Tag Archive | Language

Runrig For Millennials

This poem was inspired by a comment from my friend and flatmate Janette whilst we were watching at my insistence the Scottish Traditional Music Awards (aka #NaTrads) On  seeing the band Tidelines and being more impresed than she thought she would by them (It has to be said traditional music is not Janette’s usaul area) she claimed they were the world’s first Gaelic boyband. It has to be said that this set me thinking and I’ve written this poem which I’ve titled Runrig For Millennials. I came up with this title purely because of the enduring popularity of Runrig over the years and I can assure you it has nothing to with the looks in which Tidelines definitely have the edge I hope you enjoy the read. 

Runrig For Millennials 

I  saw them at Na Trads

my flatmate called them a gaelic boyband

they can sing in two languages

stardom beckons within the traditional music world

and if enough girls follow them

they could be Runrig for millennials 

shining a light on the future

with songs for the 21st century

with positive progressive lyrics

and an identity shaped for the modern age

they will help to make our ancient language

relevant for a new generation

multi culturalism isn’t just confined

to gaining knowledge of Polish or Arabic

sometimes it can be found closer to home

in the understanding of our own language, culture, and traditions

so often mocked by those who beg for privilege 

and call our culture feinian talk

the colonials who walk in the loyal marching season

give no reason for their misplaced allegiance

I question why they give their loyalty to another country

but ugly shouting as all they’ve got 

meanwhile a new band shows the way forward

promoting understanding through stories told in songs

they cannot change the wrongs

of a past written before they were born

but instead tell the stories of this time 

their time to shine

like the stars you see

shining on a hebrideen sunset 

© Gayle Smith 2017

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We Have To Mind Our Language And Not Sow The Seeds Of Hate (My Blog For Common Space On World Transgender Remembrance Day)

I wrote this post for Common Space to commemorate International Transgender Remembrance Day and have made only a minor alteration to the title just as I did last year, for the purposes of reblogging on here. 

It is a tremendous privilage to have undertaken this task for the site I consider to be the best most ground braking news site in Scotland for the second year in a row and as such it is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. With this in mind I wrote what was originally two posts which Angela Haggarty the editor of Common Space and known for her innovation managed to combine in to one.

The main body of this post is in the form of an article on the impact of language in shaping attitudes to and about trans people and the concluding part of it comes in a poem Sometimes It’s The Little Things which was specifically written to commemorate the day and the small acts in life that can have a positive  or negative impact on a trans person’s quality of life. I have titled it We Have To Mind Our Language And Not Sow The Seeds Of Hate I hope you find a challenging and thought provoking read.

Till next time 

Gayle X

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/12039/gayle-smith-media-needs-understand-consequences-its-words-trans-people

The North British Cringe 

Four years ago to the day I marched with 30,000 others  through the streets of Edinburgh in support of my country’s independence . Alas when the vote was held we were defeated by the forces of apathy and fear and our nation remains what the author John Steinbeck described in a conversation with President Kennedy as an unwon cause. It is my opinion that one of the key reasons for this is what some people refer as the Scottish cringe. You know the idea, that we alone of the nations on earth are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to run our own affairs. It is my considered opinion that this is a form of cultural oppression and this cringe is anything but Scottish. Indeed I believe it was in fact born in Westminster by those who are absolutely terrified to see Scotland become an independent nation namely the British establishment whose vested interests in our country be they economic or political make them and their all too willing servants  overtly hostile to our independence. It is for this reason that I have written this poem and given it the title The North British Cringe . I hope you enjoy the read. 

The North British Cringe 

We are told by the establishment and their friends in the press

Scotland is not oppressed 

Well if that the case 

why is Scotland’s population

which was a 1/3 of England’s at the formation of the United Kingdom 

now less than a 1/10 

they cringe when I tell them 

 there pro union argument makes no sense 

yet when we contest this notion we are scorned 

told we are idealistic but ill informed

but it’s our accusers who are deluded

the idea of not being oppressed because we’re Scots is misguided 

If you don’t believe me let’s look at the evidence 

we’ll start with the rough wooing in the period leading up to union 

When The Ailen Act was passed by a Westminster government 

determined to secure their unity at all costs

even their anthem talks about crushing rebellious Scots

then there was the banning of the Gaelic, the pipes, and the tartan after the 45

this is a ban unionists choose to ignore 

preferring to bang on empty drums about the sashes their fathers wore 

whilst never mentioning the privileges it brought them 

too many in Scotland are ignorant of our history 

so I’ll start by informing them 

that much to our disgrace 

this prohibition of our language, culture , and tradition did take place 

and wasn’t lifted until 1782

almost 40 years after Culloden 

if that wasn’t an attempt to keep us downtrodden I don’t know what is 

It was a deliberate attempt to show resistance was futile 

and the beginning of a campaign to keep Scotland in our place

the more fanatical sycophants

even tried have our country’s name wiped from existence

and replaced by North Britain 

I still believe this to be your career unionist’s wet dream 

but this girl from the schemes 

is wise to Westminster and their establishment’s never ending lies

whilst the truth cries tears at the endless myths and misconceptions 

their parties will use to gain votes at election time 

these practioners of the dark arts 

are well versed when it comes to the crimes of  deception and duplicity 

as we can see when they use their carefully worded propaganda

they fraudulently call British history 

this has been manufactured in the interests of the elite 

by their friendly Oxbridge historians

I afford them no credibility especially the Tory ones 

the hope and glory brigade

 who will claim we played a part in shaping the new world and the politics of empire 

and maybe we did but not in the way they would have you believe

you see there was no voluntary migration to Canada in 1773

In the real world this has another name

It was called the clearances 

as tens of thousands of families were evicted from their land 

to make way for sheep 

yet you dare to tell me we are not oppressed 

I weep when I think of the martyrs of Tolpuddle 

or the massacre at Peterloo 

but I do so in an international context

 as I ask with respect 

why I was taught about these events at school

rather than the Paisley mill girls 

or the fact that Scottish radicals 

were executed by cold hearted killers 

for demanding independence in 1820

these facts are hidden from our young 

just in case knowing them, might turn them against this precious union

the myth that took centuries to build

by those skilled in the art of the cringe 

the 90 minute patriots who claim we can’t possibly be oppressed 

as we are allowed to wear kilts

and support our national football team 

though when I remind them we can’t watch Scotland games on TV

I am told I am fanatical SNP

and unpatriotic to Britain

they make fools of themselves 

by going on about British highlands , whisky, and bridges

and saying that by being allowed to vote 

we can’t possibly be undermined in any way 

this is the garbage spouted by those Proud Scots 

 who read The Daily Mail , watch EastEnders and Match of the Day 

the ignorance of these people astounds me and suggests 

they know nothing of the place they are ashamed to call home 

and that’s the way they need it to stay 

they ignore the fact that their Westminster masters can’t stand them 

or even tolerate them 

they’ve never been informed about the Scottish potato famine 

which though nowhere near the genocide 

faced by our Irish kin 

still happened nonetheless 

our oppression was and remains more covert in nature

the press and media used as tools to surpress 

any feelings of national identity 

and cover up any events the Brits would rather hide 

like the Govan rent strikes or the socialists of Red Clydeside

and why not because we are oppressed 

by the British is best brigade 

who make sure this history 

our real history is never taught in schools

it would undermine their right to rule 

to which they believe their entitled 

reality however paints a different picture to the one they want to see 

through the prism of their union jack blinkers 

these not so liberal thinkers 

who think narrow minds are prized possessions 

would still deny our oppression 

or while part of this United Kingdom 

some Scots oppressed those in other lands and their own 

In the name of empire crown and glory 

working class Protestants encouraged to vote Tory 

and many still do 

In fear of an imaginary Irish Catholic takeover 

wrapping themselves in the red, white, and blue of union

believing themselves to be the true blue Scots 

yet boasting that they are Brits

from an early age these hypocrites were and still are 

indoctrinated in to hating the Highlander,  the Irish , the French , and Jew

with Muslims now perceived to be enemy 

the Irish and the others used to be 

as Voltaire once said it is difficult to free fools 

from the chains they revere 

on teaching our history 

we must make it clear 

Scotland’s story is not an easy read 

but read it we must 

if we are ever to conquer the cringe 

that of all nations only we 

are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to be free

this is complete drivel 

and the perpetrators must be called out as liars

as a nation we have to aim higher 

but first we must come to terms with our past and our  present 

and facing up to our continued oppression 

this can only end with independence 

and becoming the authors of our destiny 

only then can we look the world in the eye 

as no longer conditioned to be shy 

we will say to every nation 

we are equal to you

the cringe has been conquered at last 

© 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 

For All The Silenced Voices

​With Tuesday being world poetry day, I wrote a poem to give thanks for my right to freedom of expression. As I did so I thought of the words of  the late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who when living under the Pinochet regime remarked poetry is the only danger here and in many countries his words have an all too disturbing ring to them as poets are often seen as enemies of the state. 

It is I think fair to  say that  though I have strong and principled political beliefs I doubt very much if Westminster or the British establishment see my poetry or any poetry as a threat to their existence and I have written this poem to celebrate the fact that I am allowed to speak my truths in my words unlike so many practioners of the craft whose work will at best be censored and in the most extreme cases could land them with a death sentence. 

After due consideration I couldn’t find what I thought was a suitable title to convey the sentiments expressed in it, so I put it out to my Facebook community to see if they could assist me in  this matter and as usual someone came up with a title so good I wish I had thought of it myself.  On this occasion, that someone was Louise Gemmill who suggested the title   For All The Silenced Voices. I hope you enjoy the read. 

For All The Silenced Voices 

On world poetry day 

I couldn’t let it go unnoticed

I had to say something 

to be vocal for poets in those countries

where art is suppressed 

voices ignored 

and imagination discouraged 

no matter what I think 

of this country 

or what name I use when I speak of it 

I am free to give my words meaning 

set them in context 

explain what shaped the views I hold 

I speak through the language of a craft 

which requires skill and dedication 

and more editing and revision 

than there are hours in the day 

for those who scoff and say 

anyone can write poetry 

I challenge them to try it 

they might find it is not as easy 

as they think 

the pessimists always drink 

from the half empty glass 

anyone can be a critic 

though not all will understand 

what they are critiquing 

poets know the penalties for speaking out 

can result in imprisonment or execution 

yet still take the risks 

in telling their truths

Burns, Pearce, Havel, Plath, and Neruda

are proof of  that.

their legacies are in creating a better world

where words heal wounds 

inflicted in the name of humanity 

this is testament to the worth of their art  

and shows that the half empty glass 

can when viewed through a poets eyes 

be perceived as half full. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Breaking Point 

Hey Readers My latest post is a poem on  mental health issues which just happens to be the topic for the March edition of Extra Second at which I’m one of the billed readers. The poem is on the subject of public attitudes to depression and I’ve given it the title Breaking Point  I hope you enjoy the read. 
Breaking Point 
Every day 

I hear folk make 

thoughtless remarks 

to people I know 

like come on 

cheer up 

your lucky 

what about the poor Afician children ? 

at least you live in Britain 

what have you got to be moaning about 

what have you not got

that you can’t live without 

you’ve got a job, a house,  a man 

you’ve got everything planned

what right have you to be depressed ?

you can’t explain why 

you feel like this 

as they say 

in my mother’s day 

nobody got depressed 

we didn’t have the time 

are you sure your not just bored 

you should take up a hobby 

like jogging or baking 

mental health issues 

you must be mistaken

you not a wierdo or some kind of nutter 

as they  mutter under their breath 

about locking up loonies 

but the people they moan about 

are not in the moonies 

or some bizarre cult 

why can’t some people 

act  like adults 

and realise depression is real 

the black dog 

nobody wants as a pet 

never forget 

careless talk cost lives 

as knives are used 

to self harm 

by those who feel the pain 

and are never allowed to explain

 what’s hurting them or why 

fearing that no-one will listen 

knowing, someone will say 

at least you live in Britain 

yes they live in Britain 

a country conditioned in to thinking 

that crying is a sign of weakness 

so they hide their tears 

and the fears which make the rivers run 

as the silver stream of the night 

flood pillows and bring hearts to breaking point 

and yet my friends are supposed 

to get over a condition 

the powers that be  refuse to believe exists 

given pills instead of treatment

generation  lost are counting the cost

of penny punching profiteers 

who fear invisible demons  

stalking the communities 

around which they have carefully errected fences 

to keep others from entering 

yet if any of them had issues 

we would be told of benefits of therapies 

people like us could never afford

It’s  ordinary people who are ignored 

tossed aside not allowed to be depressed 

 and when they protest 

about needing support

to remain  in the  community  

they are told it’s lunacy

to make such unreasonable demands 

as chinless wonders order them 

 to get over themselves 

and the tragedy is that mental health 

is still viewed as something that happens to others 

it will never come to your door 

but it will for one in four of the population 

and when you are approaching breaking point 

 I hope you won’t be told 

to get over it
@ Gayle Smith 2017 


Never Stop A Woman In The Middle Of A Rant

Hey Readers

Since beginning my journey to womanhood I have noticed the amount of sexism woman have to put up with is absolutely frightening. As a trans woman I have been at the wrong end of this behaviour when who are not in my intellectual or cultural league have attempted to patronise me by assuming they have a superior knowledge on any given topic. Needless to say I do not approve of this mansplaining and the guilty parties have been very short shrift and more often that not been corrected on their mistake and put in their place after being on the receiving end of one my famous rants. The fact that women still have to put up with this behaviour in 2017 is in my opinion completely outrageous so if written this poem to give those mansplainers a friendly word of advice and titled it Never Stop A Woman In The Middle Of A Rant. I hope you hope you enjoy the read.

Never Stop A Woman In The Middle Of A Rant.

There are times you shouldn’t interrupt a woman

especially me

like see when I’m in the middle of a rant

and you try to put your point across

you do so at your own risk

this is not something I would ever advise

neither are lies or attempting to mansplain anything to me

you don’t think I get

because I’m a woman

don’t dismiss me because I’m trans

I will just keep going

you will have no way of knowing

how to stop me

no man does though many have tried

it’s as futile as attempting

to hold back the tide

with one hand

what is it about this simple fact

 you don’t understand

I am a woman who knows why I’m ranting

and what I’m on about

don’t tell me not to shout or raise my voice

my opinions and my choices

do not need to meet with your approval.

to think otherwise is completely delusional

words like honey, doll or darling

will not sweeten me up

or disarm me from saying what I like

I know my rights and will not be afraid

to defend them if that’s what is required

you need to learn

playing with fire is dangerous

it’s a risk you need to avoid

as it can have consequences

which you might not like

you need to remember

I’m not easily frightened

I have powers beyond your imagination

I can be your inspiration

or the nightmare which lurks

in the darkest corners of your imagination

so take this advice

I give you for free

there are things you don’t do

to any woman be it me

your girlfriend, your mother, your sister,

your wife, your daughter, your gran, your niece or your aunt

you must never and I mean never

interrupt a woman in the middle of a rant.

@ Gayle Smith 2017