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Day2 – Brither Bards – Sunday 4th May – Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

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Lapraik’s personal and poetic relationship with Robert Burns reminds us that Burns was always a poet of company, with friends, lovers, sometimes enemies, and of variety, writing in English as well as Scots, of Edinburgh as well as rural Ayrshire, of politics as well as love. Join two contemporary poets who follow this tradition, Rab Wilson and Alan Riach, as they discuss the role of ‘Brother Bards’, the value of poetry in the modern world, and read from their new books.
Alan Riach’s The Winter Book begins on an icy Christmas night and ends at the well at the world’s end, bringing in family, friends, Scotland, independence, Europe and what’s worth celebrating even in dark times.


‘The Winter Book’ by Alan Riach (Luath Press)


Alan Riach’s first book of poems since 2009’s Homecoming has been called ‘a vision of our times’ and addresses some of the most difficult issues, 2009-2017, but it’s also a celebration of friends, landscapes, domestic and public actions that are shared strengths and virtues. As William Carlos Williams put it, ‘If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem!’


The Winter Book is full of big poems that encompass a range of experience, engaging with ideas, situations, places, and the why of it. Political anger is poured into strong, argumentative, emotionally engaging poems: no easy task.


The poems in The Winter Book connect people, places and culture across geographies, nationally in Scotland and internationally in global, political contexts of loss and affirmation, sorrow and anger, personal and public worlds, as memories flow into history.


‘Zero Hours: Poems chiefly in the Scots language’ by Rab Wilson (Luath Press)


Some of Rab Wilson’s poems also celebrate paintings. ‘Salmon Nets and the Sea’ is a moving tribute to both painting and painter (Joan Eardley).


‘Hapt agin the cauld ye staund yer grund,
tae win fir us the lethal achin beauty o the sea
that gies sae much, an taks sae much awa.’


He has the commendable ability to scratch away at our layers of protective skin and cut to the quick. ‘Zero Hours’ is a bleak indictment of our society and ‘In Memory of Tom Carrick’ he celebrates the power of landscape and the human spirit.


Full of fire and insight, this collection crackles with life and passion. There is humour too as in ‘Fourteen Coos’ and I particularly liked ‘What the Alien speaks of When he Speaks of Love’ as it shows machines operated by human beings and their ‘motives’ interpreted by aliens.


As well as social and political commentary Wilson has a fine sensibility for beauty and the transcendent. ‘A Spider’s Web Glazed with Frost’ is compared to ‘Charts depicting stellar endlessness, joining dots in God’s great puzzle book.’


Social insight, wit and poignancy are the hallmarks of Rab Wilson’s poetry. He ranges from concerns with present-day injustices to humanity’s place in the greater scheme of things, ending with, appropriately, ‘The Greater Sea’:


‘Ayont the faur horizon Venus lowes,
The Cosmos beckons tae us; pynt the prow!’