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2018

Phenomenal time in Northern Ireland’s Co. Antrim and Belfast, Oct. 2018, that crowned an amazing year.
Two days left (or thereabouts) before a brand new year dawns with its own brand of hope, anticipations, expectations as well as challenges and trials… On the 29th day of the twelfth month, a fresh breeze blows on the island. It is a time for reflections, that final look over one’s shoulder before a leap in the unknown.

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! 

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tribal

Every first Friday of March, as told by the tide, we gather, united by bond and fire, and we celebrate the return of the sun.

#smuha 2017, from Cunningsburgh, with burning at Mail Beach.

 

SMUHA Community 2017

SMUHA 2017 tribe

SMUHA 2017 Community spirit

viking SMUHA 2017 e-

 

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burning

  It takes one jarl to lead his squad to beach and flames, and his community to celebrate the return of the sun.

SMUHA is a young fire festival that has now grown to rival with well established ones, such as Delting in the more northern township of Brae.

Every procession is magic, every burning of the galley, mesmerising, every moment, memorable.

   This  year, I shared it with a friend, who came especially for her first experience. She would tell you it is unique.
And it is! The atmosphere, torches, embers and smiles glow inside night.


A moment to savour every time!

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March extraordinaire

   I always have to make things up to distract my heart from this one.
Month of rainbows, dark and tears, March is the wild beast in my head. This year, for the very first time, it feels somewhat different.

Time-tight schedules, activities that keep my soul right off the edge of oblivion, March is flying like a comet.

   Some extraordinary meeting with amazing poets, including freshly former Makar (Scotland’s National Poet) Liz Lochhead – as pictured above – during a night of poetry at the Shetland Library; whilst reconvening with Welsh-born Emma van Woerkom, on a short-stay on the island for our local fire festival (SMUHA) proved so much light and breaths of fresh air!   

 Such two slices of life took me temporarily from my ivory tower,  as Compass Head is mutating into a book 🙂

     Light has returned on the island, and with it, the spirit of #voar, “planting season” as we know it on the windswept, wild 60N latitude.
There’s still a few miles to go, but it looks bright till publication. 

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Feathered

Feathered for a day,


Feathered and proud, on the final Tuesday of January, as eyes of the world turn to a group of young Vikings about to perpetuate a tradition fit for our Nordic latitude.

It is a time when our Junior Jarl Squad shines inside our hall before they stampede through the school and then the town with their elders for a marathon of merriment.

Every year, the island’s sole urban centre sets itself for such day.

As night settles, their replica viking long ships will be torched like a winter bonfire. You can watch live via 60N TV online.

May this summons the return of the sun 🙂

Happy Lerwick Up-Helly-Aa!

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winter

   Already the sun has begun to rise higher at its zenith.
To celebrate its return, men have built long boats to immolate out in a gale from winter’s depth. Whereas Scalloway opens a season of fire torching,  and merriment inside halls, the island’s (modern) capital will attract crowds local and global on the final Tuesday of this month. 

 

Winter will die out by fire. Like cosmic laws on the island, we brave the rawness of the ice that grips the Auld Rock to the core – from Saxa Vord to Compass Head… As snow covers heather and shore, and swans gather on frozen lochs.

    And every trip defies the light in icicles.
Dawn starts earlier, 

  
Crystal purple before sunrise. 

It feels magic when this sky speaks in such colour. By the time I go home, light still lingers behind curtains… With it comes sly thin layer of black ice that seek your feet every morning.

  
Winter feels harsh on us, dwellers of the north. Yet I find solace in the thought that February welcomes Imbolc – the early signs of Earth’s Spring – in spite of struggle with more ice. 

Winter possesses so many claws it defies those of the dragon. Soon the sun will revive our hearts as it continues to rise higher in our sky. 

In the meantime, we shall raise our eyes to torches, it is written in every bay. 🙂 

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smuha 

There’s a tremor in the island.

A she-jarl emerged off a long line of masculine “tradition” of guizer jarls… She made headlines in newspapers, and I hear even in London.

She made us dream last Friday night.



Here, to celebrate such event, a humble triptych of poetry.

SMUHA 2015

For Lesley S., first ever woman jarl in Shetland history.

Acrostic

Skeo Clett,

Music inside sand,

Undo twilight to let us sing,

Hold torches high for a galley & a woman,

Aud, unafraid of world’s fire.

—-

Free Style

By the Atlantic we gathered,

blue-eyed dragon looked to Venus

inside a night fit for

a realm, where

folk marched 

as one with

fire,

down to

the edge of

shells and sand, to

celebrate Aud The Minded

who captained her boat

till its end –

brandished her axe

before our world,

stars 

assembled 

inside a

sky

fit for 

a Jarl & her

people.

—–

Avant-garde

Sleep

in 

the 

arms of the

dragon, by Skeo Clett, 

wild Atlantic, where stars gather

above our heads, home of 

the human fire snake

that comes to die

in boat’s belly –

woman,

child, 

man 

march

by your side, 

through day and

night around da Ness,

fire unites kindred

spirits, fills cups

with mead

after

twilight,

animates hearts

till final reel.

Now

you have

stood among its flames,

led your own crowd

to edge of waves,

and sang the

song of

the

Norseman, 

wake 

in the arms of the dragon.



Notes:

SMUHA is Shetland’s South Mainland Fire Festival, held annually South of Lerwick.

A “jarl” is a viking chief.

“Skeo Clett” is the name of the rocky feature on the northern side of St Ninian’s tombolo (sandbar that links the Isle of Saint Ninian to the mainland). 

A “galley” is a viking longship. 

“da Ness” is the way folk call the Parish of Dunrossness (the southern part of Shetland’s main island, itself known as “South Mainland”)

© Nat Hall 2015

Programme image courtesy of smuha.org where more information can be found 🙂 

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