Vowels anent Rimbaud, by Harry Giles
13th May 2017
Looking out for Scots in current Scottish poetry magazines, sometimes there is a glut of it and sometimes you have to look closely. The new issue of Northwords Now, Chris Powici’s last issue before handing over the editorship, includes work in Scots by only two poets, with one poem by Judith Taylor, and two or could it be three by Harry Giles.
Harry Giles has written soundly on the dialect of the northern islands and the various orthographies of Scots. As most people realise, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Here he pokes his lingo-savvy fun at the vowels, discussed in detailed as shades of sound. This is real, hearty writing, using Scots as its medium. There’s been enough parading of rule-making Scots language standards and not enough creativity and fire in Scots language poetry of late, but it is there if you hunt for it. And it’s here in Harry Giles’ poem, thoroughly worked, every word considered. He has no time for ‘huntit’ if he wants to say ‘huntid,’ nor ‘auld’ if he wants to say ‘aald.’ This isn’t just Scots: it is new Scots poetry. Also, it is a sonnet.
AA yird, EY pa, II chaak, OA gress, EU sea:
no a chantan o atoms bit a sang o shaeds.
AA, broad broun, poud ower weys, ower braes;
deid haither an sharn; ploud field an soldier heid;
the muild, o coorse, the muild whaar shaeds mey thrive
EY, primula scotica, kent an huntid,
ee tae grund: whan spied, celebratid.
II, shell white, haar white, egg white, aff white:
clood an grottie buckie, currency
an common weal. OA, weet brae, mossy
yowe, but nivver a tree, ach, nivver a tree.
EU, last o aa, aald surroond,
dusty tide, in yin airt, an yin, tae Bergen
an ferivver. An ee. Muscle o een.