Monday, 18 December 2006
The collection includes a number of poems written in October 2006 during Sheena's time at the Ted Hughes Centre, Lumb Bank, Yorkshire.
Some of the poems and songs included in The Likeable Ordeal were performed at the Brechin Arts Festival 2005, the Aberdeen Arts Carnivals 2005 and 2006, Deliberately Thirsty at the Edinburgh Fringe 2006, Aberdeen Word Festival 2006, and the William Wallace 2005 Commemorations. Others have been published in 100 Favourite Scottish Poems (Luath and the SPL, 2006), Scotland's Poets (Poetry Now, 2006), Great Britain (Anchor Books, 2005) and in the Friends of Elphinstone Institute newsletter.
Copies of The Likeable Ordeal are available from Severin Books - get yours before they sell out!
Monday, 18 September 2006
A new collection of poems, newly published by Lochlands as a Limited Edition booklet.
The Heavenly Cow of Thebes was written mainly in
Friday, 12 May 2006
The Owl Hour (Malfranteaux Concepts, 2006) contains ‘This Braif Toun’, a cantata commissioned by Aberdeen Orpheus Choir in 2005 (lyrics bySheena Blackhall, music by James Reith). It also features ‘Sculpture in Granite’, a film commentary commissioned by Aberdeen City Council’s
The cover of Past Masters (Lochlands, 2006) shows the poet’s paternal grandfather, Alexander Middleton, in his Masonic insignia. He was a Past Master of Lodge No 281, Charleston of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire West. The poems draw on Masonic symbolism. The motif of Jacob’s Ladder is a recurrent one in Sheena’s poetry.
Sea Quine (Malfranteaux Concepts, 2006) includes fourteen poems inspired by paintings in the 72nd Exhibition of the Aberdeen Artists’ Society, of which Sheena is an ordinary member. Others were broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland's Reel Blend, or published in Sex & the City (Koo Press).
In his review in Lallans, David C. Purdie said: 'this is a wee traisure trove that'll kittle up the childer nae fash. Forbye the poems the buiks illustratit wi umpteen braw wee drawins duin bi ane Sine NicThearlaich wha turns oot tae be nane ither nor Sheena Blackhall hersel... sae lang as we hae skellie makars like Sheena Blackhall screivin for bairns an growne-up bodies forbye, there's hope yet for the Scots leid'.
Lochlands also published a further booklet in the Very Limited Edition series, Sergeant Buchan's Jacket. This collection included poems inspired by work from the Aberdeen Artists' Society 71st Annual Exhibition in 2005, and a poem, 'The Gweedman's Craft', which Sheena wrote after studying Arthur Watson's 'Goodman's Land', exhibited by Grampian Hospitals Arts Trust as part of the University of Aberdeen's Word Festival.
Sergeant Buchan's Jacket also includes 'Holyrood', a poem written after Sheena, myself and my better half went doon on the train to Embra to visit the Scottish Parliament. The afternoon we visited the Chamber, Thursday 19 May, did indeed include discussion of "...breastfeeding, / noxious emissions, beavers, health, horse passports".
Death of a Pope was published by the University of Aberdeen to celebrate Word05. The collection contains poems written during Sheena's visit to Italy, her original intention for her trip being to fulfil a lifetime's ambition to study the art of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and explore the remains of ancient Rome. However, as the title indicates, events changed the mood and emphasis of the writing, as she became caught up in some of the most moving and extraordinary scenes of recent times.
Hairst o Thorns and Serendipity are the final pair of 2004 very limited edition collections, and were published by Lochlands.
As with some earlier collections, all proceeds from Hairst o Thorns went to support Mental Health Aberdeen. 'Luggin in at Khan’s' was commissioned by Radio
David Atherton, the Creative Links Officer for Aberdeenshire Council, worked closely with Les and Sheena in his former role as Education Officer at the Gallery. In his foreword to Gallery Prints he comments: 'Les and Sheena have spent many hours over the last few years composing their own responses to the displayed artefacts. These responses, works in their own right, have now been collated and form a remarkable anthology of literature that reflects admirably the original intentions of the artists whilst at the same time imbuing them with their own flavour of wit, insight and sophistication.'
Thursday, 11 May 2006
Two more collections from 2004's Very Limited Edition series.
The cover for The Toad on the Rock's Opinion, by Sìne NicTheàrlaich, is based on a detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, a precursor of the Surrealists (a favourite group of Sheena's). Poems in this collection also appeared in Worlds in Wonder, Lapidus, and Poetry
Poems from Preparing to Meet the Minotaur, in keeping with the changing platform for poetry, appeared in magazines (Lallans and Leopard), as part of an Art Exhibition (GHAT), on Radio
Wednesday, 10 May 2006
The foreword contains one of my favourite Sheena anecdotes, which I first heard lang syne when I asked her what inspired a particular poem:
"Ten years ago I attended a workshop run by the Scottish psychosynthesists on integrating the psyche. We were to imagine the psyche as a house. We were to imagine the front door. We were to imagine the door opening. A very important element of the psyche was to emerge in symbolic form. Others saw Indian chiefs and Egyptian priests. From my front door there stepped a large hairy Friesian, mooing amiably… "
Sheena's foreword to the booklet discusses the challenges of writing in Scots, and the often frustrating quest to find a publisher outside the sphere of local presses. It contains some valuable advice for any new writer.
Sheena produced an astonishing wealth of material during her years at the Elphinstone Institute, and decided to publish the work herself rather than see it wait patiently unpublished in a drawer: "You'll lose money on the venture, but the general public will actually buy your work and hopefully read it. If the thought of losing money appals you, you should examine the reasons behind why you are actually writing... Is it to become rich and famous? Write in English then. Possibly for Mills and Boon."
In 2004, three special collections for children were published as Very Limited Editions:
Katy the Crocodile: Poems in Scots for Littlins
The Wizard o the North: Poems in Scots for Halflins
Indian Peter: Bairn Tales and Poems in Scots and English
The Wizard o the North was a finalist in the 2005 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for poetry pamphlet publishing.
The Tower o Babel: A Wheen Owersettins in Scots and The Lan o Tea an Tigers are the next in the series of Very Limited Edition booklets which appeared in 2004. Both collections are subtitled 'Poems fae the Muckle Furth' and include work inspired by Sheena's travels.
All the poems in The Tower o Babel are owersetts into Scots taken from English translations completed by others who are expert in their own linguistic fields. "What interests me", says Sheena, "are the ideas behind the words, from different countries and times."
The Lan o Tea an Tigers, in addition to poems written during Sheena's travels in Thailand and India, features 'The Lion and the Eagle', a poem written and performed during 'Scotland at the Smithsonian' which Sheena attended with Elphinstone colleagues Stanley Robertson and Ian Russell in 2003.
The title comes from the traditional song of the same name:
Eence a ship sailed roon the coast,
an aa the men in her wis lost,
Barrin a monkey up a post,
sae the Boddamers hanged the monkey oh!
Tradition goes that during the Napoleonic wars a ship ran aground off Boddam. The only survivor was a monkey which the Boddamers hanged, thinking it was a French spy, but gave it Christian burial anyway. In the past, to rile the inhabitants of Peterhead and Boddam, other North Easters would enquire ‘Fa beeriet the monkey?’
This collection includes the prizewinning ‘Salute tae a Bonnie Fechter’, a poem written in tribute to the late Hamish Henderson.
Some of the poems in Diminishing Lines also featured in Chapman, Poetry
Tuesday, 9 May 2006
A year earlier, Sheena and her Elphinstone colleagues Dr Ian Russell and Stanley Robertson represented
Irene Broon, Scots Tung
ISBN 1 899920 01 3
'Loon' is the story of Donnie Paterson, a troubled Aberdeenshire teenager whose life is turned around by the discovery of his missing grandfather in a retirement home, and a holiday in the Highlands where he hears a strange story that becomes the key to solving his problems.
Itchy Coo is an award-winning imprint which specialises in Scots Language books for children and young people.
The paperback of Double Heider is available online from the Itchy Coo website, or at all good bookshops. ISBN: 1 902927 72 9
If you've ever mulled over moustaches, pondered on pillows, or day-dreamed about doorknobs, this edition of poems is for you. Queerie-Orrals, as its name suggests, is an imaginative collection of peculiar poems and curious contemplations, that will beguile and entertain.
The cover illustration is notable for providing proof-positive that Cattie of Severin Books does actually have a brain, by featuring MRI scans of the actual organ.
A very small number of copies are still available from Severin Books.
The Heivens decreed it sae:
A time tae live, a time tae dee
Fur man's but winnlestrae.
Winnlestrae (Severin Books, 2003) is a limited edition collection of fifty Scots and English poems, contemplating life's journey from cradle to kist.
A very small number of copies are available from Severin Books.
Like the earlier collection, The Heilanman's Sporran, Charles Hynes provided the wonderful cover illustration and proceeds from the sale of the book supported Mental Health Aberdeen. Sheena is an Honorary Member of Mental Health Aberdeen's Advisory Committee.
The opening section, Sea Fowk, is a sequence of poems inspired by John Bellany's exhibition, 'Images of the North Sea'.
Copies are available from Mental Health Aberdeen, or contact Severin Books.
Animals and animas, real and mythical beasts from Skinnymalinkie Centipede to the Loch Ness Monster, Scots craiturs and English creatures, practical and unpractical cats - they're all here in this collection of 76 poems.
The collection proved extremely popular, and the limited edition sold out completely in a matter of weeks. It is rumoured that the unprecedented rush to purchase Breets (as it became known) was because of the inclusion of 'Smokey Duggan the Campus Cat', a celebration of a much-loved university character, whose picture graced the wall of Sheena's office in the Elphinstone Institute for several years.
Sheena's selection in Bringing Up The Tail includes the award-winning poem 'Global Hogmanay' and extracts from the long poem 'Winter, Craigendarroch, Deeside', which won the SLS Hugh MacDiarmid trophy in 2001.
Copies may be available from The Elphinstone Institute.
ISBN 0 9541689 0 9
This hugely successful book went to two print runs, and the poems are often requested by schools and pupils unable to obtain copies of the book, which quickly sold out.
In this collection, as in her earlier work, she uses the whole resources of both English and the North east vernacular to provide the reader with colourful entertainment, while at the same time penetrating into the mysteries of life, death and sex. Myth and ancient ritual comfortably co-exist with the light and dark realities of everyday life.
ISBN 0 9526554 6 2
Copies are available from GKB Enterprises.
John set up Spring Tides to showcase current poetry in English, whilst Sheena (along with her co-editor Les Wheeler) was working on The Elphinstone Kist promoting the use of Scots prose and poetry across the North East.
Sheena’s contribution to Skin Balaclavas featured poems she had performed at the Millennium Dome, and others published in Nature’s Orchard, Northwords, Straight from the Heart, and Poetry
'Sci Fi in Suburbia' was published in the Leopard Magazine, and an extract was performed in
ISBN 0 9526554 4
Copies available from The Elphinstone Institute, or from GKB Enterprises.
Sheena is an Honorary Adviser with Mental Health Aberdeen and sits on the Committee of FORCH (Friends of Royal Cornhill Hospital). She was awarded an Honours Degree in Psychology from the OU and ran a creative writing group within premises in the grounds of Cornhill Hospital for some years, and attended training courses run by Lapidus, an association which promotes writing as therapy and as personal development.
The poems in the collection include ballads and humorous verse in Doric, beautifully crafted descriptive poems in English, and a variety of penetrating translations ('owersettins') of classic and modern poetry.
The cover illustration by Charles Hynes gained the book considerable publicity in the local press: for a time the hale o Aiberdeen buzzed with speculation about the symbolism of the contents of the Heilanman's sporran.
Once again, the stories combine suspense, humour, intrigue and mystery, and use both English and Doric. The cover design is by the author herself, and the book also features a number of her illustrations.
ISBN 0 9526554 2 X
Out of print. Copy in National Library of Scotland.
Sheena said that the poems were ‘written for Scots like myself, on the first rung of learning Gaelic, and for those who would like a brief taste in the mouth of the language of Gaeldom.’
At the time of writing she was a member of a Gaelic choir, regularly competing at the Mod.
The cover is that of the wedding photograph of Lizzie Philip and Matthew Booth, Sheena’s maternal grandparents, and was dedicated to a recently discovered half brother in
‘Lament for a Bard’, in honour of Sorley Maclean was performed at the Assembly Rooms in
A spider does figure in the pages of this book, but is not named Wittgenstein. That honour belongs of course to the philosopher whose words are quoted in the short and very personal essay on creative writing which introduces this collection of Doric tales – fiction which ranges from the other-worldly to the earthly; from high tragedy to black comedy; and from the bizarre to the mundane. Wittgenstein’s Web illustrates the creative process of weaving language into that web of varied colours and textures which characterises Sheena Blackhall’s artistry.
Three of the tales, 'Muckle Fush – Teenie Fush', 'Road Rage' and 'The Mither' are Doric translations of short stories by Italo Calvino, Alberto Moravia and Italo Svevo respectively.
ISBN 0 9526554 1 1
'A celebration of locality... pervades the work of Sheena Blackhall and.... she explicitly rejects the ideology of the Lallans movement, preferring the 'real' language of her kith and kin.'
John Corbett, Written in the Language of the Scottish Nation (1999)
Out of print, but a copy can be found in the National Library of Scotland.
It contains 'Wylins frae a Festschrift' - contributions from writers in the contemporary literary scene in
It also features short Gaelic poems by the writer under her Gaelic name of Sìne NicTheàrlaich, the name she subsequently used as an illustrator and artist.
ISBN 0952 655403 - now out of print, but you may manage to still pick up a copy in a local Aberdeenshire bookshop. One was spotted here recently.
There are also 28 poems in the collection and two plays, The Nicht Bus and Broken Hert, commissioned by Gordon Menzies Productions for the BBC Education Scotland’s programme ‘A Tongue in yer Heid’, broadcast on Jan/Feb 1995. A Kenspeckle Creel was published by Hammerfield Publishing in 1995.
Stagwyse draws on eight collections published between 1984 and 1994: The Cyard’s Kist (Rainbow Books, 1984); The Spik o’ the Lan’ (Rainbow Books, 1986); Hame-drauchit (Rainbow Books, 1987); Fite Doo Black Crow (Keith Murray Publishing, 1989); The Nor’ East Neuk (Charles Murray Memorial Fund, 1989); A Toosht o’ Whigmaleeries (Hammerfield Publishing, 1993); Druids, Drachts, Drochles (Hammerfield Publishing, 1994), and also includes a number of poems first published in (among others) Cencrastus, Chapman , Lines Review and The Living Doric.
Tom Bryan in Northwords described Blackhall’s Scots as 'powerful and adept as Garioch’s, Soutar’s or MacDiarmid’s'…going on to state that 'a large collection by any of the big publishing houses is long overdue'.
The introduction to Druids, Drauchts, Drochles was penned by David Toulmin, who said of her poetry that ‘when it is meant to be, can be as dowie as the mouth of a lamb at the frozen teat in winter.’
'Quasimodo' was published in Tratti 32; others featured were BBC commissions for schools’ programmes, or appeared in Scots Glasnost (IX), Chapman and Cencrastus.
The cover photograph shows the ferm toun of Hillhead of Cairnie, Skene, with the writer’s uncle, George Booth, in the middle flanking his horse Tibby, and father, a WWI veteran. There are 18 stories in this collection, all in Scots, covering a wide range of themes.
‘North East Nineties Rap’ and ‘Fish Gutter’s Sang’ were BBC commissions by Ishbel Maclean and Gerda Stevenson for TV and Radio schools programmes.
'The Twa Bairn Tales' appeared in English on Freida Morrison’s Nickety Nackety Radio
Ten are written in English, the remaining ten are in Scots. Themes range from daffodils to Maharajahs, from pianos to childbirth.
Some of the stories were published in Chapman, Three’s Company, Edinburgh Review, Northwords and Lallans.
‘The Gun’ was awarded the Hugh MacDiarmid prize and ‘The Bodach Byre’ was a prizewinner in the Scottish International Open Poetry Competition. Other poems featured in ‘The New Makars’, Lines Review, and Poetry Ireland Review No 31.
Monday, 8 May 2006
‘Reets’ and ‘The Wattergaw’ were prize winning stories in the Scots Language Society’s annual competition of 1998 and 1990 respectively, being awarded the Robert MacLellan cup. ‘The Frog’ is an English version of ‘The Puddock’, also a prize winning entry in that competition. 'The Honey that Came from the Sea' is a fantasy story, twice broadcast on BBC, one of the writer’s favourite stories.
ISBN 1870978331 Keith Murray Publications, 1991
The original version of ‘The Cross’ appeared in English in Leopard Magazine. Other stories were published in Lallans, Chapman and the Buchan Observer. A Scottish Arts Council subsidy was awarded to assist with publication, which was described by Les Wheeler as ‘one of the most important collections of true Scots short stories to be published in the past decade.’
Gavin McEwen, then the Preses of the Scots Language Society, writing in the magazine Lallans, said of these poems: ‘Gin ye’re eftir couthy kailyaird verse ye’d better no fash yersel wi Sheena’s wark. Hers is the poetry o a maker, grundit steive i the nor east, but rowin up aw the cerns o mankind in its wab.’
The Cover is a reproduction of the painting Sheep in a Snowstorm by Joseph Farquharson and permission was granted by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum to use it for this purpose. It contains an introduction by the poet Ken Morrice, who was present at Blackhall’s debut as a poet in Aberdeen.
This volume, like several others, including Sheena’s early Selected Poems, ‘Stagwyse’, was funded by the Charles Murray Memorial Trust.
Hamedrauchtit was produced in 1987 by Rainbow Publishing and continues to be a very popular collection with the public, poems being requested at readings and for anthologies.