Book Week Scotland: Hannah Lavery Talks Poetry

‘We will dance to The Specials in our sock feet before we open the back door and yell it to the sky.’

Hannah Lavery is a Scottish poet, playwright and performer. The Drift, her autobiographical spoken word show, was part of the National Theatre of Scotland’s 2019 season and Black History Month 2019. Finding Seaglass: Poems from The Drift was published by Stewed Rhubarb Press in May of 2019. We asked Hannah to talk about some of her poems.


Finding Sea Glass: Poems from The Drift
By Hannah Lavery
Published by Stewed Rhubarb


The Specials

Hannah: I wrote this poem for my son after he experienced his second racist name calling at the age eight. This poem came out of my struggle to protect and support him in this world which will at times judge him only by the colour of his skin. ‘The Specials’ is a poem about love and mothering, we  want to hold our children close to us and I think we all fear what the world will do to our sensitive beautiful boys.


The Specials

It’s written on your face and whilst I can still read you let me take
it for you, take it out and leave it on the step. Here we will be home.
We will open the windows and scream it for the neighbours to keep
or -the rooks!

Aye, let them caw it out.
Its staining your boots son, and whilst I still can, let me scrub them
clean, soak it up, screw it up, rip it up, leave it out on the front step for
the foxes. We will be home here.

We will dance to The Specials in our sock feet before we open the
back door and yell it to the sky. We will grow strong here. Here, sweet
boy. Its shockwaves just- see?

We will dance to The Specials in our sock feet, in the half light,
leave our dirty boots fallen by the back door. It’s written on your face
and whilst I can still read it. Let me whisper our stories so they will
build to myths and legends

for you to emerge from- whole, strong, known. And let’s curse
through the letterbox before sticking it shut with masking tape and
let’s grow strong son, dancing to
The Specials- in sock feet. In our own half light.


My Mum Wears Pink Lipstick

Hannah: I was asked to contribute to Ceremony, Tapsalteerie’s anthology of work from members of the Writers of Colour Group at the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish BAME Writers Network. This poem explores my mixed race identity and relationship to my white mother. It is a celebration of our lives together.


My Mum Wears Pink Lipstick

I’d say you laid me in a sugar pink shawl but I can’t be sure.
You, with your sugar pink lipstick smile, like that sugar pink dress
that the Aunt Betty doll with her porcelain pink cheeks wore

Did we put her upon a cane chair or was it Great-Granny’s chair?
That you wrapped in sugar pink and powder blue fabric wi cushions
and curtains matching. The sugar pink of the Knickerbocker glory

we had after the dentist, matching the pink of it to our scoured gums
and the underside of his palms. We brought out sugar pink icing
for the Saturday tea, an indoor picnic, watching the A-Team.

Stuffing our faces wi sugar pink turkish delight, your sugar pink
lips marking, claiming me. Mornings, I sat at the end of your bed
watching cartoons and reaching under your duvet to tickle

your pink pink toes. Now, I think it is not pink but peach
and looking back not so sweet but fresh. It was a peach
and it was peachy skin and peach melba and it was peaches

we ate from the pedalo sellers that time in Greece, peaches
the size of tennis balls, collected from the waves, your peach
skin wet with the juice, beautiful peach skin turning shade deeper

that sugar pink lipstick dripping on my cheek. I was melon.
A melon colour. Yellow like my yellow towelling shorts with the go
faster stripes. My yellow skin, sandy like your yellow hair before

Henna red, Body Shop paste turning my hands as green
as our Kitchen walls, where we danced on Sundays to the Top 40.
Sugar pink you and me, your melon, melanated girl

and sometimes the sugar pink fell like paint, like raindrops.
Like rainbow sugar drops found in pockets. My mum
wears sugar pink lipstick and I find the stains of it
the sweet, sticky marks of it, everywhere.


Scotland, You’re no mine

Hannah: You can also find the poem in Finding Sea Glass.



Finding Sea Glass: Poems from The Drift by Hannah Lavery is published by Stewed Rhubarb, priced £5.99

Ceremony: An anthology of work from the Scottish BAME Writers Network is published by Tapselteerie, priced £5.00. It can be ordered here.

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