Edinburgh Makar Hanna Lavery – a poet who can move football fans to tears – Laura Waddell

Hannah Lavery’s debut poetry collection Blood, Salt, Spring is a book full of hope and love.

There are many gems inside; I am attracted to the poems “Back”, “Spilled Milk” and “Rewrites”. “Scotland, You’re Not Mine” is a special standout piece in Lavery’s repertoire, and jumps off the page here too.

It’s stinging, disappointing, loving, depressing about being Scottish, a swaggering, overwhelming assessment of race and belonging to today’s “sweet forgetful Caledonia.” image of “sugar with sweat stains for your tablet”.

The poems “Thirty Laughing Smileys” and “Abigail Says She’s a Witch” conjure up the claustrophobic and vicious atmosphere of online cultural wars; they are interspersed with pieces such as I Sang You Rainbow Songs, which burst into the room like a breath of fresh air and share a quiet, thoughtful conversation between mother and child; honest, sensitive and gentle.

One anecdote I love about Hannah Lavery that shows the binding power of words is how she presented her show Drift for The Workers Theater at their opening weekend festival in Glasgow. The program of theatre, oral presentations, discussions and talk took place in small venues in the southern part of Glasgow, where the Glad Cafe served as a base camp of sorts.

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On the last evening it was filled with artists and poets as some of the football crowd that had left Hampden entered. They had already had a few pints, and you know how it is, with all live performances there is a risk of criticism – but they began to listen to Hannah’s words, delving into them, in complete delight, to the point of outright tears.

And when I heard about it, I wished I was there to see these two bands, each representing a side of Glasgow, sharing a moment together. Football fans and left-handed artists are, after all, dreamers.

With such a debut collection, it’s no surprise that Edinburgh chose Lavery as their Makar; here is the whole struggle of nationality and identity, everyday racism and anxieties, both global and everyday in scale; but deep down, this book is rich in hope and love.

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