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DEIL TAK THE HINMAIST by Alexander Hutchison

Something to wake you all up for the year. This is one of half a dozen Scots poems in Alexander Hutchison’s book Bones & Breath, published by Salt in 2013 and winner of the first Saltire Poetry Prize at the end of last year. All good news for the Scots language. 

Hutchison tells the story of this poem in his own note: ‘This poem began its life in English as 'Unfinished Business' and was dedicated to 'CMG – Christopher Murray Grieve, or Hugh MacDiarmid. A few years ago it decided it had another identity, pretty well transforming itself into (mostly North-east) Scots. The spelling usually is an aid to pronunciation. It should be read out loud, in the spirit of the old flytings: ritual insults freely exchanged. The chopped-out framework and various levels may appear Dantesque; but Dunbar and Rabelais are in the line-up too.’

Perhaps with his English publisher in mind, Hutchison also provides a substantial glossary, which I’m not going to give you. If you are in any way mazed by this vocabulary, you have two good options: resort to the on-line Scots dictionary (DSL) or buy the book, Bones & Breath (Salt, 2013)  ISBN 978 1 907773 61 7
Let the rough and tumble begin.

DEIL TAK THE HINMAIST by Alexander Hutchison

'I think ye ocht t' pit the pillywinkies on t' him..' 

The girt yett kickit in, an lo! – they liggit: scummers o pots 
an skelpers o cuddies; jaws that cleikit, rhymes that reikit; Kerr's Pink
tatties biled in their jaickets; deedle-dabblers in cytoplasm; virtual
realtors swickin an swyvin; daddy-lang-legs; dirlin Dodies;
hoodie-craws cracklin fae the tippy-taps o trees: 

                                                                   Deid-loss or Daidalos
                                                                   fit's it gaan tae be?

Pooshin pumpers, coonter-jumpers, cairpet fitters birslin wi a moo-fae
o tacks; tomcats; corncrakes; shilly-shally sharn shifters; couthy bicuspids;
aa the wee glisterin anes; aa them that wid grudge ye one jow o the bell.

The neist yett swung, syne mair wis kythit: tethered tups,
draigelt yowes; the slalom loons fae Dandruff Canyon; wheepers
o candy-floss; footerin futtrets; the hee-haw-hookum o hystet hizzies;
foosty fowk lik Finnan haddies; Buckie blaavers wi the full wecht o blaw.


Shouther tae the third yett, an jist as ye micht expeck: sornars
an sooks; herriers an haverers; gran chiels in blue corduroy, fantoosh
wifies; r.p. flannel dinkers; parkins, merkins; secont-sichtit seannachies
wi hunkies clappit t' their snoots; flunkeys; junkies; buglers; shooglers; 

Methuselahs wi nips an tucks; trashtrie shotten aff the shelf.

                                                                  As douce a set o creepy-crawlies
                                                               as ye're ivver like t' see.

Here-am-ur; hempseed; fushionless tail-toddle:
Daith's on the fussle lik the win throw the widdy.

Roon the corner, an doon the stair: polyglot thrapple-stappers;
chirpy chairmers; mingers an moochers; bracken for brakfast, neebors
for lunch. Lest bit nae least: flees in putty, wersh wicks in seas o wax.

Coda:  Scrap it if ye fancy intil ae muckle plum duff – 
plooms, suet, orange peel – simmert slaw an slaistert
in slices, faa's t' say it winna lest for years?