Once again it is a great honour to share the Hidden Voices platform with a talented group of poets currently resident in HMP Edinburgh and whose courage in sharing their thoughts and feelings via a creative medium such as poetry speaks volumes to both the character and potential of the individuals.

In collaboration with HMP Edinburgh and the Scottish Prison Service it is with great pleasure that First Time Inside (FTI) presents, the third chapter of a four week initiative, our project Saughton Sonnets.

Support from both The Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh and Beltrami & Co in Glasgow has been instrumental in allowing this project to develop. Today our poets are also supported by a range of individuals/organisations including leading Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin and Solicitor Advocate John Scott QC.

Today we are bringing the creative talents of some of the men currently resident in Ingliston Hall at HMP Edinburgh to Hidden Voices we trust you’ll share in our admiration not only of their talents but in their willing to share in a raw, authentic and powerful manner about their experience of prison amidst the Covid 19 crisis.

Please prepare yourself for a banquet of authenticity from some very gifted wordsmiths.

Saughton Sonnets is about community, collaboration and connection all of which explode from the page today in a cacophony of emotion and raw talent.

This week has presented the Hidden Voices community, the Saughton Sonnets panel, with it’s greatest set of challenges to date. The emotional challenge presented to the panel, who have genuinely engaged with each and every piece of work cannot be underestimated. There have been tears from many as they face the raw, reality of the brilliant talent shared and the, at times, hauntingly authentic words written coupled with the burden they absolutely feel when they are pushed to select their winners from the sonnets shared.

Aside from the poetry itself one of the highlights of this small project has been the relative ease with which FTI managed to pull together a panel of over 40 selfless individuals and in some cases their colleagues within organisations to demonstrate open collaboration by community is genuinely powerful. From Police to Lived Experience from Justice (criminal and community) to Academia, from Third sector to Private sector, from poets and authors to private citizens all united in the aim of doing justice to the talent being shared with us. There has not been a day passed over the past three weeks were FTI has not been thanked for inviting people to participate in the project. For us that simply speaks volumes, not only for the selfless nature and compassion of those participating, but more so for the wonderful poets and the undeniable quality of their work which has left us all entirely engaged and breathless at times.

Prior to sharing this weeks poetry I have shared some of the panels more general comments relating to this weeks sonnets to support the foregoing remarks.

“This was perhaps the hardest week yet. There was no standout ‘winner’ for me.
• The language used was incredible.
• The descriptions of life as they know it is both heart-breaking and perceptive.
• There is anger and hope and fear and desire.
• Clever play on words, the use of the devil and the fragility of the human world is so cleverly weaved through a few of the sonnets.
• A true personal reflection of how they see themselves fitting into the world as it is now.
• They unpick the political, the social and the environmental all based from a position where they must rely on messages from the ‘outside’.
• The thought, effort and commitment to the ‘brief’ shows dedication, and a willingness to be part of this journey that is impacting on all of society.
Lyrical genius- well done everyone!” Fiona Kennedy – Community Justice Manager -Midlothian Community Justice Partnership

“All entries demonstrate the strong talent that exists among the people in our care within the prison system. There is humility in the realism contained in their work, that offers the reader insight to everyone’s shared ambition to be a better person in the right circumstances. All the sonnets leave a sense of hope for a better and more equal world where the writers do acknowledge and share their own situation. I have ranked in an order simply because that is the rule, something of an irony in that like the writers, I lose power to decide how I provide my reflective feedback. It is the words that are my feedback, not the ranking as all are winners in my mind. To the others who took part but are not detailed in my top five, I read you all.
Thank you for allowing me to take part in your wonderful initiative and for the honesty of your work.” Tom Halpin – ex CEO Sacro

“This was, yet again, another fantastic week of poems and shared experience. The poems ranged from absolutely beautiful in their flow, words and sentiments, showed empathy, compassion, love and care for others as well as frustration and, sadly, in one or two, some despair. If only the authors could read the positive impact of their words on a wider community.” Robert McHarg CEO, Achieve More Scotland.

“I found the standard exceptionally high this week and have wrestled with my top 5 for days. Lots of analogies this week between good and evil but also the sense of helplessness at being in prison; conversely others appreciated the sense of safety prison offered. Well done to all involved, it was a real challenge.” Vikki Binnie – Community Justice Partnership Manager, Dumfries & Galloway DC.

“What an incredible compendium of poetry. This week’s collection was breath-taking in the consistent strength demonstrated across every piece of writing. Truth to Power in abundance.” Fiona McKenzie, Founder -Centrestage MT

As with every week we leave the last word prior to sharing the Sonnets to the Governor of HMP Edinburgh – “The Saughton Sonnets this week are from the men in Ingliston Hall. 13 poems again talking about the coronavirus situation from the perspective of a prisoner in lockdown. Heartfelt and passionate, articulate and thought provoking, as we have seen all the way through weeks 1 and 2. The response to the poems so far has been unbelievable and it has been very difficult to convey to the poets because they don’t get to use social media. One poet in Ingliston is worth special mention because he made multiple contributions. Talented and prolific.” David Abernethy – Governor – HMP Edinburgh


Sonnet One

Supported By : ScotlandIS.com 

Fin do Munda by a Troubadour
(means end of earth or world)

In our darkest hour it’s impossible to navigate the globe’s geography

Now chuck in a pathogen that attack’s your own biology

Surviving moment to moment become’s your one priority

To truly win & live will be harder than algebra or trigonometry

You won’t need to worrie if you’ve got the proper genealogy

The proper social status with some trajectory and geometry

I feel like Im Otto in little sweet Ann Frank’s tragedy

You think it’s not comparable but there assassin’s they could hear & see

A cure would be like finding the holy grail and solving it’s mystery

Or Andrew Sinclair decoding the secret scroll’s and unwrapping history

Over time it has went from wizzardry to alchemy to chemistry

And over luner cycle’s we are locked down but safer addmitedly


“Such an intelligent piece, both in terms of language and content. Humankind’s vulnerability is described in scintillating lines, and the concept of prison being a safe zone, albeit a “concrete human zoo” is a formidable conclusion.”

“Great use of juxta positioning life in lockdown alongside Covid19. Drawing you to reflect on the inequality faced by the writer and their wider circle in an articulate and intelligent work that evokes realism.”

“Absolutely beautiful. Clever and shows a depth of knowledge and understanding beyond my ken!”

“Loads of spiritual references – I guess many folk who don’t know people who have gone to jail may be surprised by this and the depth of feelings expressed in the poems. Easier to see people as “bad” and monsters !”

“A fascinating dialogue covering Ann Frank to global geography and much in between. The mind digressing after asking “What shall we do?””

“Really imaginative structure. Great discipline to keep to the rhyme scheme and rhythm throughout. Clearly an ambitious writer unafraid of a challenge.”

“Sonnet 1 for me particularly resonated at this time as it sounded like two voices and reflecting the different classes in society and how we use a sense of us and them to separate ourselves and justify how we treat others poorly as they are not us. This just seemed to relate to the protests against racism but that deeper need to see this across all groups we discriminate and oppress and abuse their rights which I feel we see reflected in our justice system and need to challenge.”


Sonnet Two

Supported By : Jane Gould Founder of Cleansheet UK

All Feeling Eye

This lock down has left me with my feeling’s and my thought’s
Emotionaly over whelm’d stomach all tie’d up in knot’s
What do you expect right now we are men “not robot’s”
My heart is malfunctioning like artery’s with blood clots
In this quarintine its like a assault upon the scence’s
Where anger, worrie and frustration all condense’s
Were rumours grow arm’s and leg’s behind door’s & fence’s
The worrie here cause’s sallow face’s like one side of old twenty pence’s

The carnage of the virus is like multi car collision
Social distancing and washing hand’s the only good decision
I find it hard to keep it up sorry that is my admission
I miss the social aspect that helps me cope in prison
Inside prison you would not realy know what’s going on if not for the media
But it keep’s informing you like a bad new encyclopedia
Mounting death and destruction like what’s going on Syria
A silent assassin causing panic and mass hysteria

The TV’s just informed me over 20000 British dead
How many family’s destroyed I can’t compute in my head
Where is God’s compassion “we” need fishes “we” need bread
Yes that’s a metaphor for help is what I said!
And all the while all the convicted and remand’s
Cant do a single thing like sitting on our hand’s
Waiting here for a raspie throat and dodge gland’s
I guess it’s what it is and that’s just how it bloody stand’s


“A highly considerate, inward-looking poem with wonderful metaphors and turn of phrase. The melancholy in this piece is loud and clear to hear, and the reader truly feels helpless – but wants to assist.”

“Artistic and descriptive reflection that leaves me sensing I have better understanding of the dis-empowerment you feel.”

“This one had me searching my memory for a lyric about the all feeling eye. Turns out, I was wrong and the actual lyric was about an all seeing eye – it is an age thing! The imagery in this is superb – you really get an idea of the collective madness that we are suffering but what comes across strongly is the notion that prison makes it worse. At a basic cultural and social level, relationships are important and this poem gets that across, as well as the futility and acceptance of the worse conditions.”

“There’s a breathlessness, a sense of panic and fear in this poem that I found contagious. It pulled me in and left me with the writer’s bewilderment and uncertainty about when this going to end. It made me think about people on remand, how uncertain and disorienting that can be, and how in some ways it’s a metaphor for the current conditions.”

“Appears as a meltdown slowly unfurling with the media feeding the fear within.”

“Sonnet 2 also just made me realise about the access to information that you don’t have in prison that I take for granted. Being able to check the internet for wide ranging positions and reports that are updated in real time. Again the theme of restriction in the jail phone call no. 12 about the snippets of time and trying to be the support for your family, to be strong when can’t physically be there. No 12 made me cry and not sure what it was about this one as they all create such an emotional connection for different reasons.”



Sonnet Three

Supported By : MJS Criminal Defence Lawyers

Conspirator 19

“Covid 19” what realy does it mean??
Is it that obvious before there was type 1 to 18??
Where did it originate was it meat or rotten fish??
Or was it in a lab with in a peitre dish??
Discovered 2020 so the numbers is not the year
“It is what it is” nothing obvious or clear
Ram it down your throat fear, fear, fear
For soul’s or victim’s both I can only shed a tear
For me it’s blatent the message’s not subliminal
But Im no one to listen to just a dirty criminal
Just my opinion it’s the reason for this practice
It’s just a dry run for a cull for all upon the atlas
Longevity of the elite & reices negitive the catilist
Wipe the world clean like the desert “no water” “no cactus’s”
Sorry but “come on” obviously Im going to be sinical
What’s the Government doing? A response that’s piteful
I guess I just reserve my right to be critical
The resources of the world are finite so I call that political
Reserved for ancestor’s this stuff is lineal
Easy for me to say where I am the risk is minimal
Why cant the Royal Family, share there spoil’s in this calamity
We supported Queen & country when it had to be,
People are hungry and going bankrupt or dying and it’s sad to see,
Remember when daddy said “adults are talking now go & play,
Well that’s just what they do just in a bigger way,
It kill’s me to watch descent people believing what they say,
Born to be the preditor and your born to be the pray
When it’s all just a panto-mime, theatre, a play
This was ment to be about being locked down but I
Just got carried away!


“I love that the writer’s cynical edge and conspiracy theories weave so poignantly through this poem. Excellent observations about the pandemic’s trigger, the government’s lacklustre handling of the matter, the wealthy becoming shrinking violets, etc. Very astute piece.”

“Intelligent commentary that compares power in relationships, touching in its tone on an underclass it seeks to reconnect with sense of reality.”

“When the author states: “I’m no one to listen to, just a dirty criminal”, I hope that he gets the message that he has been listened to and that his message is appreciated and very meaningful.”

“Conspirator 19 is yet another awesome poem, like an erudite rant critically engaging with unanswered questions and social injustices, and that properly captures the frustration we all feel and the questions we may have.”

“The writer finishes by stating the just got carried away – a stunning metaphor in many ways. Throughout this poem, there is a critical analysis of where we are but it is achieved by throwing questions at the reader – is it a manufactured virus; do the elite believe in eugenics; how shite is the Government’s response…
There were some great views expressed here – I liked the line “But I’m no one to listen to just a dirty criminal” It almost seems like a challenge to the reader to look beyond the labels, to truly listen to the narrative – the whole point of the exercise here! I would hope this writer finds out that there are many people who are listening…although this attitude is one that pervades society and will continue long after release unfortunately.”

“I got carried away with this one! I like the way it builds momentum and picks up speed, rapping its message, then slowing down to a more reflective pace towards the end. It builds its own rhythm.”

Sonnet Four

Supported By : Eva Comrie, Lawyer

When we beat C.V.19.

Forget the highfives and handshakes
the hug and kissies abit longer
while the CV.19 is still around.

try and not let it get to you
as our loveone’s still care for you
and missyou as much you miss them

missing their love, hugs and kissies
face to face chat’s, but they’ll all be back
after we’ve beating the C.V.19.
and hopefuly never comes back
so to never be apart again

So Come on Find something to do.
Write a poem, read a book
or a simple Cell workout
And don’t let the C.V.19 get to you

30 mins in the Rain or sunshine
at least your still outside and still here
full of life and remember those who are
not so lucky. All the frontline Works
Doctor and Nurseies that are fighting
to keep the C.V.19 at bay.

helping your freinds and loveone’s
stay safe so when we get back
to normal we’ll be ready to
reach out to hug, Kiss, Cuddle them
the one’s you’ve missed and mean
so much to you. We can do our part
by remembering our distance and being apart.

Keeping safe and be ready
To inbrace your love ones too.
When everything get back to normal
and C.V.19 has gone away
for good.


“A genuine, glass-half-full look at the pandemic – gracious expressions and positive stanzas. Refreshing.”

“Your sense of missing loved ones is palpable.”

“Poetry is in the eye of the reader and you can take different things from the same poem. The abbreviation was what jumped out at me here – C.V.19 – not the full name used at any point. This was written from behind a prison wall where one of the complaints is that humanity and personalisation are removed and you become just a number – this went through my mind reading this, I wonder if this is what the writer was getting at. The rest is a very good explanation of the issues surrounding Covid 19 and how people on the inside are often found looking outwards for answers.”

“Such a powerful message contained within about the importance of touch, sight and all those positive feelings connection with family offers. Taking a moment to realise that humans have been deprived of that physical contact and also just the comfort that comes from visually connecting knowing others are safe it is hard not to admire the positive choice to adopt a glass half full attitude amidst such worrying times.”


Sonnet Five

Supported By : Gill 





“Clever acrostic poem with a semi-rap quality in the latter part.”

“What a strong statement of the situation we are all in together. I get your message, thanks!”

“Love the simplicity and imagery of this sonnet along with the weaving of HMP Edinburgh through – really cleaver and visual.”

“The ‘initial view’ of this was immense. A clear concise summary of how things are in HMP Edinburgh. You get the feeling at the end of the inexorable forward movement of time, a countdown until the pandemic and/or sentence is over. Another one where you think it is straightforward but it creeps back on you as you ponder it further.”

“I liked the play on words in this one and the use of HMP Edinburgh, woven through but part of the instructions. The analogy with time ticking away at the end was powerful.”


Sonnet Six

Supported By : David and Rachel Farrier

The Inside of Inside’s Mind!

A few step’s long and half as wide
This is the space where I reside
A concreat box is where I hide
From deadly intention which are outside
Insulated you may say protected
To me emotionaly disconnected
Sinister evolution may be deflected
To die but possible be resurected
A fear of one mortal man
Is that nature will destroy his plan
To take his children by the hand
To make each boy and his girl understand
That daddy’s just a human being
Who no longer believe’s in what he’s seeing
He see’s his reflection and wishes not to be him
And this life he created is the one he’s fleeing
So try and find solice in Jesus name
Or play your hand in the devil’s game
Or the Phenoix rising from destiny’s flame
One of three it’s all the same,
In this moment be over joyed with what you got
It only take’s a second from “have” to “have not”
Don’t let being locked down claime your shot
And these cold wall’s make you lose the plot,
Take a minute for those less fortunite than you
Don’t judge other’s for thing’s you wouldn’t do
With a little hope well be brandnew
Together is the only way we will get through.


” This is a deep, insightful, invigorating piece. Poet demonstrates a very spiritual – and regretful – side, but is full of heart and determination.”

“Great title, very creative leaving me feeling your desire for togetherness and seeking some form of redemption. Very good and up there with the rest in quality.”

“A very powerful piece; true reflection & a challenge of judging when not knowing; & to considering the less fortunate even when experiencing such difficult circumstances.”

“The title here is sublime – the inside of insides mind! Loved that. There was a nice spiritual vibe to this poem and it used the virus as a metaphor for personal rediscovery and rehabilitation. It takes a second from have to have not – reflects how easy it sometimes is to end up on the ‘wrong’ side…and a call for unity at the end. Really liked this one – another which makes you think.”

“Of all the poems I feel this one is the most relatable. Even though the imagery of prison is used, most people in lockdown will identify with the sense of being confined. It’s a gift to be able to make our unique situation relatable to others.”


Sonnet Seven

Supported By : Beltrami & Co Lawyers

A Honest Veiw!

In Victorian building’s wise men & women debait
While commen men & women self isolate
Cannon fodder for a ruleing state
God’s blessed fruit on a Devil’s plate
A one way ticket to heaven’s gate
Or maybe Hell’s eternal fate
Where tortured soul’s will have to wait
By the time you notice it’ll be far to late
Evil plan’s Im sure I have no doubt
Achieved before the curve even’s out
The fallen angel’s just walk about
Moving on serpaint’s belly’s and smell like rotten trout
Maybe Im lucky to be locked up, not out
To see a child’s frustrated pout
To have to try and work it out
To be riddled with worrie & self doubt
I guess that’s just human nature
To think the world around you hate’s you
To wonder what fait await’s you
And return’s your soul to mother nature
So now is time to judge your own morality
Incase you become just another fatality
In this con of fictisious & deciving reality
To serve soverinty, King, country or majisty
I guess Im safer on this lonely course
To serve my time as human resource
For me I guess you have no remorse
As I face down the reaper on the Devil’s horse


“Shades of Burns’ “Tam O’ Shanter” in this one. “Angels” and “Hell”; “God” and “Devils”; “Children” and “Serpents” – there’s a real tussle of the soul happening here.”

“I felt a sense of penance? The tension between good and danger of evil in all our capacity to do harm or do good that shapes our own destiny. Wow this is deep!”

“Highlights the divide – politicians do what’s best for them – the rest of us, as the French say “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” let them eat cake”

“The feeling of such despair; of treating people as an underclass, & how people struggling deserve what they get when punished. We need to see the human side!”

“I like the sombre tone here. Reads like someone having a dark night of the soul. The sort of thoughts that can only emerge when you feel alone. Writing a great way to manage our emotional lives in such times.”


Sonnet Eight

Supported By : MJS Criminal Defence Lawyers

“Con” Ceptual”

As day’s turn and move from light to night
This world seem’s a horrible sight
I find it hard enough to be polite
Or judge each and all for wrong or rite
Disconnected in a virtual world
The Devil’s tale has been uncurled.
Ancient scroll’s wrote on papyrus
Warned of a coming storm and in it’s iris
Perfect condition’s for a deadly virus,
And here I am in a barbwire bubble
Protected against the world & all it’s trouble
A worried man with four day’s stubble
Drowning in his shallow dirty puddle
His avatar secured his head all in a muddle
Longing for a familiar voice and his children’s cuddle
The world is the Devil’s pietre dish
More unnatural than two headed fish
My family’s mortal path is all I wish
You cant even be angry at this abomination
This evil work of Devil’s creation
Or God’s work of equilization
That’s steal’s flesh & blood’s persperation
I guess it’s hard to feel cheer’d up
And realise our selfish luck
Some how weve become unstuck
The Devil’s hocky stick with the human puck


“Delicious phrases such as “Barbwire bubble” in this poem. Some lines of acceptance or resignation, but hope – always hope – burrows underneath.”

“An articulate, rhyme that connects the contradiction of being locked down in a locked up world, to the reality of the outside world as it deals with pandemic. The writer captures the irony of self-induced consequences alongside the randomness of life’s inequalities that seem out with our control. Great use of visual images that draw you to the situation and sense of losing ability to control what is happening.”

“Another classic poem full of imagery and metaphor that really makes you think about the situation inside during the pandemic. “Disconnected in a virtual world” is the default position behind bars (or at least the legal default position!). A “barbwire bubble” – did the writer have early access to all the guff spoken by Boris last week about social bubbles – inspired guesswork here or thought that is even more purposeful. “The Devil’s hocky stick with the human puck” is something that again makes you reflect on how people are bounced about in the justice system – one knock after another but with no real goal in mind…this is a very cleverly written poem!!!”

“There are some resonant images in this poem. The opening line, ‘As day’s turn and move from light to night’, evokes the marking of time that a prison sentence entails, as well as the sense of suspension that COVID-19 has brought to the world. ‘Disconnected in a virtual world’ evokes the physical separation we’re all under and the importance of physical human connection, the universal ‘Longing for a familiar voice and his children’s cuddle’. And how ‘safety’ can feel oppressive: ‘…here I am in a barbwire bubble/Protected against the world and all it’s trouble/A worried man… Drowning…’.”


Sonnet Nine

Supported By : Centrestage MT

A double sonnet
(just over Ha! Ha!)

Lock’d Up In A Lock Down!

Each morning I switch on the radiostation,
Or the television to sights & sounds of pure devastation,
The harvest of the grim reaper moving nation to nation,
Mother nature destroying Mother natures creation,
And in our dilemma our deep desperation,
Seem’s our only salvation,
Is to be placed in self isolation,
Across land & sea’s a ripple of death,
Snatched soul’s from family’s dishonourably like theft,
Leaving mortal’s gasping & grasping for breath,
Until only corpse’s carcass’s and cadaver’s were all that was left,
You see I’m of the view,
You gotta do what you gotta do,
Cause theres no second run’s no chance’s a new,
It’s the preservation of life that’s the clue,
So now we are locked up & locked down,
Pass men working with a mask & a gown,
Keep moving forward and smile dont frown,
This is a solution and just how thing’s have go to down,
Some moments are tough when we are no longer consumed with ourself,
No more dream’s & scheam’s about grandure’s of wealth,
Just obsessing & stressing over death’s indiscriminate stealth,
And how it will affect my loved one’s and family’s health,
I thought writing this poetry would help,
but it hurt’s I guess that’s just reflection & expression of self,
Fleeting moments thinking about my sister and brother,

The things I should not have said to my father,
Thing’s I could & should have said to my mother,
I pull it together and put it behind,
Put bad thought’s out my head and pay it no mind,
But with all I can see it doesnt pay to be blind,
These storm cloud’s over head don’t seem silver lined,
If you live in this moment take a moment to be kind.


“A very deliberate and strong approach. Stiff upper lip against the woes of the world. I like how the writers steps out of his own bubble and almost floats above the heads of everyone, like some otherworld spectre.”

“A lot of effort obvious in this one. Your fatalist-self is consuming as you reflect. What strength I feel in your regret and wanting to be better. You can be that person and do it. You have my admiration for what you want to be.”

“Personifies ground-hog day.”

“Sonnet 9 really moved me . I love the acknowledge regret for things we should or shouldn’t have said to our nearest and dearest . How many people who have lost loved ones will be going through this anguish. Well done to this poet for articulating these feelings ”

“9 is such a powerful, evocative poem which I (tried to) read in the cadence of spoken work. It’s so clever that the way that the poet takes you on a journey as the poem progresses, from the global, universal impact, to the local and the collective, through to the personal and the individual effects.”



Sonnet Ten

Supported By : John Scott QC

Needz 2 be read out loud in yer best Scottish Draul!

A Scot’s Clerihew!!

Covid’s nay bother tay me noow a look back on my life
Aye a survived the war “nn-aww-a” Hitlerz bloody strife
An a lived through ma marridge, and her shin-anagin’s were rife
Dinnie gee’s us yer Covid, when it took aw ma time tay oot live ma wife
  
Av goat too much time on ma hond’s stuck here at hame
An that ald bat nixt door is hoggin the washin line again
It’z like wen am in itz sunny an when am oot it’z rain
Av walked the dug so many time’z the dugz gonna go insaine
  
Och aye theze day’z “R” murda cannie git bog-role cannie git breed
Stanin oot side fur donkey’z “n” when a git in a cannie git wit a need
This virus isnay in ma body yet it’z in my bloody heed
Am para tay stoat aboot incase a end up frickin deed
  
Aye mibey itz time tay hink aboot my coffin an the symbolic nail
Am blind as a bat so much so ma perscription comez in brail
An a cannie remember the last time a thought aboot chasing tail
Fay wit av been telt ye’d be better aff in jail
  
Aye they’ve goat it sweet in their wee on suite
Competitions fur Easter Egg’z an movie’s on reapet
They dinnie pay fur wattur dinnie pay fur heat
Aye I’m aff tay git the jail before ma dug oot live’s me,
Oot here on the street


“Scottish dark humour at its best. Love the cheekiness shown in the face of adversity. Also shows excellent social observations. ”

“A clever and humorous work that is different in use of language. The writer ‘cocks a snoot’ in disdain to their own life circumstances and importantly for their sanity, also at Covid19. Leaving the reader with a sense of the writer’s own determination to be different, both in their life and lifestyle. Strangely, I really enjoyed this one!”

“As per instructions, I read it out loud. I also laughed out loud. Brilliant, clever, funny and caring.”

“funny, clever and oozing character – It’s a pure belter of a poem. I really enjoyed reading it – this virus isnay in ma body yet it’z in my bloody heed.”

“Reading this I was reminded of James Kelman’s word when he accepted the Booker prize: – “my culture and my language have the right to exist, and no one has the authority to dismiss that right, they may have power to dismiss that right, but the authority lies in the power and I demand the right to resist it.” I love the language and imagery put across in this – and the language used helped with the effect. ”

“I like the unexpectedness of this one – the way it tells a story of looking back, being ‘stuck here at hame’ – and giving a view from the outside, ‘Out here on the street’, looking back to jail as a place of safety, almost relief. It’s cleverly constructed and funny (even though it’s not a clerihew at all!), yet somehow, its wry humour conveys a deep sadness and resignation. ”


Sonnet Eleven

Supported By : Liz Ann Deans


Waiting in my litile re-bar inforced concreate box
Covid lurk’s but work’s like perfect poetry in motion,
Locked up safe and sound in my personal fort-knox
The virus catches soul’s like God’s fishing net upon the ocean,

Cunning & calculated like the slyist city fox
We hide away everyday from chaous and calmotion,
Soul’s cast away in everyway like dirty pants & sock’s
I defy you not to cry with a show of raw emotion,

We’ve been granted safety for landing in the judge’s dock’s
It’s not me who deserves the law’s devotion
If I could swap family safe behind these lock’s
I’d take corona by the hand and drink her evil postion,

Sinister danger’s passed by stranger’s on every street
The mind boggle’s I guess well never truly understand,
And I’m safe here where dishonest & violent men come to meet
Were the system lead’s criminal’s to safety by the hand,
Protected here but consumed by fear between re inforced concreat
And good common people take there chance free upon the land

A personal holocaust do you agree what is your admittance
With God’s good grace we pray this place will not be wiped clean,
Well take the best path the one with least resistance
And make it through this nightmare or this dream,

If we do thing’s right day & night we will stop nature’s persistence
And all this will just be bad memories watch’d on a TV screen,
Wash our hand’s wear a mask and remember to social distance
All locked down both jail and town with in a quarantine.


“A celebration of claustrophobia! Never thought I would see it! Adored the line “Sinister dangers passed by strangers”.”

“What a title! Breakout from that place in your life. Your creative talent is very apparent and descriptive to me. As I read your sonnet I kept thinking this should be a song and set to Indy music. Or, what genre of music would you choose. Your work left me wanting answers!”

“A return to the “just a number theme”. Some great words and images used to get across the feeling of being behind bars during the pandemic. I googled the word Calmotion just in case my vocabulary was letting me down. Turns out it is a company in the USA that helps improve productivity in CNC machines. It could be a spelling error and the word should have been commotion but I have been thinking about Calmotion – a movement to chill and relax, to take global threats and to deal with them without hysteria, to keep the social productivity going. I like this! There was also a willingness to swap their position of perceived safety within the concrete box for their family out there dealing with the virus – such self-sacrifice is totally understandable and it did generate raw emotion.”


Sonnet Twelve

Supported By : Ian Rankin 

A Little Jail Phone Call!!

Lying awake in the dark my thought’s are of my children & the wife
Im worried for their health my precious children are my life
And now theres no visit’s or bonding absaloutly nothing at all
All I can give to them is a little jail phone call

This call originate’s from a Scottish prison if you don’t want this call please hang up
But they have been waiting patiently I thank the stars for my luck
I chat away or listen intently to all they say and when its over Im standing tall
This is what they give back to me with a little jail phone call

Daddy I drew you a picture and can we sing you a song
Obviously I say yes and was over joyed to try and sing along
These are all the thing’s that pick me up when I feel I could fall
I don’t know what Id do with out a little jail phone call

I’m starting to realise the wife is struggling just to try and cope
I can hear it in her voice she’s reaching the end of her rope
I need to support her emotionaly & mentaly I can not drop the ball
This is what I give my wife with a little jail phone call

I also phone my nana and get a big family report
Im the one ment to be strong but she’s the one giving me support
This is what my family & I need if not I would hit the wall
The only thing keeping our spirits up is a little jail phone call

So goodnight my little babies sweetdreams when you goto bed
Dear wife I love you remember every single word Ive said
If we didnt have these moments I don’t think we would cope at all
We might be locked down but Im still grateful for,
A Little Jail Phone Call


“This is an exceptional poem with a different angle from anything else written. Family-orientated, the consolation of prison phone calls becomes all-important, and the writer articulates this breath-takingly and beautifully.”

“Strong poetry that uses the outbound phone call from a locked prison world as an asset to maintain relationships on both sides of the prison wall, helping everyone affected to survive and cope with separation in family relationships. Building on the phone call as an asset, this work evokes a tangible sense of missing loved ones and the longing to reconnect, seeking in the words to atone the writer’s own responsibility for absence.”

“This made me cry – the isolation caused by imprisonment, the fear for your family, the wanting to help care but you can’t and the lack of control on even the most simple things in life. The importance of relationships shine through as does the hard reality of prison.”

“This literally brought a tear to my eye and made me look at my family with even more appreciation and gratitude than ever.”

“A Little Jail Phone Call really spoke of the lifeline that contact with families is. I could see this man standing in a noisy hall singing to his child or sitting alone in his cell with thoughts and worries of how his wife was coping. It was a privilege to read and resonated so much with our own experiences. It brought into sharp focus the impact of having no visits for 3 months or no access to in-cell telephones.”

“A Little Jail Phone Call moved me so much, brimming with humility and humanity. The suffering of separation eclipsed only by the extent of the love between the poet and their family. It absolutely emphasises too how important it is to facilitate meaningful contact between those imprisoned and their families – for both parties – and not just under lockdown!!”

“Sonnet 12 moved me to tears . The isolation felt by this man and the way he acknowledges that pain and also sees the pain of his family through those precious phone calls is truly breath taking.”

“This sonnet tells a heart wrenching story about grief – loss and separation. The recurring focus and visualisation in the poem about the phone call reiterate the importance of human connection and how this has become a lifeline to the people we cherish most – but also highlights the negative ripple effect on families when incarceration is imposed. The poem evoked strong feelings– which most people are experiencing in COVID but stripes away all the bravado and unearthed every fathers/human’s deepest vulnerability which is to be alone and separated for the family/people you love. The line “Daddy I drew you a picture and can we sing you a song’ I thought of my own children and wept at the thought and anguish of this separation. It was encouraging that while the author unearths such strong feelings, the poem had nice breaks every 4 lines which allows the reader space to breath.is connecting with. Finally, despite the separation and loss of personal visit, the authors attitude remains grateful for the smallest things keeping him surviving.”

“The simple sadness of the message running through this lovely poem will stay with me for a long time. Sincere thanks to the writer for perfectly capturing the love and care that he feels for his family and the loss he lives with every day . It was a privilege to have these deeply personal emotions shared.”


Sonnet Thirteen

Supported By : Rock Gen CIC

This Spell’s Trouble
(3 poems in 1)

C 3 1 C is for CONSUMMATE it mean’s perfect or complete
O 3 2 Look at all these victim’s who can’t get to there feet
R 3 1 O is for ORCHESTRATE a proficient plan all nice & neat
O 3 2 What can you do to win this or do you know you can’t compete
N 3 1 R is for RAPACIOUS it mean’s greedy or grasping
A 3 2 A way to keep hold of power forever lasting
V 3 1 O is for ORGANISM that leave’s human being’s grasping
I 3 2 I know it’s jail I live in so I watch the stone’s Im casting
R 3 1 N is for NEPOTISM it means you favour your relation’s
U 3 2 For Queen country under one sky but above all other nations
S 3 1 A is for ABDICATE but the throne’s worth these aggravation’s
3 2 Just a lowly subject no need for preservation’s
1 3 1 V is for VENTILATE it mean’s supply with fresh air
9 3 2 If you didn’t need oxygen would they know that you were there
3 1 I is for INDISCRIMINATE which means no order or no care
3 2 The game’s a rig a deadly jig trust me it’s not fair
3 1 R is for RESPERATION of human’s lying on there front’s
3 2 I bet no-one truly powerful die’s come on your not a dunce
3 1 U is for UBIQUITOUS it means everywhere at once
3 2 Poor like some atmousphere rich like some ambience
3 1 S is for SKULDUGGERY it is a form of deceptive trickery
3 2 Im not talking middle class I’m sayin the “one percents” my plee
3 1 1 is for ONE LIFE YOU HAVE this you must agree
3 2 Im talking lineage and your not on the family tree
3 1 9 is for HOW MANY LIFE’S you think you have but let’s wait and see!


“Very clever, formulated piece which considers the writer’s worth from behind prison bars. ”

“This Spell’s Trouble (3 poems in 1) is sheer genius. Beautifully crafted and exceptional. I have read and reread this poem over the past week and every time I do, something new appears, so full of hidden surprises. What a talented writer. Thank you.”

“I think number 13 has to get first prize for its clever construction – so much work went into this and I think it is utterly original and unique! Bravo!”

“What a cleverly crafted poem(s). This is perhaps the cleverest poem that I have ever seen, although to be fair that is not a ringing endorsement as I am not much of a poetry reader. I loved the message from each, I loved the structure. I loved the fact that you had to really concentrate to keep the rhythm going depending on which poem you were reading. I really wish I were as clever as this poet to write something as good.”

“I have to acknowledge Sonnet 13. Brilliantly set out very cleverly conceived . Loved it.”

“The complexity of this poem’s construction hints at the time taken in thinking about and writing it, which also brings to mind the amount of time people imprisoned must spend with (very often) very little to do. While time is precious to those of us who haven’t got much to spare, for those of us who have too much on our hands it becomes a burden, a source of frustration, boredom, even a threat to our sanity. Time warps and distorts under these conditions, much like it has for all of us under COVID-19 conditions. But it also gives us pause and time for reflection. And this poem gives us much to reflect upon.”

Once again having read though all of todays poems from the men resident in Ingliston Hall in HMP Edinburgh and considered all of the judges comments it is almost a travesty that we had to score each of the poems at all because they were all fantastic and a credit to the writers themselves.

The raw, powerful emotions conveyed by the men so creatively throughout the pieces I’m sure, as with the judges themselves, take the readers on a voyage of challenging feelings and discovery.
That said we did, as part of the role of being a panel, score the poems and our top three for this week are.

Our winners are:
1st Place – A Little Jail Phone Call
2nd place – This Spell’s Trouble (3 poems in 1)
3rd place –  Fin do Munda by a Troubadour

It is worth noting at this point that quite remarkably all three winners were written by the same poet this week, a prolific talent.

Congratulations to our winners and a massive thank you to all of our authors who have selflessly provided a window into another reality for us all to absorb this week.

Thank you for taking the time to visit the First Time Inside / Hidden Voices blog today, we hope you found The Saughton Sonnets as powerful, challenging and uplifting as we did ourselves. Apologies if your own particular favourite didn’t win todays competition but I’m sure you will agree there are no losers on display here today.

Thank you to all those who Sponsored a Sonnet this week – Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to do the same on our final output next week.

First Time Inside would like to take this opportunity to thank the writers for trusting us to share their talent on our Hidden Voices platform as well as the staff at HMP Edinburgh and Scottish Prison Service for trusting us, whilst sharing the content, to respect the residents and the environment they currently find themselves living in and a massive thank you to our extensive panel who made todays output possible by volunteering their time to contribute to an initiative which we hope will offer many food for positive thought.

Next week will be the final week of the Saughton Sonnets project and we look forward to sharing the creative talents of more of the men from HMP Edinburgh, they have a lot to live up to given the quality of the work shared so far.

If you would like to enquire about advertising with, sponsoring output or supporting the work of First Time Inside / Hidden Voices contact us at [email protected]

Have a wonderful weekend, stay safe, follow the Govt. guidelines and take a moment to reflect on the experience shared by the courageous men of HMP Edinburgh today @FirstTimeInside out

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