Dragonflies present… David Bleiman

David will be joining us to launch his first pamphlet This Kilt Of Many Colours

So we can all get to know David a little better we asked him some questions:

What was the inspiration for This kilt of many colours?

I live with a talented craftswoman who made a kilt for our son in her granny’s Buchanan tartan. But, as a secular Jew in Scotland, I bring other threads to the weaving shed.  Threads from the Habsburg and Austro-Hungarian Empires, from South Africa, even from London!  Scotland has been described‒in a good way‒ as a mongrel nation.  When compiling poems written over the last four or so years, I found that I was weaving together the many strands of my identity in the lovely languages which I have inherited and acquired.

What is your top tip for editing poetry?

Rejection!  There is nothing like rejection to force a fresh look at a poem.  I never resubmit without changes.  Sometimes the poem becomes something entirely different.  Sometimes it is just a case of replacing an okay word with the right word.  Often the word will pop into my head but I have invested in the biggest thesaurus I could get through the door.  It is good to see the smorgasbord of words available when you need to ditch a mouldy crust.

What’s the best prose book you’ve read lately?

Coming to poetry late in life, I have prioritised reading poetry.  I especially like to read a poet’s latest pamphlet just before attending their reading.  It helps me to really get their work.  But, to answer your question, I enjoyed The Ratline by Philippe Sands, a racy non-fiction thriller about a Nazi fugitive at the end of the Second World War and the detective work involved in tracing his escape route and ultimate demise. 

What three other poets (present company excepted) would you want with you on that dreaded desert island?

If I am getting the poets and not just their collected works, then I will have Shakespeare.  A limitless waterfall of sparkling words and he would come in handy in a tempest.  And Heine.

Nothing could be finer than to quatsch with Heinrich Heine in the morning.  To blether, as we say in Scotland.  Is Omar Kayyám available?  If we have rescued a few crates of wine off the shipwreck and Heine has a German sourdough on the go, I would sit with Omar under a coconut tree, sip wine, break bread and gossip about Shakespeare, behind his back.

What’s your cure for a missing muse?

Short workshops with poets have been good to me.  I usually wait for some weird hangover-fuelled dream but have found that a poem can come cold-calling in a workshop.  Sometimes the most unpromising prompts – write about some clothes, write about an object in the room you are in – can result in a draft which goes on, after revision, to become an actual poem.  Lacquer wood fiddler (which appears in my pamphlet) is a case in point.  That came out of a workshop with Polly Atkin, in which we had to pick an object in the room and write about it.

This Kilt Of Many Colours explores themes of identity and language, with a family heritage set against the sweep of history. Written across the languages, in English, Scots, Spanish and Yiddish, an earlier version, under the title Makaronishe, was shortlisted for the Wigtown pamphlet prize 2020. The Trebbler’s Tale, written in the part-excavated but largely reimagined dialect of Scots-Yiddish, won the Scots Language Society’s Sangschaw prize 2020 and is included here. It will be published by Dempsey & Windle on 1 May 2021

As John Glenday, poet, writes:

 At the heart of this fine pamphlet lies a quite novel and magical conjunction of Scots and Yiddish language and lore. It’s an important celebration of cultures, and how astonishingly well the two sit together. Bleiman displays his love of languages and humankind in poems which weave a fabric at once local and universal; persistently beautiful and bound to endure.

Extract from title poem:

…our warp is weft

from southern spools

through bolts of northern light

this kilt of many colours.

David B is an Edinburgh poet who, after a career in the trade union movement in Scotland, turned to writing poetry in his retirement.  His publications have come thick and fast since 2020, including in Lallans, Dreich and a number of anthologies.  He won the Sangschaw prize 2020 for The Trebbler’s Tale and has been shortlisted for the Wigtown poetry prize 2020 and the Roger McGough (Arts Richmond) prize 2020.

Twitter  @BleimanDavid


David will also be launching his Pamphlet at an event on Saturday 1 May, bookings can be made here

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