The Poetry Chain

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Each month we will be sharing a poem or workshop delivered by a poet across Scotland to inspire and support you create your own poetry.

The Poetry Chain with… Jackie Kay

This month the Scottish Makar herself shares her story of how she became a writer and passes on her wisdom as to the tools you need to become a writer yourself!

Watch the video below: 

The Poetry Chain with… Louise Peterkin

Edinburgh-based poet Louise Peterkin shares her poem on the theme of place. ‘FoS’, standing for Fortress of Solitude, which is Superman’s den in the North Pole, focuses on what Superman does when he’s finished saving the world!

Watch the video below:


Sometimes, I just want to hang around in my pants.

Baggy ones. Boxers. Not close fitting red scunners

clutching my crotch over bright blue tights,

like someone pulling clenched fists to their chest –

Yesssss! The world’s been saved. Again.

Lois calls it my man den


which shows a wilfulinability to acknowledge

its staggering beauty: a frozen lotus or a water lily

blasted into icy protrusions, a silvery pyre

of test tubes and broken hearts, cupped

cold candle in the wild’s screaming tundra.

I mean, look at this place. Under microscope


the snowflake has the explicit gleam

of a ninja star. My fortress holds the same

Arctic persuasion. Seen from afar it fells

whole expeditions to their knees, huskies

leaping round them like Mexican tree frogs.

That’s just the facade. Step inside folks,


for a universe of awesome! My frozen parents

look down reproachfully as I hurtle through

the arc of their statues. I got bored

one day, manipulated two of my robot servants

into a Segway. Cape flapping, I thunder past  

the scattered scrap, their blinking data


muted to embers. The antechamber splinters

out to forever rooms of Krypton technology,

glaive-like armoury, salient and glassy as science.

But I am the weapon, my laser beam eyes

carve figures from house sized

blocks of ice. Or heat up a nice bowl of ramen.


It’s great in here: I scratch myself often and well,

apply full blast zeal to my…emissions.

There’s so much to do, though as a rule

I avoid the alien zoo with its scuttling noises,

the currency smell of the reptile. Best of all:

my games pavilion with its many consoles. I wield


the controller and in a flurry of thumbs,

my tongue sticking out in concentration

I make the pixelated avatar jump

over impossible chasms, hurl huge boulders

into oncoming villains who shudder and explode

like champagne into a million and one constellations.                                   Louise Peterkin

The Poetry Chain with… Iain Morrison

Edinburgh-based poet Iain Morrison shares his poem on the theme of place. 'Placeholder: Interview with my Younger Boyfriend'. To pull together this poem, Iain's first thought was what he could bring to young people when he isn't technically a 'young Scot'. Iain worked closely with his boyfriend to get thinking from the perspective of someone who is younger, to consider the issues and aspirations of young Scots to shine a spotlight on those!

Watch the video below:

Placeholder: Interview with my Younger Boyfriend 


dawns on me 

I’m in that needing to go to the toilet but can’t 

quite be bothered getting up yet place. 

And then you hear your flatmate going to the 

toilet and you’re angry at them but also at yourself 

because it’s not their fault 

you waited too long. 


What’s a place that felt like yours? 

The first place you would think of. 

It’s an easy go to, but my bed 

both my home in Dundee and Dunbar 

a place where someone may have to knock to 

get in, whatever I’m doing there 

which is usually just lying there. 

well as I said before, obviously it’s not nice to sleep all day if 

you have nothing to do, but 

it’s kind of nice to have that without someone getting at you for it. 

I know it’s bad but you’ve 

rules that you’ve set yourself. 

I always feel slightly uncomfortable being a visitor 

that something could go wrong. 


Can you think of a place you felt safety and happiness? 

I mean I think there’s multiple. 

I mean that’s the issue isn’t it? 

a set of conditions for the place. 


What was a time you felt like those things came together for you? 

I think your home. 

A horrible drunken night in the city. 

I did mention feeling safe there, 

in those walls. A sense of security. 

Comfortable even with having your depression.

I think I’m someone that can go somewhere and settle quite easily. 

Adjust in my head that I’m there, 

get bored of one location quickly 

so a new location is quite refreshing 

as long as I’m there, and no one’s 

trying to change somethere, then I’m happy. 

Does that not make much sense?


What are the threats to finding those places? 

In finding or to finding? 

Both probably. 

Other people trying to take you away from that space. 

Money if you can’t travel to that space 

big plush pillows I’m kidding, a sex dungeon. 

Don’t write that are you writing that? 

Two veggies. Did I wake you up? 

With I guess I even struggle with 

people sleeping in my bed. 


I like it just me. 

Well you insulted my space. 

It smelled of cigarettes. 

I am a smoker so… 

You’re very good at not smoking in my space. 

I got made fun of for that. You have to go outside by the skips to smoke ha ha. 

But he has to stay in his space and poison his dog. 

It doesn’t do anything to dogs really. I’m sure you’d like to believe that. 

Why is it bad for babies? Because babies are human. 

That sounds like selective science to me. Ok. 


Tell me about a place you’d like to imagine as your place? 

Oh goodness. 

Björk got offered an island, for her good deeds. 

Her good deeds? She rejected it. 

A house on a big rock, but the top’s 

a lush green area. 

That would be quite lovely. 

I can see why Björk might not have wanted that. 

I think solitude’s a thing for me. 

But then you know, also it’s nice to look out the window and know 

you’re not the only person in the world.

The Poetry Chain with… Harry Josephine Giles

Harry Josephine Giles, a poet originally from Orkney but now living in Edinburgh shares their poem on the theme of place, 'No Such Thing As Belonging'. Harry wrote this poem as they were thinking about how much of life people spend on the quest for belonging and finding your identity. Harry's poem is based on how sometimes this idea is a bit of a myth and maybe we should be messing with the idea of what home can be and the idea of 'perfectly fitting'!

Watch the video below:

No Such Thing As Belonging

If home is an island, build a bridge

of spit and hairclips. If home is

a mobile phone, drop it on a concrete

trampoline. If home is a party,

snap the lights on. If home is a bed, strip.


If home is a yoga mat, plant it

in the gutter. If home is a bank balance,

hook it up to a vampire's drip.

If home is a hilltop, prank call the mountain

removal office. If home is a book,


burn another book. If home is a game,

rage quit short of the boss. If home

is a download, delete. But if home is a pigeon,

feed it seed, for pigeons have it hard

enough and have a deal to teach.


If home is a kitchen, torch dinner.

If home is a pair of boots, detach your feet.

If home is a car, give it a meadow.

If home is a river, give a dam. If home is

a knife, sharpen it first (it's safer),


and if home is a knife, keep breathing and do

what you do until home is not a knife.

If home is a pill, chew. If home is a drink, spew.

If home is a plate, bite through to the bone.

If home is a mistake, undo, undo, undo.


If home is a small grey room,

brew in your gut a grander room. If home

is empty, move home. If home is a home,

leave home. If there is no home, take it with you.

And if home is an island, build a bridge.


The Poetry Chain with… Nadine Aisha Jassat

Nadine Aisha Jassat, an Edinburgh-based poet shares her poem on the theme of place, ‘A Recipe for Finding Place', otherwise entitled ‘Home is a Thing You Make’. Nadine’s poetry is inspired by lived experiences and she uses her poetry to reclaim power over her life experiences.

Watch the video below:

A Recipe for Finding Place

Or ‘Home is A Thing You Make’.


Begin with at least two cups;

for no-one is just one thing

no matter what they claim.


Sift in one all of your questions:

the way that woman looked at you

when you asked her to correctly pronounce your name;


the boys on the school bus

prophesying your return to some unknown place;

The words ‘but, originally’,


always applied to your face.

The way you wonder if belonging,

is something you will ever attain.


With your other hand, fold round it

your memory of the way

your Aunt’s hands course the prayer mat


and your mother’s knees rest in the pew,

and the breath of both travel across the world -

duas and psalms that can pass through the walls of any room.


It takes some work to do;

I won’t lie, that sometimes my bones have ached

with the weight of each lift and fold, lift and fold,


lift, trying to balance the pull

of all the things people give to you

and all the things they take.


That’s when I know it’s time to find

my own recipe for place.

I’ve learned that we all rise


at our own pace; all need our own time

to test, prove, taste.

So, find yourself your own oven;


a dark place to stretch and grow,

to take everything thrown into your mix,

bind it tight, then let it go,


leaving you transformed 

in to something all your own.

Home can be filled with many things


or perhaps just a few.

But, I guess the most important ingredient

is the promise of you welcoming you:


make your hands your own front door,

your laughter your own living room,

have your own back,


because it is your foundation,

insulate your walls with the kindest of words.

When you call ‘Home’,


let it be your own voice that answers;

charge yourself on nobody’s dreams but yours;

and last of all remember,


no matter what others say,

home is a place you’re allowed to choose,

home is a thing you make.