WEEK FORTY-SEVEN – Emeli Sandé/ Susan Boyle

>> Emeli Sandé

Susan Boyle <<

emeli-sande                                  susanboyle

Two distinctive Scottish voices feature in this week’s pairing, both embarking on their journeys to stardom in 2008-9 before establishing successful professional careers. It is the route they took, however, which provides the clearest contrast; Emeli Sandé grew up in Scotland and part of her family hail from Zambia. She worked hard for several years on the fringes of the UK music scene, collaborating with other acts on moderately successful chart records and playing live in front of small crowds before eventually coming to the attention of major record labels. Her first solo single in 2011 was followed by a smash LP the following year, and her distinctive soprano voice is now familiar across the UK and beyond. Taking a different approach was West Lothian-born Susan Boyle, who applied for the Britain’s Got Talent TV contest, appearing on the show in 2009 to general astonishment. Initially sneered at by the audience for her unprepossessing appearance at her televised audition and subsequently picked to pieces by the media for her humble background, she was blessed with a rich and expressive mezzo-soprano voice which stopped people in their tracks. Although she didn’t win the contest, she soon became established as a major recording star and one of the most unlikely success stories in British popular music of recent years, selling tens of millions of records. Both artists possess singular voices and occupy a profitable space in the UK music scene, but they represent two different paths to stardom. Whether through hard graft or by the waving of the media’s magic wand, talent will find a way to express itself.

by Janet Paisley

It is light, and the lightness
of air, the flow of breath,
a throat full of bright vowels
that lift, and rise, and raise

in a tumble of words
rolling out on a tide
from beaches of granite,
the swell breaching rock.

It is the salt in a wound
healing as it hurts,
the sound of a woman
creating her landscape,

coursing from crag to corrie,
as water falls over stone.
Even as clouds gather,
glower, there is lightning,

skies torn apart, thundering,
there will be light, and lightness.
There are rhythms in rain, of storms,
grace in green notes, a flowering.

There is wonder, in living,
in darkness, and in the light of it,
breaking, there will be song.


Susan Magdalene
by Valerie Thornton

I see the snarling brats
taunting you, burning
your clothes, chasing
you home from school
every miserable day.

Mine kicked wide
my toilet door, clawed
me for being clever
and, once, crushed dog-
shit into my face.

I see your bullies now
have peroxide teeth and
pound-signs in their eyes.
They pluck out your eye-
brows, fake your nails,

primp your hair and teach
you to deride yourself.
They stalk you, lapping up
footage of your anguish,
your endless fear of failing.

When I was twelve,
my bullies melted
to another school.
I heard that no good
came to them, poor kids.

I wish that I could sing
like you, into the heart
of every wounded child
before they need to hurt.
I wish that I could sing

like you, for you,
to soothe your pain
and calm your fears,
and show you that
tomorrow’s looking bright.



janet-paisley-2013Janet Paisley is an award-winning Scottish poet, playwright, author, script and screen writer, writing in English and Scots. Her work is published internationally, and has been translated into fifteen languages. It includes five works of historical and contemporary fiction and seven collections of poetry, the latest of which is Sang fur the Wandert (Luath Press).



Valerie Thornton has published two collection of poems, Catacoustics, and If Only Coll Were Two Floors Down (both Mariscat Press). Many more of her poems and short stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies over the last 40 years. She has also published three creative writing textbooks with Hodder Educational and worked with the Royal Literary Fund since 2001. In 2012, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, in recognition of both her writing and her educational work.




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