WEEK ONE – Burns Night/Up-Helly-Aa

>> Burns Night

Up-Helly-Aa <<

Burns-Night-2013-016                             up-helly-aa


To launch Scotia Extremis we chose two topical themes: Burns Night, celebrated on the bard’s birthday 25th of January; and the Shetland festival of Up-HellyAa, which this year falls on January 26th. This pairing reflects two very different types of festival; on the one hand, a commemoration of the radical social commentary and beguiling love poetry of Robert Burns, seen by many as the epitome of Scots culture; on the other, a Norse-flavoured pagan festival  full of drama and fire, so far-removed from Burns’s lowland Scotland as to be almost another country.


To a Burns Night

by Ryan Van Winkle


Some have meat
and some have friends to gather

close some nights, hot
in those cold places so often

between us — my how you whistle & slope
and make welcome in our gory bed

then the plough drones sleek
or bomb like a barrel

so what, we tae a moose,
we wee timorous beasties

so what, I am sorry, night
and I am sorry Burns

that we’ve not done more
with that space between us

we may sing with the wind
at our backs, and growl

when rain has teeth
the price of meat

keeps rising — like blood
to stiffen our resolve

to thank
for what we have.




Up-Helly-Aa 2012

by Roseanne Watt


Da live webcast plays
on da lowest bandwidth
until da piktur

an I’m left stoorin
hit clesters o azin pixels
lik lowsin burns
wenglin intae a skrotti voe
i da hert-holl o da screen.

I wait a start.
Somewhaar i da tenement
kums da hushie-baa
o a cistern. Sirens gowl
ootside. A fozie mön
glinders ower da city’s
scordet skin.

Da peerie buffer wheel
keeps spinnin.

Da mirknin sinks
hits yackels i da room.
I dis dim, da screen faas a hert-stane,
a cassen glöd.






The live webcast plays
on the lowest bandwidth
until the picture

and I’m left staring
at messes of blazing pixels
like bright burns
twisting and turning into a red-orange sea-loch
in the middle of the screen.

I wait a moment.
Somewhere in the tenement
comes the lullaby
of a cistern. Sirens howl
outside. A soft and sapless moon
peers through half-shut eyes over the city’s
cracked skin.

The little buffer wheel
keeps spinning.

The darkness sinks
its teeth into the room.
In this dusk, the screen becomes a hearth,
a sullied, decaying glow.



Ryan Van WinkleRyan Van Winkle is a poet, live artist, podcaster and critic living in Edinburgh. His second collection, The Good Dark, won the Saltire Society’s 2015 Poetry Book of the Year award.

His poems have appeared in New Writing Scotland, The Prairie Schooner and The American Poetry Review.

As a member of Highlight Arts he has organized festivals and translation workshops in Syria, Pakistan and Iraq. He was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship in 2012 and a residency at The Studios of Key West in 2015. Find his website at www.ryanvanwinkle.com


Roseanne Watt is a poet and filmmaker from the Shetland Isles, currently based in roseanne wattEdinburgh. She is in her second year of research for an AHRC funded project, titled ‘Aa My Mindin’, at the University of Stirling, which involves the creation of a series of filmpoems and film-portraits investigating the cultural memory of her home islands. Outside of academia, Roseanne is poetry editor for the online literary magazine The Island Review, and one half of Edinburgh-based band Wulver.​



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