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Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry – Scottish Review of Books
by SRB

Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry

November 11, 2014 | by SRB

The Work

Niall Campbell

If I have to, then let me be the whaler poet,

launcher of the knife, portioning off

the pink cut, salt trim and fat, tipping

the larger waste off the side of the boat,

and then to have the poem in the drawer;

or, perhaps, let it be the poet nurse,

hearts measured by a small watch, balmer,

washer of old skin, stopping by the door

in the night –

       or the oil-driller poet, primed

for the buried flame and heat, lips to the black,

aware how the oilfields in the evening

are lit like our own staggered desks.

Or, the horse-trader or the smith, or the waiter poet

offering the choice wine, polishing to the light,

the bringer of the feast and the bill.


Bad moon

Claire Askew

The moon must be sick of being in poems –
always gripped by fingers of late honeysuckle,
always filtered in the lake through the jetty’s slats,
always silvering the flicked tails of the koi.
Always a dinner plate or mirror,
always a fingernail clipping, a grin.

The moon must be sick of being in poems.
Always the bright pin in the picture’s corner,
always looking in at the windows of middle class homes.
Always shoved above a bridge in Paris or Venice,
always an eyeball or symbol,
always a radiant woman, a bowl.

It’s also in the splintered windscreen of the crime scene
with its blots of blood. It’s hung over the pig farm,
streaking white across the silo’s cheek
and slanting through the lorry walls in blades.
It’s in every dented can at the landfill pit,
turning the tip to a shoal of dirty fish.

Never the buried skull,
never the gummed plug in the junkie’s sink.
Never the white cat under the truck’s wheel,
never the beached and stinking jellyfish.
Never the gallstone or the pulled tooth, of course.
Nobody wants to read poems about this.


Waiting for Connection

Angela Cleland

I can see it in the air outside, glowing

towers of data, unenterable, unscalable,

a red ghost metropolis risen up

from the frog quat houses of the suburbs;

stacked to vanishing point, translucent

rooms full of translucent boxes; air

chirruping with information

– I could scoop it hand-over-hand into my mouth,

stick my face in it, holding my eyes

open beneath the surface, roll in it

until my clothes cling to me obscenely.

Its neon walls flyzap possibilities –

to walk down the street, to leave the house –

and anyway all the libraries are shut,

the shops are shut, the houses are shut

and every lit window in their red brick fronts

is a taunting monitor – IKEA, Facebook,

Twitter, IWOOT, Wikipedia,

Amazon, Google, Google, Google…

I need connection, I need stuff

and I need it delivered by 9 a.m.

My fingers, oh my fingers are slivered,

my fingers are slivered by catalogue pages,

my mind by the edge of the dead voice

that apologises over and over for the wait.


Wild Poppies

Marion McCready

And how do you survive? Your long-throat,

your red-rag-to-a-bull head?

You rise heavy in the night, stars drinking

from your poppy neck.

Your henna silks serenade me

under the breadth of the Pyrenees.

You move like an opera,

open like sea anemones.

You are earth’s first blood.

How the birds love you.

I envy your lipstick dress.

You are urgent as airmail, animal-red,

Ash Wednesday crosses tattooed to your head.

Your butterfly breath

releases your scents, your secrets,

bees blackening your mouth

as your dirty red laundry

all hangs out.


Google Page Twenty

Theresa Muñoz

Poor Google page twenty adrift in the internet desert

nobody comes to click on you witness your existence barely I

in my third hour of searching for ice wines in the valleys

of British Columbia you are the product of selected words

wine / winter / BC and the frustrated insistence of return, return

every topic and / or search terms has a Google page twenty:

the straight-backed Ariel font, the calm blue letters

the delicate coded strings of jargon and the ever so polite

Did you mean? above the net of stories from around the world: 

how in Germany one vintner mourns his unfrozen grapes

with a picture of farmers knelt in the snow beside their vines

and me in the study bleary-eyed at 3am GMT

unable to stop clicking, clicking where outside the long grass

shivers and I click alone but not as lonely as you.

On Fancying American Film Stars

Miriam Gamble

From the big screen, and larger than life for a week or two,

which is all a tangent universe can stand,

we take them home and introduce them to our modest

living quarters.

Their baby blues stare out at us at all hours of the day and


prompting every manner of ridiculous thought, such as:

‘The world is small’; or ‘What if Elvis could have taken to my


‘I will ride across the desert on a purple roan, or some such,

for anything is possible’; and even that old chestnut,

‘There is only one for everyone alive.’ The cat mewls

at its perpetually empty bowl, the work piles up on the desk,

but we simply say, with a new-found recklessness:

‘This is not the most important thing in my life right now’;

‘you’re a predator, catch your own’. We exist

in the bubble of our making, our souls glistening like


by turns rock bottom and on fire. What causes it to


Who can know, but one day we double-take to find ourselves

filing them away in the rack of lost hopes

with the show-jumping videos and ‘twelve easy tunes for

classical guitar’,

the cat purring as it settles on the easy chair, as if to say

‘What then, what then’, the sky sucking back its thunder-


and storm winds, saving only one small cloud, which loiters


putty grey, shedding rain like tiny lead balloons

on the pristine terraces. And somewhere else a universe


The poems are taken from Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry, 

edited by Colin Waters 


(Vagabond Voices, £11.95)

From this Issue

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by Zoë Strachan

Adios España

by Jamie Maxwell

The Sins of the Father

by Joseph Farrell

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