Tag Archive | Poetry

Envious Eyes 

On the morning after Catalonia declares her independence from Spain I declare my support for independent state of Catalonia and Catalan people in taking this step and as I do so part of me is wishing it was Scotland. It is for that reason I have written this poem and titled it Envious Eyes I hope you enjoy the read. Envious Eyes 

As a new nation declares its right to exist 

I look on with envious eyes 

proud of Catalonia as it takes its first steps 

yet this Glasgweigan wishes it was Scotland 

and is certain it will be in our time 

for the moment however I am proud of our comrades

as they move forward to a better day

having decided that their story could no longer be told in Spanish

it had to be authentically Catalonian 

meanwhile Madrid attempts to bring in draconian laws

to stop the tide of history 

losing any sense of dignity it may have had

as Franco’s heirs live on at least in their minds 

and those who want to bring Dickensian times to Scotland

in the name of a United Kingdom 

which is the one of the most unequal  socieies in the democratic world 

where the poor go hungry so the rich can be fed 

and disabled people are being  financially bled

and are told by some unelected lord

they aren’t even worth the minimum wage 

as Catalonia takes centre stage 

I recall how bravely they fought

feel ashamed of pro union Scots 

so gullible they sing of saving a  monarch

who will out live many of them 

and are too deluded to see 

that short term gain comes with a long term loss

and I will shed no tears when it arrives at their door 

they will have only themselves to blame

as they worship false gods dressed in ermine

whose true uniform is sackcloath and ashes

so as Catalonia prepares for the first day of a new future 

I look with optimism of a Scotland free from class ridden snobbery

where poverty and inequality will be things of the past 

and dreams and ambitions realised 

so as I say Viva Catalonia I must admit 

though I look at you proudly

I do so with envious eyes 

 © Gayle Smith 2017

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I May Not Be A Person Of Interest But I Do Have An Interesting Life

As a blogger of over five years I would like to say there are few if any issues which have caused me concern since starting tartan tights in March 2012 .

I have put a lot of effort in to what I hope is now a site worth reading and strive to create quality content on a number of diverse topics in which I could be said to have an interest. This has not been an easy journey but it has in the main been an enjoyable and rewarding one . However at this stage of my blogging history I am perhaps for the first time experiencing a very slight unease and if you’ll allow me the privilege I’ll explain the reason why 

It started at the beginning of this month when I suddenly noticed a spike in my stats. Now normally this would be a good thing which would leave me feeling pretty positive but to me at least it was a problem, you see though the views were substantially up the only real increase was in my home page. When added to the fact that this increase was coming not from the UK (my site doesn’t give separate figures for Scotland) but from the United States I was shall we say ever so slighty puzzled .

As a political activist I worried that since I hold views which would lead to the alt right calling me a snowflake that I may have become a person of interest but even for a Celtic fan that may be taking paranoia to a whole new level. I mean I know I have been a vocal critic of President Trump and his friends in the UK Conservative Party but person of interest surely not.  

After putting my paranoia to bed I thought about other potential reasons for this sudden spike in my stats, and the only reason I can possibly think of is that unlike my genuine American readership they don’t actually know what my blog is about and perhaps because of the name they believe it to be focused on one of the following areas. 

(1) Tartan 

(2) Tights

(3) Both 

When they discover it is about neither the tartans of the clans of Scotland or the latest fashion hoisery I can only begin to imagine the horror in their faces, no doubt this will be made even worse when they realise that the blogger concerned is a spoken word poet who is also a transsexual woman and an ardent supporter of both Scottish independence and environmental issues such as climate change. Yes I am really what some would a liberal minded progressive which in Scotland we call normal. I guess this is why most of them don’t make it past the home page. To me the fact they don’t read my posts is their loss rather than mine and message to them is clear if you don’t want to read my content then don’t re-visit my site in the hope it will change,  because it wont and neither will I. Anyway as you should know the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and hoping for a different result. 

So having made all the points I wanted to make,  I will conclude by saying this is my blog. It is my space on the information super highway that is the internet . It a place where I’ll share my thoughts in my way and I’ll try to produce the kind of content I know my regular readers enjoy reading and after five and a half years of tartan tights I think I know what that might be. Why do I say this you may ask, well I’ll tell you why and it all comes down this simple fact, I may not be a person of interest, but I do have an interesting life. 

Till next time

Gayle X

That’s Nice

This is a poem on that conversation that most poets will have had at least once in our lives when we’ve told a neighbour we’re going to a poetry night. I’ve given it the title That’s Nice as that’s the reply we are so often met with in that most awkward of moments but I’ve found more than once if you allow the conversation to flow there may come a moment when a light comes on and you change their perception of poetry. I hope you enjoy the read. 
That’s Nice

Whenever I’ve told someone I was going to a poetry night

I’ve been met with a standard reply  like that’s nice 

it’s good to have a hobby it helps pass the time 

the person is usually  trying to be polite 

but there struggling for something to say

there conversational ability limited 

by the fact they think Stanza is that team 

Celtic or Rangers beat a few years ago 

they even tried to name their star players 

I am greeted by blank stares when I add to their confussion 

by telling them Stanza has nothing to do with football

and is in fact a poetic form which poets use in our work

it’s like rhyming couplets I explain 

as the rain comes down from the heavens 

I attempt to make a run for it 

telling them that I need to be there by seven

even though the event doesn’t start till eight 

I need time to prepare my set 

they seem surprised that a neighbour they know 

will be on stage performing in front of an audience 

Oh I thought you were going to a reading 

maybe something to do with Burns 

I didn’t think you would be one of the turns 

so they ask  do you think  that poetry is for the likes of us 

of course I reply still smiling at the question 

well it showed a neighbourly interest in somebody from their community 

and that features strongly in my work 

I say I’ll let them know how the night went 

as I make a run for an oncoming bus 

it’s goes well that night it usually does

there was a good crowd the place was buzzing

as for my poems well what can I say 

I read them well my set went okay

but on the journey home I contemplate 

the events of an enjoyable evening 

and do you know my greatest achievement

It wasn’t the compliments I got from some well respected peers 

on my latest poems I had just debued 

it was that chat on my way to the bus stop

where I changed the way someone viewed my art 

I’m a girl from the schemes

who speaks from the heart

and see if by doing that I can open just one mind to poetry

as my neighbour would say that’s nice

that really is nice 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Eclipsed

As many of you will know this is National Poetry Day and this year the theme for the event is freedom. Like all the themes chosen to celebrate this day it can be interpreted in any number of ways but inspite of mywell documented support for both the Scottish National Party and the cause of independence , if you have come here looking for a braveheart claymore wielding poem in support of my party or cause your going to very disappointed.  I’ve written plenty of those poems in the past and will do so again when the occasion demands. This however, is neither the time nor the place for it. Instead i have chosen to look at the top in a more petsonal capacity by addressing those hard won freedoms that should be the hallmark of any civilised society and the danger to them from the Conservative goverment and The Great Repeal Bill which would give UK Prime Minister Theresa May the powers of a medievil monarch. This is the most dangerous piece of legislation brought before any parliament since the German parliament passed the Enabling Act in 1933 which paved the way for Hitler’s reign of terror. I’ve given it the title Eclipsed as i genuinely fear for our rights if this passes into law. I hope you enjoy the read 

Eclipsed
Freedom 

For this Glasgweigan 

means being able to assemble 

with my friends at a place of my choice 

raise my voice in demonstrations 

or poetry nights

fight for the rights of others

as well as myself 

I’ve never been the selfish type 

some kinds of freedoms are greatly overhyped 

like that to offend others

in the name of free speech 

freedom means having within my reach

the chance to make the most of my skills and abilities

walk the streets with dignity 

unafraid to be who i am 

whilst respecting others 

even when we may disagree on certain issues

it is not a woolly concept

supported only by guardian reading 

bleeding heart liberals 

and must be availble to all citizens 

not just those who can afford 

to send their children to the right schools  

it is imposing only rules considered reasonable and necessary 

for society to function properly 

but in all honesty 

not everyone is as free 

as should be the case in a civilised country 

I recognise freedom can have an ugly side 

if allowed to go unchecked

to me it’s all about respect 

we can’t afford to neglect our hard won rights 

or the sun will go down on them 

and as we sleep through the darkest hour of night

we will wake up to find them eclipsed 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

A Warrior Wordsmith Who Speaks For The People ( A Review Of Door To Door Poet By Rowan McCabe)

Imagine the scenario. You get a knock on the door, you answer the door, and you see someone standing there with a clipboard and pen. Your imediate reaction is to ask the person concerned what they are selling and inform them as politely as possible that whatever it is you are not interested.  What happens however when far from being the predictable insurance , or double glazing salesperson you are met with reply I’m a poet would you like to tell me about yourself and what concerns you and I’ll write you your very own poem. 

My imediate reaction and i speak as a poet would be aye right so you are. So if i would be sceptical imagine the reaction Newcastle poet Rowan McCabe (pictured below) faced as he took his door to door poetry challenge round some of the roughest places  in the North East of England. 

During his year long mission Stockton born Rowan encountered a number of interesting characters and a significant number of  issues in his attempts to bring poetry to the people. Undetered our warrior wordsmith soldiered on in his quest to make poetry matter by making it relevant to the kind of audience who were put off by the poetry they were taught at school. 

As he begins the story of his poetic journey through the wildest parts of the north east, including the street once dubbed the roughest street in Stockton after being featured on the TV documentary show Benefit Street,  Rowan shares his poem on being a door to door poet and how he got the idea to do it which he says was due to boredom and wanting to do something different with his talent. As he takes us on his journey, he  tells us the story of Kyle a young man he met in a Newcastle housing scheme who would be the type of lad that polite society would cross the road to avoid. On meeting him Rowan explained his mission to be greeted by the expression what do i want with poetry ? Undaunted our door to door poet told Kyle that this poem would be his poem and be about the issues that mattered to him and he would receive a copy of his own customised poem . Gradually the man warmed  to the idea and challenged Rowan to write a poem about his girlfriend and how much he loved her .

 After finding out the information he needed Rowan wrote the poem First Date about Kyle’s first date in which he took his girlfriend to Greggs and they bonded over a steak bake. This claim was later disputed by his girlfriend who said that as she recalled it their first date was at the cinema . 

As our intrepid wordsmith continued on his journey he met a man who was concerned about immigration and had confessed to voting for Brexit , and a woman who had a passion for horses with a particular fondness for the three times grand national winner Red Rum.

During the course of his travels Rowan learned not only of the value of having good communication skills but also about being aware of the impact of The Data Protection Act when it comes to sharing online information and how even unwittingly a lack of knowledge on this topic can land you in some very tricky situations. 

Talking of tricky situtions our poet who dared to venture in to what the chsttering classes  would uncharted cultural waters learned a bitter lesson when it comes to  organisational cultute and the way it can make promises and then proceed to break them at the shortest possible notice. This through no fault of yours lead to cancel arrangements you made with others which were based on those promises and this can and did lead to a loss of trust all because someone else let him down on more than one occasion and this for Rowan meant losing relationships with potential participants he had worked really hard to build. 

Heartbreaking though it was Rowan ploughed on with his pioneering work and on meeting Alan an older man whose mother was German he discovered a man who was deeply concerned about the potential rise in far right racism in a post Brexit UK but was determined he would not be silenced despite having Swastikas daubed on his door by exactly the type of people he fears will grow in number. It was this meeting which  produced the inspiration for one of my favourite poems from the show , and Speak was a powerful poetic portrayal of why we need to be stronger than ever in our fight against this narrow kind of imperial , insular, xenophobic nationalism which in Scotland we call the worst kind of unionism.  Alan was featured on the BBC when their breakfast did a feature on Rowan’s ground breaking arts project and Rowan talked with warmth on his poem Speak which illustrates both Alan’s committment to speaking up for those people whose voices are being marginalised or ignored and Rowan’s passionate belief that door to door poetry can give them not only that voice but the belief that in 21st century Britain there opinions matter. 

This to me was the most heartwarming aspect of a show which I could very easily have overlooked had it not been for the glowing recommendations of two fellow poets whose opinions i rate highly enough to trust and Gemma Baker and Jenni Pascoe were totally right to tell me that this was a show i had to see. After an hour of poetry which was entertaining and thought ptovoking in equal measure i left raving about the talents of someone who is not only a door to door poet but a warrior wordsmith who speaks for the people. That someone is Rowan McCabe. 

Till next time

Gayle X

A Journey Through Mixtapes And Wilderness Years Led A Nearly Wed Girl To A Decent Proposal (A Review Of Fifty Grades Of Shame By Sophia Blackwell )

As always seems to be the case I was a wee bit late on arriving on the last Saturday of the fringe. Note To Self: This is not a tradition it’s a habit I need to get out of.  

My late arrival meant I missed the opening few minutes of Sophia Blackwell’s excellent show Fifty Grades Of Shame . It was perhaps no accident that the first poem I heard her perform was titled Mad. In this poem Sophia invokes a woman’s right to scream at the injustices we face due to a combination of sexism, glass ceilings,  and attitudes which should have been left in the days of the cave dwellers. 

Sophia followed this with a piece written in her childhood which was better than some material I’ve heard I’ve heard from many so-called adults and perhaps showed just how good the childhood Sophia was destined to be. 

She then performed a poem which transported me and the rest of the audience in the banqueting  hall of the Banshee back to a simpler time when we had no mobile phones, or Facebook , or Snapchat to entertain us and had to rely on more basic pleasures like making mixtapes in an attempt to impress the one we fancied. 

In her poem entitled Mixtapes Sophia (Pictured Below) looks back on those days with a mixture of fondness and honesty and the lines ‘ The language of tapes was pure interpretation . Songs were the flags you hid your face behind’ .  were in my opinion particularly revealing  and disclose the  kind of teenage truth we will only admit when the passing of time makes it comfortable to do it. 

Picture (Sophia Blackwell rocks the Banqueting Hall of the  Banshee Labyrinth during her show Fifty Grades Of Shame )

From this our poet moved on from her teens to her twenties with the kind of effortless ease only a gold star performer can posses with her poem The Wilderness Years. In this poem written in the form of a conversation to her gran, the poet shows that her rebel spirit didn’t die on her 20th birthday. Indeed if anything, it grew stronger  and has gone on to shape the woman I know and am proud to call a friend  In the opening lines of this poem Sophia boldly sets the mood with  the words ‘No  granny no maybes I’m not getting married or toeing the family line’ By  doing this she is telling the granny she loves that she is her own woman and will make her own decisions on how best to lead her life. In this brutally honest poem Sophia Blackwell has the confidence not only to admit her mistakes but to own them.   Later on, in the last verse of the poem she looks on with empathy on her granny’s issues with her lesbianism with the lines ‘And I like how you ask how she’s doing sometimes , I know what it costs you I do’. This demonstrates the poet’s understanding of the generation gap on LGBT issues in a way which enables her to be  sympathetic without being patronising. 

Having tackled her early years, Sophia moved on to explore the complex dynamics within lesbian relationships in her poem Everyone I’ve Ever Slept With where she writes candidly about those awkward situations which lesbians sometimes find themselves in where they go to  dinner parties and realise that they have slept with a significant number of those in attendance. As the poem progresses you are taking on a journey   through the teasing and tempting back to a place of faithfulness where the count goes down from what ever number she had in her head to the only one who matters. 

Talking of faithfulness Sophia addresses the issue with some  poems on equal marriage and starts this section of the show with a poem about an ex girlfriend. The kind of  ex she describes as the one only who communicates with you by passive aggressive texts who said when Equal Marriage was legalised ‘Now that we could I would have ‘ . In the name of god I ask you what kind of attitude is that to show to a former lover ?  Not a very nice one in my view but it motivated Sophia to write the bitingly brilliant poem Nearly Wed. This one hits the ground running right from the get go and opens with the lines ‘ You said you nearly married me , that’s really not a thing. I must admit it worried me, what would nearly married be? This is something I’ve often thought about and I came to the conclusion that it would be like nearly winning that race in which you eventually came second by quite a distance. 

Still on the subject of matters matrimonial Sophia told us that weddings were her biggest unpaid gigs as many friends had requested wedding poems to commemorate their special day. To illustrate the point she shared a poem she wrote for a friends wedding. The poem entitled When It Finds You Celebrates the ordinariness of love and by doing so explores the very depths of human emotion. 

Finally, having found the woman of her dreams and decided it was the time they should marry Sophia wrote her own proposal poem for the woman who would become her bride and as she said she wanted it to be better than any she had written for her friends. Personally I think she managed this with effortless ease, and her poem which is appropriately titled Proposal, contains the kind of heartwarming imagery that gives you that warm, fuzzy, feel good kinda feeling from first word to last. 

This was followed by what I think was the final poem in the show entitled  Christmas In July. This to me is one of the best love poems I’ve ever heard some of the imagery contained within its verses are absolutely stunning in their simplicity, authenticity, and beauty. I particularly like the opening lines of the third stanza. ‘So let the years go by because that’s how years behave, and from cradle to grave these are the days that we save’  I selected these lines because whilst they acknowledge that times move on they also remind us of memories made by sharing precious times with loved ones. 

At the end of a show which I thoroughly enjoyed, I look back not so much on a spoken word event but a look at life as experienced by a powerful and passionate poet. Indeed if  I were to summarise it in a sentence, I would say that a joutney through mixtapes and wilderness years, led a nearly wed girl to a decent proposal. 

Till next time

Gayle X

Daughters Of The Muse 

As regular readers will know, I  am a spoken word poet and early last August I was proud to be part of an event which though I didn’t know it at the time would completely change my life. The event in question was  women with fierce words in which those participating were encouraged to bring a fierce word to the Scottish Poetry Library to describe something relating to the poem they had chosen to read. This event then took on a life of its own as we became a fierce tribe and now just over a year later we have collated the poems of the day into an anthology and on Monday Lesley Traynor who was the driving force behind the event was interviewed on the Janice Forsyth show on Radio Scotland. In this poem which I have titled Daughters Of The Muse I give my reaction to the interview and the pride I feel on  being part of this wonderfully talented group of women . I hope you enjoy the read. 
Daughters Of The Muse 

A woman is interviewed 

about a new poetry collection

which the interviewer called
an exciting new development

before asking how it came about 

the women replied it was the result a challenge

to produce a piece of art in a day 

needless to say she rose to the occasion

and inspiration struck 

she asked poets to bring a  fierce word 

to the courtyard of the Scottish Poetry Library 

a word which empowered them

 or made them feel good about themselves 

as a starting place to introduce their poem

though all poets were invited only women replied 

what began as an event quickly morphed into a tribe 

as sisterhood showed its power

friendships forged that Friday afternoon

have matured and blossomed as we’ve celebrated each success

from Emma’s novel  to the launch of  Carla’s spoken word event 

we are not the type of women to rest on laurels 

we are daughters of the muse 

as we proved when we signed fierce words on canvas 

to become our art 

our creation 

we are an inspiration to others 

who will follow in our paths 

and now we have this collection 

as a memory of the day  

a day we tackled the task of rising to the challenge we faced 

and accomplished it by making  words our art 

@ Gayle Smith 2017