Walking in Blake's Garden: Poems and Tales in Scots and English, Sheena Blackhall, Lochlands, Maud, 2013, 31pp., £3.00
Goosebumps for Beginners: Poems & Tales in Scots and English, Sheena Blackhall, Lochlands, Maud, 2013, 30pp., £3.00
Grey Matter: Poems & Tales in Scots and English, Sheena Blackhall, Lochlands, Maud, 2013, 30pp., £3.00

Sheena Blackhall is ane o oor maist eident makars, wi monie pamphlets in Scots an Inglis tae her credit. The title poem o this collection shaws her in pleyfu yet serious mood, tellin o the things she aince saw in Blake's gairden: 'An elephant who wore a bridal veil / A bowl with sixteen squirrels and one snail ...' That ends wi:

And Blake himself. He grinned and said 'Hello'
And introduced me to a pedalo
We jumped on board, he sailed me round his dreams
of growling lions, lambs, and green sunbeams.

As ever, her Scots is as naitral as ye'll fin:

Heich  Bennachie an the Mither Tap's
Like a brock in a strippit jaiket
An the breem an heath in the icy howes
Is taiglit an hallierackit

It's cranreuch cauld in a latchy Spring
The knowe-heids, fite an glimmrin
The daffs are laith tae unfurl their flooers
Mangst snaa-draps jeeled an chitterin

(First twa stanzas frae 'Latchy Spring')

Ane o the things I admire aboot Blackhall is the wey her mind aye searches, an whit she fins can lowse verses. Her note on the Scottish Gaelic Alphabet, for ensample, in the pamphlet Grey Matter, ilk ane o its echteen letters is cried aifter a tree or shrub, leads til 'Tree Spikk.' Here's the first twa stanzas:

I am the bow an the spear
Growin in Haly wells
Ma berries in bairnies' cradles
Pruif agin changelin spells

I am the damp cramp bark
Bringin succour tae weemins' sairs
Ma berries like menstrual bluid
Bring balm tae female cares

I wis glaid tae see, tae, that she fund a poem for the late Dr. Sheila Douglas, wha wis a freen o mine.
Sheila's love o the leid, o sang, o stories, wis aye infectious. But, as Blackhall says, at the hinneren:

The seeds were sown for a wechty hairst
Her buiks, her sangs, won praise
Bit sair wis the weird that stole her voice
An bladded her hinmaist days

Gin ghaists cam back frae the warld ayont
She'll appear as a cheery sang
That the gaun aboot fowk will takk up
Tae chant as they wauk alang

It's a braw tribute til ane wha did sae muckle for Scottish story an sang.

In the anecdote 'Goosebumps for Beginners', there's a wee mindin o hou she learnit a tale frae Stanley Robertson, a storyteller o genius that I wis lucky tae hear a puckle times. It's this mindin that gies the pamphlet its title, sin the tale is ane o werewolves an hoo listeners reacted sae that 'you could actually see the goose bumps rise on their flesh.' Blackhall tries the story a while later but her tellin, wi werewolf howls, gars fowk lauch. She asks Stanley for advice, he tells her the howl's ower lood, an she taks this tae hairt. 'After that, I had no more problems inciting goose bumps. My werewolf impersonation is faultless. Even the wolves say so'. I like hou she's encompassed sae muckle in sic a short space, a gracefu beck til ane o the greatest storytellers an the pooer that bides yet in the simple spoken word in the hauns o a maister, a wry powk at hersel, an a humorous end. There's a wheen o owersettins here ana, affen frae an owersettin that's in Inglis. Sae there's the poem 'Lost' bi Czeslaw Milosz, his ain translation intil the Suddron, that becomes:

Love means tae laern tae luik at yersel
The wye a body luiks at hyne aff ferlies
For  ye are anely ae ferlie mangst mony
An faiver sees thon wye, heals his hairt
Wioot kennin it, frae a rowth o sairs
A birdie an a tree say tae him Frien
Syne he wints tae use hissel an ferlies
Sae they staun in the glamourize o ripeness
It disnae matter whether he kens fit he serves
Fa serves best disnae aye unnerstaun

Anither braw walin o poems an tales.

Raymond Vettese