To celebrate Robbie Burns Day this January, a few of our outstanding Toronto Leaguers organized an amazing Burns supper to celebrate the event and the League! Thanks to Ayesha Chatterjee, George Elliott Clarke, and Kate Marshall-Flaherty for organizing this great event. The readers of the evening–Dwayne Morgan, Kate Marshall-Flaherty, George Elliott Clarke, Mary Lou Soutar-Hynes, and Ronnie O’Byrne–each performed a Burns poem, then performed an original poem composed for the occasion. We’re happy to share the featured response poems here with you today!

If you are interested in organizing a Robbie Burns reading in your area next year, check out our Canada Poetry Tours program to help fund readings from your special guests! Applications for readings taking place in January 2018 are accepted between June 15 and July 31, 2017. You can also use our resources on organizing an event and promoting your event to help make the most of your evening.

by George Elliott Clarke, in response to “Afton Water

Stagnant now’s the blood whence it stood and stained; Fled his killers
whence his mourners remained, Careless before his carefree cadaver.
Malcolm X has now entered Forever.

Beautifully ugly fell Catastrophe;
Zeroed in bullets so the hero’d see.
Charismatic even as he collapsed,
Malcolm X thrived as mortal Malcolm lapsed.

Bright flared gunfire; earthy pounded the blasts.
The Death-sentenced saint fell back a carcass.
Zesty, his eyeglasses sparked and splintered.
Now a ghost, Malcolm X won’t be interred.

Assassins squeezed out doors and squeezed through screams.
Cancers blighted Love; nightmares blacked-out dreams.
Mourners blamed C.I.A., and cried out, “Why?!!”
Malcolm X now dessucated the sky.

All that Sunday morn, there’d been plenty hint The orator’d die. One
moment vibrant, The next disappeared, unable to live, Malcolm X knew
Death as preservative.

Nobodies shot him down; their graves are mud.
Flowerless endlessly, their corpses leak crud.
Eminently beloved, Malcolm X lives–
Wherever Liberty forever thrives.

by Mary Lou Soutar Hynes, in response to “Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary”

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by Kate Marshall-Flaherty, in response to “To a Mouse”

O constant moon,
you illuminate my tracks,
almost imperceptible
atop this thin blanket
of ice-crusted snow.

May you hide my scribblings
and nibbles
in shadowy corners,
and reveal for my shiny eyes
pearls of hard corn, crumbs
and paper boxes of flakes
I can gnaw holiness into.

Send a beam slantwise
into the farm window,
drench the dresser drawer’s raggy nest
of tattered flannel
where my babes lie opaque
in woolen scraps;
where my warm lima beans
nestle together dreaming
big mouse dream
of nut butters
and flecks of sharp cheddar.

I will scurry my prayer
across the stone mantel
beneath the clock:

My blessings on all cracks
.            and cubbyholes,
my thanks for all things small
.            and with seeds,
my wish for protection
.            from owl eyes and traps,
and things with lids.

O moon, you see me
.            when others do not,
you know my brown fur’s sheen,
.            and you reflect for me
my own great smallness
in your immensely
.            dark and speckled sky.

by Ronnie O’Byrne, in response to “Scots Wha Hae

As Moses searched in arid plains,
For signs tae lead his nation,
Ae nicht the Lord did visit him,
With news of his creation,
He spoke of places near an’ far,
Of seas an’ thick plantations,
Of creeds an’ tribes wae foreign tongues,
An’ men of every station.

As God explained his six-days work,
An’ what he had achieved,
He told him of a special land,
That would in time be praised,
He’d made it wae a colder clime,
Built mountains, lochs an’ streams,
The people there were called the Scots,
Their like’s had ne’r been seen.

This race would mak’ fine contributions,
Invent the greatest things,
TV sets an’ chloroform,
An’ telephones that ring,
Penicillin, a game o’ golf,
An’ roads wae tarmacadam,
Write books for kids called Peter Pan,
An’ toast a bardie ploughman.

The rivers, they’ll be fue o’ fish,
Trout an’ spawning salmon,
They’ll mak’ a drink wae barleycorn,
An’ sell it bae the gallon,
Their glens will hae a heather view,
Their songs, will stir yer blood,
This cronnie race will venture far,
An’ engineer the world.

Moses was quite taken back,
Tae hear the Lord’s confession,
He thoucht the Jews were first in line,
Tae be the chosen nation,
He asked the Lord tae justify,
Why Scots deserve such favour,
The Lord just laughed an’ said tae him,
…… you ought tae see their neighbour.