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Land Airts by Judith Taylor

5th May 2013

Judith Taylor, who lives in Aberdeen, comes from the area between Dundee and Aberdeen, and has also worked in Dunfermline. She consequently writes in a north east coast Scots. She has a very good speaking voice for Scots. I remember her wowing the company by reading from Scott's The Lady of the Lake at our poetry reading on the boat trip on Loch Katrine.
   Judith Taylor has published poems in English and Scots, and has also been closely involved as Editor in Pushing out the Boat, the writing magazine from Aberdeen which “believes Scots and Doric can be used for anything – and should be!”
   Judith also knows Middle Scots and has done work on Gavin Douglas' translation of the Aeneid, from which she read at StAnza Poetry Festival this year, in a presentation along with A.C. Clarke reading from the Late Middle English translation by the Earl of Surrey. There will be a further discussion of this work at Callander Poetry Weekend on 6 September.
   In her own poetry Judith uses Scots for both contemporary and historical subjects. She has translated poems from Middle English into Scots, but is also using Scots in writing, as she says, “to let it come more naturally to me as a language for serious things (I’m old enough for it still to have been frowned on in school, except for Burns recitations on prescribed occasions).”

   Land Airts, below, was the shortest poem Judith Taylor sent me, and I have chosen it because it does not deal with a historical subject for which Scots might once have been thought particularly suitable, but is a lovely, current description of how the poet imagines the riverside cairns made of balanced piles of stones have been constructed. The poem ends on a surprising and sensitive note. This kind of Scots is eminently suitable for such a delicate and immediate descriptive poem.
   Hear Judith reading the poem on the MP3 above this text.

Land Airts
There canna be much delicht
in pilin stane on stane sae mensefully
– saftly, saftly nou –
tae construct thae wee attenuatit cairnies,
ae stane roond an sivin lang,
by the side o the river.

Nae heave-ho,
nae cletter o knab on knab
tae let on ye’re warkin. Saftly, saftly nou
for fear ye shuld send the skeery, minimal tour
ye hae achievit
tummlin doun agin.

An whiles it’ll tummle onywey,
an ye’ve naethin tae dee
bit clear the foonds
an stert ower fae the bottom
– saftly-saftly nou, stane on stane –
hopin for better chance this time.

– But man, the saitisfection
when it’s aince dune
an ye back awa on yer tippertaes,
lettin yer breith oot saftly
(saftly nou) tae admire the delicat
yaiseless thing ye hae made yersel!

I’m ettlin tae seek the sculpter oot
an ask him – Hae ye iver thocht
tae turn yer hand tae a poyem?


Judith Taylor

  • Land Airts (MP3 recording)