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  • Helen Tyrrell

Fair Fa' Your Honest Sonsie Face....



“Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!

Aboon them a' ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o' a grace

As lang's my arm.”


Ah what a poem is the ‘Address to a Haggis’. While he may not always be universally well known, it’s amazing how many verses and phrases which have passed into our general consciousness south of the border - and across the world - are attributable to Rabbie Burns, the Scottish Bard, whose birthday is commemorated on 25th January. ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘My Love is like a red, red rose’, ‘The best laid plans o’ mice and men’.


To most of us Robert Burns’ background and circumstances wouldn’t have looked promising. Born to a tenant farmer in 1759, Robert Burns was not successful in following in father’s footsteps as a farmer. He had money troubles, little schooling, a complicated love life, and died aged 37. His poems are lyrical and heartfelt, humorous and heart-breaking, authentic and relatable. It’s as if the Scottish language simply was poetry back in the day, and that his poetry was simply Robert Burns talking to himself and his friends!


It reminds me of my poet friend who talks about ‘the most personal being the most universal’. It’s absolutely true: unfiltered, genuine, real is the poetry that hits us. We recognise it because it echoes in us too. My sister, who was herself an unpublished poet, once wrote, ‘I’m not a poet, this is just how I talk to myself’ and, in that, I think she hit on something useful and true. Writing poetry has a powerful therapeutic use, it can soothe, amuse, sense-make. It’s worth doing for its own sake! I am not officially a poet, and these days I write little poetry, but at other times of my life I have been a poet, and used this art form as a way of peeking at biggest doubts and fears, as a way of framing my deep observations, as a way of ‘talking to myself’. Even if you don’t feel massively gifted, this is no barrier to letting what wants to come, come. You don’t need to share your poems, unless you wish to. I imagine Robert Burns didn’t feel very refined or polished either. Instead, tap into the genuine and the raw, and allow yourself free rein.


If you want more support in finding that pathway back to the deepest part of you, the bit which holds your unique creativity, then join one of my one-day spring workshops. If you prefer to work online, then be in touch as I’m looking at dates for an online short course before summer as well.


In the meantime, stay true to that inner feeling and experience, the bit that feels uniquely like you, and give it voice. Make time to talk to yourself and let the words come as they wish. There’s time for refinement later, don’t worry about that bit. Instead go deep and personal and see where it takes you.



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