#ScotLitFest Taster: Rachel McCrum

Rachel McCrum Photo: Colin Usher

We’re delighted to be welcoming Rachel McCrum back to Edinburgh from Montreal as she performs for us at ScotLitFest LIVE on Saturday 22nd July, 7pm. (Buy your tickets here.)

To get you in the mood we have a couple of her poems to share with you.

A bit about Rachel:

Rachel McCrum has worked as a poet, performer and promoter in Edinburgh since 2012, arriving via Manchester, Belfast, New Zealand, Oxford and a small seaside town in Northern Ireland. She is Broad of Rally & Broad, winner of the 2012 Callum Mcdonald Award and the 2015 Writer In Residence for CoastWord, Dunbar. She has performed and taught workshops in poetry and performance in Greece, South Africa, Haiti and around the UK. Her second pamphlet Do Not Alight Here Again was published in March 2015 by Stewed Rhubarb Press, and in August 2015, she wrote and performed her first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe, as part of new spoken word collective SHIFT/. She was the inaugural BBC Scotland Poet In Residence in 2015. She is included in the e-book anthology of Poetry Ambassadors for National Poetry Day 2016, published by Macmillan. Her debut collection The First Blast to Awaken Women Degenerate is published by Freight.

Oh my fathers

‘Love and be silent’ (King Lear)

[May 2013]


Where did you leave your women, Ulster?

In the kitchens, at the sinks,

paring down, paring down

to the red sore quick of their nails.


By the time it got bad, the mills had already been shut.

The women to lose their duchess flax complexions, their hard earned holler.

To keep indoors,

bake wee buns, millionaire’s shortbread, scones

for the trestle tables down at the Field.



Behind a nervous blackbird trilling,

Brushed bowlers and immaculate white gloves step out.

Fingers splayed stiff on the wooden poles of the banners

Orange and purple sashes rigid with the oul ancient brocade.


But oh my fathers, you have told our story badly!

And pride forgive me, I will heave my heart into my mouth

and berate you for that stubborn, stupid pride

with which you have cuckolded yourselves.


Hunkered down, sullen as an unlovable child,

Finding comfort wrapped only in an old cloth.

Your hawsers rusted down to bitter knotted strength

Fibres gone to stone, granite manacles for your own flanks.


I love you as salt, bitter and vital,

left in tattered glittering ribbons

looping on a shore

the tide left long ago.


But the last time I stepped down onto the docks in Belfast

I saw ghosts of myself on every street corner.

One, older, stopped and turned towards me

Her mouth opened in a silent scream.



My Underwear Was Made Of Iron

[March 2016]


On a street

with chewing gum

welded to paving slabs

and rubbish bins

and dogs

and dust

and wire fences

and raindrops

and men


like any street


a crate of oranges



making its way


wearing a

scold’s bridle

made of iron

and a

witch’s collar

made of iron

with the metal spikes


both out and in

and a

chastity belt

made of iron

and a steelboned


reigned in tight


a suit of rigid

homespun armour


that clanked

and drew attention

and held




in each hand

like the




of a

shop window


or a

sliced forehead

or a

broken jawbone


what can’t get out

also won’t let anything in


this is how we break butterflies,

they said.


The crate of oranges

kept walking

in its steel hide

kept walking.


The First Blast to Awaken Women Degenerate: Freight | Amazon | Waterstones
Follow Rachel: @KickingParis

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