Category Archives: shetlandarts

visitors – little did I know it would mean “home”

visitors rehearsal 28 apr 2017 “Nat, I challenge you to a short poem…” I still remember Chris’ words one fine evening at the Mareel Café in Lerwick during one memorable Open Mic’ Night in 2016.

At the time, little did I know those words would generate such a fabulous collaboration with Visitors – a trio of very talented singer/songwriters based in Shetland (till band member Chris Grant left last autumn for his Glasgow homeground with a mix bag of excitement and sadness…).

To the poet, writing for a band feels playful and self-indulgent.

Whilst band member Chris Grant has known my writing from 2012 through the National Theatre of Scotland’s Ignition project, fellow members Cha Johnson and Andy Kinnear have been exposed to my poetical world from the Shetland Open Mic Night sessions. When it came to their project as a band, they had some of my spoken words in mind for the purpose of one song when the opportunity arose. Whilst they were assembling an EP later named after the final lines of my short poem, I quickly scribbled a very short piece recollecting my “first time” as a then visitor to 60N. This recollection never left my heart and mind, so magical and powerful this very first experience felt, and became imprinted in my heart forever.

This I translated into words,

submitted to Chris, who immediately related to the piece. Perfect was his response. And left it like this, until he recorded me in a tiny office on his last day at work.

Although I had no idea of what was really happening, I later received words from Chris explaining me about Visitors’ plans and project. A bigger picture began to shape in my head. With Chris in Glasgow, I left the spoken word in good hands. Meanwhile, Shetland Times journalist and singer/songwriter Adam Guest penned an article in the islands’ weekly. More light on Visitors‘ work!

An EP to be launched in Shetland

So little did I know Visitors would launch their work at this year’s Shetland Folk Festival in South Nesting. News filtered gradually via all three members earlier this spring. I still remember Cha’s lovely words- both at Gutters’ Gaet and Andy’s… We all turned more excited about such launch! From Cha’s messages to the rehearsals at Islesburgh and Clairmont Place, I discovered the entire EP, tasted fabulous slices of life (as well as Andy’s newly improved home made chilli con carne!) in fabulous company; a wild ride in Andy’s car to listen to the CD newly arrived in his lair, and reconvened with Chris and Roo. IMG_4092 IMG_4093

On the night, 29 April 2017

VISITORS BANNER

Whilst Visitors had already invested the South Nesting Public Hall for the indispensable sound check, I joined in with the audience. Familiar and other faces lined up against the wall, ticket in hand. The air was crisp in a dry though overcast world… I left the comfort of my peerie buggy as soon as I saw my trio of artistes emerging from the building. Reunited on the night for the gig! Hugs, smiles and kind words filled our hearts.

da night ticket Visitors 29 apr 2017

south nesting hall queue 29 april 2017

Little did I realise the concert would be performed in a jam packed hall with other great bands following in our footsteps…

Visitors Live on stage 29 april for EP launch

Visitors live on stage, 29 April 2017 at the South Nesting Hall for the launch of the EP at the Shetland Folk Festival 2017.

And Chris invited me on stage to close the act, whilst reading those words I once scribbled about “little did I know this would mean home”. The act well, very well received by the audience on this fun night of performance. Maggie already released in iTunes. The rest of the EP to follow in the great digital constellation of the apple.

nordicblackbird april 2017 with Visitors.jpg Happy poet, humble and thanking you, dear Visitors for such an epic adventure 🙂 IMG_4112

Tattooed in my heart forever.

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quantum leap & back flip

That tunnel ride across mountains, under water (as I once left Måløy on the first time…) has left a mark indelible, and illustrates how I feel at the start of 2017.


2016 proved to be one of those truly extra-ordinary years, tainted with hues of paradoxical emotions on the the principle of the kaleidoscope. So much happened in those twelve months.

Here, the highlights back in limelight.

On the making and soft release of Compass Head, joint editing with Nordland lead to let this first solo collection fly at a time dear to my heart, 30 March.


From winter into spring, as I rolled back in Provence for a short while, bringing Compass Head to the last survivor of that trio of women to whom the book is dedicated. Symbolic journey in itself… However, there was another reunion as important with a lifelong friend, artist and Art restorative Artisan, Isabelle Foriat, who took me to Manosque to meet with Jean Giono’s surviving daughter, Sylvie. Marvellous encounter.

Prior to that trip to the foot of Le Lubéron, a night at the Library to meet with Liz Lochead, Scotland’s former makar; and a much cherished reunion with a friend and fellow poet, Emma van Woerkom, who will pen, among others, an eloquent review of my peerie book of verse.

20 May 2016, launch of Compass Head at the Shetland Library. Full house, for a memorable night I will treasure all my life. I really felt humble and touched.

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Mid-June, my first crossing across the sea with a close friend to be reunited with da Norskie Clan.

A dream come true for the first time. I knew this was my early gateway to Vestlandet. Unforgettable and tattooed in my heart forever.

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Throughout summer, wrestled with a boiler without a suit. That techno-joust cost two plumbers who worked wonders, though at some cost I cannot regret…

July, with an event at the Peerie Shop Café for the purpose of a mag launch by Shetland Create. Great fun and pleasure to share selected verse from Compass Head in a place where I come to write. 🙂

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Summer, spent around those wild islands with the world, come rain or shine. I love its magic and blue nights; that sense of freedom, colour saturation and overgrowth… And in between May and July, friends & fellow writers – Marsali Taylor and Laureen Johnson – will pen their respective & eloquent reviews for the Shetland Times and the New Shetlander. Both are trilingual like me. A blessing.

August, invited to read at Sumburgh Head, as part of a unique project, Extreme Light North, led by Carol Duffy. Friend, playwright and Shetland Library Book Champion Jacqui Clark is a magician! I will share verse broadcasted to the whole world via the Internet from the great height of my favourite headland that first made me dream some 19 years ago… Tout un symbole et une histoire, from which Compass Head derives and was born.

jacquis balloon writing 18 june 2016

Whereas mid-August rhymes with a return to class and school bells, September reminds us of a slow return to darkness and a trade of wings, as avian visitors perform that orchestrated seasonal ballet…

But by October, the deal is struck. Winter visitors found around, and I would marvel at those Norwegian White-tailed sea eagles again around Kvinnherad and Fanafjorden! What none expected was a twist of fate from the sky! Crystalline, diamond blue, with only one hour of rain, as I set foot in Krokeide… Out of this world!

from-the-slate-table

Reunited with some of my Norskie kinsfolk for my October break. Magical, ethereal, as we had so much to share. All would also provide me that space to write, develop what I started in June – namely, that second collection of poetry. Furthermore, François took me further afield, across mountains, the Sognefjord to Vågsøy and Måløy, Viking country, where friendship grows so beautifully since 2010 and a certain encounter with the NYBAKK . La boucle est bouclée. Full circle, past-present and future sealed in one stone.

November, Lerwick Book Festival, and, on a less happy note, saying goodbye to [another] close friend resettling in Glasgow at the final Open Mic Night Chris Grant co-hosted with passion with friend & artiste Lisa Ward. What I did not know would be the taking part in a creative project with Chris and his two musical buddies, Andy Kinnear and Cho Johnson before the end of the year. That was great fun. Chris recorded me inside his tiny office at the Anderson High School on his final day…

Yule – stormy and filled with lights, Compass Head has a readership on both side of the Atlantic AND the North Sea, in Scandinavia. Chuffed 🙂

December, and a final accolade for the poet, as Compass Head features in the annual review of the Shetland Times, the long printed island newspaper. In addition, and on the last Wednesday of December, a special Singer/Songwriter “Cabaret style” event takes place at Mareel. My verse has a new home. It was warmly welcome by both organisers and the audience present that night. Magic within the great vessel of glass continues. 🙂

compass-in-st-dec-2016

Thank You all for a marvellous 2016, both in Shetland, the UK and Norway. It has been a fantastic journey, and I can only wish 2017 to be a year of growth. Storms may be raging round my hut and my island, there is so much to look ahead, on either side of the North Sea.

Very best wishes to YOU all from my breezy 60N latitude! 🙂

sumburgh light

 

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fluttering (2)

   
Compass Head has come home, or should I rather use “returned” home yesterday, as I found my own copy in the postbox.

Funny enough, I had tidied up my main writing table the night before, when I notably found the original paper manuscript, still inside its blue plastic binder, with each piece tightly typed and protected by a plastic pocket. 

What a journey it has taken, from regular wandering in between writers’ groups right from the start… Ninian’s Café in Bigton, Bowlers’ Bar in Lerwick and various private houses in between Weisdale and West Burrafirth, before we (as the Westside Writers) settled at the Whiteness & Weisdale Hall. Until last December, it was confined within the delimited coastline of the Auld Rock.

And then the digital manuscript turned a galley, as it travelled East, across tides of our shared North Sea, to Norway. It slid across that much loved latitude of 60N. 

You could think of the auld Viking trails and sea routes, amazing waterways as those borrowed by the Northmen… I love this concept. 

So, if we follow such line of thought, we could mention a homecoming, or, as we call it here in Shetland, a hamefarin. 

Welcome back home, Compass Head. 

   

 Compass Head, as viewed from Sumburgh Head. 

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published

   It feels like the sunrise.

Out of the curtain of ink, Compass Head has emerged, amid birdsong, gales and tides.

Its date of publication was important to my heart – my grandfather’s birthday; and my grandmother’s change of world, 9 nine years ago. Whereas the book is dedicated to three generations of mothers, including Mamie, my grandfather also features.

As a matter of interest, and by some coincidence, 30 March is also the birthday of one of my literary heroes, Jean Giono, whose works celebrate nature & thus, his very own brand of geopoetics.

By some twist of fate, will visit Manosque tomorrow with lifelong friend & artist Isabelle Foriat to pay my tribute to the great man; and looking forward to it. 

Released and available on Amazon, “the world’s biggest bookstore”, as a close friend kindly reminded me just a few days before I migrated back to the foot of Luberon for a short spring break.

So, here it is.

Compass Head, c/o NordlandPublishing 

With gracious thanks 🙂

  

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noir

   “Turn off the light, switch on a starry night…”

Noir, as November might predict. And if winter makes us reflect upon the dead, it is a time for us, living, to remember light in darkness. 

Under that category, the world could feel a frozen garden. Whereas sleet, hail and snow batter the island in a horizontal manner, people fall, cry, fight wherever human bestiality strikes. The horrors of terrorism bear so many faces & masks.   

Humanity feels in a state of emergency. 

Our planet, our homeworld, our cradle of life, will turn our grave. This is Noir, without fiction. 

Have we forgotten who we are, and where we live?   

Are we missing the boat? Are we too shackled to money to risk such perilous gambling? On reading the French press, we are heading towards our end. 

Noir,

Le Point.fr – COP21 : les lignes rouges des pays-clés dans les négociations.

Tour d’horizon des points de blocage pour chacun des pays les plus influents pour la conclusion d’un accord sur le climat à Paris.

Le Point newspaper reads noir. As if we were doomed like the lost civilisations who were incapable to save themselves in ancient times. It tastes rotten deep in my heart. Maybe a handful of humans are solely blindly driven by greed and are prepared to take that road. Gosh,  how selfish and masochistic. Do they know there is no way back, and nowhere else to go? This alone would feel a crime against humanity.

   

Talking of crime, Shetland hosted its first literary Noir Festival in November, as part of Iceland Noir.

   For a weekend, selected authors gathered at Mareel, and shared with the public. Helmed by friend & fellow Westside Writer Marsali Taylor, we grabbed the oar and added a rivet to clinker by launching our unique noir anthology, as part of a book launch event shared with Marsali’s latest crime fiction opus. On a more personal note, and with the Beyrout & Paris shootings in the backdrop, it felt a very strange weekend.  

Noir as man’s brilliance & blindness. 

Noir is a path I do not like by nature. It feels sordid and dangerous.

When I think Noir, movies like Sir Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner & Luc Besson’s (satyrical) Fifth Element come to my mind. 

I can only hope we are not heading into total blackness. 

Hello, Earth 

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magician

seckou [4]Seckou Keita returned to the island, with his koras, smiles and magic. A privilege, I felt, deep in my heart, as his hands began to weave the most ethereal sounds out of those 22 strings, fisher’s, musician’s dream. The man has a story to tell, fingers & voice to unleSeckou [3]ash. To listen to him and his beautiful vibes from Casamance, Senegal, blended with hints of nomadic spirit from his native Africa to Wales, is a delight. A joy to treasure in your heart. calebasse If you have not yet discovered his art, please, go find it!

To listen to the magician live remains a privilege.

With grateful thanks to Shetland Arts for bringing Seckou, as well as Gwyneth to the island. Magic moment tonight.

What a fabulous way to slide from Hairst – the harvest season – to the start of winter. Happy Samhain, everyone 🙂

Gwyneth [1] OCT 2015Seckou [2]And in response to his great show at Lerwick’s Art Centre, Mareel, a short poem woven from his music.
Fisherman’s Strings

Hear his fingers on stretched nylon –

Calebasse-skin from 

Casamance,

each note travels through

waves & wind,

inside his heart shines Sénégal,

his grand father’s wisdom

so sharp,

the 

taste of

dust South of his dreams;

his father’s eyes 

locked inside

his,

travelling chords of he-nomad,

toute la souffrance des 

harpistes.

© Nat Hall 2015 

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Five Photos, Five Stories – Day 5

Final night, and attempt. 

The image I chose fired up my poet’s imagination, as I stood before the very work of art, produced by a locally-based artist, as part of the Malakoff Exhibition last month at our local Art Gallery in Weisdale.

 
I devoted it a blog post not so long ago…

And now to its own poetics-

Shipwright

 No bones, just 

rust.
They say

they nailed you on a wall,

framed inside wood,

sea drifter’s 

dream,

but

as

currents

took you apart,

you lost your legs as 

a sailor, and 

let salt 

gnaw 

through

your rib cage.

What’s come of you

defies earth’s 

tides,

lightless

iris lost in riptides,

your joie de

vivre in

prey

to

dust…

What’s left of you,

but eyes of metal on 

the wall.
© Nat Hall 2015

Thank you for such challenge, Jane Dougherty. Highly enjoyed 🙂

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