, hoo mony mair?”

 

 

Helena Nelson