2007 - 2022

Poetry Playlist November

There’s tears

at times passing,


there is loss

and regret –


the reddest of



were falling,

the month


that you left.

(from Sunday Afternoon)


Each month in Bella Caledonia we feature a poetry collection under what we call the Poetry Playlist. They are collections of poetry that Iona and I have picked out to write about. They may be new releases or ones that stick with us. Anthologies, pamphlets, collected works, there is no stipulation other than it’s a collection that we love and want to write about.  This month my choice is a book that I had with me when I went through a particularly difficult and unsettling time in my life, There’s a Witch in the Word Machine by Jenni Fagan.

Jenni Fagan will be well known to many Bella Caledonia, especially as a novelist. Her third novel Luckenbooth was released this summer. There’s a Witch in the Word Machine was her second poetry collection, published by Birlinn in 2018

I think what I found comforting about this book was that there was sense of loss, of being unsettled, of resolving those issues, and many things that just seemed to chime with my life at the time.  Now I don’t want to portray this as a book for single, rootless, depressives – there is real beauty in the poetry and, unlike many poetry collections, very few rants and/or political opinions. Jenni is an actual poet, who clearly loves the form and takes time to write. Of course, as if often the case, the personal IS political so Jenni Fagan’s world view does shine through with a constant theme of calling for kindness, for solidarity, for understanding, throughout the book, from the epic centrepiece poem “Bangour Village Hospital” to “Death in Sednaya”. There is a truth in these poems, these are hurts that have been witnessed.


Don’t wait, like I did, until you’re on your own and miserable to read this work. Don’t feel you need to relate to witchcraft or spells. The cover hints at the Word Machine being a typewriter rather than the poets brain, the spells are a method of delivering the poems aimed at the subjects of the poem.  The narrator has infiltrated the machine to import her words. I enjoyed them as they are, individually as poems. This collection takes us to places that I know and love, Paris, LA, Detroit. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the situations and the places that drew me to this book but, now in a different situation, I still have it near me, still in my bundle of books that I pick up regularly.

Spell For Hope And Renewal

Take rain cold and sharp, the
bite of wind,

two good claw marks, the


Ways of sunshine, bring

common warmth,

an idea of harmony,


of discord out there in all the


beyond and even, in the


There’s a Witch in the Word Machine



Comments (1)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mary McCabe says:

    If you like political poetry what about the anthologies which came out last year with the support of the Scottish branch of PEN International. “Declarations” – brought out by Sotland Street Press (with a preface by Tom Devine) to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath

    and – “A Kist of Thistles” (ed Jim Aitken, pub. Culture Matters)

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.