Get a SHIFT On

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By Cal McGregor

Poetry has long had a special place in Scottish culture. Anywhere that can hold Tom Leonard, Kathleen Jamie and Ivor Cutler in one hand and Don Paterson, Jenni Fagan and Roddy Lumsden in the other, can’t doing bad.

But not all was well. Language has a problem here.

As Stewart Sanderson has written:

“It would probably be correct to say that most, if not all, of the major twentieth century Scottish poets were deeply concerned with their place – the location of their utterance – and the form which that utterance took. The reasons for this are various, but principally reside in Scotland’s disrupted, stateless nationhood – a dissonance apparently crying out for resolution – and the resultant uncertainty of language in a country which possessed more varieties of words than official narratives could comfortably accommodate.”

However, this strange dichotomy, in a fresh context presents writers and performers with a curious, fruitful paradox.

What looks like the blooming of a movement with a long lineage SHIFT / is a new spoken word collective made up of seven of Scotland’s most dynamic spoken word artists – Harry Giles, Rachel Amey, Sam Small, Jenny Lindsay, Bram E Gieben, Rachel McCrum and Ali Maloney. At this year’s Fringe, the group is launching unique and original shows devised by each member, with ‘an unabashed blurring of the lines between poetry and performance, theatre and spoken word.’

The old traumas and dislocations seem to be blown away with less self-seriousness and more personal awareness. Deeply political but not imbued with the dusty aura of yesteryear, this new bucket of tongues appear to have overcome the death-grip of Scotland’s establishment poetry ‘mantle’.

Immediate and contemporary the SHIFT / collective probably hold this richness because they’ve been forged by the hard work of the performance circuit: Inky Fingers, Drone, Rally and Broad, ANATOMY and a thousand live performances. It’s great to see ambitious collaboration and the development of a movement that’s been finding its feet then getting into its stride for years.


 

See all details here.
Follow them here @ShiftWord



Categories: Commentary, Poetry

Tags: , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. A good collective initiative, in our land of ancient makars and the democratic impulse of the ballad..

    On language, Tom Leonard has said that it’s ‘good to be in your own mouth’ – referring to the ease we feel when speaking whatever language is given to us. As I Glaswegian, I notice my language shift into easy when I meet someone from that city.

    Poetry, drama and public performance are intimately linked. I remember so many decades ago now, reading aloud the immense poetry of Sorley MacLean from mountain tops – from Bidean nam Beann to the Mamores, to the Black Mount and beyond, where the vastness of Rannoch Moor lay below. Declaiming such poetry against the wind on the high tops was an exhilarating experience.

    The intended audience was all of Scotland – and events of recent years suggests that these words were heard.

  2. ”As a Glaswegian”….. + ”events…suggest”.

  3. Plain Speaking
    Scot’s use English with articulate grace
    it must be something to do with our race
    When union is severed one gift will remain
    English for Scot’s our only gain
    James Dow

  4. Sorry James….it’s ”Scots”, not ”Scot’s”.

    May I say it’s worth looking at the history of English? It’s fascinating, for we see the language coming from Freisland and arriving on British shores with the last invading peoples – the Angles and the Saxons. They drove back the original
    Britons who we know as Welsh whose lands reached as far as Dumbarton (the Fort of the Britons) and beyond Edinburgh up to Dundee, and probably Aberdeen if the prefix ‘Aber’ is an indicator. Think of the Welsh names using ‘aber’. Perhaps a common history prepares the way for a renewed friendship?

    Our use of English isn’t actually anything to do with race. And it wasn’t a ”gift”.

    Excuse me; I’ve had a feverish attack of the nerds.

  5. We need to hear mair Scots tongues. Wir ain language is suppressed in oor ain nation, such that maist o’ us cannae even speak Scots properly (me included). EBC is the place tae stert (SBC ?). An for Gov tae gie mair o’ the big quango jobs tae Scots folk, instead o’ importin thon fancy English speakers tae run (ruin?) wir nation an destroy wir culture.

  6. Well it performed the role of poetry, to begin in one brain and stimulate thoughts in others.
    In this case one so proper, and one so Scottish. I’d say job well done
    In my case.
    My blood does contain
    The words for my brain

  7. Hey plater reply The poem is actually a parody on the whole of the English/Scottish relationship.
    Take a deep breath, lighten up, relax, and try not to be oh so proper all the time. And yes, you do use English with articulate grace.
    Darian reply Love your work, just brilliant for anybody who understands where you are coming from, as I did, thank you.
    Since we are on a poetic theme I will leave off with one on my leaving home as a boy.
    Tilbury Docks 1952
    The SS Chitral
    The Departed
    The band played Will Ye No Come Back Again
    To add to the emotion, a Scottish refrain
    The Chitral moved with hidden power
    This was the moment, this was the hour
    Streamers billowed then slowly stretched tight
    Unable to moor us they gave up the fight
    Fear and sadness was all around
    For we were at sea and not on home ground
    My small heart was beating fast
    Men don’t cry, how long can I last
    Ears strain to hear the last sounds
    The melody carried on waves as it bounds
    Finally the tears burst from my eyes
    I knew we were headed for southern skies.
    James Dow
    Arisen from a Scottish gene pool
    indebted beyond mortal repayment

  8. It is a long time since I wrote that poem and on reading it later I realised I had omitted two lines.
    So here we go again.
    The Departed
    The band played Will Ye No Come Back Again
    To add to the emotion a Scottish refrain
    The Chitral moved with hidden power
    This was the moment, this was the hour
    Streamers billowed then slowly stretched tight
    Unable to moor us they gave up the fight
    Too late for should we go or stay
    We were adrift and on our way
    Fear and sadness was all around
    For we were at sea, and not on home ground
    My small heart was beating fast
    Men don’t cry, how long can I last
    Ears strain to hear the last sounds
    The melody carried on waves as it bounds
    Finally the tears burst from my eyes
    I knew we were headed for southern skies.
    James Dow
    I feel better now.
    PS
    Family and friends left far behind
    Emigration is no small crime

  9. Apology Darien for misspelling your name.
    Hey plater If English wasn’t a gift who did we pay, or are we still in debt?
    On the matter of race, I think you could consider that genetically groups of people can and do throw up certain traits and exceptional abilities.
    Try beating a black runner over 100M

    • In 1960s Ma faither had a ticket tae go as weel, takin us 5 bairns awa fae a Scotland wi nout tae offer in his trade or ony else. At the last minute ma mither said naw, an naw it wis. A damp huis and poor childhood, was followed wi personal experience o’ near permanent UK recession, rising national debt and unemployment lines – same as noo, 50 yrs later. We’re still a’ telt this crap’s a UK ‘union dividend for us whinin Jocks! Mair like a UK slap in the puss. Better taegither ma erse.

    • Well James, I did say I had an attack of the nerds. So your criticism is valid. It was po-faced but I couldnt help it.

      I will avoid comment on your ‘poetry’. Unless you invite me, though you wouldn’t like it.

      On race – like you, I have an interest in history as all should have. You will know that the Nazis were very big on race and genetics.It is a dangerous path to tread. Yes all those black people got rhythm, you’d say.

      On the debt of language as you call it, I suggest you read the history of English. Your view is rather supportive of the benefits of Empire, where the colonialist ‘gives’ gifts of culture to the occupied. But it wasnt like that for the use of English in Scotland. Go and do the research.

  10. Hey plater, Here’s one you can comment on, not Scottish, but for everyone.
    Revelation
    Demons hide in obscure places
    Never sleeping, leaving traces
    All around and at the edges
    Beguiling first, then demanding pledges
    Your existence tinged with duplicity
    Which one to choose with simplicity
    The soul resides in the one that’s pure
    Redeeming you sins the only cure
    James Dow
    And if you want to be a critic, you should do so under your own name if you expect to be taken
    seriously, that’s what men do, presuming you are a man, for you could be a woman.
    It is easy to be critical if you are anonymous.
    But then I’m just an old fashioned Scot with old fashioned values. I might be out of date.
    What are you?
    Darien. Still love your work, oh so Scottish. Humour in the face of adversity that’s us.
    My parents left Scotland with two young children and eighty pounds, emigrating to a country half a word away in which we knew no one. But then Scots” have been doing that for hundreds of years.
    The archetypal Scot being drained from it’s once deep and wide gene pool, leaving isolated scattered puddles to be muddied up by others.
    Scotland’s warrior sons and daughters off to build great nations across the waters, at a devastating cost to their ancient homeland.

  11. Hey plater you think my views are supportive of the benefits of Empire.
    This may change your mind.
    Empirical
    Divide and conquer, it’s the English way
    Then you are made to pay and pay
    Pretty soon they’ll have the clothes off your backs
    Then will return for your shoes and your dacks
    One thing is sure, for it couldn’t be clearer
    Your in the hands of an expert shearer
    The Empires wealth from the many to the few
    At this the English have earned their due
    If Scotland can’t learn from historic example
    Then on their heads they deserve a good trample
    James Dow

    Own Goal
    The modern Scot has little to cheer
    Comatose, tranquilised, with football and beer
    James Dow

  12. What makes you think that the names on here are genuine? Why should they be? If you like I can present a name like John McColl. How would you know if it’s mine? How do I know your name is genuine? Do I care?

    Luckily you don’t invite me to criticise your ‘poem’ above, which slags the English in rather a racist way and urges Scots to imitate them in enjoying the fruits of Empire or have their heads kicked in. Nice. You close by describing Scots as drunk and stupid. Nice.

    Well, Scots have already done Empire with a vengeance or you wouldn’t be in Oz. You really should look at history and avoid all this worrying ‘blood and earth’ stuff. Your punctuation is still terrible.

  13. Hey plater You may be anonymous, but I doubt you are Scottish. And if you are then you are a very maladjusted one. You are also an egotistical pain as you already know, But you are fun to play with.
    By the way you can’t slag the English in a racist way, for they are not a race, but they are latter day Romano, Franco, Germanic pilgrims. Perhaps we would have to be racist against that lot to be racist against the “English”

  14. Hi James (allegedly). When you can’t answer the debate and are backed into a corner, then make ad hominem attacks. It’s OK. Yet your blood and race foundation is troubling.

    When I read your general comments I can hear the sound of the Horst Wessel song. That’s not fun.

  15. Poor old James.

    Here’s just a taster of the things you don’t know about Scotland’s people. This will upset your love of Empire, blood and land, though. Racial politics is distasteful as well as dangerous. Why, you could even be a UKIPer..

    ”A large scale study of Scottish people’s DNA is threatening to “rewrite the nation’s history”, according to author Alistair Moffat.

    Scotland, he told the Edinburgh international book festival, despite a long-held belief that its ethnic make-up was largely Scots, Celtic, Viking and Irish, was in fact “one of the most diverse nations on earth”.

    Sorry James. You can read further if you are interested in facts over fiction.

  16. Economic historians suggest Scotland’s current population today should be 9-10m (as Sweden), but it is barely half that because of outmigration – the result of a failed and still failing UK economy over the past century and more – UK ‘dividend’ again. Scots diaspora more than welcome to return once independence is achieved, James, and many will. Scotland is easily big enough for another million+ folk. We will need you and your like (‘retired’ included) to help rebuild and invest in this auld country – by Christ it needs rebuilt tae, economically, physically, socially and culturally, institutionally and constitutionally, and aye, spiritually an a! A’body wi a passion for Scotland mair than welcome. Independence wid mak this the place tae be!

  17. Yes Darien, spot on. But many can’t afford to return. Housing prices are insane and suit non-productive financiers and greedy Tories, but not the people or the nation. Jim Murphy likes it of course with his expenses/house fiddling situation. But soon he’ll be on the dole, suffering the venom reserved for all there. No doubt he’ll have something up his trickster’s sleeve.

    How can we have so much wealth tied up in mere non-productive bricks and not in wealth production, like engineering, once Scotland’s pride? Tragic, tragic.

  18. Hey plater You try and twist everything into a racist cant to take advantage wherever you perceive an opportunity, so sad.
    I explained Plain Speaking to you, now here is Own Goal. For a people described as deep thinkers and uncommonly intellectual, I found it disturbing to find a people fanatically obsessed with football and requiring copious amounts of alcohol to celebrate the fact. Which I considered a great waste and an affront to their real capacity and potential for both themselves and their nation.
    I was merely expressing my disappointment.
    On the subject of race I make no apology for being what I am, distinctively Scottish. I retain a deep instant empathy for my own, which does not mean I am prejudiced against other races. It does mean you should not confuse prejudice with preference.
    I consider my self a typical archetypal Scot, a social warrior, a despiser of injustice who will oppose it wherever encountered.
    I am Scottish and certainly not British, I would not demean myself by accepting a politically constructed identity. One designed to blend Scots” into their realm of blandness for ease of control.
    In the eyes of the English establishment distinction breeds anarchy. Hence their efforts over hundreds of years to eradicate Scottish culture and identity.
    It is what thy fear most for it highlights the glaring difference between Scots” and the English
    Compared to the English the Scots” certainly have distinction covered in spades.
    On the matter of distinction, as a visiting piper in The Rats of Tobruk Memorial Pipes and Drums performing in the 2005 Tattoo I have marched down Princes St Edinburgh the capital of my nation and my birthplace, attired in the garb off my nation, playing national tunes off my nation, on the national instrument off my nation, and I am sure to the thousands of onlookers I probably looked distinctively Scottish which I am, and was proud to represent my people and land in this way
    I suppose that makes me a racist to Hey plater.
    I have no particular empathy towards the English and look apron them as I would any other foreign nation, which is exactly what they are, foreigners in a foreign nation. I have English friends I do not hold anything against them, but I certainly do despise the English establishment, the House of Lords,
    the Royal Family, and their dispassionate devious history in regards to my homeland.
    And why should I not when you consider that for nigh on a thousand years it is they who have coveted my land and people, with the resultant abuse and misuse that is still as obvious today as at any other time.
    One more thing Hey plater I would advise you to drop your tactic of both chiding and patronising at the same time so you can retain the upper hand with your point of view. It is demeaning and so transparent, and so arrogant, presuming you hold a superior intellect that no one would see through.
    It was hilarious to see you correcting your own punctuation in a previous post, I think you should pay more attention to the words for they hold the meaning.
    Also you presume too much about what I don’t know about Scotland or my people.
    Is your last name Scottish? I am hoping it is not.
    As they say in Scotland I think that’s you telt Hey plater

    Darien congratulations on a beautifully written post it is Scots” like you who give me hope.
    Scotland should think of the diaspora as a mighty reserve army, one that if called would respond with whatever was required to safeguard our ancient homeland.
    Wherever Scots” have settled they have prospered and are now an incredible political and financial empire that Scotland could call on at any time to be deluged with support.

    .

  19. Dear old James
    You have concocted an incontinent splurge here which is so vast I havent the time or inclination to dismantle.

    Hey plater You try and twist everything into a racist cant to take advantage wherever you perceive an opportunity, so sad.
    I explained Plain Speaking to you, now here is Own Goal. For a people described as deep thinkers and uncommonly intellectual, I found it disturbing to find a people fanatically obsessed with football and requiring copious amounts of alcohol to celebrate the fact. Which I considered a great waste and an affront to their real capacity and potential for both themselves and their nation.

    Yes James you find the Scots to be drunks and football obsessed. OK.

    I was merely expressing my disappointment.
    On the subject of race I make no apology for being what I am, distinctively Scottish. I retain a deep instant empathy for my own, which does not mean I am prejudiced against other races. It does mean you should not confuse prejudice with preference.
    I consider my self a typical archetypal Scot, a social warrior, a despiser of injustice who will oppose it wherever encountered

    Archetypal Scot. What is that? I suspect it’s a load o’ keich.

    I am Scottish and certainly not British, I would not demean myself by accepting a politically constructed identity.

    Yes James, you’re back to blood and race even tho I showed you how howlingly wrong you are.

    One designed to blend Scots” into their realm of blandness for ease of control.
    In the eyes of the English establishment distinction breeds anarchy.

    Eh? Any evidence?

    Hence their efforts over hundreds of years to eradicate Scottish culture and identity.
    It is what thy fear most for it highlights the glaring difference between Scots” and the English
    Compared to the English the Scots” certainly have distinction covered in spades.

    Eh?

    On the matter of distinction, as a visiting piper in The Rats of Tobruk Memorial Pipes and Drums performing in the 2005 Tattoo I have marched down Princes St Edinburgh the capital of my nation and my birthplace, attired in the garb off my nation, playing national tunes off my nation, on the national instrument off my nation, and I am sure to the thousands of onlookers I probably looked distinctively Scottish which I am, and was proud to represent my people and land in this way.

    The kilt is Highland/Gaelic , not Scots. Sigh.

    I suppose that makes me a racist to Hey plater.

    Yes and it makes you dim and confused.

    I have no particular empathy towards the English and look apron them as I would any other foreign nation, which is exactly what they are, foreigners in a foreign nation. I have English friends I do not hold anything against them, but I certainly do despise the English establishment, the House of Lords,
    the Royal Family, and their dispassionate devious history in regards to my homeland.
    And why should I not when you consider that for nigh on a thousand years it is they who have coveted my land and people, with the resultant abuse and misuse that is still as obvious today as at any other time.
    One more thing Hey plater I would advise you to drop your tactic of both chiding and patronising at the same time so you can retain the upper hand with your point of view. It is demeaning and so transparent, and so arrogant, presuming you hold a superior intellect that no one would see through.

    Sorry about that old James. I can’t help it if you are so wrong it would bring tears to a glass eye.

    It was hilarious to see you correcting your own punctuation in a previous post, I think you should pay more attention to the words for they hold the meaning.

    Yes Jim, I correct typos. At least I know what they are. Do you?

    Also you presume too much about what I don’t know about Scotland or my people.

    I presume nothing about you; you present your racist/geneticist/cultural imperialist views which I reject.

    Is your last name Scottish? I am hoping it is not.

    Dear Jim. Let’s pack it in. You are the enemy within.

    As they say in Scotland I think that’s you telt Hey plater

  20. Hey plater in profiling you one thing one thing is sure, you are not Scottish.
    I suspect you are an English social and environmental refugee that has fled a failing state to reside in a country that represents the next best thing to your concept of a lost Ye Merry Old England.
    In fact your Scottish sanctuary, where you don’t recognise or respect your host nation, but still cling to a sense of loyalty towards England to placate a guilty conscience for deserting her.
    Mind you I could be wrong, for as you said you are anonymous and could be any body, you might even be a Pakistani as many have chosen Scotland for their home ( good choice]
    You are not very original in your thought processes when you have to reuse my telt line. I would have thought a man off letters and word could have come up with an original line of his own. Very disappointing.
    I am afraid you are no longer fun to play with and I will now have to move on to engage with more interesting people.
    May you continue to exist in your narrow little void, with your narrow little mind, without redemption.
    for I fear you are undeserving of any humane consideration.
    Do you have any maladjusted friends like yourself? for I am sure that would be the only company you would keep.
    Typo’s are very important, they provide employment for proof readers.
    Hey plater if you choose to respond please put some effort into a better end line. Don’t be boring or lazy, as you were with your last post.

    Hey plater improve Scotland LEAVE
    I am going to improve it by returning next year for the 2016 Tattoo, for I actually am Scottish.
    Look me up if you wish to engage in the flesh, as they say.

  21. It is a delight to read your imaginings.

    You say I am ”no longer fun to play with” – my dear Jams, the only one you’re playing with is yourself; don’t stop, don’t change the habits of a lifetime.

    ”Typo’s are very important, they provide employment for proof readers.”- It’s ‘typos’, Jams. And you need a conjunction after ‘important’. ”I would have thought a man off letters and word” -what’s this? Oh Jams, Jams!
    You are your own proofreader – but don’t give up the day job.

    You say ”you might even be a Pakistani ”. Very unpleasant, this.

    You say ” I fear you are undeserving of any humane consideration.”. That’s just your problem as I pointed out when you revealed your love of blood and soil, and your sinister love of genetics and race. Now it’s ‘untermenschen.’

  22. Hey plater. Don’t dismiss my offer to meet up during the Tattoo next year, I can be easily located you have my details. We could get together for as they would say in OZ some secret men’s business.
    Not many words are required for these sorts of engagements, you know like in the old days.

  23. Thanks Jams, but as I am totally heterosexual, I can’t and won’t meet you for ‘secret men’s business’ where ‘not many words are required’. I am sure there are clubs in Edinburgh for that sort of thing, so – best wishes!

  24. Hey platter I can assure you secret men’s business requires no sexual activity. However it would require some physical effort on my part, on yours, medical attention URGENTLY
    I only have your word you are heterosexual, as you yourself stated being anonymous you could be anyone and as such of any sexual persuasion. You seem to be familiar with those” Edinburgh clubs,”
    Perhaps you are hiding in a closet, or come out, either way being anonymous gives you zero credibility when it counts.
    And yes in OZ men are direct in response to insults, a wordy man like you would have to be very careful with loose lipped smart arsed comments. For in no time at all you would look like a coloured immigrant, on account of all the black and blue common sense you would have pummelled into you.

  25. Hi Jams

    You speak of ‘coloured immigrants” . This a phrase I don’t like, for many reasons. You yourself are an immigrant in Oz where you still treat the original people in a shameful way. Above, you spoke of Pakistanis in a way I didn’t like either. This was after your blood and soil unpleasant comments..

    Still, I think of one ‘coloured’ (as you would say) – Mohammed Ali and his famous ‘Rope a Dope’ bout with Foreman. Foreman once wore the kilt as you do tho’ he looked like a clown, so you have much in common, including the result of that great fight. The only thing you’ll be pummelling will be your solitary pursuit for gentlemen.

    I hope you have a nice visit to Scotland from Oz; were you transported there? Haste ye back down under…

    Best wishes my cheery friend!

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