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Denise Mina by broad daylight - Click for larger image  

This sums up so many things about Burns that I love and find forgotten: he's a messy hero, the best and tastiest kind. He wrote poems with the ‘c’ word in them, was a cheeky bugger, pass-remarkable, occasionally snide and sometimes bitter. Almost anyone who reads a lot of his work will find something in it to offend them, and challenging is exactly what ferocious honesty should do.

This scrap of a poem is a painful reminder that no matter how much artists hope to capture angels, most of us are really documenting our devils and then charging the public to peer at them.

For me the truly great thing about Burns is his accessibility. There’s no glory in making a reader feel they’d be able to see your soul if only they’d done a degree or read the classics. Burns is as comprehensible as an advert.

There’s an epigram in a synagogue in Prague which is so beautiful that I’ve copied it into every notebook I’ve had since. Written of a man long dead, it is a glorious claim that could be said of few but can be truly said of Burns:

‘Here lies a man who understood the beauty of songs.’

Denise Mina - Novelist

Text © Denise Mina

 

other images - Denise and friend

Denise Mina by broad daylight 'as others see us'
 
 

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Epigram to a Painter      
     
 

Dear --, I'll gie ye some advice
...You’ll tak it no uncivil:
You shoudna paint at angels man
...But try and paint the Devil.

To paint an angel’s kittle wark,
...Wi’ Nick there's little danger;
You'll easy draw a lang-kent face,
...But no sae weel a stranger.

Robert Burns