More often than not I’ll drop the odd Scots word into poems and stories, either because nothing else will do, or to make a point that it’s the language appropriate to my culture, ancestry and nationality. I’ll say dreich, or outbye, or any one of a host of Scots words that have no exact equivalent in the English that I use in everyday speech and writing.
But I don’t all that often write a whole poem in Scots – and maybe I should – and nor do I write many stories in Scots. Except that I have written a few poems in demotic Scots (Confession, in The Propriety of Weeding (Red Squirrel Press, 2012), and I recently finished a short story where much of the dialogue is in the Doric of Moray, a slightly different, softer flavour of tongue from my ancestral Aberdeenshire Doric. And I absolutely loved writing it.
But when I write something solely in Scots, I’m struck by the power of the language, its hospitality to thoughts and concepts, and the beauty of it. Read Gavin Douglas or William Dunbar to get the full force.
My first published poem in Scots was A Postcaird Frae Posteritie, but it was a linguistic hybrid. I’m happier with some of the later ones, and my favourite is probably Wrack, published in Sushi & Chips (Diehard, 2006). It’s all Scots.
I’ the herbour a selkie
speirs air, dooks,
nebs the scag
strawn aboot the glaury grund.
Neist the ness, skellie-guttit,
the ‘Blithesome Weedae’ dings a mirkie mark;
the sea’s swoof sooks in an oot
the toom winnocks o the wheelhoose,
howders the tang-quaitened bell
‘at cries the maws
til their roupit saums.
I wrote it at Cove Harbour, near Dunbar, back in 2002, imagining the wreck of a fishing boat submerged below the waves, its barely heard bell still ringing as the tides surge through its skeleton.