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The Raffle

This poem pays tribute to an annual event which is part of Words And Music  history and only takes place at the first meeting of the year. I refer of course to our annual New Year’s Raffle which has been organised for many years by our founding mother Pamela Duncan. I have given it the title The Raffle I hope you enjoy the read. 

This picture shows Our Founding Mother conducts the draw for the 2018 Words And Music raffle abley assisted by poet and writer Peter Clive who was making his debut at the event last night.  

The Raffle. 
It’s part of our tradition 

I can’t remember when it started 

but I do know who started it 

our founding mother Pamela came up with the idea 

to get rid of Christmas presents 

that were surplus to requirements 

well what’s unwanted by you 

may be desired by someone else

 DVD’s, books, jumpers, tops,  beauty sets,  

and the obligatory mince pies,  chocolates, and alcohol 

were on offer last night 

or have been in previous years 

depending on when your number came up

at least this time with so many donations 

 no-one was unlucky and left empty handed 

you have to understand that for seasoned veterans among us 

this wasn’t always the case 

the look on Andy’s face when he left with three prizes was priceless

compensation for all those years of winning nothing but sympathy 

there are in jokes in these lines 

only the long standing regulars will get 

though last night a few more were inducted in to the tradition  

which was, is, and ever shall be the words and music raffle

where your entry fee is paid 

by a poem, song or story. 

© Gayle Smith 2018 

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When A Jumped Up Proletarian Meets A Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive We’ll All Find A Space For Reflections When Dreams Come Hame To Bide 

Before I could focus on our traditional Christmas Cracker (It happened last night and the story will be told later) I firstly had look back on the events of a November which showed in many ways what the real spirit of a Words And Music night is all about. This was a night that had a little bit of everything. It was both entertaining and thought provoking with equal measures of humour and the sensible stuff thrown in to create a winning recipe for an enjoyable evening of entertainment as only we know how.

Being November there were nods, as expected to Halloween, Bonfire Night, and the upcoming Remembrance commemorations in the work of some performers and it was with remembrance very much on my mind that I kicked off the night with a written by the man who introduced me to Words And Music the one and only Jim Craig. 

Jim as some of you will no doubt know was a former serving soldier in the second battalion the parachute regiment and on release this fiercely proud Scot wrote some of the anti war poetry I have ever heard. So it was in memory of one of the true Words And Music legends I started the night with his poem  The Last Post which he wrote in the form of a soldier’s letter to his mother.

Having kicked off the night in my usual fashion I called Angie Strachan to be the first of the billed readers to bring fireworks to  the Words And Music stage and believe me she didn’t disappoint. Angie kicked off her set with Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 8 in Scots, before moving on to the brilliantly titled To all the pyjamas I’ve loved before. Weans, Dear BBC Weather, which was both topical and hilliarous and concluding a wonderful set with Negativity Bias which privided a very witty insight as to how people with mental health issues can often fear the worst in many different situations. This was a cracking way to end an amazing set which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who heard it.

As Angie went back to her seat it was the turn of Steve Allan to entertain the company and this month he did so by reminding us that train journies can be both stressful and hazardous especially when we have no control over who sits beside us. In his story entitled Reflections Steve recalled a particularly troublesome journey when his peace and quiet was interrupted by two pasengers who insisted boring the life out of him with every little detail of their day and relentlessly slaughtered a colleague who it is safe to say wasn’t within listening distance of their conversation. By the end of his journey Steve had not only been traumatised to within an inch of his sanity he had also reached the conclusion that the college these two fools were demonising was probably a really decent guy. It is my opinion that a story is only as good the writer who brings it to life and Steve Allen brought this story to live so vividly I actually believed I was on the journey with him. 

After two performers who are both well known faces to the gathering it was time to welcome a newcomer to make his debut on the Words and Music stage. I first met Ronan Doran at those fabulous Blue Chair Wednesday nights which were for so long a part of my life throughout 2015 and 20216 and it’s no secret I’ve wanted him to come to this event so naturally I was delighted to see him take up his invitation and make his long awaited debut and follow in the footsteps of fellow Blue Chair family such as Kirsty Nicholson, A R Crow , Molly McLachlan, and Caitlin Buchanan who made one of the outstanding debuts I have ever seen from a featured musican in all my years at Words And Music 

On an evening when he could got away with doing more than he did Ronan performed only one song Roll On Yesterday which he told us was about a trip to the East Antrim coast. I must admit I’ve always enjoyed Ronan’s relaxed style of delivery and after this brief glimpse in to his repitoire I’m sure he’ll have gained a few new fans and we’ll see a lot more often in the months and years to come. 

Next up was Susan Milligan who read two very thought provoking pieces Modern Gods which was amusing and at times cutting take on the topic of celebrity culture and What Will It Take which looked at the state of the world as we know it as she pondered what will it take to bring the changes she wants to see as a legacy for her nieces and nephews. As tradition dictates Susan ended what I consider to be her best set yet with a song which in this case was Blue Moon and provided a fitting climax to a top quality performance in both content and delivery.  

Next up to the stage was one of the best poets and performers in Scotland as the Tin Hut welcomed home one of our own as Robin Cairns made the stage his own as only he can. In an excellent performance the maestro delivered two of his most recent poems, The Coppernosed Stone which he recalled the events of his youth in Clydebank and The House I Grew Up In which is a brilliant poem on how the imagination can play with tricks with memory 

As Robin rejoined the company it was Susan McKinestry who was the unluckiest performer of the night. Well someone has to follow Robin and on this occasion it was her. If she was bothered about it certainly didn’t show in a performance which showed just how much she has settled in to the Words and Music since first gracing our stage earlier in the year. On this occasion Susan read two pieces Tall and Short and The Key which followed in her tradition of biting and hard hitting social commentary on the impact of austerity and attitudinal prejudices on those soceiety considers to be weak and vulnerable. Make no mistake this is a quality writer and commentator who gives a much needed voice to those marginalised by the rich and powerful. It is a voice I look forward to hearing a lot more of in 2018 and beyond. 

As Susan went back to her table Jim Ewing started his set with a Halloween Haiku before moving on to the story of a Gorbals ghost story with which he enthralls audiences every time he shares it I refer of course spookily amazing tale of The Man With The Iron Teeth. This enjoyable tale of ghastly and indeed ghostly goings on in the south side of Glasgow was followed by a reminder of the sacrifices made in the two World Wars in Jim’s Remembrance poem Remember What You Will in he stresses the importance of remembrance in what is in my opinion my favourite poem on the topic due to it’s raw power and sincerely expressed emotions. 

At the end of Jim’s set it was my great pleasure to welcome Pete Faulkner back to the stage for the first time since August and Pete, a veteran of many a Words and Music night, was the perfect man to lead us to the bar break which he did by reading a poem by Diane Du Prima and A monologue on St Joan.

After a much needed bar break it was time for the main business of the evening and that of course was our two featured acts starting as we usually always do with the featured writer. This month saw Katharinerine MacFarlane take her place in the spotlight and I must admit it gave me particular pleasure to introduce not only a fellow fierce woman but my fiercest sister from the whole of that tribe.

Katharine started her set with Spaces which set the tone for the quality to come. This was a poem vivid in its imagery which transported the audience to place where poetry meets the soul. This was followed with Being A Seal as our poet looks at life from the perspective of the seal and  attempts to see the problem we as humans may create for them. 

In Sholbost Katharine (pictured below) takes us to Orkney and shows the landscape of the area and the folk traditions that surrounds it. Staying on Orkney our featured superstar oops I mean writer took us to Mae’s Howe and followed it with Ba. Katherine then moved tom the Western Isles for This Island before enchanting us with a poem in Gaelic and the subsequent translation of it into English. Ever the patriot in the cultural sense of the word Katherine a keen scholar of our history and tradition performed St Andrew’s Bones a poem on our Patron Saint and his final resting place. After this she moved on to Kuris and the brilliant Listen, which captures the awe inspiring power of nature at it’s truly breathtaking best. Katharine wound up a mesmerising set with the Longing Of A Person and her final poem the amazingly beautiful Lang Go Lang.  This concluded a wonderful set of poetry which encompassed all that’s positive about Scotland. In 20 minutes Katharine explored our islands , our history, our langauges, our culture, and traditions in a way which was educational, entertaining, imformative and inspiring. Make no mistake, this was poetry at its very best and I was privileged to hear it.

Picture(1) Our Featured Writer Katharine MacFarlane entertains the gathering in two languages with poems in both English and Gaelic in her set )

From featured writer we moved on to our featured musician and were delighted to welcome back that weel kent Words And Music favourite Bob Leslie to fill the role with 20 minutes of musical madness as only he knows how to make it. 

Bob started his set by maintaining the link with the isles which Katharine had built in to her set with An Island Boy. He then moved on to sing of American culture we seldom if ever hear about in The Lands Of The Sioux And Cree. If that song contained a political message from the other side of the Atlantic his next song When Dreams Comes Hame To Bide had even stronger political content for an audience far closer to home. In A Jumped Up Proletarian Bob showed that being a good trade unionist doesn’t necessarily mean being a member of The Labour Party despite what Jeremy Corbyn may like to claim. From politics the focus switched to comedy for his next song Her Father Called Me Frankenstein  in which Bob recalls an unwanted nickname from his first girlfriend’s father due to the fact he towered over him. Well Bob (pictured below) is shall we say a very tall gentleman. This was supposed to be when the music stopped but I invoked the compare’s privilege and insisted on one last song and I also requested what it was. Of course Bob was happy to obliege and gave a rousing rendition of Big Dead Bob a song which tells the story that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say we all joined the chorus and gave Bob’s set the ending it deserved. 

Picture (2) Our Featured Musician Bob Leslie belts out tunes old and new 

At the end of two fantastic sets it was time for the proceedings to return to normal or at least as normal as is allowed at Words And Music and our penultimate performer Claire McCann did her best to achieve this when she read her poem Open Book. This was an enjoyable piece which Claire performed well but as she went back to her seat, it was time for me for bring the night to a close with the final set of the evening. 

I started the set by looking back on the disappointment of Scotland’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia with a poem written about the drama of our last World Cup Qualifier in Slovenia which sums up how it’s been for us for the last 20 years entitled The Hope That Kills You. I followed this up with That’s Nice.  In this poem I explain the stereotypical reaction which poets often get when you tell friends and neighbours your going to a poetry event. From this slightly tongue in cheek poem I got just a wee bit more serious I read The Flying Winger. In this very personal poem  I reflect on the tragic circumstances which befell my late uncle Arthur and how life can be shaped by the choices we make and the chances we take or don’t. I finished both my set and the night with The Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive  a poem which tells the story of Karaoke nights and the part they played in my coming out.  

Having brought the night to a close I made my way home to the village . As I did so I couldnt help but think that when a jumped up proletarian meets a rock chick from devil gate drive  we’ll all find a space for reflections when  dreams come hame to bide. 

Till next time

Gayle X

Irn Bru And Optimism

On St Andrew’s Day I thought it only fair to take what I hope is a light hearted look at my country which I love in spite of its flaws and in some cases maybe even because of them. I’ve given it the title Irn Bru And Optimism I hope you enjoy the read. 

Irn Bru And Optimism 

Irn Bru and optimism 

limits placed on my ambition

Calvinism, and Sunday schools

a land of far too many rules 

Scenary and shortbread tins

national teams that nearly win

McIlvanney, Morgan, Lochhead 

inspired me to write my Scotland 

Telling stories through my poetry 

remembering tales my granny told me

of Jimmy Reid and John MacLean 

Scots and socialists worth the name

Spoken word and traditional songs. 

It doesn’t matter where your from

Govan , Maybole , Tain, Dumbarton

even Cumnock’s got some talent.

So on our nation’s national day

I’ve only thing left to say 

let’s place no limits on our ambitions

and toast Irn Bru and Optimism 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Kindred Spirits

On Halloween I post a seasonal poem to celebrate this important day and the beginning of the Celtic winter. Bearing in mind the ghostly goings on that this night will hold I’ve given it the title Kindred Spirits. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Kindred Spirits. 

Halloween

 the last day before the Celtic winter starts 

the time when  spirits walk among us 

on the evening of the day of the dead 

this is why we use disguises 

in the shape of masks and costumes 

to keep ourselves hidden from those 

who would do us harm

only those who guard us will know the real truth of our story 

they keep us safe as children when we go round the doors guising

on in later years 

when as adults we party with friends in  city centre bars

all they ask from us is 

that we hold them in our hearts

thoughout the coming year 

and get ready to celebrate the gatherings winter will bring 

remembering the coldest of seasons 

 is a time when the warmest of hearts join with loved ones 

to cherish memories made by kindred spirits

in stories songs and friendship

© 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 

 locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using language 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 known 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