I was invited here
I am sure I was
to read my poetry
That’s what the email said.
I’ve been writing a lot about trees
Oh! there is this nest I found in a hedge
blue wee eggs. A Starling- was it?
Aye, well. I was invited
that’s what it said.
Tonight, for all you lovely folk
I am unpacking my poetry suitcase – ta da!
The travelling poetry salesman. That’ll be me
Roll up, Roll up, going, going, going…
And they say after, they say, I love
how you spoke about found nests
as a metaphor for immigration
truth is I’ve always been here
I was just writing about this wood
at the back of my house
about a nest I found.
How at night, I duck the bats
as if they might fly into my hair
even though I know, I duck.
Even though I know
they know this place
just as well as they know
I know this place. Still, I duck.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2021. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor for 2021 was Hugh McMillan.
Hannah Lavery could have had several poems in here but I think this one displays the whole box of tricks- the ‘poetry suitcase’ as she describes it here. There’s a wonderful light touch in this very serious poem which is irresistible. The poem is about the tendency of poetry lovers to find meanings that aren’t there. Usually this is a welcome thing for poets, proving they were far more clever than they originally thought, but in this case the ‘knowledge’ is an expectation of feelings the poet isn’t trying to express: alienation in her own home. The end section is beautifully done with its repetitions and final multiple faceted image.
This poem is about the hesitation in claiming your place when you fear your claim will be challenged or questioned. A poem which both mocks the impossible position of being ‘representative’ but I hope gently reflects on belonging, and invites the reader in to explore what it means to be an artist who is at times, expected to represent a particular experience, and is always seen to be speaking from an experience of the ‘Other’. The poem started with the question, how do you feel when you don’t neatly fit into categories of race and nationality? A poem then about the ever present danger of exclusion, when you sit on the edges of belonging.