for Robyn Marsack

Go take a book down from the shelf and open it. 
Listen, this isn’t ‘book’ but box,
box full of sound you lift the lid on, opening. 

Yes, open any item in this place and you’ll release
some specific human noise and voice and 
song that doesn’t need a tune to all-the-truer sing.
Pick one. Pick anything. 
Slim volume. Expansive, all-inclusive, fat anthology –
neither’s a dumb tome of texts to tease mere ‘meaning’ from. 
The song’s the thing. 

And the beauty is, it does away with time, that’s meaningless
when – this is random, but, say, you flick a page, here’s…
       oh, Ben Jonson
and one man’s singular, centuries-old, grief on the death of ‘My 
       First Sonne’
(here doth lie…his best piece of poetrie) 
that chimes and rhymes with that here-and-now sorrow of your very own
and, hurt by his and stung to tears, 
you’re somehow for a moment almost comforted 
because he had the guts to tell it terrible and true.

Listen, this library-silence thrums 
with lyric, epic, ‘language’, temporarily caged and page-bound 
loud hip-hop, rap, Burns, Bard, Scots, Gaelic, Lallans – here’s 
the murmur of the modernists, 
the auld breath-and-beat of the balladeer, 
oh, and – a word in your ear –
they’ve got a lot of her, thank God, so – hypocrite lecteur, ton semblable,
       ta soeur et ton frère – dae mind Anon,
she’s aye been baith the real McCoy
and your perfect contemporary.
All that. And yet it’s not… cacophony. 

Go in. Pick up a book. Enjoy.
Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead

Appointed Scots Makar – the National Poet for Scotland – from 2011 to 2016, Liz Lochhead is both transgressive and popular; as Anne Varty wrote, ‘her work is that of one woman speaking to many,  and one person speaking for many’.


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