Book Week Scotland #5

A personal rake through my favourite books for Book Week Scotland

Book 5: A History of Scottish Women’s Writing, edited by Douglas Gifford and Dorothy McMillan (Edinburgh, 1997)

A History of Scottish Women's Writing front cover image

The first comprehensive critical analysis of Scottish women’s writing from its recoverable beginnings …

A magnificent work of recovery research and editorial scholarship, this book is a reminder of how literary history is skewed in favour of the male. Something to remember today – 30 November – Saint Andrews Day.

It’s a huge, thick book – 716 pages of Scottish women’s writing – running from Christian Lindsay c. 1560 to Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s present National poet – our Scots Makar. Packaged – recovered and brought to our attention. Every single woman in this book deserves her own book, her own study, her own prominence.

[extract] ‘From a Mouse’, by Liz Lochhead

Ploughman? That will be right! Heaven-taught?

He drank deep o The Bard, and Gray, and Pope – the lot.

I, faur frae the spontaneous outburst you thought,

Am an artifact.

For Man’s Dominion he was truly sorry? Not!

’T was all an act.

Burns, baith man and poet, liked to dominate.

His reputation wi the lassies wasna great.

They still dinna ken whether they love to hate,

Or hate to love.

He was ‘an awfy man!’ He left them tae their fate,

Push came to shove.

Couldnae keep it in his breeks? Hell’s bells, damnation,

I wad be the vera last to gie a peroration

On the daft obsession o this prurient Nation,

His amatory antics.

He was – beating them tae it by a generation –

First o th’ Romantics.

Arguably I am a poem wha, prescient, did presage

Your Twentyfirst Century Global Distress Age.

I’m a female mouse though, he didna give a sausage

For ma sparklin een!

As for Mother Nature? Whether yez get the message

Remains to be seen.

[extracted from SPL website version. Original published in Addressing the Bard: twelve contemporary poets respond to Robert Burns, edited by Douglas Gifford (Scottish Poetry Library, 2009)

Read the poem in full on the SPL website