About the Ballads

A poetry project to reinterpret the Wedderburns’ 16th century anthology for the 21st century. For writers of all religions & none.

The poems gathered in The Gude and Godlie Ballatis, published in the 1560s and known as the ‘Dundee Psalms’, were probably written over the previous 20 years at the height of the ferment leading to the Reformation in Scotland. Their authors are most likely the three Wedderburn brothers, James, John and Robert, whose various works represent a key moment in Scottish culture across the written arts.

Five hundred years after the posting of Luther’s Ninety Five Theses, we would like to propose a new exploration of what it might mean to write ‘ballates’ in a ‘gude’ or ‘godlie’ manner, in which all those terms can be subjected to creative scrutiny. In previous projects we have looked, broadly speaking, at regional and national identity (Whaleback City, Scotia Extremis), as well as at political poetry (New Boots and Pantisocracies). Our focus here is on how poetry negotiates the spiritual in as wide a definition of that term as contributors wish to explore.

To that end, we should stress, we are not seeking only work related to organised religion of any denomination as it has manifested itself in modern Scotland. We are instead focussed on the negotiation between ‘the still small voice’ and the poem. Nor should the Biblical origin of that phrase imply we are focussed on Christian spirituality, or indeed on belief in an orthodox sense. Writers of all religions and none are invited to explore the possibilities – and indeed to posit the impossibility – of writing that which is gude and/or godlie and/or a ballat.

As with those other projects, we are initially approaching authors to see if they would be interested in producing work to this theme, and then will invite open submission once the project is ongoing. We expect to publish weekly, and, as before, to assess the work emerging for potential collection in a single volume.