Professor, student publish Scottish anthology

Duo thankful, excited to share finished project


Benjamin Pierce, Managing Editor

A duo from UW-Whitewater is bringing a bit of Scotland to the United States.

After spending three years on the project, UW-W professor Patrick Moran and senior Nicole Chermak recently finished a book, which is an anthology of Scottish poems. “Forty Voices Strong” is Scottish through and through.

The idea came to Moran while teaching literature classes in Scotland through the study abroad program in 2012 and 2016.

“Part of the courses I taught there were poetry and creative writing, so I started to develop a relationship with the fine people at the Scottish Poetry Library,” Moran said.

After Scotland’s 2014 referendum to become an independent country of the United Kingdom failed, Moran realized there were stories to be told. He received a grant from the university to supplement the time and research needed for the book, and the adventure began.

“The goal was to try and bring together a group of contemporary voices that really reflected the post-referendum kind of vibe,” he said.

The book has three sections based on Scotland after the independence referendum failed–where we live, who we are and what we love.

Knowing he couldn’t complete the project alone, he confronted Chermak in the fall of 2016 about helping him edit and assemble the poems and book since she worked in the department as an assistant.

“She was excellent,” Moran said. “She was really thoughtful, very hard working and enthusiastic.”

After getting a deal with a publisher, the pair started combing through more than 1,100 pages of Scottish poetry before narrowing the selection down to about 40 poems. Then the two of them had to get approval to use and edit the pieces for the book.

“It was a really fantastic experience,” Chermak said.

And while her flash drive could probably use a break from the barrage of documents and poems, Chermak herself is quite happy she got to experience the process.

“The moment I’ll never forget is waking up and seeing 30 plus emails from all these poets and getting to see and talk to all these personalities from across the world in Scotland and Australia.”

The title of the book, “Forty Voices Strong”, represents the 40 poems in the book. There are works from 35 different poets.

The cover of the book is also Scottish in nature, featuring an image of the thistle plant.

“The thistle is a very traditional kind of image. It’s like the country plant or flower if you will. It’s very beautiful, very kind of spiky and very symbolic of the Scottish people,” Moran said.

Moran carved the image into a piece of wood and covered it with beeswax and ink. After liking the single image, the pair had the idea to put 40 of them–20 on the front and 20 on the back–on the cover of the book.

The process is one neither Moran or Chermak will forget.

“I’m the author of five other books, but this was my first time taking on the editor role. That was really fun. I’m not sure If I will do it again, but it was just a really fascinating and engaging project,” Moran said.

His help for the project agreed.

“Being able to take part in a project like this was really neat to see a sliver of a culture like Scotland from Wisconsin,” Chermak said. “It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet that my name is on a book as an assistant editor, but I am very thankful for the whole experience.”

A book launch for “Forty Voices Strong” will take place in Jefferson on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Fort Atkinson Club in nearby Fort Atkinson.

A month from now, Moran will travel back to where it all started, the Scottish Poetry Library, for a second book launch event. That event will have six of the poets in the book reading from the anthology.

Locals looking to purchase a copy of the book should contact Moran at [email protected].