Arjun into Scots 1

Here’s the first of Arjun’s poems in English (apologies about losing the centre margin!) then in Scots. I loved the teasing relation between his shopping list of necessities and the short, oblique commentaries/asides/non sequiturs. This piece we performed as a sort of triple act where Arjun would read his English, I’d retort with the Scots, and Meena would interrupt with the Tamil.

To write, you need

to tell stories
or you might burst
paper, pen or a laptop
as if, it were an addiction


an eye for the bad
the good
and most importantly
the grey


a love for words and
their cosmic dance


hurt, pain, loads of love
a passion for life
and everything it throws
at you


a smile and a tear
a dark heart of gold

more yoga

a need to experience everything
once, twice, aw! all the time

mirchi pickle in mustard sauce

arrogance only if
coated in humility


meet aliens
at your doorstep
as if it happened
all the time

tight underwear

have sex atleast once
on the beach
to understand sand

been to a morgue lately?

fears: don’t forget them
little monsters you know
fairies, goblins, elves
chudails and their cousins

a friendly personality

essential: a schizophrenic existence
walk an imaginary pet
or friend in the park
conversations with self
are normal

the ability to talk to strangers

wax your legs
if you are a guy
hairy underarms
natural eyebrows
as a style statement
if you are not

pranayams: they ease the pain

an education
if you want to be a writer
none, if you are a storyteller

finally, get a muse
then nothing matters


Tae scrieve, ye need

tae tell tales
or bust
paper, laptop, pen
lyk a yen


an ee fur thi guid
thi bad
and abune aa
thi dreich


luve fur wurds
thir Siva shimmy


pangs, paiks, love in spades
passion fur life
that lobs at ye aathin
and uts wife


a grin and a greet
and a daurk gowd hert

mair yoga

need tae hae and dae aathin
aince, twice — ach, aa thi time

mirchi pickle in mustard sauce

cockiness anerly
in a coat of iver sae humble


meet ETs
in yir lobby
like ut happent
aa the time

ticht underpants

huv it away at least thi wance
oan thi strand
tae understand

been tae a morgue lately?

dreids: dinnae furget them
wee monsters ye ken
brownies, banshees, selkies
kelpies and thir cousins

a freendly face

must have: schizo leanins
walk thi ghostie dug
bump intae absent fiends
blethers wi yirsel
ur thi done thing

an ability tae chat wi strangers

wax yir legs
gin ye’re a dude
hae hairy oxters
and furry eyebrows
fur fashion notes
gin ye’re no

pranayams tae ease thi pain

waant tae be a writer
get an education
want tae tell stories
get lost

last thing, get yirsel a muse
then ye can drap aathin


About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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2 Responses to Arjun into Scots 1

  1. arjun says:

    ..the next time we read this we should do it as a vaudeville act. or maybe as clowns battering each other.

  2. Bill Herbert says:

    I’m all for clown-battering. There would seem to be a short slapsticky film in this: beach, brolly, pickles, shaving off our eyebrows – all in sepia. It’d be great!/dumb…[delete as applicable]

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