Filled with magical wildness, Vikingness and wildlife, it is the said island RLS chose as – in terms of outline – his treasure island for the purpose of his famous novel…
An island fit for exploration and adventures that will unveil so many treasures…
And speaking of treasures, two nights ago, I found a treasure in which a poem was sleeping in a pocket-size moleskin I once took with me to this top of my northerly archipelago (well as north as “inhabited” can go!) – the edge of my world.
In this precious notebook, I travelled back to those late July days where a friend and I returned to a favourite beach – Eastings, Sandwick, Unst – Uyesound, Baltasound, Skaw, Norwick, Hermaness and its nearby Boat Station… Magic places I never tire of. That summer was that in 2017.
eyes riveted to horizon, that gang of tirricks above surf,
that perfect beach lost inside blue,
home to sanderlings and solans,
the Moon’s best friend, whatever tide.
Tirrick: Arctic (or common Tern); Solan: Gannet
Out of the sea an otter runs,
fur filled with dreams,
walks out on sand.
3. Island Life
Bonxie, Loch of Cliff – female Dunters, Hermaness, Boat Station – meadow pipit chick on roadside – Tysties and Rock Pipits, Boat Station – Solans off Boat Heaven, Haroldswick… Dratsie fishing in the bay with its head popping up – two Swallows, Saxavord Resort – Pied Wagtail, 2 Raingjus at Norwick…
Bonxie: Great Skua, Dunters: Common Eiders, Tystie: Guillemot, Raingjus: Red-Throated Diver.
4. Norwick Shalls
You walked back ta da Noost wi shalls,
a braally treasure i’da haands;
da sheenie kind,
better dan silver, gold an aa.
And from da Shetland Dialect:
You walked back to the top of the beach with shells,
A fine treasure in your hands;
the shining kind,
better than silver, gold and all.
A’da end o’da boannie road dat takks dee awye fae da sea,
follow da steinshakkers,
da lone clood an da wind-
da ocean bed, raw serpentine…
Dere is a meadow a’da end,
a bed o eyebright an a stream –
Eden shaped up couleur croissant.
6. Da Lang Hoose
Inside da laang hoose wir entered, an fun fowr chairs chiselled by haands oot’ o pine trees…
As if spirits invited wis fur a laang yarn or juist fur mead.
Dere wis nae fire i’da hearth, bit wir felt hame, sae wir sat doon.
And from the Shetland Dialect:
6. The Long House
Inside the long house we entered and found four chairs chiselled by hands out of pine trees…
As if spirits invited us for a long chat or just for mead.
In this world silenced by a terrorist disease, skylarks still sing above an early April hissing gale.
In this part of the main island, where Sandness looks lost inside haze, tussock grass yields, yet those birds we call laverick have returned as lairds o’da braes – elevated above da tun an da scattald (human dwellings and open fields where grazing’s shared among crofters…).
They will defy the harshest gust, ignore that brutal tongue from gales to sing to blueness and the sun.
To each passing of cirrus clouds, they do not know the world’s locked down, as they ascend among ravens, oblivious to material us.
They have returned in their hundreds to the daresay of each hillside.
On this Monday lost in April, this sky has turned cacophonous, as hillsides home song of skylarks, that dare to ignore gusts from gales…
…A black hole or stravaig in a desert where time locks itself in, as bubbles inside surf, or footprints lost through tides and gales.
Many walks done and gone. I still remember the Vernal Equinox, as March gave way to light and warmth. When birds returned to the island, and jenny wrens perched on roses to sing their songs, joined by blackbirds at dawn and dusk. A song so powerful, explosive and whimsical, you need to turn back and listen.
And as May comes with its unbound clemence, and shiny bright, stars vanish in the blue of night, as Beltane gives way to summer.
Summer, summer, da Simmer Dim, as our sky turns an opera house. Our island sings in tussock grass, around the bays – above our heads. It is a time filed with bounty, as our summer guests fish and hunt. A time where life fills with colours, where chicks grow feathers outwith dark. Darkness unknown to so many of us and fledlings until Arcturus reappears in late July. Our Atlantic and sense of North glow back orange. We then reignite our candles. In this mystical universe, the very few urban dwellers welcome July with refracting light in the bay. They do not question the great clock – the astronomical delight as da mirkin wins back its way. mirkin, murky times lie ahead…
Some walk through time on land, at sea.
As August wanes in honey gold, our most westerly land beacon feels a poltergheist at sunset. Foula, foul, fugl Island, with its bewildering cliff tops, redefines ife, geometry. Light as we knew from Simmer Dim – our nightless nights – lose in power, intensity. Our path to hairst and the autumnal equinox becomes clearer.
It is when night unveils its kaleidoscope of gales and stars. And we look more carefully, auroral glows in between clouds. Our pace hastens as we go home to the fire back in our hearths. Too soon the tides will speak out loud, and auroras trapped inside clouds will signal a new phase across the season. Few gannets fly, fish in the bay. Rose flowers gave way to their own fuits. The overgrowth lost its lushness… A lower sun shines through few leaves from alders or strong willows. That sense of blue tarnished with grey has lost its way. Deep purple hills back to bracken, bare and so brown.
September stepped in as a thief. October followed in its grace. Each wake-up call from our bedside triggers the start of each sunrise. Each minute lost now and regained, days have shortened and yet, still bright. I hear Sawhain’s still a long shot… Our winged friends wander south and south. For us, dwellers of thre island, we need to prepare for dark times.
Now, the island can sleep in peace, with auroras, constellations, stars and comets – a twany moon there as a friend.
Spring has multiplied signs throught that long and still ice-bladed month of March. If light has reached parity with darkness on the 20th day, and our migrating visitors called at night and settled back in our fields and meadows whilst others pursued their incredible journey north, the island still needs to wake to the promises of the season.
April, April… Life rekindles
March now behind us.
Tonight I heard eight puffin scouts have been located west of my favourite headland in our inshore waters. Earlier, friends reported the magical ascending song of a skylark as they wandered by abandoned crofts… Common Eider drakes already sit by their concubines… On inspection of the ground, daisies and bluebells have long braved snow, ice and thaws, re-icing and equinox gales. Even within the perimeter of my sanctuary, the grass has grown and would deserve a serious cut. Spring, voar, so precocious.
Light reappears on the 60th North Parallel.
I read somewhere that between the two solstices – and more precisely as we approached the Vernal Equinox – we were gaining up to two hours of light every month… Now, as April has entered in the great cosmic ballroom, my sunrises and sunsets are becoming more epic.
Strangely enough, fog has already been rolling on from our local hills. “Exotic” and “curious”, for fog remains an oddity before April… February and March both felt odd in places.
Yet April promises (or do I really take this for granted?) liberation from many claws – storms, gales, and other signatures from the icy months. And if I have yet to listen to my first skylark, I know it will not be long. The sky just needs to quieten a little more and our star to warm up those acres of storm-bent grass around our meadows… Wake, wake, wake, wake!
April is when you return to me.
As I am typing you are gradually falling asleep. Your case is packed. Your passport lies in a pocket of your handbag… Tomorrow, you too will begin your migration north – north by NE, as you will cross that stretch of your Irish Sea to find your way back in Glasgow before making your way to my North Sea from the mouth of a sheltered harbour. We can travel the world like swallows… or Storm Petrels. But to journey, we need a boat.
I may not wait for you from my favourite headland on Saturday, But I will gladly watch that great blue Viking efigee on the white hull we call da boat approach my favourite offshore island of Mousa at about 6.30 in the morning and drive parallel to you, as the bow kisses each wave from our sheltered waters. If we are lucky enough, Mother Sea will let you enter the Bressay Sound with grace.
It will be your first time. Selkies and seagulls will salute you on your passage. You are about to return to me as seabirds find their way across miles of oceanic deserts, da Roost to reconvene with my headlands, bays and meadows.
Now, my turn to find sleep from my northern latitude, as I will be by your side tomorrow, in voice and spirit. I have prepared home to welcome you on my northern island.
In anticipation to your arrival, I wrote a piece entitled North Voyager. It sounds and reads like a leitmotive… And yet it does epitomise that promise from Spring.
Tis the blog’s tenth anniversary and since we start in the dawn of the year, I would like to offer you a string of seasonal haiku penned within these past few years.
First light –
Two hooded crows
found breakfast at Fladdabister.
#haiku fae #60N #geopoetics
The edge –
dawn redefined the horizon.
#haiku fae #60N #geopoetics
icicles clad every pavement,
Bressay bathes in pink & blue.
#haiku fae #60N #geooetics
an austere house biggit by man
to park their folk into one faith.
#haiku fae #60N
as magical as Geminids,
furtive shooting stars in winter.
#haiku fae #60N
from indigo dawn to snowflakes,
Brigid’s spirit rises from ice.
#haiku fae #60N #geopoetics
our planet as a peach –
that wee layer right at the top
is where we walk…
#geopoetics fae #60N
in absence of your human warmth,
I feel heart from wandering
silent snowflakes, still
framed icicles from a sky,
never makes 2.
Will be looking for
long shadows, howling echoes
around Yule, since I ran
away from the
Sandwick, 8 Dec 2013
When sky awakes,
smell green of pine, cinnamon night,
Yule has its ghouls,
gales and gold
#micropoetry fae #60N
———— Lerwick, 16 Dec 2013
Mother Night –
clad inside lace,
whatever crescent of the moon.
-//————————– 20 Dec 2013
Upside down world –
icicles inside Everglades,
power from the polar vortex.
#haiku #geopoetics fae #60N
Arctic vortex –
the latest trend in media world.
#geopoetics fae #60N
Polar vortex –
16 km up in air,
where jet streams yield to 60N
#geopoetics fae #60N
—————–/————- 8 Jan 2014
Who wants a world filled with silence and
shadows hang coats on
slate roofs, and bold
divas sing to
sniggering starlings on
Don’t tell me twice,
winter wanders like a brother
without socks, shoes or
just aware of
my glowing green
solitude you too can glean on
every blade in a garden
left to wild gales.
Mareel when all is dark;
its gentle light
through the surface of raindrops,
slides against panes of
feeds high moon and
tide – as she keeps
her voice in
——————————- 8 Jan 2014
Winterlight 60N –
in between first light & pale blue,
fire Phoenix above Mousa.
#haiku fae #60N #geopoetics
—-11 Jan 2014
Bressay sprinkled with icicles,
blackbird hides –
a little closer to Norway.
— 17 Nov 2016
With seasonal greetings fae Nordicblackbird at 60N.
2018 has proven an amazing year, filled with challenges and adventures of all kinds, reconvening with old friends whilst bonding with new ones. It has taken me, the seeker-wanderer, across seas to discover unchartered places within the Isles. For the first time, I set foot in Glasgow in spring – and discovered the magic of Northern Ireland’s Co. Antrim & Belfast in October. How I loved meeting again with Chris and Roo whilst meeting for the first time (in the flesh) with poet & former Co-Editor from the Scottish Geopoetics Elizabeth Rimmer at Jim Ferguson’s book launch in Glasgow, as well as with Emma and fellow Shetland poet & graphic novelist Chris Tait at the Project Café. I would reconvene with Emma in Belfast in October. On both trips, I was also given the opportunity to share my own poetics and verse at the Project Café and the Sunflower respectively. Two great fun experiences where folk enjoyed selected poems from Compass Head.
2018 has been filled with challenges of many kinds – from translating an entire book (late Dec.- 30 March) to returning to studying whilst complementing my professional qualifications within education, now adding Edinburgh University to Oxford, Southampton and Université de Provence (Aug.- Nov.). If Georges Dif’s “Shetland” was a project that occupied many of my winter nights between late December and March, editing alongside Jonathan Wills continued till mid-April here at 60N whilst two fellow poet friends & authors Emma Van Woerkom and Andy Murray also added their critical eyes over the poetic side of Dif’s book. What a formidable teamwork it proved to be. We all raced against time to achieve it for the English version to be found on shelf at the Shetland Times’ Bookshop by July. Epic. 25,000 words or there about. Working without its original author proved the greatest challenge, and I can only hope Georges can only smile from the heavens.
2018 has continued to let my writer’s work fly within both my writers’ groups – Lerwick & Westside – and places around the island that welcomes the spoken word. From Mareel’s Open Mic sessions to Fjara’s Singer-Songwriters, respectively hosted by friends & artistes Keirynn Topp and Gail Wiseman, but also at Lerwick’s The String, as hosted by Jordan Clark and also, within the sanctuary nurtured by Radina and Alan McKay at Soul Time throughout the year. Fantastic bubbles of humanity treasured in my heart. Delectable moments of pleasure. On a wider level, I was invited to contribute to the #patchworkpoem through my Federation of Writers (Scotland) which was broadcasted by Andy Jackson on National Poetry Day. Great fun and gracious thanks for mapping Shetland through my humble contribution. I always value inclusion. 🙂
2018 homed an incredible summer of wonders and adventures under unparalelled blue, where I shared my passion with friends and kindred spirits – where I reconvened with my Norskie clan in style. Tattooed in my heart. I miss Norway, and Norway came to me.
2018 also celebrated the memory of Alex Cluness at this year’s Wordplay. This was the opportunity to salute the phenomenal work of Alex as a poet, but also as the “Father of Wordplay and Shetland Arts’ Trust’s main project has outlived him. For the occasion, friend, poet & author Alan Jamieson (RAJ) played MC at the Shetland Writers’ Celebration Night event with great flair, and he also conducted a brilliant Creative Masterclass at Bonhoga during that literary weekend. Memorable slices of life and creativity that awoke the pen in new directions. Fruitful writing that I later read at Wordplay’s closing event, the Open Mic’. RAJ smiled.
What a fabulous weekend it proved to be. So happy to reconvene with both Alan and Rozeanne on such occasion.
2018 also commemorated the century of an Armistice that engulfed humanity into genocide and the National Theatre of Scotland allied with C.A. Duffy to pay homage to all the men sacrificed in the Great War as Pages of the Sea. For the occasion, Lisa Ward invited me to read poetry at Ninian Sands. A very poignant experience.
Thank you, Lisa and NTS.
And as we descended back to the winter solstice, my school term eventually melted into a low December sun. Yule upon us, and the festive season kicked off with Singers-Songwriters’ Christmas Concert at Fjarå. Sadly, I had to curtail due to a double-booking, however, I honoured both. Thank you, dear Gail, for your kindness.
Two days away from a New Year, and I returned to Ninian Sands, my dear sand bridge, where the sand shifts on either side.Your shoormal looks peaceful at low tide, Christmas Day, a mere memory. Time to sample the now, reconvene with great friends, and share a slice of life.
2018 has been a fruitful year. May the forthcoming one keep you well and happy. 365 brand new pages I hope to fill with joy and brand new adventures!
Happy Yuletide and New Year, everyone!
One hundred years ago, a small party of men gathered in a wagon inside a French forest somewhere in Picardy to stop madness and attrition, a futile butchery, unparalleled till then, agree to terms for an Armistice. Humanity defaced, filled with hurt, on its knees.
To those millions of innocents, victims who fell and died, I wrote a short poem four years ago, entitled
Of Flowers and Men
Little lead men
fell one by
inside a field other than theirs, where
red flowers now flourish high -
scarlet to colour
a river to remind us
inside our walls.
Four years later, on that same month of November, I penned a string of verse to remember you all – irrespective of alliance, skin colour or religious denomination – because you were all human beings turned inhumane inside a theatre of death. You fell or you were shot, because you had beliefs.
On this occasion, the following verse is in your honour.
In memoriam, 14-18 Now
Time belongs to lush poppy fields.
They walked by their millions in wet mud,
France or Flanders,
leather laces in No Man's Land, along with
shells and barbwrire.
Canary girls back in Clydebank or in Gretna
manufactured what was to kill
somebody's boy in a cornfield, or
their own genes here on homeground...
An assemblage of sacrifice in
the name of an empire, country or king.
They fell by millions in cold mud,
furrow or field they never sowed -
through earth layers,
chromatic world recorded shell shock and their fears,
Within an hour, I will join all those who remember them at my local beach – St Ninian’s Sands – and read poetry to those clad in a uniform as part of this project #pagesfromthesea because I don’t forget. Later tonight, as part of this year’s edition of #shetlandwordplay (the annualbook festival in Lerwick), I will join in for the last event, the Open Mic and read both aloud, as part of a sequence dedicated to #14-18now.
The Federation of Writers (Scotland) is an organisation dedicated to making the written and spoken word available to the public of Scotland, with respect for diversity and recognition of additional support needs. Caidreachas nan Sgrìobhaiche (Alba) ’S e prìomh-amas Caidreachas nan Sgrìobhaiche (Alba) litreachas sgrìobhte is labhairte a chur mu choinneamh poball na h-Alba, a’ toirt spèis do dh’iomadachd agus feumannan-taice a bharrachd.