Calder Wood Press, 2008  £5.00

If you don’t speak Scots, you may struggle with some of these poems. I certainly did with poems such as ‘The Dirge O The Dolefu Jyner’, which begins:

The rain’s dribbling dowf on the ruif o the howff,
ootbye, the biggin site’s glabber.
The wather is dour an the lift is as sture
as the greetin-face gizz o the gaffer.

Yes, I could work my way through each stanza slowly, eventually, but it rather spoiled my enjoyment.  Luckily for me, David Purdie plies his trade in both Scots and English.

In ‘The Birth Of Poems’, where “poems are born in quiet reflection,/ as the mad world gads about”, I found the language easier to follow and felt rather sorry for Mrs Purdie who cuts the grass, tends the garden and launders her husband’s underwear while he composes verse:

It’s an ordeal, you must know it,
watching while you scrub and stuff;
but let’s face it, I’m a poet
giving birth—and god—it’s tough!

But not as tough as I was still finding the Scots. I’d almost given up; even went as far as to ask a friend who hails from Belfast why anyone would write in a way that is likely to exclude so many readers. After all, readers of poetry are rare enough as it is. (We were sitting on a windswept platform, waiting for a delayed train and had kind of run out of things to say.) He’s an accountant, without a poetry bone in his body. But he opened The Biggers at random and read aloud from ‘The Daith-Tree’:

Jesus wis a jyner—lang lang syne,
In Joseph’s shap, in Nazareth
The laddie ser’d his time.

He wrocht the bonny cedarwuid, the gopherwuid, the beech,
Wis skeily wi the cheisels, wis hantie wi the eetch…

Snow was falling and my feet were frozen, but at last I heard the music.

Sue Butler