More than a year after we were honoured to host the world premiere of David Bleiman’s prize-winning Scots-Yiddish macaronic poem, The Trebbler's Tale, which won the Scots Language Society Sangschaw prize, we were delighted to welcome him back to discuss his new volume of poems in the same vein, This Kilt of Many Colours.
David, who was a full-time trade union official in Edinburgh for many years, told us that he took up writing poetry in his retirement, and that this short collection is a personal account and celebration of his own heritage and the diversity of modern Scotland in the context of the common human experience of migration and multilingualism.
As well as reflecting on his Scottish identity and his Jewish roots, his poems also draw in several generations of his family – including his grandparents who emigrated from Vienna to Cape Town, his mother whom we were honoured to have with us for this event, and his son who now lives in Spain and contributed another strand to the mixter-maxter of a complex multicultural and multilingual identity.
David is now a stalwart of the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society, and has starred at a number of SCoJeC’s on-line events during lockdown, most memorably playing a recording of his grandmother singing Schubert and Strauss in 1935, as well as penning a tribute to singer Sasha Lurje in Scots-Yiddish verse after our very first virtual concert.
After reading and explaining the genesis of a number of his poems, David was joined by another Edinburgh poet, Ellen Galford, author of The Dyke and the Dybbuk and The Fires of Bride, who talked about her experiences of being brought up hearing Yiddish in New York and learning to speak it in Edinburgh, and both speakers then went on to answer questions from the audience, particularly about what motivates them to write, how people develop emotional ties to languages, and how Scots-Yiddish lends itself to expressing emotion.