Review

From The Eildon Tree  Summer/Autumn 2015  Issue 26

Hamish Scott is something of a well-kent face in Scots literary circles, and his latest collection from The Laverock’s Nest Press, Wirds for the Day, shows why. Though predominantly short form and wrought in Standard Scots, the poems in this collection are far from kailyard; Scott’s subjects range from suicide bombers to the use of drones in war, from the future exploration of space to the inviolable beauty of Antarctica. Throw in the usual meditations on death and life, and it’s a fair purview.

 

I say “usual meditations”, but in fact these poems are anything but quotidian. This is a mature collection, a wise collection. Its frequent reflections upon death are authentic, not elegiac, genuine attempts to come to grips with the end of existence and what it might mean. Considered and contemplative, Wirds for the Day, evokes that stage in life where one is no longer searching quite so ardently for the answers, but rather for the questions that make sense of everything that’s gone before. Approaching death, for Hamish Scott, seems to mean being near a new beginning, rather than a conclusion.

 

That doesn’t necessarily mean, I should point out, a new beginning in a religious sense. What I mean is that these are poems of renewal. Poems about the lives which will extend on after ours, and the lives which will follow. Flowers that will still grow, hope that will be born and clung to. After we are gone, season will follow season, and the world will continue to turn. Wirds for the Day conveys that cycle poignantly and beautifully. The language is accessible throughout – non-speakers of Scots should have few difficulties. In Scots as natural and unselfconscious as this, the mood and music of the poems are preserved somehow in a space separate from the words themselves. Though it’s the words, as the title tells us, which the collection is really about. Maybe that’s just a bit of misdirection. Scott despairs repeatedly of words, our human need to use them, their inadequacy for the task in hand. Words are fluid and subjective things, as apt to distort or stifle our thoughts as to free them. The business of naming things is a troublesome one. And yet,

 

          Monie’s the nemm gien tae a bairn

          but aa mean howp

 

What’s in a word? Not much but what we try to put there. In these “wirds”, Scott has captured much of life’s loveliness and mystery.


Thomas Clark