THE FINAL POST – North Britain/Caledonia

>> North Britain

Caledonia <<

North Britain_CartedeVisite                    Caledonia-map1

Scotland has been called many things since time immemorial – some straightforwardly descriptive, some self-aggrandising, some downright insulting. It is a country, it would seem, that invites as many different takes as there are facets to its culture. Or to the denial of its culture, even. In the heady days post-Act of Union, some believed that a genuinely unified country could emerge, one where the original nations of Scotland and England would effectively cease to exist. The fashion amongst those with such beliefs was to drop the name of Scotland altogether, referring in its stead to North Britain. Whether this would ever have caught on is debatable, but clearly the reluctance of our southerly neighbours to characterise their part of the island as South Britain had a bearing on that outcome. The ancient name of Caledonia, of course, dates back many centuries before such terminology. Originally employed by the Romans to refer to the part of the island north of Hadrian’s Wall, the term may be derived from the Pictish tribe, the Caledonii. The modern usage of Caledonia has now taken on romantic, almost nostalgic connotations – not least because of Dougie MacLean’s popular folk ballad – but many organisations, ranging from Glasgow Caledonian University to ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, have employed the term as a synonym for the nation as a whole. Whatever is the truth of what Scotland truly is surely lies somewhere between these two terms, where extremes meet indeed, with which thought we editors sign off and bid all our readers a fond farewell.

North Britain
by Brian Johnstone

On examining the provenance of a carte-de-visite
by St Andrews photographer Thomas Roger.

This carte-de- visite is a note
a caller left at our door, in a past
as familiar to us as its own invention:
the sepia tones that it’s taught us
were ever the favoured garb;

one we expect like watch chains
and fobs, bustles and Paisley shawls,
a neck brace hidden between the folds.
But text embossed upon the reverse
offers a moment of pause

image and pose don’t contain:
fashion intent on hiding what’s been
cast aside, so passé that Scotland needs
must be concealed, hidden behind
its absence. N.B. here noted well.



by Andy Jackson

What makes your big head so hard?’
(Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five)

I don’t know if you can see
my name on the label mum had sewn
into my shirts. It’s there for me,
my friend, so when I am alone

I can take a keek under my collar,
mind the man I used to be before
I pitched up in these parts, smaller,
dumber than the sum of the wars

we fought with you. Back then I
was lean and lanky, great big feet,
ignorant of how the land and sky
could be unfolded like a sheet

before me and beyond, waking
sooner every day to forest choirs
and corbie calls, the shaking
of the land by sea, persistent fires

long put out in places I had drifted
from. Mama said ‘son, keep away
from there, its grudges and its frigid
people, lousy with laments, the day

long gone when anyone might ask
them what they know or think’
but all she saw were English masks,
the jokes recalled in midst of drink,

the history that wasn’t hers. I’ve been
telling new stories, singing songs
I do not own, watching submarines
put out to sea, their payloads long

unwanted. I see how the nation breaks
and blends and bonds. I’m scarred
for life, but maybe that is what it takes,
what it is that makes our big heads hard.

Thank you!

Andy Jackson and Brian Johnstone at Scotia Extremis would like to thank all contributors profusely for their freely-given creativity and support for the project.

In addition, we would like to thank everyone who followed, liked or shared any of our postings. We hope you’re enjoyed the project as much as we have! But for now, ae fond kiss, and then we sever.









Images courtesy of;
Carte de Visite from St Andrews University Library Special Collections Department

WEEK SIXTY-ONE – The Bay City Rollers/ The Jesus and Mary Chain


>> The Bay City Rollers

The Jesus and Mary Chain <<

Bay City Rollers          Jesus and Mary Chain

It’s not something that Scotia Extremis likes to admit, but once upon a time it sang shang-a-lang as it ran with the gang, doin’ doo wop be dooby do aye. Times have changed, but pop sensations come and go, and Scotland has unearthed its share over the years. Emerging from Edinburgh, The Bay City Rollers swept all before them in 1974-5 with a clutch of glammed-up rock’n’roll nostalgia hits fringed with tartan. Rollermania became a phenomenon among teenyboppers, and their cheeky demeanour and boyish looks saw them briefly succeed the Osmonds in the affections of the nation’s youth. The inevitable slide into drugs, disputes and a revolving door of replacements followed until the band crumbled in the late 1970s, resurfacing on the cabaret/revival circuit, with former members squabbling over the rights to use the once-lucrative name. Exactly ten years on from Rollermania, teenagers were seeking a more thrilling and visceral sound, and were satisfied by The Jesus and Mary Chain, a confrontational indie-rock sensation from East Kilbride. Their extremely short gigs were drug-fuelled affairs with their simple post-punk sound drenched in a scream of feedback, and they became darlings of the indie-scene for a few brief years. They too saw many personnel changes, but continue to record and perform over thirty years on from their jagged, acid-addled heyday. Both acts, though light-years apart in sound and image, traversed the calculating but cruel arc of the instant pop phenomenon as defined by rock biographer Philip Norman – wanting, getting, having, wasting.



Roads Not Taken, Trousers Not Rolled
by Eleanor Livingstone

In those bye bye bygone days, we had our own echo chambers, tribes,
ran in ‘gangs’. Their cuffs and trouser hems jumped up to greet a redder
shade of tat, while ours wore cheesecloth, maxis, too long, faded loons.

No flat whites then; we hung out in vintage style with frothy coffees
at sixpence a cup on Formica tables in Janek’s café where the jukebox
swallowed small change and played us Layla and a whiter shade of pop.

It could have been so otherwise. Before the songs, the name came first
in poster capitals in some forgotten holiday town. I see it still. Top
of the bill:  The Bay City Rollers. Who? But – cool! Except I didn’t go.

Maybe the dance was cancelled. Maybe my parents said: “No.” Who knows.
It might have been a summer time sensation. Just imagine if all of me
had loved all of them. How close did I come to believing in their magic?

Within a year their name was everywhere. My tribe sneered and scorned
to hide a shameful pride. Scottish, yes, but not ours, so no quarter given.
Song leads on to prog rock concept album. I chose the less tartan way.



The Jesus and Mary Chain
by Rachel McCrum

Jangling for world domination honey
(and why do Scottish bands crave so much honey)
you tobacco bitter sugar-mouthed boys
hard boiled lemon sweet pop
the end of the fizz
but enough for the hard candy pop
waspish for the honeysweet
buzz them in
that endless buzzing them in
that dry mouthed buzz
leave them wanting with that dry mouth buzz
iron nails down that blackbird fuzz
dry white mouths
your dry white mouths
seeking honey
singing fieldsweet summer rain & piss & honey
snagged on barbs before the world
snagged on chemical sweet barbs before the world
bottle it, boys
you got it, boys,
for all your black & white
noise, your glorious noise,
and for all that, boys,
your favourite colour
really always
was gold.


Eleanor Livingstone (photo by Dan Phillips_Writer Pictures ) (a)
Eleanor Livingstone 
is a poet, reviewer and editor who lives in Fife. Her first full collection, Even the Sea (Red Squirrel Press, 2010), now in a second edition, was shortlisted for the 2010 inaugural London New Poetry award for first collections. She is the Director of StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival which takes place annually in St Andrews (



RachelMcCrum(ColinUsherStudioFaire)Rachel McCrum is a poet and performer who has worked in Scotland, Montreal, Haiti, South Africa, Greece and Northern Ireland. She won the Callum MacDonald Award for her first pamphlet The Glassblower Dances in 2012; was the first ever BBC Scotland Poet In Residence in 2015 and has been awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2016. She was a founding member of Stewed Rhubarb Press and the SHIFT/ Poetry Collective; was the Broad of Rally and Broad (The List Hot 100 #12 in 2015) and currently manages the cinepoems project with Glasgow poet Calum Rodger and Montreal poet Jonathan Lamy. She is working on her first collection, due out with Freight in 2017.





Images courtesy of;×1236.jpeg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a6a93fa8f017a40288777cd90a3de4db


Eleanor Livingstone image courtesy of Dan Phillips Writer Pictures
Rachel McCrum image courtesy of Colin Usher Studio Faire

WEEK SIXTY – Joseph Knight/ Andrew Watson

>> Joseph Knight

Andrew Watson <<

Joseph knight                                                      Andrew-Watson

On its Union with England in 1707, Scotland joined a global Empire. One of the effects of that was that its doors were opened to immigration, doors which remain firmly open despite the political and social sea-changes of recent years. The influx of people from the Empire brought forward many singular individuals, and Scotia Extremis celebrates two this week. Joseph Knight was brought to Scotland as a slave in 1769 but later fought for his freedom through the Scottish courts until they ruled in 1778 that slavery was unlawful under Scots Law. He therefore became the first free black Scotsman…and from that point on very little is known of his subsequent life. Much has been written about Arthur Wharton, held to be the world’s first black professional footballer, but here we feature Andrew Watson, an amateur who, ten years earlier, had become the first black player to represent Scotland and, indeed, the first black player to perform at international level anywhere in the world. He signed initially for Queen’s Park in Glasgow in the 1880s and played for Scotland three times at the start of that decade before leaving to play in England, though he did return to Scotland towards the end of his career. It would be nearly 100 years before another non-white footballer was capped by Scotland. For the soul of a nation to change it requires people to change – one person is enough to begin with, and then one more, and one more, and so on. Scotland’s proud inclusivity as a nation owes a debt to those whose dignified and determined example brought about such changes.

Joseph Knight
by Alan Riach

‘There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free from barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another.’    (Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ (1940))

They all go into the dark –
Of course they do, and what would you expect them to do otherwise?
Go into the light? Eliot’s as far away from Dante
As you from starlight’s source, as taste from eye, as colour is
From black & white. So figure this man, man as he was, his place and his trajectory.
His owners as they passed him, from one man to another, as the judges said.
As they would say. What would you expect them to say? Otherwise?
What intervention could they then have made, that would have made the story
Otherwise? And yet, the story did not go
According to the wishes of the ermined.
There is a difference now that was not then, that was simply
Not available, had to be fought for, earned, and was, and gained, and is here and now
For us. So, by what stretch of good intention, by what means of tactics deftly done,
How do we deliver where that leads to? Hope. That sense of possibility.
The vulnerable thing. The tenderness, the tendering. Joseph Knight,
I think, is one of the keys: to the big dark door, the wooden slab of what it is
To be repulsed. You use it. Still, you use him. Open the door.
Go into that dark territory. Claim it again. Or,
Open the door, as Catherine Carswell says, Open the door and flee!


Unner The Fold
by Jim Mackintosh

in the sports section, twa paragraphs
unner the fold, an oot o the spotlicht,
I saw a photograph o a toosled chiel
impassive, beckonin me tae find him
beyond the January transfer windae

proodly displayin his country’s badge
oan a jersey o pink an yellow bands,
no in a puffed oot boastin way, no
in a hunkered doon ashamed way,
but as it shid be, ain o his nation’s best

a nippy ain tae, wi a hint o Jinky’s weave
a ready capped fir Scotland, his faither
a sugar plantation owner, a player o sorts
but as I listen tae the kettle bile an coffee
steams the inky stains oot ma thochts

Andrew Watson’s gaze turns a sombre like
when he hears the Classifieds, his noble
Queens Park no dae’in sae well noo’adays, no
since he went sooth, gaun fae tanner ba enigma
tae bein swallied up in time added oan.



Alan RiachAlan Riach is the Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, Convener of the Saltire Society and past-President of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2006-10. Born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1957, he is the author of several books on the poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid  and also writes extensively on poetry, arts and culture in contemporary Scotland. His fifth book of poems, Homecoming (2009), follows Clearances (2001), First & Last Songs (1995), An Open Return (1991) and This Folding Map (1990).  Formerly Associate Professor at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, he has been working in Scotland since 2001.

Jim MackintoshJim Mackintosh is a Perth-based poet. He is author of five collections of poetry, the latest of which is The Rubicon of Ash (CreateSpace, 2016). He is editor of Mind The Time, an anthology of poetry for the Football Memories project which supports the work of Alzheimer Scotland, and which is due to be published in Summer 2017. He is Poet-in-Residence for St Johnstone FC.



Images courtesy of;


WEEK FIFTY-NINE – Eduardo Paolozzi/ David Mach

>> Eduardo Paolozzi

David Mach <<

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi                       David Mach

Scotia Extremis has featured art and artists several times, but this pairing focuses on the art of two contemporary individuals differing somewhat in style. Eduardo Paolozzi was Leith-born from Italian parentage during the mid-1920s and began his studies at Edinburgh College of Art. Despite working in several media during his career – mosaic, stained glass and even an LP cover – it’s his imposing statues which stay in the memory. Distinctive and compelling, they mix elements of cubism and surrealism with a more traditional representational style, and foreshadow the ‘Pop Art’ movement of the 1950s and 60s. His statue of Newton in the courtyard of the British Library is considered a modern classic, and his work is scattered across the UK and beyond. Arguably Paolozzi’s successor, David Mach is equally distinctive in output and ethos. Hailing from Fife and a product of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, Mach is known for his strong, bold works using everyday objects – matches, tyres, coat hangers, bricks. His work often has a ‘performance’ element, with some of his matchhead sculptures being set on fire as part of the artistic process. Though both sculptors have a recognisable style and a distinctive canon of work, they represent different philosophies; Paolozzi the muscular, imposing urban edifices that speak of power and industry, Mach the quirky collages of the mundane and commonplace that reveal a re-ordering of the world.

Millennium Window
by Marjorie Lotfi Gill

“I have been paying particular attention to the idea of reflecting deep religious experiences objectified or even immortalised in shapes and colour.” –  Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, 23 March 1999, on his Millennium Window in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh

If colour is language
            place the autumn requiem of leaves
beside their honeydewed rebirth,
            the speckled ink of midnight
alongside the pitted skin of winter daylight,
            the clear brine drawn back to sea
next to its return in milky foam;
            whatever the hue, the eye
will see the arc in between.

And for man, the body fallen apart
            and reassembled back into a form
of itself, the five digits of hands
            or feet, the same and different;
after the first break of childhood each
            works to make up the whole
of their cobbled parts,  hide
            the cinemagraph between the purity
of our landing, and what is left.

Kneel to pray: the lines cutting across
            palms aligned, mirror images,
equal and not equal, and with closed eyes
            read the garnet map of the body’s
inner workings, as the geometry of colour,
            both message and memoir,
flickers on the slabs below.



David Mach
by Robin Cairns

He’s another of them artists fascinated with the faither who did his dogged duty
At some Fife factory making massive, massive … whatevers
(I can’t remember what he made exactly – but they’d be massive ones)
And now Oor Machie has to replicate the scale of his Dad’s endeavour in the false jeopardy
Of physically exerting graft – knocking up his art.

Otherwise he wouldn’t really be doing a day’s work, would he?
So he blast furnaces arc welds and grinds off the angles of all the hours God sends
To make the sort of huge but mildly annoying conceit you glance past on the motorway.

The doggedness is all very Fife, isn’t it.
(I’m from a picturesque linoleum village on the banks of the Tay myself). We are grim.
And very dogged – dogged to a fault, if you can imagine such a thing.

But I’d be happy enough to learn that Mach has a wonderful little man from Methil who does his blast furnacing for him while he himself reads Adam Smith in a hammock swung gently by the toe of a naked Jim Leishman as the remnants of The Skids wash his car. I’d be happy if Mach was so rich he had re-opened Seafield Colliery as a wine cellar and had a louche squad of Barbara Dickson lookalikes tending to his every whim (Barbara in her corkscrew perm years, of course) his every corkscrewed whim. I’d like him to have a gerbil called Vettriano.

But no, he’s decent. One of us.
Canny enough to elide mentioning what he earns.
From his submarines made out of tyres
And his heids of a million matchsticks

The making of which replicates at desktop level
The painstaking plonking of days in place which it takes to build massive, massive … whatevers
And results in a raspberry red semblance of, for instance, Robert Burns
Which David burns (I really hope there’s more thought going into this than the pun
Leaving a charred glowering likeness.

“Transformed by fire” says Mach, as the rest of us solemnly nod, surreptitiously checking our shoulders for Phoenix guano. 


Marjorie Lotfi Gill pic

Marjorie Lotfi Gill is a founder of The Belonging Project, workshops reflecting on the flight, journey and assimilation of refugees. She was the first Poet in Residence at Jupiter Artland and was Poet in Residence at Spring Fling and the Wigtown Book Festival in 2015. Marjorie’s poems have won competitions, been widely published (including in GutterMagmaRattle and The Rialto) and been performed on BBC Radio 4.


Robin CairnsRobin Cairns has written and performed in theatre, poetry, comedy and print, including The King’s Head Theatre (Islington), The Utrecht Poetry Festival, The Stand (Glasgow) and the Saughton Prison In-House Magazine. This year he plans to appear as Morningside Malcolm in The Good, The Bad And The Weegie at The Outhouse, Broughton Street, for the duration of The Fringe. He will also be performing his play, Sawney Bean, A Very Scottish Cannibal at various theatres. He is currently writing another script on the life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.




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WEEK FIFTY-EIGHT – Sawney Bean/ Bible John

>> Sawney Bean

Bible John <<

Sawney_Bean_CVR-1024x792                             bible-john

Scotia Extremis celebrates the famous, but also on occasions the infamous. So it is with this week – two of Scotland’s most notorious and murderous individuals, one of whom is shrouded in myth and blurred by history, the other a more recent individual whose identity still remains unclear despite many attempts to unmask him. Sawney Bean, according to some sources, lived in the 16th century, though even this is disputed. He was said to be the head of a family located on the Ayrshire coast around Girvan, and various accounts of his murderous life attribute up to a thousand deaths to his name and that of his clan. What made his story more gruesome were the claims that the murders were followed by cannibalistic practices, details of which Scotia Extremis spares its delicate readers. Bean and his kin were reputedly captured and executed, but legend has preserved his name and his doings throughout the intervening centuries. Bible John was the name given to a serial killer who it is thought murdered three women after meeting them at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow in 1968-69. Witnesses who claim to have spoken to the suspected murderer at the time observed that he talked of religious issues and quoted passages of scripture, which led the Evening Times to begin referring to him as ‘Bible John’. Although several names have become suspects, the identity of Bible John has never been confirmed, and the cases remain unsolved. Although separated by centuries, our two murderers have passed from reality into myth, and have become Scottish folk devils of the blackest kind.

by W.N. Herbert

The Denfiends and thi clan o Bean
baith hud ae ugsome mission:
tae eat aa Scotia, fat or lean,
in a cook-aff competition.

Thi Denfiends bideit beh Monikie,
thi Beans beh Ballantrae:
wan liked tae sup oan fowk-a-leekie,
wan munched man fricassee.

Thir contest wiz baith comprehensive
and, cuisine-wise, a stretch –
thi ingredients, tho inexpensive,
cuid be a pain tae fetch.

Thi thrie estates, fae nyaff tae laird,
wi ilka ane ae dish,
thrie different weys maun be prepared
(thi clergy coonts as fish.)

Thi Beans began wi Broth MacBeth
a sort of cullage skink
but steeped in bluid and biled tae death –
thi newt ehz clogged thir sink.

Thi Denfiends trehd John Knoxtail soup
but thi keest wiz unca werish:
dreh Calvin croutons, brimstane gloop –
yir parish, parched, wid perish.

The Beans cooked Connery confit
in a nesht o shumwan’sh hair,
anna terrine wha’s sheen wiz medd complete
beh thi een o Logie Baird.

The Denfiends favoured finger food –
we presume Dyte Livingstone’s;
thir Slessor sliders luked dead good;
Brude’s bridies, overdone.

Ane barbecued Rabbie wi Fergusson fritters
inna greasy bardic freh;
thi tither geed ye literary skitters
wi Sir Walter Scottage peh.

Ane served a Parcel o Rogues ragout
wi a dhansak o Dundas;
thi tither’s chilli con Darnley blew
thi madrigals oot yir arse.

Thi ashets struck thi board as fast
as Crocketts cuid be spatched,
as Grassic Gibbon’s giblets hashed,
or Naomi’s limbs detached:

Chic Murray Kiev inna bunnet because
his entrance shidna be cauld;
braised Nesbitt brains in Rab C sauce
laid oan a heidband’s fauld;

Scotch eggs de Mary Queen o Scots,
in a lochan o hur gravy;
fresh Para Handy hough in pots;
a Hume-elette o Davie;

wee Lulu in a goulash – aw!
Mock Chop MaGreegor – service!
Sir Alex haggised in a baw –
but noo baith teams luked nervous…

Thi Denfiends hud few pastry skills,
and Sawney feart desserts –
besides, they werr rinnin short on kills,
while Scotland grew alert…

Thir John Broon broonies’d scunner Vic,
lyk thir sponge wi Gilfillan fillin;
while thir Reverend Thomas Spottit Dick
wad find few puntirs willin.

While thi hooves o thi militia scuffed
thir wey tae Desperate Den,
King Duncan doughnuts n Plum McDuff
wiz scoffed beh cannibal men.

And while, thir flintlocks cocked, they moshed
at thi entrance tae thon antre,
a battered Macintosh wiz noshed
wi anthropophagic banter.

Thi order geean, whit they were seean
wad stow a stervin soo,
fur boady pairts, in ilka airt,
werr prinklin inna stew;

werr prinklin, sizzlin, steamin – cooked,
or in man-marinades:
thi wabbit sodgers luked n puked
and fired aff enfilades.

They shucked thi Beans wi baignets fixed,
wi cordite choked thi cave;
thi Denfiends wi thir dennir mixed,
an but wan bairn wiz saved.

O hur latter life ye micht huv heard:
she entered politics,
whaur, haund tae myth, they eat oor words
till truth itsel is sick.

But whit thi people, unappalled,
wad ken, fur Scotland’s sake,
is wha’s oor Maister Cannibal –
results, eftir this break…

“A little to the west of the farmhouse of Denfind, formerly Dunfind, there is a deep ravine called Denfiend, through which a rivulet runs… In Lindsay of Pitscottie’s History… it is called the Fiend’s Den, because a brigand with his family dwelt in it. ‘He had an execrable fashion to all young men and children that he could steal or obtain by other means, and take them home and eat them… For these acts he was burned with his wife, bairns, and family, except a young lass of one year old, who was saved and taken to Dundee, where she was brought up, but when she came to women’s years, she was condemned and burned quick for the same crime her father and mother were convicted of. A great crowd, chiefly women, attended at the execution, cursing her for her crimes. To them she said -‘Why chide ye me as if I had committed a crime. Give me credit, if ye had the experience of eating human flesh you would think it so delicious that you would never forbear it again.'”

Bible Joanne
by Tracey Herd

I       Joanne

Her parents were strict. She left school at 14.
She gave them half her wages. Her clothes
were cheap: bargain nylons, dowdy headscarves.
She was only allowed out at weekends
and had to be home by midnight. Her mother insisted.
She met a strange, wee man she could construct
a stage and theatre from, for all the drama
she intended. An occasional prompt but otherwise silence.
You’ll be wanting children soon. You’ll be wanting children soon.
She hated his mother and four sisters as she hated her own.
Her anger grew as the baby grew inside her. Instinctively,
she knew it was a girl and it was draining her blood.
She could still smell a menstruating woman, sick as she felt.
Thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth (Isaiah 30:22)
Such a plan! Should it be The Majestic or The Barrowlands?
No matter. Their handbags all held the accoutrements
of a whore – stringent perfume, red, blue, black pigments, coins.

II      Feb 1996 – Sept 2010

Strange to think that Glasgow is the Gaelic word for green hollow.
Now it was packed with sturdy building blocks of industry, universities,
looming but beautiful buildings, dens of iniquity…
On a brilliant, raw morning thirty or so years later, an exhumation.
Across from the watchers… a polythene tent, crusted in ice
stands at the edge of the graveyard at the top of the hill
above Stonehouse, and from it the sounds howl…
a pneumatic drill gouging at the frozen earth… this bloodless gash.
The bones are of little use however and the poor corpse may be blameless.
The original D.N.A found on the girl is too degraded, as blurry
as the ghostly picture of a neo-natal scan, breath rasping in the bitter air.
Once again, he has “disappeared”. A woman, in her fifties,
thin-lipped, eyes alert, stands at a distance, quite invisible.

In September 2010, the last living witness, her claim to unwanted fame,
to the man known as “Bible John”, “lucky” Jean McLachlan
who shared a taxi halfway home with her sister Helen Puttock
left this world of sinners. She had been brought in at least
250 times to view suspects. She hadn’t spoken to her ex
brother-in-law since 1969. It was a relief to die and leave
the dance-hall of horrors, the drunken, exuberant, red, gold,
orange lights, star shapes and faces shooting off into the night.
In daylight, they were grim, twisted wire hieroglyphs of steel,
leeched of colour. Workers walked past the grubby edifice,
a woman without her bright garments, make-up and curls.
lights so bright must, by definition, cast shadows.
Oh Jeanie, which is Hell and which is Heaven?

III     22nd Feb 1968 – 31st October 1969

It was a pleasant conversation. Her name was Patricia,
her husband was in the army, down South. She admired her
orange, crocheted dress. Facially, they were mirror images.
She was a nursing auxiliary. Her period cramps were “terrible”.
She was found two days later in a lane near her home
by a cabinet maker, a creator who stumbled on destruction.
She was naked, raped, and strangled with her own nylons.
he has made naked her fountain and she has uncovered
the fountain of her blood. (Leviticus 20:18)
Her handbag, emptied out, was discarded, its open mouth
that soil and weeds and stones would cram full if left.

Three children and unmarried. She bit down hard enough
on her lip to draw blood. Slut. She had one child now, a girl.
She barely caught her name: “I’m Jemima McDonald”.
She was 5ft 7” with dyed brown hair. She disgusted her.
She’d left home with her curlers in her hair under a red scarf
and come straight to the toilets to make herself a whore.
Her scarf lay pooled on the grubby space by the sink.
Soon enough she would be stretched out on metal
being cleansed off all sin before being cut open.
She had just begun to menstruate. Joanne had towels
in her bag. “oh thank you. You’re a lifesaver. I didn’t
expect it so soon.” She watched her carefully and coveted
with all her being the black pinafore dress, white ruffled
blouse, the off-white sling back shoes. This time, however
he messed up, leaving her fully clothed. He was too frenzied,
raping her then strangling her with her own nylons. Again. Again.
She sulked for weeks about the pinafore dress. He swore
he’d make it up to her. She thought of the grubby children
exploring the empty tenement telling wild stories about a body.

Helen Puttock always made her giggle. The false Indentikit,
her sister’s drunken remembrance of the taxi ride.
A tall man! Red-haired. He was so small and mousey. She knew
he was soft spoken though as he’d repeated the nonsense
she’d scripted for him. Let her suffer, forever guilty,
leaving her sister alone with a strange man.
We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness
are as a filthy rag. (Isaiah 64:6). This time he left a bite mark.
She was found in a little lane, strangled with her nylons, raped and beaten.
The story was beginning to get a little tired. After all, she had a child.
The police were everywhere but she knew she was untouchable.
Let them search and pick up every piece of trash, her discarded
bag, the contents gone with her life, a barely discernible rustle and sigh.

IV     Joanne

Sometimes, she sunbathes in her tights in the small back garden,
the sunlight staining her face. He watches from the kitchen window
with fear and desire. She has two children now. Sometimes, by mistake,
she calls me Patricia, the first one, her first born.


Bill Herbert pic
Bill Herbert
is mostly published by Bloodaxe Books. Recent volumes include Omnesia and, with Donut Press, Murder Bear (both 2013). He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and Dundee’s Makar, or City Laureate. In 2014 he won a Cholmondeley Award, and in 2015 was made a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society.

Tracey HerdTracey Herd was born in Scotland in 1968 and lives in Dundee. She studied at Dundee University, where she was Creative Writing Fellow in 1998-2001. She has published three collections with Bloodaxe: No Hiding Place (1996), which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; Dead Redhead (2001), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation; and Not in This World (2015), a Poetry Book Society Choice shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.


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WEEK FIFTY-SEVEN-AND-A-HALF – Oor Wullie/Merida the Brave

>> Oor Wullie

Merida the Brave <<

oor-wullie                                                merida


Think bucket, dungarees and tackity boots and to numerous Scots worldwide the image of Oor Wullie will immediately come to mind. The popular Sunday Post cartoon character is, after all, not just oor Wullie but ‘A’body’s Wullie’. A cheeky wee laddie roaming the streets of ……… [insert name of preferred city] with his tribe of Fat Boab, Soapy Soutar and Wee Eck, he is forever pursued by his nemesis PC Murdoch. Though known to all in his neighbourhood, he has no other provenance than Maw and Paw, no other demesne than Wullie’s Shed. So very unlike Princess Merida of DunBroch, the 16-year-old daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor of a Scotland threatened by the Romans. Skilled in archery, Merida the Brave is a warrior equally proficient with the spear and the sword, despite her mother’s desire for her to marry. The main character from the 2012 Disney Pixar film Brave, Merida is the 11th Princess in the Disney Princess line-up. Although both very different fantasy figures for boys and girls of certain generations, their cartoon selves are perhaps united by a devotion to their animal sidekicks – Oor Wullie’s pet mouse Jeemy and Merida’s Clydesdale horse Angus. Where would they be without them?


Oor Wullie
by John Quinn

Spiked hair an exclamation forest
of porcupine points and proto-punk pride,
he’s unpetrified blond joie de vivre,
chutzpah charm and childhood in black
dungarees worn by not Just William.
Sitting on a philosopher’s bucket
with jesters Soapy Soutar, Fat Boab and
Wee Eck, he’s boy King of Auchenshoogle.

Common ownership – oors, yours, etc. –
shares the smile, that ineffable thing,
that factoid, that chiel that winna ding.
Forever in cousinhood with the Broons
in the paper only read at oor Mum’s,
he declaims jings and crivens, help ma boab!
When he’s the conversation, silence melts
with get-rich-quick schemes not about money.


The DunBroch Tapestry
by Keren Macpherson

It may have begun with the hair;
her Mother absentmindedly twirling
red shoots on her finger;
thoughts forming curls, loops,
knots, from her daughter’s locks,

until something braided to her veins
made an image in the mind’s loom;
laid out a familiar grid,
and her hands, quick
to pick up strands, tied it

to Merida’s hair, and to a spool
where they spun onto the warp;
the rest of Merida teased,
thread by thread round the spindle
of a Mother’s best intentions;

any slack tugged tight, tamped down
in the pattern, loose ends
snipped off, tucked in, so the picture
almost perfect, could be knotted.
But Merida, who would not be held,

snapped, slashed herself free
from the wool, the scrim, fled,
strings fixed in her skin
– a persistent needle.
She felt the pull. 


John Quinn
is formerly a teacher and is now a Tour Guide at Verdant Works Museum in Dundee. He has been published in Poetry Scotland, Northwords Now, Southlight, South Bank, Dundee Writes and Poet and Geek. He has also done performance poetry at various venues in the East of Scotland including on the StAnza Slam where, like, the Scotland Football Team, he didn’t get beyond the early stages.

Keren Macpherson
completed her Masters in Creative Writing at Dundee University in 2015. She lived and worked in New Jersey and Colorado for fifteen years as an artist, and as a teacher of Fine Art to adults and children. She has had poems published in several issues of New Writing Dundee, in Dundee Writes, and more recently in Seagate III. She currently lives in Fife with her two girls, snatching time to write, and occasionally picking up a paintbrush.



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WEEK FIFTY-SEVEN – The Glasgow Boys/ The Scottish Colourists

>> The Glasgow Boys

The Scottish Colourists <<

glasgow-boys                       colourists


All artists are individual. But almost all artists will have been assigned to a movement at some point. It is two such groups that we are looking at this week. Active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, The Glasgow Boys were practitioners of an innovative modern style of painting. Showing an interest in realism and impressionism, ‘the Boys’ also sought to challenge the Edinburgh-dominated art scene. One of the group’s leading members was James Guthrie and the first poem evokes the strength of his genre portraiture as well as the group’s quest to portray light. Our second artistic ‘movement’ follows on from ‘the Boys’ but is more closely defined, consisting of precisely four artists. The poem concerns Francis Cadell, one of the leading members of The Scottish Colourists, as the group became known. Active in the first four decades of last century, Cadell’s work is famous for its depiction of elegant Edinburgh New Town interiors, for his portraits of fashionable women and for his landscapes of Iona. His work – like that of some, but not all, of the Colourists – is characterised by a loose, impressionistic manner, with vibrant waves of colour. Any extremes in this week’s pairing are to be found as much within these two groups as they are between them. Movements are often appellations conceived of retrospectively and while friendship between these artists does link them, their work insists that they are all individuals.

In A Good Light
by Colin Will

Guthrie came here first. It’s for the light,
he said. Light’s everywhere, I know,
but all along this coast it feels like
there’s more of it to go round.

There’s short winter light, cloud-softened,
diffuse, but still strong enough for detail
and colour. Summer light sparkles
on the sea, shimmers in the trees.

Walton, Henry, Crawhall and the rest –
‘The Boys’ – came and left,
but Guthrie stayed, light-borne,
seasonally sombre, seasonably bright.

They sketched in the village and the fields,
transforming cobbles, pantiles, the faces
of children and old men, from French Realism
to something native, local, universal.

I look at a cabbage-patch girl, knife in hand,
face tanned by Merse sun, her cool stare,
about to sned one for the pot, tonight’s supper.
They grow well here, kail and daughters.

Something in the light makes them strong,
sonsy, striking subjects for portraits.
This is how we are, she says, this is how
I am, en plein air, standing in the light.



Cadell (and Other Colourists)
by Douglas Dunn

“Live like a bourgeois, work like a demi-God”. Flaubert

He was a man who’d looked long at the sea
And islandscaped his visions of Iona.
His other habitat was Edinburgh rooms —
George Street, Ainslie Place, Regency Terrace —
And their vocabulary of furniture,
Crockery, silverware, mirrors, polished floors,
Prosperous Georgian interiors.
And fashionable women, seldom smiling —
Thirty-something? Forty-something? Hard to tell,
In their melodic black millinery.
Age, anyway, as geniuses portray it,
Becomes timeless, although in its moment.
But, best of all, it’s colours that say it —
“The Black Hat” — there’s several of these — “The White Room”,
“The Red Chair”, “The Orange Blind”, “The Tapestry Cloak”.
So much leisure …. But I feel something tense,
Or sorrowful, in all that elegance.
Who were the dress-makers and milliners?
Who made the mirrors shine, who cleaned the grate,
Who set the table that fine afternoon?
Could it be imagined and fictitious,
Reality transformed by liliaceous
Peploe, Cadell, and muscular Fergusson.



Colin Will
is an Edinburgh-born poet with a background in botany and geology. His eighth book, a collection of poems in the Japanese haibun form, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2014. He chairs the Board of StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival. Website:


douglas-dunn-by-roddy-simpsonDouglas Dunn is a major Scottish poet, editor and critic. Author of over ten collections of poetry, he has also edited several anthologies, including The Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry (2000). He was Professor in the School of English at the University of St Andrews from 1991. Douglas Dunn was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2013 and an OBE in 2003.



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Douglas Dunn image courtesy of Roddy Simpson

WEEK FIFTY-SIX- The Glasgow Empire/ Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom

>> The Glasgow Empire

Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom <<

glasgow-empire                         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We celebrate Glasgow nightlife past and present this week – when Scotland goes out on the town it often ends up in a place much like one of our two subjects. In years gone by, the Glasgow Empire was the leading music hall and variety venue in the city for nearly 70 years until its closure in 1963. Situated on Sauchiehall Street, it was one of the national chain of theatres owned by Sir Edward Moss, playing host to many of the top singers, comics and entertainers through the golden age of variety from 1930-1960. Despite aspiring to gentility in décor and high-class entertainment, it developed a fearsome reputation as being a difficult ‘house’ to win over, and proved to be the graveyard of many an act (particularly if they were English). By contrast, the Glasgow Barrowland ballroom (opening on Christmas Eve 1934) was a less genteel venue situated to the east of the city centre, adjacent to the ‘Barras’ market. Maggie McIver, ‘Queen of the Barras’ and founder of the ballroom, died in 1958 which was gutted by fire soon afterwards, but the rise of popular music which did for venues like the Empire proved to be the lifeblood of the Barrowland. In its time it has played host to acts as diverse as Lulu, The Clash and Oasis, despite achieving grisly notoriety as the haunt of murderer ‘Bible John’ in the late 1960s. Again, the contrast between venues is in aspiration – one a gilded palace of variety, the other a more rough-and-ready dancehall, but both made intimidating by the demanding Glaswegian audiences who frequented them.

Glasgow Empire
by Liz Niven

‘If they liked ye they let ye live’.
A luxury no afforded thae globe-trottin
Empire buildin sodgers.

Back hame fear-fillt shoes tread
the theatre’s widden boards.
Shoutin fae sherp-tongued audiences.

‘See ye at the Depot oan Monday morn,
Ya wee fat bastard’.
Tae the comic wi a bus drivin day joab.

‘Christ, there’s two o them’,
Bernie Winter’s fissog peerin
Throu the curtains efter Mike.

Bugger aff’, tae the Irishmen
who reversed aff stage singin,
Right ye are bejabbers’.

‘Goodnight all’,
on Des O Connor’s soles.
Carried aff efter a feigned faint.

Ice cream flung at a topless act.
A coin lobbed aff Bobby the Maestro’s heid.
Ten bob a week extra in danger money.

Victor Seaforth in a cold sweat kennin
he’d tae finish his Charles Laughton Quasimodo.
‘Away hame ya humpy-backed aul bastard’. 

Till nae turn was unstaned an the tide turnt.
Duncan Macrae an Albert Finney
strikin demolition’s first blows.

Thon tap-tappin echoed ower the globe,
no jist in this country, a wey o life chyngin
boays in tartan bunnets marchin hame.

Colonels packin in thir ain wee Empires,
fortunes made In far flung places.
Noo mair nor an Empire Theatre brekkin tae bits.



I Remember Your First Time
by Colin Begg


I took you there sight unseen
last winter touring season –
my South Belfast girl, mixed marriage.
Your blue eyes had never darkened the Gallowgate.

Out past the Sarrie Heid
hugging the north side of the road
your pupils narrowed
at lights blazing: Barrowland!!

Past the louts, through the touts,
frisked by stout bouncers,
through the metal detector
up the mirrored stair to the bar:

cheap lager, tacky lino,
ghostly Sixties gauds
and the stale Brut
of Bible John.


After a final sound check,
(one, two        two      p-pow!)
(because roadies can’t count to three…)
the bands always start
              with a darkness
              a stage of shadows
              a spreading cheer
              a press-forwards
              lights! anticipation! feedback!
We find a place, on the left.

The Jesus and Mary Chain play
Psychocandy Live is fuzz fuzz, whirling wires,
white persistence,
smoke, smoke and twisting ire,
melted-down vocals.

Time dilates and spreads–
through jumpsweat of crowd,
starry ceiling, bouncy floor, faint piss,
nose-tang of smoke machine smoke,
comes olfactory roll call of
              lovers lost
              bands seen
              friends missed
              old stubs in my scrapbook.
              sweet spill of beer.

You turned with a barbed wire kiss,
caught my mood:
moving up and still alive,
still like honey.




Liz Niven
is a poet writing in Scots and English. Her last collection, The Shard Box, was a Scottish Libraries Summer Read. Awards include McCash/Herald and, TESS/Saltire for her groundbreaking work for the Scots language in education. She is Poet-in-residence at Inverness Airport, has had poetry engraved in wood and stone in southwest Scotland and also on Temple Forest folly. She is an honorary Fellow of the Association of Scottish Literature and an executive member of Scottish PEN.




Colin Begg is a writer, editor & doctor from Ayrshire, currently working for the NHS in Glasgow. He is co-editor and co-founder of Gutter magazine. His poems have appeared in many periodicals, from Poetry Scotland to The British Journal of Psychiatry, as well as several small anthologies and four New Writing Scotland annuals. He is a previous recipient of a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Clydebuilt Poetry Apprenticeship. In 2013 he won the Basil Bunting Poetry Award.  He is currently working on his first poetry collection.




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WEEK FIFTY-FIVE – Moira Anderson/ Eddi Reader

>> Moira Anderson

Eddi Reader <<

moira-anderson          eddi-reader

Traditional song in Scotland has had many interpreters over the years, from the strictly ethnic to the quasi-operatic. While the folk scene has given rise to many, others have emerged from rock music, from musical theatre and from choral performance. Eddi Reader’s began her musical career as a backing singer for bands such as The Eurythmics and The Waterboys, going on to score the number 1 hit Perfect in 1989 with her own group Fairground Attraction. Her return to Scotland after the group split saw her moving much more towards traditional styles and in 2003 she released an album of songs by Burns with full orchestral accompaniment. Further work with musicians such as fiddler John McCusker and pianist Jools Holland indicate the diversity of her interests, but she has always come back to traditional material and, in particular, the work of Burns. With whom Moira Anderson is also very much associated. Taking the different route to a musical career of training at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, her big break came via an audition for the BBC. Going on to appear on TV’s White Heather Club, she subsequently hosted her own television show on BBC1. A frequent performer with Scots tenor Kenneth McKellar, in the early 1980s she made an album of duets with Sir Harry Secombe. While our pairing this week is not particularly extreme in terms of repertoire or even background, it does reflect differences in interpretation and approach that have changed Scottish song over the last half century. However, while coming to Scottish music from very different perspectives, both singers have been honoured for their work, Anderson receiving an OBE in 1970 and Reader an MBE in 2006.

On The Edge
(For Moira Anderson)
by Donald Adamson

We wir that faur awaa –
faur frae the metropolis, faur frae the studio
and the transmitter they’d pit up in Kirk o’ Shotts
(whaurever that micht be).
Ilka hoose needit its Logie Baird,
a bodie tae shin up a ladder, claumer on a chimney
wigglin here and yonder the muckle H o the aerial,
aa the time yellin doon, ’better noo?’ ’worse?’
till ilkane wis seatit aroon the TV,
mairvellin at the electrons that hud somehow made it,
joukin the cruel carlins o the atmosphere,
staucherin though the firmament
until they flappit, wabbit, doon the wire
intae the snawstorm o the twal inch screen.­

Nae maitter the hissin and the cracklin,
nae  maitter we cuid hairdlie see ocht,
we kent whit wis there –
the sprigs o heather, tho invisible,
and kilts an aa, tho the tartans wir just a blur,
and maybe a thistle or twae  –
and here wis Moira
wi her pure tones, parfait legato,
dingin the notes slap bang in the middle,
singin the sangs we hud learnt frae oor mithers,
the Auld Hoose, the Rowan Tree, Loch Lomond,
and she let us ken we wir Scottish
tho oot on the edge, ticht against the border,
faur frae the city – its smertness, sophistication –
that hud little time for us kintrae fowk.

Thir wis some that hud seen the queen,
the Liz-Queen, that wis croont in Westminster Abbey,
but Moira – you wir the Queen o Sang,
ye tendit the flame
the wee sperk that leapit intae a lowe
frae bits o kindlin – whitever wis lyin aboot –
and whit if it hud heather in it and tartan?
Ah’ll no say a word against it.
Here’s tae the memory! Here’s tae ye! Here’s tae it aa!



Love is the Way
by Gerard Rochford

Your body lives in every song,
half earth, half heaven,
half Brit Award, half kitchen sink.
Your voice could rouse
a dormouse, stir a nation.

You sing to lads and sing to lasses,
restate the once blurred truth
of Ae Fond Kiss, peering through
familiar glasses, mouthing
loss in meditation,
the grief it finds in joy, in bliss.

Kite your videos into space
to join the music of the spheres,
let aliens know there’s beauty here.
May faery magic and patient angels
guard your all-embracing heart.





Donald Adamson is a poet and translator, living in Scotland and Finland. He has won prizes in various poetry competitions including the Herald Millennium Competition (1999), the McCash Scots Poetry Competition (2014), the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Competition (2015) and the Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Competition (2016).  Collections include From Coiled Roots (2014 IDP) and Glamourie (2015 IDP), and he has also published translations of Finnish poet Eeva Kilpi (Arc 2014).




Gerard Rochford was  born  England, lived in Hong Kong for a time but has spent most of his life in Aberdeen. His collections include Failing Light (2010), Of Love and Water (2011), Morning Crossword (2013) and CAIRN (2016). Janice Galloway chose his poem My Father’s Hand for the SPL’s Best 20 Scottish Poems in 2006.




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Donald Adamson photo courtesy of Ulla Tiainen

WEEK FIFTY-FOUR – The Proclaimers/ Francie & Josie

>> The Proclaimers

Francie & Josie <<

proclaimers                    francieandjosie

Double acts are the staple of the entertainment industry, and this week we feature two very different exponents. Auchtermuchty duo The Proclaimers (twins Craig and Charlie Reid) first came to public attention after an appearance on 80’s pop show The Tube. They steadfastly refused to conform to music industry expectations by performing their jagged distillation of folk, country and soul in broad Scots accents, but it was their curious and slightly nerdy image that set them apart from their contemporaries. They continue to advocate Scottish independence and identity and have recorded ten albums and even spawned a hit musical (later a movie) Sunshine on Leith. They remain one of the best-loved Scottish musical icons of the late 20th/early 21st century. A very different kind of double act, Francie & Josie arose out of the variety circuit of the 1950s, featuring Jack Milroy and Rikki Fulton in the roles of glaikit Glaswegians of undetermined sexuality, forever on the lookout for ‘burrds’, announcing their arrival with their catchprase ‘Hallawrerr!’ before bursting into the inevitable silly, sentimental singalong. Their timeless, broad appeal was featured on television from the early 1960s until their final reunion appearance in 1996. Although the two double acts represent two different strands of Scottish entertainment culture – one subtly militant and nationalist, the other sweetly daft – both found a lasting place in public affections.

by Theresa Muñoz

(according to The Proclaimers’ songs)

A letter from America, ocean & railroad track,
a second chance, broken jaw, cigarettes
back of a bus, a slap in the puss,
cat that barks, a poor lonely heart
what it takes to be a man:
a king of the road, a drunk fighter
this man waking up next to you,
who passes every penny on to you
who would walk 1000 miles
in sorrow, sorrow.



Ye Dancin?
by Charlie Gracie

Barga, in summer sun, and I’ve polished up my Italian.
“Una birra alla spina, per favore.”
“That a pint or a hauf pint, pal?” A husky resonance of the Clyde.

She has old skin, but her eyes sparkle, soft and brown.
Her parents, refugees from dry Tuscan hills to the bright, damp hope of Troon.
She married a McLean, lost her Moscardini tag, but not her Moscardini heart.
Now, as generations of Bargagiani have swung back and forth,
no husband or bambini in Scotland any more,
she is a nonna here.

“Do you miss it?”
”I miss,” she takes her husband’s ghost in the pose, “a dance on a slidey floor,”
and turns, as light on her feet as she always was.
“The Gaiety, where I met my Bill.
He took me to Francie and Josie the very next week.
‘Ye dancin?’
‘Ye askin?’
‘Ah’m askin…’”
She laughs a long wheeze.
“Bill hated them. ‘A couple of eejits,’ he said.”

She grabs him again and spins off,
a waltz in dusty sunbeams.



Theresa Muñoz 
was born in Vancouver and now lives in Edinburgh. Her debut collection Settle was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize. She reviews books for the Herald and is Research Associate at the NCLA.



charlie-gracieCharlie Gracie’s first poetry collection, Good Morning, was published by diehard in September 2010. His work (poetry and short fiction) has been published in a number of journals and anthologies in Scotland. Alongside this, his poetry has featured in The Herald and the Irish surfing magazine Tontta. He is currently working on a second poetry collection.




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