Hugh McMillan is one of the poets we chose to feature for National Poetry Day 2009.

Drawing of landscape with tree in foreground

Hugh McMillan lives in Penpont, Dumfries and Galloway, and has published five full collections of poetry.

His numerous pamphlets include 'After the storm', an award winner in the 2005 Smith / Doorstep Poetry Competition, and most recently 'The spider's spin on it'. A new collection will be published by Roncadora Press next year.

These two poems are taken from 'Postcards from the hedge', published by Roncadora Press. 'Postcards from the Hedge' was the winner of the 2009 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award.


Dear Jane

I had a poem for you: a giant metaphor
that had the line 'the hills still wear

the thin smile of home', but near Tyndrum
a man ate it. He had been drinking

packs of organic oatmeal stout,
the kind you get in tartan shops,

and had grown unnerved, increasingly,
about the timberline, often leaving

the train to stare distraught
at distant mountain tops. When he ate

the poem he seemed calm for a bit,
but then was violently sick.

I suppose that was a metaphor too.
But not the one I wished for you.



Three Letters to MacMhaolain Mor
from a tenant, 1745-46

1. MacMhaolain Mor

I am sorry I could not come to Moidart.
My youngest has a spot
behind her ear that may be chicken pox
but I have instructed my son Andrew to join you.
He is tall and strong as a deer and is studying Geography
and Politics at Dundee University.
He will wash our sword many times in English blood.

2. MacMhaolain Mor

I am sorry I missed the rout at Falkirk,
it is virtually impossible to get a bus from here
outwith the tourist season,
and my son had an interview with Patientline,
but we have the fire of Fingal in our veins
and will join you
when the summer timetables begin.

3. MacMhaolain Mor

I am sorry to have missed you at Culloden
but I had an apex ticket and had to return
or pay a heavy supplement.
Exile is hell. My heart bleeds in this Travelodge.
Andrew begs your indulgence as well:
he thought Carrbridge was Cambridge
and stayed on for the Folk Festival.


National Poetry Day 2009