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A Burns Night Supper

Jan. 24, Truckee
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Info: $45/person, Jan. 24, 6 p.m., Cottonwood Restaurant, 10142 Rue Hilltop, Truckee, (530) 587-5711,

In 2014, Wayne Poulsen, who has enjoyed reciting the poetry of Robert Burns for decades, traveled to Scotland to learn more about the world-famous poet. As luck would have it, while searching for a room one evening, Poulsen stumbled upon a small bed and breakfast, where he learned that Burn’s mother was born in the exact cottage where he was about to stay. He spent two nights there.

Today, Robert Burns is celebrated with Burns Night Supper all around the world. Cottonwood Restaurant pays tribute to the late poet in our neck of the woods with an evening of Celtic culture including bagpipes, recitals of Burns poetry, a three-course meal, and post-dinner entertainment.

Here we talk with Poulsen about Robert Burns and the Cottonwood celebration.

~ Ally Gravina/Moonshine Ink

Describe the Cottonwood Burns Night Dinner in your own words.

For me, the Cottonwood Burns Night Dinner is a welcome addition to the North Lake cultural carousel — it replicates other Burns birthday celebrations taking place all round the world — and puts us in touch with a special community of folks from all over who enjoy a good dram, fine words, and good feeling in honor of a bard who was their born leader in these pursuits.

How did you first become interested in Robert Burns?

Years ago, skiing and climbing in the Alps, often with a wild group of Scotsmen, I noticed that at the close of a great day in the mountains, as we sat “boozin at the nappy,” the Scots would always have a great poem at hand to recite or a song to sing. It was embarrassing to sit quietly, grimly, with the shamed Americans, boys bereft of the polished and joyous shouts of our Celtic friends. I vowed to change that.

You recite Burns’ poetry by memory — how do you prepare for these events?

Once I learn a piece, I pretty much have it, and I enjoy turning it in my mind and imagining what the poet would be thinking and feeling through each passage. I have recited Burns for much longer than Burns himself lived, and, in a sense, I feel I know his mind, or parts of it, as well or better than he did.

What poem is your favorite? What poem is your favorite to recite live?

Impossible to say; perhaps it would be the most recent one I’ve learned. I’m always finding something new, unexpected.

What is your favorite part of the evening at Cottonwood? What is your favorite dish?

Of course, the high point of any Burns night is the piping in of the Haggis. What could be more toothsome or delicious?

What is something most people don’t know about Robert Burns?

What most people don’t know about Burns is that he was the first landsman … the man or woman of the soil, to claim himself the equal of any lord, duke, or monarch. He was the archetype of the Scottish enlightenment, a time which, in itself, laid the foundation for the American ideal, the Constitution, and the modern world.

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February 8, 2018