‘It’s rare to find Scots poetry published in the South East of England’, writes the anonymous reviewer of John Brewster’s Automatic Writing, on the website of the Scots Language Centre/Centre for the Scots Leid. When some of the poems came to us for consideration, the musicality in both Scots and English came through, and we were delighted to publish John Brewster’s debut collection. Assistance came from Jane Stemp with proofing the Scots poems (beyond the skills of our poetry editor), and with approving the Scots glossary, which John had thoughtfully compiled.
The Scots Language Centre has posted ‘A Blessin for St Monans’:
Bairn o wave an sea-wind, nursed on star-milk,
cooried in wi blankets o pitch-black nicht;
we thank ye. Thank ye fir yer stany licht,
a caundle o canniness lit fir ilk
an ivery wan o us. Nae sultan’s silk
or maharajah’s satin cloot ti dicht
awa yer tears. Jist honest weave, fish-bricht;
stitched wi thraids o saut an saund an prayer whilk
rin lik a luver’s fingers throu yer hair.
St Monans, aince a holy man, a craw,
dreamin staundin-stane facin oot ti shore;
an aye a hame fir fishin fowk an lore.
But, in the beginnin, God’s bairn; a raw
cry fae Hivin: a blessin ti the puir.
Real life situations are delivered in well crafted, subtle verse. Sometimes there is a preoccupation with extremes – death by suicide for example – and occasionally the narrative is lost in private meanings which are somewhat difficult to fathom. Still, Brewster writes with lyrical musicality, particularly in colloquial Fife Scots, and he comes at his subjects from unexpected angles – see Glass Eye for a glass-eyed view of a one-eyed man – that reward effort on the part of the reader in piecing it all together.
When I am not in his head
I am in the velvet box.
His head is not as forgiving
but it keeps me in place.
I have a friend beside me
who squirms at such confinement.
Automatic Writing costs £10 plus p&p. Buy two or more books from this website and postage and packing is free.