Poyums, and a Perfect Storm of a Book Launch

TW/CW: The following post contains mention of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse.

Recently the Instagram algorithm served me a video of a young woman with incredible red hair and an absurdly glorious complexion sitting in her pjs on her bed trying to teach me Scots.

You might have seen Len Pennie on Instagram or TikTok, as she has a daily program teaching folks like me the Scots word of the day.

It turns out the algorithm, and myself too, were late: Len started this project in 2020.

But her posts to Twitter, then to Instagram, built quite a following.

Len also just released poyums, a book of poetry in both English and Scots, and she’s been sharing videos and pictures from her UK book tour in March.

poyums was an instant bestseller in the UK (#2 on the Sunday Times list) and several of her events sold out. The US edition will be released tomorrow, 23 April.

The poems are feminist and heartbreaking, especially the ones that talk about abuse, gendered violence, and women’s rights. Librarian friends, I know you might be adding to your poetry collection, and this might be a very fun choice!

The poems are terrific, too. Some are entirely in English, or entirely in Scots, and some mix the two.

Here’s a video of Len reading “chattin shite.”


And this is “I’m no havin children,” which is her favorite, and is entirely in Scots:

(This one is one of my favorites, too.)

This is the first verse of “hauntit” (I don’t want to reproduce too much).


There’s a ghost in ma heid, an A want it tae leave.
It isnae richt deid, but A’m wantin tae grieve
Fur the bodie it hurt till she startit tae want
Tae be the richt kind ae hollow fur ghostiest tae haunt…

As her Scots word of the day audience grew, Len has been subjected to horrible abuse from people online. At one point, she went private on Twitter, a departure that was mentioned on r/Scotland when it happened in 2022.

Fast forward to now: it’s 2024, and poyums has just released to massive praise and a lot of support online and off. And it would be neat if this were the ending, but alas, no, the release turned into a bit of an ordeal for Len.

CW/TW: Again, please be aware that from here on, I’m talking about domestic violence, abuse, and harm.

poyums released on 22 February in the UK, and Len had several events scheduled to promote it. But behind the scenes, she’d also been part of a BBC Disclosure documentary on intimate partner violence/domestic abuse, detailing an abusive relationship she’d been in between 2017 and 2020.

When she’d left her partner Gregor Monson, he began a campaign of harassment and stalking, endangering her personally and professionally. She had over a million followers, but had to set her accounts to private. The post in r/Scotland and the article it links to mentions an abuse campaign after her appearance at Transpoesie 21, but her withdrawal from social media was in part due to the specific targeted harassment and stalking from her former partner. (NB: she told me this herself in an interview, which is coming Friday.)

Gregor Monson pled guilty to domestic violence and was “sentenced to a two year behavioural programme for domestic abusers,” while Pennie was granted a 3 year non-harassment order, forbidding him from contacting her.

BBC Disclosure had been following seven women for a few years as they navigated the justice system in Scotland alongside advocates and volunteers for the documentary.

Surviving Domestic Abuse released 11 March 2024 – just as Len was doing public events for poyums. 


Alas, the documentary is not available in the US, and I hope it will be. TW/CW for those able to play the video: it contains personal footage, audio clips, and extremely frank descriptions as well as court testimony for all the women involved. Folks in the UK can view it on the BBC iPlayer.

There’s also some footage in this 1 March article from Catriona MacPhee and Jax Sinclair of the BBC Disclosure team.



Y’all, you’d think folks would be able to show up on the internet and read poetry and teach people Scots without abuse, but alas, not. It’s a terrible timeline in a lot of ways. She’s mentioned the nasty comments she’s received in several videos, and has shared the revolting messages she gets on social media, some of which she’s turned into poems.

But a few absolutely terrible people accused her of timing the book release to the release of the documentary (are you fucking kidding me) (how would that even be possible) (I can hear the sound of a few dozen publicists rolling their eyes at the idea) (come ON now) (ffs) and it was a visible struggle for Len, as she put it, to differentiate between Big! Things! Happening! that are good, and Big! Things! Happening! that are not so good.

Book releases, whatever the genre, are hard enough as an author, even with a big platform and a big following, and my heart broke for Len over and over watching her navigate the joyful welcoming audiences at events for poyums while at the same time the press was asking for interviews and she was getting increased attention (some of it negative) from the documentary’s release. She’s said countless times that she’s so proud of all of her work on the program, but bringing all of it up and witnessing it through the documentary footage was brutal.

I’m really, really excited that poyums ( A | BN | K ) is available in the US tomorrow, and have ordered myself a copy of the audiobook (read by Len herself! Cheers to that!). You can listen to a sample as it’s available in Hoopla already. And Len will be my guest on this week’s podcast episode, talking about her book and about teaching Scots! 

If you are struggling with intimate partner abuse, domestic abuse violence, the BBC has compiled a series of resources for various places in the UK, including Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (0800 027 1234).

In the US, help is available in English and Spanish 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-7233 from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They offer a text and chat service as well.

poyums is available at all major US retailers starting tomorrow. Congrats, Len!


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