Favourite Poems Are A Matter Of Taste And Very Personal Choices

Hey everyone Last Thursday being the first Thursday in October was National Poetry Day where a nation however you define it, remembers and celebrates the importance of this craft to our cultural, social, political heritage.

This time last year I wrote a post on the poets who had influenced both myself and my friends. This year I decided to go down a different road, as I have over the course of a good wee while asked my friends what is there favourite poem of mine and also why they like it.

My reason for doing this can be seen in the words of Robert Burns. It really was about seeing ourselves as others see us because the one thing I know is that if you ask a group of friends this question they will in the main come up with a variety of different answers, thus proving that no two people will see you in exactly the same way.

Having said that however one poem which did get a lot of mentions was The Lemon Dress. This poem about growing up with a secret was a favourite of such well respected poets as the Edinburgh based force of nature Kevin Cadwallender who described it as brilliant. Former federation of writers makar A C Clarke and 2013 Words And Music Open Poetry Champion Stephen Watt. It was also well received by Jacqui Connolly, Caron Lindsay who published it in Scottish Round Up, Monica Pitman, Kirsty Lowndes, and the only poet in the whole of planet poetry whose shows I insist I must see twice at the Edinburgh fringe, our very own wonder woman Sophia Blackwell. All those I’ve mentioned say it’s the honesty of the poem which they really like and believe me it’s a poem which comes straight from the heart.

Talented young traditional musician Laura Wilkie selected Mother Hen as her favourite poem of mine, saying that this poem sums me up perfectly. I think she may be right as I do have a tendency to fuss over my younger female friends. I think that’s what comes of not having a daughter of my own.

Also from the traditional music community Daniel Hunter liked Letterkenny Memories which is one of the most open and honest poems I will ever write on the subject of my diverse and complicated family. This poem also gained favourable comments from another musician of considerable talent in Bob Leslie. Indeed Bob said that the line “A sash that his father never wore” was a biting comment on those who look for identity anywhere but in their own back yard and believe me it’s hard to disagree.

Another to give voice to her opinion was Maureen Fairgrieve who said she really enjoyed Standing In The Shadows. Explaining the reason behind her choice she said that ‘it is a real challenge to readers who stay in the shadows to step out in to the light supported by real friends’. This view was backed up by Ann Kennedy who also selected this poem and said that she loved it.

Stuffed Tiger Blues was the surprise choice of Jenni Pascoe who hosts the ever enjoyable Jibba Jabba at which I had the pleasure of appearing at this year’s Edinburgh festival fringe.
Jenni went on to make a very interesting point with which I entirely agree saying that it was really difficult to choose as some were technically better as poems but others had a really strong message. Eventually however she chose Stuffed Tiger Blues because she really loves tigers. This choice should please Linda Grant who shares her love of tigers and Stephen Watt who suggested the theme when I set friends the challenge of selecting a topic for me to write on

Another to add her voice to this blog is my friend and stylist Mandy Lochrie whose choice of I’m Just A Girl Who Can Say No reflects her political vision for Scotland and the things she doesn’t want to be a part of it. This choice surprised and delighted me as it was the last political poem I wrote before the independence referendum and a poet to which Mandy she can completely relate. This illustrates that Mandy has a vision for our nation which is very similar to mine.

Someone else with a shared political vision is my friend and fellow performance poet John McGlade. His choice of I Speak For Scotland in which I lampoon the leader of the Better Together campaign Alastair Darling shows his appreciation of satire an art at which he is a master. John is not only a gifted poet he is also comedy script writer and cartoonist so this is a subject he knows well. Therefore to gain credit from him on one of most satirical pieces of work is I believe very high praise indeed.

Politics also featured in Jim Monaghan’s choice. As Jim is a principled man of the left it should not be too much a shock that he selected Champagne Socialist a poem he described as my best argument for yes in the course of the entire referendum campaign. Jim justified his choice by saying that the reason he liked it so much was that it put forward the case for a yes vote without mentioning independence, Alex Salmond, or the SNP yet was able to demonstrate exactly why we needed it.

Michael McLaughlan was another poetic voice to add his voice to the debate describing his choice Alternative Tomorrow’s as fantastic. This should bring a smile to the woman who inspired it Glasgow Labour Councillor Aileen Colleran.

As I said earlier Monica Pitman said she liked The Lemon Dress however she was also fulsome in her praise of My Glasgow a poem for my native city, a city I love despite or maybe even because of some of it’s faults and flaws. In fact Monica said it was leaked straight from a Glaswegian’s heart and she loved the fact she didn’t need to wear heels to stand tall.

This view was also shared by poet and storyteller Stephanie McGregor who said she loved this poem as her dad was from Glasgow, and it’s a place she is very find of. Heather Caldwell also liked this poem saying that she loved the symbolism I attribute to our old city. I am of course glad to be of service

It isn’t often an Edinburgh poet sings the praises of Glasgow but Pauline Brightwell Chumbley did just that informing that me this certainly pulled on her heartstrings, as it was a great mix of nostalgia and hope for the future. Indeed she went to say the auld bitch isnae deid yet and you know what, I think she might be right.

The Voice Of Number 10 was the choice of both political activist Douglas MacLean and a fellow poet and former Bards in the Park regular Sandra Lang. It seemed that my personal take on the death of Mrs Thatcher went down rather well among those of a left wing disposition. Indeed Sandra said she loved the poem, shared it to her Facebook.

Mark Niel who is the official poet laureate of Milton Keynes said that after having a half dozen the two he enjoyed most were Blood on the Stars which was written to commemorate World Aids Day and The Last Cup of Coffee in which the title is used to illustrate the end of the festive season and the return to the routine of everyday reality.

Mark may have picked a couple of my more serious efforts. However someone who has known me a wee bit longer is blogger, tweeter, teacher, and long term inhabitant of my virtual village Louise Anne Geddes. Louise-Anne also selected two poems though in her case both were of the more humorous variety which my younger female friends can relate to. On Happy Endings she said it very much appealed to her sense of humour, and the same with her other choice Tears of a Style Queen she said that having never been a skinny girl, the ending made her chuckle in an evil manner. This I think shows my inner bitch and anyone who is daft enough to cross my inner bitch does so at their own very considerable risk.

As many of you know I have a very strong affection for Edinburgh and despite the fact our capital city committed what was in my eyes a capital crime by voting no in the referendum I still do. One of the reasons for that is the quality of its poets and believe me I know I’ve written a good poem when I’ve impressed an Edinburgh poet and especially a poet of the calibre of Matt MacDonald who is in my opinion one of the rising stars in Scottish poetry. Matt’s choice of my Pro Independence poem The Quilt delighted me as it is a poem in which I acknowledge the importance of the union in our country’s history whilst wishing to move on to a new start and to a better relationship with our neighbours. In his comments Matt said the central image was a beautiful one which I handled really well. Coming from a poet of his calibre this is indeed a fantastic compliment.

It perhaps no surprise that Linda McGarrigle daughter of the late John McGarrigle said she couldn’t dream up a better title The Night The Stars Refused To Dance which was my title for my memorial poem for those killed in the Clutha helicopter crash which included her father who was someone I liked and respected both as a poet and more importantly as a man.

Someone else for whom I have a very great respect is former makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland Sheila Templeton whose choice of A Single Girl On Valentine’s Night was also amongst the favourites of a certain Kirsty Lowndes who is a massive fan of my trans related poems. Sheila said that it was as if the woman in the poem was getting dressed like a lady of the night. I’m not sure about that but I do think she was illustrating that a girl has to ready for love be it on valentine’s night or any other night and that she was a woman who was comfortable with her sexuality and was at ease with herself.

Talking of Makars current Federation Maker Ann Connolly selected Twenty Four Romanians as her favourite poem as it contains a powerful message against stereotyping immigrants. This is a view which was also shared by another poet my friend and chosen sister Catherine Baird.

Heather Caldwell selected I’m. Part of a Team Not Team GB which was also a favourite one of our Words and Music regulars Lesley MacKay. Heather said that she really loved this poem, in part because I heard me deliver it myself and because in her words It’s catchy and clever. She went on to say that It has stayed with her and still brings a smile when she remembers it.

On a different topic completely blogger Lisa Marie Ferla selected A Trans Daughter Remembers Her Mother which I wrote for World Transgender Day about my loving but complicated relationship with my mother. Lisa Marie described the poem as really powerful stuff ; really moving. She even went as far as to say she thinks i’ve found the perfect art form to tell my story. This was also the selection in as far as he was willing to make one of my friend and mentor Derek Read who echoed Lisa’s sentiments on the power of the poem. This was also another one on Lesley’s list as she says it demonstrated the bond between myself and my mum may have been stronger than either of us cared to admit.

My friend and fellow member of the SNP Margaret McLaren McCabe selected one of my favourite political poems Tights Before Trident which she inspired me to write saying that she loved it as it spoke to her both as a Nationalist and a feminist. Whilst fellow blogger Elaine Livingstone selected my comedy poem Happy Family which I wrote about what would be the world’s most dysfunctional family.

Sophia Blackwell who it has to be said is one of my favourite poets took me back to my adolescence for her second choice poem Jackie Girl. This is a poem which has a very personal resonance for me as it was the poem I read to my gender specialist to let him know I was transsexual and on hearing it he said that there could be no doubting I was female as even gay guys who read their sister’s copy every week could not have gone in to so much detail as there are some things only a woman can know.

Still on the topic of my formative years, American poet Arielle Dale Karro selected White Tights and Mini Skirts and told me that it was a poem with which every woman could identify. Speaking as a transwoman I have to say this really pleased me. Well it shows that the reason transwoman know we’re really woman is because we understand the little thing that matter to us.

I think this is also true of poets because if I have learned one thing through writing this post it is that favourite poems are a matter of taste and very personal choices. Indeed they often reveal more about those making the selection than they do about the poet.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X


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