Today we are pleased to feature Dyson McIllwain, a fellow Poetic Asides poet from “across the pond” in Glasgow, Scotland. Dyson’s Scottish charm clearly shapes much of his poetry, but what drew me to his P.A. posts initially was that I often mistook them for the work of one Walter Wojtanik. I believe my first comment to Dyson was to let him know that if his name was not attached, I would have believed it was Walt’s poem I had just read. Truth-be-told, the thought crossed my mind that my partner had adopted an alias. Be assured this is not the case. Dyson is very much his own person … and, as his response to my request to share a poem of his reflects below, he is very much his own poet. Dyson says, “Cousins: Brothers in Blood” expresses his poetic mind, and major influence in his writing.
Cousins: Brothers in Blood
Dyson Douglas and Iain Douglas,
brothers of different mothers; sisters
bearing together. Whether you can tell
or not, we’ve got a lot of commonality.
But the reality lies in our distinct differences.
He is tall, I, verbose. His vacant stare, distant.
Mine closer to the vest, a chest full of white hair
matching the window treatments. He, a store-bought
coiffure (more handsome without). I bear the family nose,
he, our predisposition for the distilled beverage.
Ambition brings me closer to my dreams,
but it seems Iain dreams throughout. Not a lout
by any stretch of imaginings. Generous and caring,
I’m wearing the shirt off of his back. But, I have a knack
of romanticizing our connection. It’s for his protection.
Iain is ravaged; dementia his executioner. He remains
on this plane lost in someone else’s brain. His smile
takes the circuitous route to expression, brief as it is.
I am pained in the witness I must become, but feel
all the love for my brother, my comrade, my friend.
In the end, isn’t that what cousins are?
(By Dyson McIllwain)
I was an only child and my connection with Iain was as fraternal as I ever could have had. He battled his demons daily and it is my misfortune to have lost him at November’s end. This is my tribute to family and my lost “brother.” This piece keeps Iain a fresh thought in my heart and mind.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for this stunning opener, Dyson. As two who are blessed with very close extended families, Walt and I can relate to the love you feel for yours. We extend our heartfelt sympathy for your recent loss.
Your poetry blog is entitled Say Aye to the Heart. What does this phrase mean to you?
DYSON: As with all of your fabulous featured poets, I must first thank you and your compatriot Walt for this venue and your inclusion of my work. The selection of my modest blog is very fulfilling. A minor confession, I have taken my inspiration from your blog, Walt. Your Through the Eyes of a Poet’s Heart has been a place I visit often. The play on word introduces my Scottish roots. What it means to me is this: A poet is an emotional animal. We are driven by that emotion. It dictates our mood and mind. Saying aye (yes) to what your heart dictates is keeping true to your own self. Say Aye to The Heart and you’ll not trail too far from your root.
MARIE ELENA: To quote your site: “I look forward to resurrecting my sad and sorry muse for the betterment of humanity, and falling short of that, to charm e’ery last Bonnie Lassie to within an millimeter of breathlessness.” This just makes me smile wide and “say aye to the heart!” How is your plan working out so far? 😉
DYSON: I’ve found myself penning more poems than I had until now. And the ladies are breathing easier for it, even though more fans of my work are indeed female. I had been very conscientious at maintaining a journaling. I always entertained plans to produce my novel, a memoir, something of substance. But that stance has changed. The dreams remain as I get older, but my muse has been seduced by poetic form. A return to my first love. I can sweep folk off of their feet with my words, but now only choose to express my similar heart. We’ve all something to say.
MARIE ELENA: “My muse has been seduced by poetic form” strikes my very heart. Well stated, Dyson.
Walt and I first met you at The Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer. What brought you there? Was that your first public poetry venue?
DYSON: Yes, that was the first “public” showing of my works. Since poets write their heart, I feared exposing too much of myself to “strangers” in a way that made me appear less … masculine. Machismo had never been my strong point, but I have come from a long line of stubborn, albeit flowing, testosterone. The reason we are in this place … this poetry unites us all, finding as I have said, our similar hearts. When I had decided to present my verse, I searched for a proper place to do such. Of all the blogs I had encountered, Poetic Asides seemed very different. It had a home-spun atmosphere, a place you wanted to return to as often as possible. It was nurturing, encouraging. The banter between you and Walt reminded me of the familial gatherings back home in Glasgow. They were playful, fun, and full of love. I wanted a portion of that. In the same breath, I am finding that aspect here at Poetic Bloomings.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for your kind words, Dyson. Your poetry seems to flow naturally for you, and it seems safe to say that you consider yourself a poet. How long have you been writing?
DYSON: As we will discuss in a later question, my poetry flows from my love of music. It translates fully into my words; offers the same fluidity. So in that respect, I have been poetic most of my life. And yes, I take no quarter in calling myself “poet.” Being a “well-read” poet … well, that is another story. I am a poet because I write poetry. I’m a composer when I invent sound. I have been a journalist. It is our perspective that gives us our worth. I consider myself whatever I aspire to be. Getting there is half the conflict.
MARIE ELENA: My favorite poem of yours was written for Walt, and could very well have been written BY him, in my opinion. This compassionate, beautifully crafted piece was composed when Walt was struggling with sleep deprivation.
HOLD YOUR BREATH
Treading to keep your head above water,
catching a lungful from time to time.
Going down too many times to count,
but you struggle to survive. You remain
alive with the words that drip with the emotion
that has always been your forte. Drowning in a sea
of night sweats and blankets tangled, and things
that go bump have you stumped as your sleeplessness
offers only anxiety and paranoia. Hold your breath
and allow rest to resuscitate your muse.
You’ve abused yourself far too long. Be strong
and let nature heal what it has destroyed.
The king is not dead, he merely sleeps.
We think it is about time.
(By Dyson McIllwain)
The internal rhyme of this piece reminds me of Walt’s style, as does the pacing and creativity (a compliment of the highest order, as you obviously already understand). Do you prefer a certain style or form of poetry? You mention drawing inspiration from fellow Scot Robert Burns, and refer to works of “reasonable rhyme.” Please describe what you mean by “reasonable” rhyme.
DYSON: I have come to know Walt (and most of the other poets) through his work. I have studied it and have tried to emulate it. That is indeed a compliment of the highest order. I worried it would present itself as mocking or condescending. I have come to take great satisfaction with the ability to offer rhyme in different ways. But the internalization of it makes the flow more random and less predicated. I prefer free verse, although I have dabbled in various poetic forms. I find your instructional pieces under the IN-FORM POET banner to be very beneficial. A brilliant idea. Aye, Burns is a hero of mine ancestrally and in expression. I understand him, as a yank would appreciate a Whitman or Wordsworth. Kindred in spirit and soul, I take pride in being a Scots poet partly because of the Bard. “Reasonable rhyme” is neither contrived nor manipulative, it should be expressive and implied, never taking away from the heart of the poem. As you see, it always returns to the heart for me. And as we have determined, we must “say aye to the heart.””
MARIE ELENA: It is certainly an appropriate time to bring up Robert Burns, as he is the author of the widely embraced and beloved New Year’s Eve tune Auld Lang Syne. What about the poetry of Mr. Burns lends you inspiration?
DYSON: I love the romance of Burns’ poetry, but also his outspokenness and ability to write for his audience. He could pen heavily in the Scots language, and in a lighter Scots dialect. He also wrote in Standard English, and in these his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt. The ability to adapt melodic pieces with his poems and his own folk songs endears his work to my own. It is fortunate that you mention this piece in particular Marie, and I chose to respond to your queries on this Hogmanay (the last day of the year). Indeed, Auld Lang Syne was a proper reference today as it is internationally accepted on this day.
MARIE ELENA: You have an obvious (and understandable) love for Scotland. In fact, you say, “There’s a creator with magnificent power and I believe. How do you account for Scotland?” Please tell us a bit about your home, and how it shapes your poetry.
DYSON: I am a proud Glaswegian, being borne and bred in Glasgow, on the River Clyde. The port was quite influential in my upbringing and gave me my determination to succeed. I had watched my grandfather Douglas McIllwain get worn down by life, but he possessed a great work ethic, he never faultered in his love of family and dedication to the same. Hard work did not kill him. I took that as my edict. To work hard and provide for my daughter and family. As for Glasgow, it had become a dark and depressing place for a spell … perhaps my rebellious side painted her starkly. But I have become enthralled again and revisit her as often as I get the inclination. Her resurgence is breathtaking. Scotland is a striking and blatantly beautiful country and rich with heraldry and heritage. We all hold our birthplace in high regard. It moulds us and gives us our founding. Whether we remain rooted there or find new scenery, it stays a part of our tartan; our fabric. I had spent many years under the watchful eye of my Uncle Angus in Edinburgh as well. A second father and friend.
MARIE ELENA: As is in part your Scottish heritage, it appears you play the bagpipes. What draws you to this instrument? Do you find inspiration in its sound and feel? We would love to be treated to an audio clip (hint, hint).
DYSON: Hmmm, what draws me to the pipes? I love the whiny drone of a vanquished beastie and that’s the closest I have come to replicating the sound. But, in seriousness, aside from being associated closely with Scottish heritage, it is a part of my ancestry. The men in my family have accepted this as a right of passage and it has always soothed my tired heart. My grandfather was highly accomplished, as was my Da. His brother Angus was my mentor though, helping to bring such emotion and sweetness to my sound. Yes, it indeed inspires me. And in my extensive traveling, it always connects me to the sod of my youth. I play less frequently as I age (not having the breath due to emphysema) but I had stayed involved in the direction of our troupe, the Grand Highland Cauld Pipers.
MARIE ELENA: Though “the whiny drone of a vanquished beastie” made me giggle, the audio clip is absolutely lovely. “Emotion and sweetness,” indeed.
You refer to your extensive traveling, and actually just returned from a trip through Northern Canada. This was an inspirational trek for you. In fact, possibilities of a memoir dance in your head. How serious are you about that, and what (if any) steps have you taken? Is there a photo you can share with us, that we may draw some inspiration as well?
DYSON: I have traveled widely throughout the Commonwealth, and I spend a great amount of time in the Dominion of Canada, having lived in Scarborough, Ontario (a “suburb” of Toronto) for a spell. My family connections with Canadian roots are very accommodating. As you have alluded, I had been invited by my cousin Colum to take part in his latest fishing/hunting expedition to Yellow Knife in the Northwest Territories. I neither hunt nor fish, but the opportunity to strengthen a familial bond was very welcomed. And inspiring? I am including a photo of early nightfall at our encampment. You would be inspired as well by our daily night-light. Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights puts one in a very internal place. In my journals I had amassed a great deal of material that would lend itself to such an undertaking as a memoir. But, all is open to investigating the prospects. Steps taken so far consist of my copious notes and journal entries.
MARIE ELENA: I showed your breathtaking photo to my shutterbug husband, and I believe visions of Yellow Knife are now dancing in his head. Yes, downright inspirational.
Now, as is our custom, if we could know only one thing about you, what would you want us to know?
DYSON: I imagine that the one thing I would like others to glean from this interrogation is that we as poets possess a depth of heart that is an endless font of inspiration, and that this humble Scot is mildly uncomfortable to be so accepted in this grouping. I am in awe of your presence and abilities and happy as anything with this association.
MARIE ELENA: Your comments are humbling, Dyson. We are blessed to count you among us. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your hearth and heart, to which we say aye and amen.