Laureen Johnson

Laureen Johnson is one of the poets we chose to feature for National Poetry Day 2008.

Cover of 'Treeds'
'Treeds' artwork by
John Cumming and
Frances Pelly.

Laureen Johnson has worked as a teacher. She has also written plays, poems, a local history book, and a novel. Laureen lives in Voe, Shetland. She is the co-editor of 'The New Shetlander' and convener of the dialect promotion group 'Shetland ForWirds'.

These poems are taken from 'Treeds' published by Hansel Cooperative Press.

Laureen says: 'I write as I speak, in contemporary Shetland dialect, though I do sometimes write in English. If it's prose, I tend to write in English with Shetland dialogue.

I think it's very important that dialect is used for writing about all aspects of modern life, not just about the past, or crofting, or old people. It restricts your audience — but I'm often delighted at how people react to it.'

 

Gynae ward

Da windows canna oppen here.
High owre da toon
we walk in greenhoose air,
in smucks an goonies,
an spy da sea.

Nae power-dressin here, nae pin-up poses,
Nae prenk, damned little pent,
nae camouflage,

Here da oppenin bud, da faded laef,
da prunin shears.

Glossary:
smucks = slippers
prenk = affected preening

 

 


 

Laureen wrote this poem after watching live TV coverage of the 50th anniversary of D-Day in Norway.

March-past at Arromanches

Hit wis a day laek we're seen at hame
wi a breeze aff da sea, an da fokk wi cots on,
an da watter in reibs ower da weet gold saand
whaar a great boady o men
cam smertly steppin,
you wid say, oot o da laebrak.
   Thoosands o dem.

Da hidmist time dey cam
wi a sea coorse an caald
   an daeth aboot da banks.

We look.
We listen.
We tink we can imagine.
We admire da streight back, and da firm step
   an da lack o bullshit.

But oh, in every waddered face,
   you see da eyes o boys.

Glossary:
reibs = strips
laebrak = surf
hidmist = last
banks = cliffs (whether high or low)

 

National Poetry Day 2008

 



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