Having loved books and literature from an early age I also started writing poetry when I was quite young. Encouraged by Mr. Bodinetz, an English teacher at my secondary school, I started to read and examine quite a lot of poetry. The works of W. B. Yeats in particular appealed to me. Experimenting with the sonnet form and inspired by a very weird dream I wrote Zoomorphic Dreams in my teenage years. Later on I dipped in and out of writing, but had a particularly creative spell around the same time I was doing music with my friends Jon and Tom in Edinburgh, when I came across the poetry of Taliesin, an ancient Welsh bard. The bardic traditions seemed to appeal a great deal from the different Celtic strands however I was still very much enthralled by relatively modern poets such as Sylvia Plath, e. e. cummings, T. S. Eliot and Baudelaire.
I also had become increasing interested in hip-hop both from the US and UK and listened to a lot of bands, such as A Tribe Called Quest, the Dream Warriors and a local Edinburgh outfit called Blackanized. An unexpected opportunity at WOMAD in Reading to hear the Last Poet, Jalal Nuriddin, also led to my speaking to him by phone in Paris where he gave me some memorable advice: “It’s like Duke Ellington said. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” I also got a chance to see another great, Gil Scott-Heron at WOMAD years later, possibly one of his last ever gigs. These artists established the roots of hip-hop and their influences could be discerned in much of the later lyrics I admired. Exemplified by their wit, rhythm and social commentary, although of a world which I was not really a part of, I felt inexplicably drawn to what they were saying. Hip-hop was also a big factor in the burgeoning Drum and Bass scene I was involved in from an unexpectedly Scottish and northern quarter during the 90’s.
Fast forward to the early part of this decade when I decided to hire a clàrsach from the Clàrsach Society in Edinburgh and was also listening to a lot of Gaelic song. This seemed to engender another spell of poetic creativity which I expressed by creating a website called Kyberpoetica and eventually an album of the same name featuring recordings of poems and clàrsach. I released this in 2014 and around the same time I started getting involved in the Edinburgh poetry community, initially through the very kind encouragement of Tessa Ransford. Later I attended a number of open mic nights, such as Blind Poetics, where the picture of me reading is from. Although I kept quite a low profile (I was enjoying listening to the other performers so much) I did get encouragement to write more and share what I was doing both in spoken word and music. I also was greatly encouraged by Matt Duggan who invited me to read in Bristol after one of my poems was published in The Angry Manifesto. I hadn’t really considered myself a political poet but this seemed to be an aspect of my writing that appealed to them, I suppose spurred on my interest in Gil Scott-Heron.
Quite fortuitously I began to engage with poets who wrote in Scots Gaelic and I was very grateful when Angus Peter Campbell sent me back a fully translated version of my poem “A Vision”, after my own faltering attempts. I recorded this, set it to music and made the video above which Lesley Traynor very kindly shared with people via her Film Poem events. The audio version was also played on the London based Poets and Poetry Radio Show hosted by Sinclair Farrell. Along with a fellow poet and musician Kirsten Norrie AKA MacGillivray I was tasked with delivering the event programme at the Scottish Poetry Library which was a fabulous opportunity to hear and meet many extremely talented poets from Scotland and beyond. Since then I’ve had a few more poems published (including the Taisbean one in the film above) and I’ve been writing and recording. It feels like another album may be on its way so watch this space.