brigant

April not a fool, just a joker … This is hame clawed in icicles since April’s first weekend.

April feels a brigant, with its hoards of dark clouds filling our springtime skies with their trillions of icicles, haily puckles, sleet, snowflakes… As if wir voar (our Nordic spring season) was trapped and confined to each afternoon.

Yet, tis not about our abominable moorie caavie (violent blizzard) this blog post is devoted, but to a book review I had longed to complete.

Long awaited.

Time is both a blessing and a curse.

In Brigantia

A.J. Murray’s second collection of poetry opens with the gentle and yet vibrant title poem, in which he begins his imaginary journey by the river, setting a vivid scene and a strong sense of place, inviting us, each reader, to ready for this journey,

“sitting by the river, / rounded aesthetics / rolling down a verdigris valley”

taking us back deep into times where Caesar’s legions clashed with a queen he names later,

“Coins, unearthed in soil / Roman – no hoard”

…That sense of place, geographical as well as in time.

Murray’s strong sense of place is echoed in the second poem, Valley. The poet brushes a very dark and mystical nano-universe by addressing a queen:

“Cartimandua, / history has not been kind to you” (…) this glade holds the bodies of ancient warriors, / fallen in forgotten battles”.

Murray the Mancunian feels eager to transcend time itself when he feels that urge to step into Brigantia, his Narnia:

“I need to come here / I’m urbanized”…

A feeling he develops through the subsequent poems Moor, Hillfort, The Way Trees Speak, Hinged Moments or Motorway, in which Murray also flirts with a certain sense of entrapment:

“Our country is too small for road trips.”

A powerful statement.

His own modern version of Brigantia emerges from sprinkled poems throughout the book, Something Urban, Stone Shale Earth, Rainy Day Blues, Nocturnes, and the beautiful Kittiwakes,

“Kittiwakes on iron girders, / man-made cliff edges / to which they return to breed, / away from the tumult / of the North Sea”.

So evocative of my own Nordic world.

Murray the poet wishes us to travel with him through his dreamy Brigantia whilst bumping into iconic or notorious personalities, Marylyn Monroe, Hitler or Elvis (!) notably through Salted, Routes, Journey, Night Poem, Eddie or Mytholmroyd, to close with Cranes,

“Cranes in the sky / and I wonder why (…) embroidered words / on an unraveling sky.”

Well chiselled, dark, poignant with a pinch of Mancunian humour itself descendent from a brigant, A.J. Murray’s second collection transports us in his Brigantia.

My question is, where next? Orkney Birds seem to point the way.

In Brigantia is available on Amazon, ISBN 9781731271365.

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Earth Hour’21

#earthhourchallenge2021

Here, to candlelight, the poem I scribbled during those 60 minutes.

A Poem for Earth Hour

Let's light candles for Mother Earth,
our powerhouse,
home under
stars;
60
minutes
without a bulb
plugged to
a grid some invented to
blind over a billion
stars,
the many eyes of
the divine
that
look on
us through
the curtain of
stratosphere...
60 minutes to
feel humble close to
the flame of
candlelight -
Mother Earth loves acts of
kindness, for
we are playing with
fire; minutes to
finish my
poem,
light-years
away from Cassiopeia,
Andromeda, as
we plug
back
to
defy black.
I wish I had eyes of
the cat.

© Nat Hall 2021

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Celebration

Happy World 🌍 Poetry Day!

Here comes my quill to this great celebration:

FEATHER-HUNTER

She walks, she walks,
she
talks and
chases
a feather,

twist from the wind,
tale from Tarmac;

she talks and
tackles a
feather,
life’s
filaments,
keratin white –
she runs and
curses a
feather,
hands in the air,
her hair’s gone wild, imploring the whole of the sky…

She stops and stamps that lone
feather,
she holds the world inside her hand.

NH 2021.

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Iced (2)

Imbolc was veiled in icicles… ❄️

Imbolc welcomed Brigid as a maiden, clad in immaculate snowflakes.

Tis beautiful, so beautiful to look at. Who has not ever marvelled at such wondrous land, sky and ice scapes? Till now, February has been generous to us in terms of calm white & blue days. Yes, we just need to leave home a little earlier to de-ice the car… But what a pleasure to breathe in that crisp air and allow the sun to warm our epidermis and our hearts…

And even if our boreal sun strengthens in power through longer daylight and elevation, we, islanders from the great far north, have to make do with these polar conditions. As weird as it might sound, we have yet to learn that waddling technique so natural to penguins to stay up on our feet (!). A recent report from one of our local newspapers recorded a higher incidence of some 40 admissions to A&E linked to ice… Broken limbs, strains & sprains – as well as sledging accidents. Whereas folk still seem to favour the famous wellies (those yellow or khaki rubber boots) to tread on ice, I have adopted snow boots and grippers… And they have proven so lifesaving on many occasions.

And if wellies, waddling or grippers fail, then, our Antarctic flightless birds have also shown us another safer way to move swiftly… The belly sliding technique, as frequently used by, notably, Emperor penguins (!). And what more fun than this? Just look at kids having fun on ice… They use a similar technique. Note: I very much doubt many of us – human bipeds – adopt such a technique except for fun. 🥶

We have been so iced since January the whole Kingdom Animalia (including us, humans) depends on adaptations for survival.

Ice has continued to infiltrate our lives around our island world, and no creature is spared. Our winter survivors have to endure such harsh conditions. They may have developed their own adaptations, yet they still have to bear the brunt of it all.

Whereas ponies have thick winter coats and thick hooves to provide insulation from iced ground, air and wintry showers & storms, birds rely on their respective layers of feathers called down. Some often stand on one leg to maximize insulation from freezing water or ground… All need to shelter to ensure survival. They don’t dwell very long on open ground, unless heavily coated – like ponies or highland cows – or fleeced like sheep.

Birds need all the tall grass, thickets and trees they can find around our valleys, hillsides and human gardens to survive.

Recently, I have not only noticed more visiting starlings, sparrows and blackbirds to the feeders at home, but far less common visitors, such as a young Song Thrush and a Redwing.

The human obligation to work from home (even on a part-time basis) allows for better nature watching from the comfort of our own home, as well as providing food for avian ground feeders on a more regular basis. Our Chief Executive encourages us to reconnect with nature for our own wellness… In my case, she is preaching the lifelong converted (!).

Each sunrise feels a new adventure!

Like you all in the northern hemisphere, I am becoming a little eager to welcome Ostara, the Vernal Equinox. It will come in due time, however, I am also savouring the magic of snowflakes, as well as Mother Earth’s slow re-awakening and the gradual return of some of our summer migrating visitors… Our avian friends!

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Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition 2021 – Judge Announced – 1st Prize £100!

Hay Writers’ Circle are excited to announce that the wonderful Melanie Prince of The Poetry Bookshop has agreed to judge our 2021 Poetry Competition. Chris and Melanie Prince, The Poetry Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye. Photo credit: Developmentbank.wales Melanie was a 2015 Costa Book Award Judge and we are thrilled to have her as our Poetry Judge this year. […]

Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition 2021 – Judge Announced – 1st Prize £100!

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Iced (1)

The world from my shore.

Days, hours from Imbolc, and the island (as well as the rest of the archipelago for that respect) firmly in prey to ice and icicles.

In such sub-arctic conditions, everything feels dormant. Our boreal sun has graced winter’s whiteness in an attempt to warm our hearts and souls. Even foreshore rocks and boulders turn blue… And yet it has brought us joy through the classic winter light. Tis so healing.

A daily walk at around noon when our star reaches its zenith might feel best, and yet the eye favours the Golden Hour, a sheer moment when the wild world looks more industrious in its quest for survival. Tis the critical moment when life could flirt with death so scarce food is scarce, hidden under ice.

Whereas local crofters, our small holding farmers, feed their sheep at the manger, and storms uprooted kelp from the nearby bays, the bounty of summer feels a mirage.

Ice is everywhere.

In every book & crannies of our world where it can sneak, ice has petrified grass, water, heather … For the first time, the birds’ water holes, pots and lochs have reached a point of polar scapes…

….As if giants and gods from Jotunheim descended straight on us!

And yet the island holds fast. We feast from the sun’s kindness; walk through the land in search of signs of more green-ness. With the gradual return of the light, we may feel clawed inside winter, yet Mother Earth has already begun to wake…

Like you, I am looking forward to the rebirth and the promise of spring, da voar, as it is known here locally.

Meantime, I am counting the hours to Imbolc, the very first murmuration of our waking home world, as a prelude to our very own chant du monde.

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archipelago

2021.

Twenty years ago, I heard the call from 60N and answered. I believed in the stars that showed the way.

Stars. A good trillion of them can’t be wrong. 27 is an odd number… I was gifted one at Yule, which made me feel like le petit prince… Another bears my name in the constellation of Auriga…

Here is a short piece I wrote at dawn this morning to welcome 2021. Like the rest of my community and humanity, filled with hopes.

She ran to the edge of the land, where birds gather before each dive.

Her eyes searched for the faintest sight of stars. Winter has clawed her every breath, wrapped in that wind straight from the pole, she felt at one with her own world.

Circular beams from the lighthouse are reassuring in winter. She turned her heart to the ocean where tides collide and kiss at will. The taste of salt left on her lips reminds her of her sense of home. Home, where sea pinks thrive in early June; where each skylark sings in deep blue… Home, where time wanders inside rollers.

Home. The twigs she planted in the ground have grown to trees. She learnt the clicks of each starling, as she replenished hooked feeders on the tip of strongest branches.

Hame. her heart listened for brand new words she harnessed as her midder tongue. Her sense of belonging in her community nestled for the first time when she discovered wicks, holms and her taing of land, heartfelt welcome fae folk., peat fire in their hearth.

On the strange primal night, she looked up to the stars. She looked at them as her angels. The constellations of her heart, Orion and Andromeda, Aquila, Auriga and Taurus…. She finds solace, there in Lyra or just the Plough. She knows clouds don’t stay forever.

On the tip of her loved headland, she listened to wrath from The Roost. Each wave heaves kelpies and njuggles – awakes spirits from the water. Two footsteps back, she loved the safety of the stones an islander used for a wall like a jigsaw to guard against the Roost’s anger.

She remembered her own journey in between skerries at high tides, treacherous straits, hell from hailstorms… Yet she believed in her dear stars to find her archipelago.

This archipelago, her own world. She knows the lighthouse is safety.

© Nat Hall 2021

Thanking you for your continued support and wishing each and everyone the very best for 2021. Take great care and stay safe, wherever you walk on the planet.

Namaste from the island.

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Jul, Yöl & Aa

Spirit of Yule

Yuletide is a magic, signalling a new life cycle start – a slow return to light, the sun, currently at 6.6 degree elevation at its zenith… And in those times of darkness, the faintest spark feels a treasure.

The island, engulfed in some 5 and something hours of light on 21 Dec., is already scraping seconds away. Snowflakes dusted every inch of sand, heather and grass this polar felt 24 Dec. 2020.

Yule, Yöl Eve, julhaften, or réveillon, here comes two poems – one in Shetland dialect from Vagaland; the other, from my own pen.

Fae Mr Robertson, aka Vagaland,

Santie’s Reindeer 

Da Göd Man hings da starns

Laek peerie lamps sae bricht,

Sae Santie Klaas can fin his wye,

Whin he comes here da nicht.

Dis nicht he yoks his reindeer up,

An drives dem trowe da sky;

Dan he taks on his muckle bag

An leaves his slaidge ootbye.

An, Maamie, whin you mylk da coo

You’ll geng an tak a

O hey, or maybe twartree

An laeve dem lyin furt.

Da reindeer haes sae far ta geng;

Dey’re maybe hed nae maet,

An he’ll be blyde if he can fin

A grain fir dem ta aet.

A’ll hing my sock apo da

Jöst in below da brace,

An whin he’s trivveled trowe da

He’ll aesy fin da place.

He’ll never come till A’m asleep,

Sae A’ll pit on my goon

An up da stairs ita da

A’ll geng an lay me doon.

You’ll pit da claes aboot me noo,

Becaase he’s gittin late;

An, Maamie, whin you mylk da coo

You’ll mind da reindeer’s maet.

Vagaland.
Hame, at Yöl.

And if Vagaland leaves food for the reindeers, I will gladly leave some for a Norwegian character…

Julenissen

Julenissen loves julaften,

smell of hot porridge in a bowl

somebody left right by the barn.

His eyes peep through

edge of his cap,

that long

red

stocking to the floor;

his dwarf-like

size nearly

makes him invisible,

scraping a living with a cat,

a vole family and

owl...

Julenissen loves his barn,

each farmer, child and animal,

yet hot oatmeal on Christmas Eve

will bring favours to

humankind -

this hog goblin is a guardian,

he, safe-keeper of

men’s farm world;

windows will be dressed with candles,

decorated in his honour.

Oatmeal or porridge for an oath,

Julenissen feels generous, with

auroras above reindeers.

© Nat Hall 2020
Have a joyous, safe and peaceful Yuletide/holiday 🌲❄️✨

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GMT Cat

Here is a piece I had longed to write: a simple fact about feline & human worlds… This is when I envy their freedom!

My 13 month old “panda-tiger”
GMT Cat

Cats don’t connect to GMT,

that switch too mean, irrelevant to
Greenwich, time, as
metal hands, waltzers on clocks,
do not exist in
their psyche;

food needs to
be served at daybreak -
catflap open for adventures,
irrespective of chime or day...

They take your dreams for scratching pads,
knock down anything from tables that
feel perfect to
wake you
up;

tread on railings where
curtains hang,
their own
circuit on highest shelves,
wicker columns,
they,
acrobats
armed with grippers...

Cats don’t connect to
GMT, summer,
winter or
hands of time -

to them,
the world belongs to
light either from
our Moon or
the sun;

that internal
clock in their heads,
deprived of
hands or meridians,
doesn’t obey
astronomers.

NH 2020

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spaekalation

November, month of hellery – this fine Shetland dialect word that encapsulates the worse from the sky in the form of storms of any kind – enshrouded in darkness since daylight feels more and more elusive.

Hel, hell, hellery, as 2020 has never matched our expectations; held us hostage within our walls, and loved ones disappear…

Spaekalation – another fine Shetland dialect word that translates as gossip – is a raw piece written at night, as an attempt to deal with both the savagery of the sky and a sudden and an unexpected bereavement. This poem was first written in the dialect and then translated in English

spaekalation


Whit's yun?

Is yun a gooster or a ghoul?

Twa goggly eens i'da tree,

is yun an owl o some kind?

Ta da dare-say o'da mirken, da vaelensi is juist

begun;

dey say dat ghosts ir among wis,

waanderin, lone, aroond
wir laand - dy an

me hoose,

da tattie crö, barn an byre -

dey say dey travel wi da flan an da snitter,

skid juist laek bairns apö

da snaa an glerl o ice,

hide i'da white o'da moorie ta

mind da reek o chimney stacks.

Dey say dey sit by da fire atween

da caird an da wirsit -

da Slockit Licht,

crabbit embers ta keep

da memory alive.

Deir shadows

glide alaang da waa,

listen ta da saang o'da nicht.

----

Gossip

What's this?

Is that a messy gust of wind or just a ghoul?

Two goggly eyes inside a tree,

is it an owl of some kind?

To the hear-say of dusk,

That brisk downpour has just begun;

They say that ghosts are among us,

wandering, lone, around

the land, my and

your house,

the spud corner, barn and cowshed -

they say they travel with wind gusts or biting cold air,

skid just like kids on

snow and ice,

hide in the white of a blizzard to

reminisce smoke from the stacks.

They say they sit by the fire, between

carding tool and the yarn -

Extinguished Light,

dodgy embers to

keep the

memory alive.

Their shadows glide along

the wall,

listen to the tune of

the night.


© Nat Hall 2020





For you, dear Nybakk Clan ♥️

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