It is as bawdy as our at times filthy national bard Robert Burns got in print. And The Reels o Bogie, all about the sexual organs and fornication, ends with some very bad language.
Which is why the poem has been included in the readings for an unusual event at Shetland Library next Wednesday, Bad Language Night, featuring literature notable for its swear word content and described by organiser Karen Fraser as “not for the faint-hearted”.
Swearing can be very necessary for effect and for realistic dialogue, especially in modern Scottish literature – Booker prize-winning James Kelman for example, and other very popular writers such as Irvine Welsh and Christopher Brookmyre. Coarse language goes back a lot further than that of course, and Burns and Shakespeare shocked society in their day.
The idea emerged when the library hosted an alternative Valentine event in February. Much of the best material – poems from Alison Flett and Janet Paisley for example – were liberally scattered with “bad” words, but were also immensely funny and best appreciated when read aloud. Therefore it was decided to dedicate a night to bad language so that the public could be duly warned in advance.
The readers on the night will be Gordon Dargie, Donnie MacDonald, Jim Taylor, Kat Brack and Mary Blance. Gordon will read a poem from his Tunnel of Love collection called Nothing Happened in Front of a Police Car, Donnie will read from his book Palindrome and Jim will read his story The Muppet Show on Ice, which was published in The New Shetlander.
Karen, customer service librarian, said: “I should stress that it’s not just a night of gratuitous swearing for the sake of it! Anyone can swear, but only a few folk can do it really well, so the readings have been carefully chosen from some of the best of published literature. The performers are all excellent readers and I think this will be an interesting and entertaining event.”
Councillor Gussie Angus, chairman of the services committee, said: “Profanity is part of our culture and if it can find its proper place in the arts and literature then I’m all for it!”
Bad Language Night is at Shetland Library on Wednesday 28th April at 7.30pm. Entry is free and everyone over 14 is welcome. Anyone likely to be offended by swearing is advised to give it a miss though.