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Robert Burns Lives!
The Drouth

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

On this website I have reviewed many books about Robert Burns and interviewed many authors as well. One such email interview was with Robert Crawford on his popular, best-selling and award-winning book, The Bard, Robert Burns, A Biography. In January of 2009 during a radio interview on WRFG (Celtic radio station in Atlanta), I predicted this book would become the definitive biography on Burns. The publication went on to win the famous Saltire Prize as the 2009 book of the year. I still hold to my prediction!

Robert Burns Lives! has never evaluated a magazine in the past, so this will be our first such review. The above referenced email interview with Crawford was reprinted by an unusual and delightful Scottish magazine, The Drouth, meaning to “thirst” (drought) in their Autumn, 2009 issue, Solutions. Its meaning has appealed to me since last year when here in north Georgia we suffered the worst drought in a hundred years on Lake Lanier with lake levels over twenty feet below full pool.

My wife and I now make our home on the lake. Last year, and even now, we check the lake level daily to see how much the Corps of Engineers pulls down our water supply to send downstream to Florida and Alabama. As a youth I walked behind a mule plowing in the black dirt of lower South Carolina and remember the never ending thirst and dust from working the dry fields of corn, cotton, and tobacco. One thing was for sure, the view behind a mule never changed! So I know a little about “thirst” and “drought” and they go hand in hand in this excellent publication.

I met with Johnny Rodger and Mitchell Miller, the editors of The Drouth, at the Glasgow Hilton one evening during the summer of 2009 while on a trip to Scotland with my family to introduce our grandchildren, Ian and Stirling, to the auld country where our ancestors come from, namely the Isle of Jura. I sat in the spacious Hilton lobby that evening with these two young, energetic men filled with passion and love for literature, the arts, film, theatre, prose, independence and Robert Burns, and talked for a couple of hours about all things Scottish and enjoyed a glass or two of good cheer.

When we parted, most of the problems in the world had been discussed and solved! I learned The Drouth was first published in 2001, meaning they have a big anniversary coming up next year. To tell you the magazine is “different” is not to do it justice or tell the whole truth. The editors thrive on printing articles about literature and prose in particular. Poetry, not so much, since poetry is usually found in about every magazine you pick up at a Scottish newsstand. They are big on providing a place for creative writers who may or may not have been previously published. They take old guys like me, and I even once met a young graduate student at the University of South Carolina whose first published article was in The Drouth. He mentioned he had even been paid for it, too!

I have over two dozen copies of the magazine on hand and find it to be an exciting read that takes a stance “geared toward questioning the institutional, whether in literature, art, politics or civic life” - something I have done, to a degree, over the years. The magazine’s view is much larger than just asking Scottish writers to write Scottish articles. No shortbread, kilts and bagpipes abound here! Writers in The Drouth have an international flavor coming from England, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, the United States and many other nations. It should not come as a surprise when I mention the magazine is not printed for profit but is run from a not-for-profit perspective.

A recent book of the editors, Tartan Pimps, was reviewed in the Scottish Review of Books and describes Miller and Rodger as possessing “relentlessly eclectic minds” and also as “racy, irreverent, informative, thoughtful and polemical…” A few minutes with one of the magazines will underscore these words! A book of theirs on Robert Burns entitled Fickle Man was also reviewed by this writer in Chapter 51 of Robert Burns Lives! and may be viewed at

By way of explanation, Johnny Rodger wrote that “The Drouth is a literary/arts quarterly dealing in informed critique, satire, film, theatre, visual arts, and prose. We offer extended space to writers to present their work according to their original intentions. The Drouth is also a forum, its format providing structure for continuing debate and dialogue. Although we have no explicit political or social agenda, each issue tends to be loosely set around an underlying (and often satirical) theme or debate. We are the major literary magazine in Scotland and regularly feature work by the most important writers from both Scotland and abroad. We have as such attracted quite a bit of attention from national newspapers, radio, TV, who have presented both critiques of our work, and consulted our opinion on certain relevant issues. There is no editorial control over the views of contributors, and we welcome work from a wide range of viewpoints!”

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, says, “In general, the magazine takes an aggressively non-institutional stance and tends to hold itself apart from other magazines in Scotland. It is nevertheless very active in the Scottish arts scene, sponsoring a number of events across Scotland and Glasgow’s West End Festival. Every issue features a guest editor (usually someone of distinction in a given field) and guest cover artist.”

Other quotes regarding The Drouth:

One writer evaluates The Drouth as an “important player in the literary and artistic world in Scotland”.

The Drouth [is]… a visionary magazine…”
Alan Taylor, The Sunday Herald

The Drouth…is relevant and read.”
Simon Kovesi, Oxford Brookes University

“I am very glad to learn about The Drouth.”
Noam Chomsky

“I am very pleased to see [my piece] reach another readership especially in a context emphasizing the role of class.”
Professor Tom Gunning, University of Chicago

What initially drew me to The Drouth were its articles on Robert Burns that a good friend of mine from Scotland told me about. Each issue does not have items on Burns, but forgive the heresy, I soon learned the magazine was much bigger than the articles on the Bard. Yet, the information on Burns has become a permanent part of my library. Where else could you find such diverse commentaries on the cutting edge of modernity about Burns? Among my favorites are:

The Burnsian Constructs by Johnny Rodger
Robert Burns and the Enlightenment, Ralph Richard McLean
The Word on Burns by Gerard Carruthers
Sex and Social Commentary: Robert Burns’s Merry Musing by Pauline Anne Gray
Burns and Ulster by Carolina Baraniuk
Robert Burns and Slavery by Gerry Carruthers

Suffice it to say “The Drouth is Scotland’s leading cultural quarterly. Publishing features and fiction, we are especially interested in literature, film and politics but also visual art, music, architecture, photography and commix. Our style and approach is eclectic but committed. There are few other magazines where Noam Chomsky might appear next to Robert Burns, or John Knox may be invited to guest edit an issue examining Fidel Castro and the current state of feminism.”

Check out their website at, email them at or drop them a line:

The Drouth
P O Box 16619
Glasgow G40 2AF

The Drouth, Scotland’s only literary arts quarterly, is a periodical that should have your address label on each issue. The next four issues will cost those of you in Scotland £14.95 with a free back issue for your subscription. Here in the States, the magazine and mail service for a USA subscription will cost you $32 to get this gem across the pond.

Shaw with The Drouth editors Rodgers and Miller in Glasgow Hilton lobby, 2009

(FRS: 7.15.10)

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