‘I live on, I play on the souls/ Of many from where heather grows’

Time to celebrate Robert Burns! And what better way than with Sleekit, a brilliant poetry collection from many of our best contemporary poets writing in the Burns stanza. We’ve picked a few highlights for you to enjoy.


Sleekit: Contemporary Poems in the Burns Stanza
Edited by Lou Selfridge
Published by Tapsalteerie


Ode tae a Tunnock’s Teacake – Gill Shaw 

ah eye up thon wee gildit temptress
ken soon she’ll let me help her undress –
peel aff her skirt wi practiced finesse
while ah birl her roon
they chocolate curves call oot fur caress
let ma fingers scoon 

ah’ll cradle her sae she’s suspendit
then flip her ower sae she’s upendit
an dae whit ah ken she indendit
bite her biscuit aff
ah’ll dip ma tongue in – she’ll taste splendit
sweet an sticky, saft 

ah’ll gulp the rest doon in a wunner.
gie up silent prayers tae Tunnock’s
but wi her gone ah’ll nae be scunnered
caucht up in ma thochts
while it’s true that she wis a stunner
ir’s five mair in the box 



Ma Scotland Is – Jeda Pearl 

whorls o snowdrops refusin tae mope
bluebells convenin unner th oak
a glimmer o fawns wi thair kinfolk
fine legs o birch
sleekit smirr that gies ye a guid soak
willow, like church 

low sky gatherin clouds in thair flocks
sparrows squabblin, a cauldron o hawks
starlings swell granite in paradox
larynxes strum
goldhammers – prophets o equinox
wingfuls o sun 

bladderlocks n deid man’s bootlaces
microcosmic rock pool embraces
coastal melodies – shoreline graces
ripe mussels thieft
gulls screekin, swaddlin wind displaces
salted grief 


auld coal cellars wi daddy-long-legs
clamberin tenements, skylight webs
duckin washin lines, hide in hedges
backgreen escapes
skitin doon th hillside oan yer sledge
hail bites, high stakes 

tim’rous recitals o cherished Burns
does this poetry deserve ma tongue
sweetened wi cane sugar companion
how we enlighten
imagine oor Rabbie campaignin
for reparations 

Scottish surnames across Jamaica
both bonnie lands o wood n water
inherited by twin isles’ daughter
witches, mystics
when wi gaun mak equalisation?

plenty still reek monies, palms bluid greased
excessive atrocities bequeathed
say yer frae here – thay dinnae believe
brave Caledonia
isnae racist so hud yer truth – wheesht
fearless nation 

aye, aw that 

but it’s 

sweepin hills o mauve-turnin heather
gilt-tongued gorse hostin May Day blethers
candied clovers in leesome weather
nettle sent’nels
purple thistles burstin wi feathers
at summer’s close 

thick cloaks o haar tae hush dour mornin’s
lang yairns n fowktales tae courie-in
wry maids o mist, dirges for yearnin
feisty insults
skimmerin wirds soundin oot meanin
land o poets 

taps aff for a fleetin wing o sun
endless ceilidhin while th night’s young
myndin oor histrae tae mend, atone
skouth, aye enough
reclaimin courage – fearless nation
heavin wi love 



Robert Burns in Scottish Stanza – Janette Ayachi 

A diet of women, wine & song
What could possibly go so wrong
This is the place where I belong
& I love it
It bulks me up & makes me strong
Fuels me with grit. 

I speak in stardust, incantations
I dress in silk & selkie skins
& I confess all my near sins
To the whole world
Where I end & where I begin
Is one big swirl. 

Baritone of my bones sing heavy
Beneath the belly of my bevvy
I reach for life that feels fleshy
So I can sleep
Legend & myth just like Nessie
Into the deep. 

With romance, friendship, food & drink
One is always allowed to think
Most things to music we can link
Words to lyric
This is how we stop the near sink
It’s generic. 

From couch to ceilidh, up you get!
No rest from the workers sore head
It won’t be long before we’re dead
Let’s celebrate
With throats open wide to be fed
If that’s our fate. 

My role, I speak for my people
Escape societal shackle
Make folk laugh, bellow & cackle
Like the stars say
I’m Aquarius, I mingle
In lots of ways. 

Most mornings I work the farmland
It’s my duty to give a hand
But my health is taken like quicksand
The elements
Rake their toll against all I planned
In settlement. 

I am restrained from who I love
So breed as wide as a turtle dove
Migrating to fields from above
I know these roads
Journeys that give the words a shove
Like breath, they flow. 

Hemlock, porcelain & then smash
I weary myself back from crash
Marry my love under lightning flash
Father unleashed
Allowed now to follow my stash
For all such peace. 

Kids & animals catch my heart
I’ve always known this from the start
Losing my daughter, the worst mark
Death has ingrained
After this stopped the morning lark
I live in pain. 

Seasons come fierce, I watch from my room
Try not to let myself hug gloom
My tooth is removed more ache looms
So much is lost
I crawl to my horse left ungroomed
Dip into frost. 

I trust my friend, dear physician
Wide cabinet of medicines
Each one a trick from the magician
Ripe sorcery
To sip with my broth of venison
Soon I’ll be free. 

I drink from the well, dip in the sea
But want to stay in bed with whisky
The delirium knocks my family
All to the still
Too late now for my recovery
I’ve had my fill. 

Chronic illness & infection
My heart’s walls go up in correction
The water too cold to section
Any more time here
Live fast, die young; a quick reflection
Nothing to fear. 

I’ve left my brood my legacy
Many women mourning after me
It’s no wonder I’m not left in peace
Long after rot
To unravel any mystery
Least not forgot. 

I live on, I play on the souls
Of many from where heather grows
& beyond as life does unfold
Each year I’m sung
On my birthday I rise & roll
Kiss winter sun. 


Sleekit: Contemporary Poems in the Burns Stanza edited by Lou Selfridge is published by Tapsalteerie, priced £10.00.

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