It gives me great pleasure today to introduce talented poet, David Bleiman. I invited David to come and chat on Patricia’s Pen after hearing him read from his poetry pamphlet, This Kilt of Many Colours, at Dragonflies Spoken Word. Without further ado, let’s go over to David.
Ten years after my (happily early) retirement I was still having vivid dreams in which I would be chairing unruly meetings at union conferences. Twenty-five years after my father’s death, he would appear in some of these dreams. I would wake up, the bed drenched in sweat, a poem half-written in my head. I would dash it down, thinking that the poem was done. Later I came to realise that this was just the first draft, the painstaking work of revision lay ahead of me.
In my youth I had an egotistical confidence that I could change the world. Perhaps I have lost that but writing poetry is another expression of a voice that wants to be heard. So, reflecting on my own writing, I can see that, while processing the specifics of my own heritage and life story, I draw out what is universal and promulgate a certain view of the world. The medium of poetry allows for a more nuanced approach. More the nudge of experience than the shove of youthful dogma.
Some of my poetry is unusually niche, for example the lost Scots-Yiddish dialect which I had to excavate and largely reimagine for The Trebbler’s Tale. Yet the thesis I advance in This Kilt of Many Colours is that enjoying or suffering these unique combinations which make up our individuality is part of our common humanity. Yes, I have my own experiences of migration and half-remembered heritage languages. But so do we all. We are all homo sapiens, all from Africa.
Born in Cape Town, I heard my paternal granny, Oma Ethel, speak a mix of English, Yiddish and Afrikaans in every sentence. Coming to Scotland in 1979, I breathed in the language around me, including the colourful insults of my Glaswegian in-laws. When my son moved to Madrid, I started to learn Spanish. So it has felt quite natural to include both heritage and learned languages in my poetry. In the words of Amin Maalouf (In the name of identity,1996), it is a way to find as many ingredients of my identity as I can and then to assemble and arrange them. For me this has been an exhilarating experience and I hope that some of this exuberation, albeit leavened by melancholy and nostalgia, comes across to the reader. Perhaps even encouraging them to take a fresh look at their own lost languages and mishmash of identities.
About David Bleiman
David Bleiman writes out of Edinburgh in English, Scots, Spanish, Yiddish and a largely imagined dialect of Scots-Yiddish which won him the Sangschaw Prize in 2020 for The Trebbler’s Tale. He was shortlisted for the Wigtown Poetry Prize 2020 and is a finalist in the Roger McGough Poetry Prize, 2020. An early draft of his first pamphlet, This Kilt of Many Colours (Dempsey & Windle, 2021), was shortlisted for the Wigtown Pamphlet Prize 2020. New to writing poetry in his retirement, he has had 50 poems published or accepted for publication since December 2019.