A Recipe for WhiskyWring the Scottish rain clouds dry;
Take sleet, the driving snow, the hail;
Winter twilight; the summer's sun slowed down
to pearl-sheen dusk on hillsides, city-roofs,
on lochs at midnight.
And, most of all, take the years that have already run
to dust, the dust we spill behind us…
All this, distill. And cask. And wait.
The senselessness of human things resolves
to who we are – our present fate.
Let's taste, let's savour and enjoy.
Let's share once more.
Another glass for absent friends. Pour
until the bottle's done.
Here's life! Here's courage to go on!
Histories of DesirAt Carsethorn, Solway Coast
That was when I threw the stone and then ran after;
splashing into Smallholme burn I made the colours
of a summer’s day cascade around me.
That was when the water stilled to rowanberries,
clouds and dark green leaves I could never reach
before. I tried to pick one up –
that was when the earth and sky first slipped
between my finders.
All histories are histories of desire, they tell me
how my life begins and ends: a stretch of water,
a stone a child sends skimming
to the other side.
Ron Butlin was appointed Makar in May 2008, taking over the post from Valerie Gillies. As well as poetry, Ron is an award-winning novelist, librettist and short story writer. A colourful and varied career – from footman to barnacle-scraper and art model – has given Ron a wry take on life, most evident recently in his collection The Magicians of Edinburgh published by Polygon.
Imagine my surprise when, one cold winter’s morning in 2008 I was phoned up out of the blue and asked if I would accept the post of Edinburgh Makar (Poet Laureate). Would I!! I was gobsmacked – and delighted! A real honour. The work is varied – everything from giving the occasional speech at public events, writing occasional poems, attending receptions, giving talks and readings everywhere from St Giles’ Cathedral to the House of Lords. I’ve been imprisoned outside the Scottish Parliament and been auctioned for charity (incredibly, I went for bids in excess of £500 – twice!). Unlike Andrew Motion I feel Laureateship is A Good Thing. Whether the commissioned poem is about The Gathering of the Clans or the opening of a poetry garden, I try to re-interpret the subject and make it my own. Then, as best I can, I write from the heart.
– Ron Butlin