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Other Voices

A long time ago in a haunted banqueting hall I promised Fay Roberts a poem. For those of you who don’t know who Fay Roberts is allow me to culturally enlighten you.  You see not only is Fay a valued mentor and friend, she also hosts Other Voices every year at the PBH free fringe and Other Voices which gives a platform to LGBT and other performers who are under represented on the bills on mainstream poetry nights is one of my favourite spoken word events not  just at the Edinburgh fringe but anywhere. So with this in mind  I made Fay a promise to write a poem to say in  my words what other voices means to me and I’m delighted to say that promise has now been honoured with this poem which strangely enough entitled Other Voices I hope you enjoy the read. 

Other Voices

Other voices 

far away from mainstream stages

come see us performing without fear 

poets who identify as LGBT 

some who proclaim boldly 

their queer or non binary status,

love us or hate us come and see us first 

before making your decision on how we should be perceived

we have stories to share with you

some of which you would never believe

listen to our words let us woo you 

with our tales of adventure, heartbreak, love, and lust 

place your trust in us to be your guides

in the majestic underground cave 

that is our spiritual home 

at this crazy time of year

come and see us perform without fear

far away from mainstream stages 

hear the sage advice that you will never give yourself  

it may even be good for your mental health 

and make you start a poetic journey of your own 

on the other hand you might just become 

a regular audience member 

we have no agenda except to entertain 

listen to us seduce  your ears with sentences 

rapped with rhyme and reason 

and delivered with the rhythm method 

we will pepper the air with salty phrases

if the need arises

 but should that be the case 

 it will be done with style 

we will make you think, cry and smile

 as we provide you with an hour of fun filled frivolity

in the banqueting hall of Madame Fay’s boudoir 

and when you see the brightest stars

the stars that  will dance but never lie 

when you are mesmerised by  them in an evening sky 

long after the show you came to see 

you will hear the cry of the banshee

and when you least expect it 

 you will remember us 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Day The Phoenix Rises 

This poem draws on the stories of my ancestors who told me about the importance of the phoenix in guarding the laws of Scotland and Ireland and the belief that our countries will finally be free of British rule on the day the phoenix rises. It is for that reason I have given it the title The Day The Phoenix Rises. I hope you enjoy the read. 
The Day The Phoenix Rises

Outsiders

we were scorned on arrival 

in a cold uncaring place 

the locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using lsnguage and religion as excuses to label us 

boasting of their achievements

as part of an empire

they were unaware their own culture was scorned 

Scots or Irish a Celt can never be 

reborn as a Brit

when they were told this 

the new order got angry 

they were beyond unhappy

when the Irish community formed a football club 

which would be open to those of  all faiths and none 

when trophies were won we were feared and hated 

the angry brigade felt threatened 

that their fragile identity had been questioned 

there were suggestions we should go home 

as those with blood on their hands

conveniently forgot  it was they 

who did the clearing 

which left us dispossessed 

the victims of cultural genocide

in the Celtic heartlands from which I am descended 

 I’ve always my blood is the blood of twin tribes 

both of which were marginalised 

the Irish  and the Islanders share 

a history of oppression

with stolen lands taken from the people 

and given to those who would obey colonial orders

without questioning why 

in Culloden and Atherny 

the pain lives on  in the lyrics of our songs

and the hearts of those who know 

the history the oppressers tried to ban 

along with our culture and traditions 

that however was a big mistake to make

in their determination to break us 

they inspired a spirit of resistance

they will not quell 

hell will freeze over before we ever accept 

the label outsiders 

It is not who we are nor will it ever be 

our freedom will come on the day the phoenix rises 

to take us home from the ashes of a ruined estate 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

When Cheeky Boys Met Karaoke Queens We Talked Of Childhood Days  And When We  Went To The Rock Jam Night We Knocked On Heaven’s Door 

​It seems slightly mad that my post on the June edition of Words And Music is being posted nearly a week after the July event  has taken  place. Note to self I really must stop misplacing my notebook .That said it  was with a sense of relief that the night actually went ahead.  I say this because the May edition of our event had to be cancelled as  your  host was unable to attend  due to a leg injury and not having a replacement compere on standby who could have stepped in to take over. Though not fully recovered from my setback I was in no doubt the show had to go on even if it meant taking a taxi to the venue and arriving before it had officially opened.  

There was at least one up side to my early arrival which was that I was there to welcome each and every guest as they arrived to play their part in the evening’s entertainment. This helped me to get myself in the mood for whatever the would bring and  as is always the case with any Words and Music event it would be what it would be and I for one was glad for whatever that was 

As I started I had some good news to share with the assembled company and that was that a team made at Words And Music and captained by yours truly  had won the Four Ages Slam which had been the only event I had attended in the  whole of May. Well as team captain I had not only to attend but lead by example and my teammates who were  our two previous featured writers for March and April Lesley Traynor and Angie Strachan were absolutely brilliant. This was of course exactly what you’d expect from two stalwarts of our club and shows the standard of featured writers I try to being to the club. 

Having performed my duties, I thought it was only fair to start the night with one of the poems I performed in our team’s set so I opened the night with Jewel Of The Clyde in which I take a reflective look to back to 1990 and Glasgow’s year as city of culture and examine the legacy it left it us both. culturally and politically.  

Having done my job and opened the night it was now time to crack on with the billed readers. First up was Derek Read and he had told me prior the event kicking off that he wanted to read what he teffered to as long poem which was written in memory of his former partner Gilbert particularly since this coincided with the anniversary of Gilbert’s death.  Unfortunately the occasion got a bit too much for Derek and he found himself too chocked with emotion to perform and asked if someone else could read it on his behalf.  Since I had met Gilbert on a few occasions I was more than happy to undertake the task of reading Luss Pilgrimage and I’m pleased to report that Derek thought I had performed it well. Derek then returned to the stage to read a short poem entitled Power before taking his seat to enjoy the rest of the evening. 

Next up was Susan Milligan who gave arguably her best performance so far at Words And Music with a themed set on friendship. Susan started  her set with a poem on friendship with in the family unit with a very moving poem entitled Absent Friends which was written in memory of her dad and youngest of her brothers who was her words taken far too early. She then moved on to her now customary song  giving us her rendition of the Andrew Gold hit from the late 1970’s Thank You For Being A Friend. 

As we thanked Susan for her contribution it was time to welcome another well kent face to entertain the gathering and that was Alex Frew who as is so often the case brought his own brand of mischief to proceedings. Alex started his set with a piece on Childhood Days though I’m not sure they any way resemble any childhood days I can ever recall. Alex than shared a song written by his friend Michelle who like Alex attends the South West Writers group. The song titled I Love Your Bum attracted more than a few chuckles and kinda made me think on The Cheeky Girls. Alex then concluded an entertaining set with what he calls his cycling songs Big Chunky Buttocks which I have to say has a very catchy chorus 

Next up was Alex’s partner in rhyme, crime, song, and lunacy , yes it was the other half of the Ayrshire version of the Cheeky Boys the one and only Andy Fleming. Andy performed three songs two of his own and one in tribute to a much loved late friend of our nights. Andy started his set with  Odin’s Dedication aka  There’s No Mention Of The Clitoris In The Bible and The Rock Jam which though not one of his  most sing a long songs is strangely enough a song I love singing along to and demonstrates his talent for writing brilliant and bitingly clever lyrics. Having treated us to two of his own catalogue Andy concluded his set with a song made famous by one of our former favourites Crispin Allen titled footprints On The Dashboard Upside Down .For those of a certain vintage and I mean that in Words And Music years it brought back more than a few memories of a consummate performer  from another consummate performer.  

As Andy rejoined the company it was Alan McGlas who led us to the bar break with  his story A Small Boy in which he recalls memories of his grandfather and why he seldom talked  about the war.  This  is a very moving story narrated with warmth, compassion, and dignity told in an authentic voice of which his grandad would be proud. 

After the bar break it was time for our featured writer and on this occasion the slot was filled by a Words And Music regular Pete Faulkner. Being a writer who is equally at home with poetry and prose I wondered what Pete would treat us to in his 20 minutes in the spotlight  

As it turned out Pete’s treat was to share a couple of chapters from his  novel in which the hapless  lead character a young English teacher Christopher Isherwood  is a facing a very stressful day at work and his journey to the school where he teaches makes a day which is already potentially fraught even worse as everything that can go wrong does so and that was just the start of the day from every young teacher’s hell 

On arrival at School the idealistic Isherwood would face an assessment from one of his harshest critics, who just happens to be head of department. As she sits in on his class she watches in despair as Christopher is continually interrupted by the class clown who interjects  with the comment ‘And what’s that got to do with the price of fish at every chance he gets and of course encouraged to do so by his peers who see this act as some sort of teenage rebellion and no doubt see themselves as very anti establishment in their actions. 

The fact that Christopher would in all probability as Pete hints but never states be a far better teacher for them if they had given him the chance to do his job is completely missed by his students who only seemed interested in what act of rebellion they could become known for.  

It hard not to feel at least some empathy for likable but hapless Christopher and I think the fact that Pete is a teacher by profession shows in the very real way he portrays his character complete with all the faults , flaws, and idiocincracies  which made him so authentic just the writer who created him. 

As Pete went back to his seat it was time for our featured musician to take stage and it was a pleasure to welcome Darryl Sperry (Pictured Below back to the Words And Music It was especially fitting that it was a pleasant evening in June when he made his return as it was exactly a year since he made his Words And Music debut as our first featured musician in our new venue.

(Picture 1 Darryl Sperry our featured musician)

Darryl started his set which was mainly comprised of his own songs with Seagull before to moving on to Me Myself And I. This was followed by I Don’t Wanna Be Everybody. This song illustrates the pressures of trying to be everything to everbody, pressures which I think are unfairly placed on so many people particularly the millennial generation. 

Darryl then moved on to  my favourite song of his set  The Sun Is Out Today. I love the fact that this song is so relaxing and the melodies are absolutely sublime. This is a top quality song from a top quality musician. Darryl concluded an excellent set which, showed why I booked him with an excellent version of the Bob Dylan classic Knocking On Heaven’s Door . Honestly this was an amazing set which was thoroughly enjoyed by the small but intimate crowd (well there were  only 9 of us in attendance and to those who haven’t seen yet , please rectify that  at your earliest convenient  opportunity I guarantee you’ll enjoy the  talent of one of the rising stars of the Scottish Indy music scene.  

At the end of Darryl’s set ànd with no-one else left to read it was up to me to bring the night to a conclusion. I did this by reading a set of four poems starting with Smelling The Roses in which I look inside the mind of a UKIP voter and reveal what I believe they are secretly thinking.  Well, I had to perform a political poem on this occasion. I had  no real choice to make ,especially as  it was only two days before the snap General Election Theresa  May had insisted on calling and I’m pleased to report that my satirical take on the kippers was very well received. 

From political comedy I moved on to more observational humour as read Lost The Plot which tells the story of a Glasgow girl’s Saturday Night at the dancing. This is one of my favourite  poems to perform and it always seems to get a good reaction. For my penultimate poem I paid a very personal tribute to former Words And Music stalwart  Ian Davison who died on Christmas Day with  my poem Glasgow Boy which was written in his memory. I finished my  set with one of my best known poems and one of the few I can perform  completely from memory or at least I can on most occasions  but this time I seemed to miss a verse of Karaoke Queen. The fact that nobody seemed to notice is neither here nor there . I noticed and me being the perfectionist I am I was somewhat less than pleased about it. Other than that I was happy enough with my performance on the other poems I read. 

As I made my way home I reflected that my little trip on my final poem should guard as a warning against complacency. However , all things considered it was an enjoyable night,  indeed you could say that when cheeky boys met karaoke  queens we talked of childhood days and when we  went to the rock jam night we knocked on heaven’s door.

Till next time 

Gayle X

Token Gesture

​I write this poem as a direct appeal to Facebook to retain the rainbow pride button they introduced for Pride Month. I do this in the spirit of friendship and equality and to remind them that though the pride season may be at an end in the USA that is not the case in the UK or in many other countries in the world where many important pride marches have still to take place during the summer months. There are and it has to be said many sceptics within the LGBTIQ community who believe that the rainbow button was only a token gesture used to generate good PR for the social media site. I however am prepared to offer the hand of friendship and give the organisation the chance to show it more rainbow friendly than some people think, and hopefully they may yet prove me right. I have given the poem the title Token Gesture due not only to how the removal of the rainbow button may be perceived but also due to the fact that there are still some people who believe that token gestures are good enough to satisfy a community which is larger and more diverse than they think and that we will be happy to be tolerated whether we are accepted or not. Well  I’m here to tell these deluded and ill informed souls that is not and will never be the case.  I hope you enjoy the read. 

Token Gesture 

As  a token gesture 

we are given  a rainbow button on social media sites 

I ask myself does it give us the right 

to express ourselves with pride 

fight for equality during pride month

surely that can’t be right 

or is it simply a sign that the ultra conservative right 

who champion traditional values

 will tolerate our existence 

on the grounds they can’t wish us away 

there are those among us who are nervous of anyone who is 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, 

or anywhere else on the spectrum 

they are still apprehensive 

when they see us holding hands , kissing, 

or daring to show any public display of affection 

and believe me they are more numerous than you would like to think 

the boys wear blue and girls wear pink brigade 

still use God to excuse their views on equal marriage 

personally as a Christian I find that so 19th century 

what don’t they get about the fact that the world has moved on 

and so has the church 

I remember a colleague commenting on the length of my skirt 

I replied that I didn’t come to work to flirt 

I go to the dancing for that 

and anyway there wasn’t any man in the office 

 I found attractive enough to waste my lippy on 

but men might look at you she claimed

honestly she should have been ashamed 

to even suggest that anyone would be so unprofessional 

as to look at me in that kind of way

when I was only doing my day job 

but this is this kind of thing I had to face

disgraceful yes , but not surprising 

when you consider the attitudes which are out there in wider community 

some of them are a cross between mythology and lunacy 

are usually grounded on hand me opinions 

from tabloid and television screens

where reality is lived through soaps and the six o clock news 

which many take as fact without ever questioning why 

meanwhile we watch as equality dies 

and we travel back in time to a past 

when life was colder and crueller 

and those considered different are labelled by triangles 

as one by one colours are removed from the rainbow 

and tolerance replaces acceptance

as the new normality 

and those who can will control the buttons 

we no longer are able to push. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Founders Of The Feast 

On a lovely summer Saturday it was my privilege to, attend a poetry themed barbecue in honour of the world’s worst  poet otherwise known as William Topaz McGonagall. This annual event now in its 12th year is hosted by my good friends Colin and Irene Storrie who every year open their hearts and open their home for a fantastic day of poetry, music, and friendship where having celebrated the best poet in the world at our Burns Suppers in January we can focus on commemorating the self styled worst poet in the world who even on our worst days can make every one us look like a genius. That’s why I dedicate this year’s McGonagall poem to them. I’ve given it the title Founders Of The Feast I hope  you enjoy the read.  

Founders Of The Feast 

​It is one of my favourite my summer traditions 

In the land we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain 

as we gather together the many and not the few 

to have good food and companionship 

and enjoy a very sociable barbecue

   
It is always great fun, but I cannot deny 

that sometimes it is not just the food which will be grilled or fried 

as the natives of our land have a tendency get very badly burned 

when we see that big yellow object 

which is know by  metrologists and weather forecasters as the sun 

 This is however, not something about which we should complaining

as in Scotland and the United Kingdom Of Great Britain 

the weather has a nasty habit of raining 

If this is the Almighty’s idea of a summer joke 

I do not find it funny as many of out citizens 

could get caught in a downpour and end up getting soaked. 

This I fear would not be very good 

however I hope it would not spoil their day or stop them enjoying their food 

for that would be a very great shame 

especially at the poets barbecue 

which every year since 2006 

has been held to celebrate the honour of my name. 

This barbecue is not held in the Magdalene Green or the fair city of Dundee

Nor even in Edinburgh the city that gave birth to the poetic genius I was born to be 

it takes place in the heart of Glasgow’s East End 

and founded by most uniquely talented collection of friends

it is however to the founders of the feast 

I must now proclaim my gratitude

though I have heard said they prefer good companions

 to a diet of well meant  platitudes 

but alas as the my story has now reached it’s end 

I ask you to raise your glasses 

and toast, Irene , Colin, and the company of  friends.  

© Gayle Smith 2017 

When Women Of A Certain Age Decide To Get Fierce The Golden Girls Can Really Rock The Mic. 

​Due to an unforseen accident in the last Wednesday of April, It’s fair to  say that May was a quieter month than usual in my poetry calendar. Indeed I had to postpone my own event due to a badly sprdined ankle.

This meant  there was no Words And Music at the Tin Hut on the first Tuesday of the month. I also missed cracking nights at Fail Better, Extra Second,  Express Yourself, and Last Monday At  Waterstones. In fact the only event I made in the whole of May was on the second Sunday of the month when I captained the over 40’s team in the four  ages slam at the Tron Theatre 

 This was an afternoon which I simply had to attend comes as 0ou I was  chosen by the host and organiser of the event Robin Cairns to captain the team for my spoken word demographic but also the fact that it was my first journey outside Baillieston since injuring my ankle at the tail end of last month Since I was still a bit shaky in the terms of my movement I got taxi’s to and from the venue well it made more sense than going for a bus and potentially making things worse. 

Having been made captain, I had to select my team for the events in which we would be doing battle with the teams representing teenagers twenty something’s and thirty something’s and with an emvarrasnent of  riches to choose from I made a few tentative enquires as to who may or may not be available for selection. Eventually I settled on my choices and in Angela Strachan and Lesley Traynor I knew I had chosen well, whether we would would be able to take on and beat the other teams would be as it is in all slams in the lap of the gods, the aududnce, and the judges.

I arrived early for the big event and was quickly joined by rival team captain and close friend Victoria McNulty who since she was taking a social media break had not heard of my recent accident. As we chatted I told her that this was only the second time I’d left the house since it happened and the other occasion was to cast my vote in the local elections. Eventually I was was joined by my team mates and other competitors including fellow team captains Carla Woodburn , Matt MacDonald. As kick off time drew ever closer we went through to the Victorian Bar took our seats on the stage and waited for the battle to  begin. The rules of the competition were simple all poets would perform twice in a round robin fashion and the two highest scoring teams after the two rounds  would progress through to the final to compete for the title of the Four Ages Slam Champions 

After the prelimaries like deciding  on team names and  the running order,  we were treated to a sacrificial poem from one of our judges Brighton based poet Deborah Martin. Sacrifice made It was time to start the competition and it  was the Young Team who were first to the mic as Aidan Rivett opened the slam with his take on Karaoke.One by one the  poets made our way to the mic when it came to our turn to put our first poem out there I decided to take a captain’s responsibility and lead from the front as I performed Jewel Of The Clyde in which I looked back the impact of Glasgow’s year as city of culture on both the politics and culture of our cityThis being my first ever team slam though I have competed in and judged individual ones, I was understandably nervous as I didn’t want to let Angela or Lesley down so I was glad to get it out of the way and get back to my seat. 

On a day when we played to what was a predominantly non poetry audience who had paid £7 for the privilege of seeing us I think we saw the poetry community at it’s best and those gathered  heard poems on a wide range of topic including domestic violence ( Victoria McNulty) family from both (Adam V Cheshire and Moki , male anger Loki, Sex and taming the bad guy Lesley Traynor with her hilarious take on the big bad wolf, nightclubs, me (lost the plot,) and Aidan Rivett , facebook friendships, Jess Smith , shopping and the perils of giving up  smoking (Angela Strachan) and the dangers of swallowing spiders  from Carla Woodburn. 

At the end of the second round of  poems it was four quality teams who waited for their fate to be decided by the judges two of whom would be judging every poem but the third judge was a different story as this was a different member of the audience for every poem and I must admit I rather liked the idea of what I call poetry democracy in action.

As we waited for the judges decisions I talked tactics with my team to decide what poems to perform if we made it through and also I had to consider who would be placed where in the running order. I took a captain’s decision that should we get through I would be going first , Lesley would follow me and Angela, would be our final poet standing. Eventually , the judges made their decision and we had qualified for the final where we would pit our wits against the young team. It was set up as the classic final a battle of youth against experience. 

Having lost the toss it was the young team who went up first then it was my turn to step up to the mic and I performed one of the few poems I know well enough not to need a paper copy or my phone  and when Karaoke Queen got a maximum score of 10 from the audience member I knew I had played my part to the best of my ability. 

One by one we took our turn at the mic and when Lesley performed her poem my sister sleeps I thought we had grounds for optimism and then finally it was Angela who went all out for glory to prove that the so-called oldies can be Goldie’s and believe me The Queen Of Modern Suburbia didn’t let us down.Now having done all we could do it was two nervous teams who awaited the decision of the judges 

Eventually, they made their call and much to my delight they called it for us. The wise ones had  won the day and our all female team had proven that when Women of a certain age decide to get fierce the golden girls can really rock the mic. 

Till next time 

Gayle X