Sunday, 28 November 2021

The Great Auk on Papa Westray plus COP 26


During my last visit to Papa Westray I also saw in the Kelp Store a papier mache sculpture of the Great Auk, the last one killed on Papay in the 19th c so that it's now extinct.  One was killed on St Kildan sea stack in 1840.  I've written a poem 'Stac an Armin' about the St Kildan killing published first some time ago, and I'm very pleased it was also  chosen to be performed at Dove Tales latest online event 'Mourning our Planet?' (which took place during Glasgow's COP 26).  The  pamphlet will be published shortly.

Stac an Armin (July, 1840)                                                                                                

On its lower rocks, a strange creature,

a little taller than our knees,

awaited us, her nose like a grooved beak,

her arms, draped in black, by her sides.

She dived and flew underwater,

elegant and sleek. 

Hauling herself out, she shuffled 

skliff, sklaff.


A curiosity.  We'd show her off

back home. It was easy.

Lassooed, we thrust her,

squawking into a stone cleit. 

A witch-storm blew up,

sea and sky lost in one

howling blackness 

as she cursed us from her cell. 

One man picked up a stone 

and squeezed inside. From outside, 

we listened to the cries and thumps.

As the screaming rose, we stopped our ears.


He crawled out, bleeding and torn.

A second man entered with another stone

and crawled out bleeding and torn.

And a third man entered with another stone.


And a fourth man entered with another stone.

And so it went on until all seven,

apart from me, had entered the cell

and crawled back, bleeding and torn. 

The witch grew quiet, her cries plaintive. 

Entering her cell, I held her down

and felt her warm, feathery breast

flutter, as I raised the last stone.

Stephanie Green

Highly commended in the Poetry on the lake competition, 2012; First published by Orbis, 2013.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Papa Westray (Papay)

                                            The Maes Howe dragon painted on a green slurry bin,
                                                                     Papa Westray

My 4th visit to Papay as the locals call it.  Mist and rain. But in one clear spell  I managed to pay my respects to the 'sights': the dragon on Holland Farm's slurry bin, of course; 

Knap of Howe

also a walk to  the Neolithc Knap Howe, the oldest extant house in Europe, older than Scara Brae on Orkney mainland and without the hordes of tourists.   

                                                                  Mobile by  Kerrianne Flett,
                                                   exhibition in the Kelp Store, Papa Westray.

Also walked to the Kelp Store, now a Heritage Centre, and found an inspiring art exhibition by young art graduates from all over Orkney. My favourite was a mobile hanging from the ceiling, with tiny porcelain hands on fishing wire.  Made during lockdown, I found it very poignant,  and that the artist was maybe thinking of the sense of touch, which we were not allowed to do, to so many loved ones.



Friday, 17 September 2021

Stir Crazy and Trip to North Ronaldsay, Orkney

 Going stir crazy, hearing about other people's 'staycations' (What a ghastly word).  Got away at last - staying within Scotland much safer than chancing trains where no one wears masks the English side of the border (Are they mad?!).

So off to North Ronaldsay, Orkney's northernmost isle, staying at the Obs (Bird Observatory). V. excited twitchers here announcing what they've seen - vagrant rarities (migration from Scandinavia, Russia and Greenland in progress. Two hen harriers and,
most excitingly not birds but a pod of 6 orcas (killer whales). Sadly I did not see latter. But I did learn how to sing to the seals.

The Obs. 

N. Ronaldsay lighthouse (with red and white stripes) built by, you guessed it, Robert Louis Stevenson's uncle. 

It rained apart from one day when I did walk the entire length of the island and back (6 miles) to reach the lighthouse.  But I was there to write as much as to walk so lucky to have a wee alcove off my bedroom where they let me set up a table (borrowed from the outdoor bar) and desk lamp. Perfect. 

And below is a photo of the famous N. Ronaldsay sheep who feed off kelp on the sea shore, kept on the beach by a stone dyke (wall). It's supposed to have a distinctive taste so I couldn't resist the temptation when mutton was on the menu. Hmm. Very strong, and game-like and quite chewy but delicious.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

PoetryLit Anniversary

And here we are, our first Anniversary!  In September, 2020, partly to counteract lockdown blues, I became involved with POETRYLIT, an online monthly poetry reading event (first Friday of every month). 
POETRYLIT  has two Featured Poets  - the criteria is the poet must have at least one pamphlet published - many have a collection or more published by reputable publisher (not self-published).  The Featured Poets have 10 mins each. These are followed by 5-6 Open Mic spots (5 mins each). The founder and M.C.,  Milla Van Der Have, creates a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. 

Milla and I met at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland (a writers' and artists' centre).  She is Dutch but writes poetry in English.  I liked Milla's warm and enthusiastic personality, so mainly to support her, when I heard about her plans for PoetryLit  I started off doing an open mic, then got invited to be a Featured Poet. A request for suggestions for writers led to me offering so many that Milla asked me to be co-curator. This might explain why so many of the poets are Scotland-based (where I am) but also we have many from Ireland, the UK and USA, and occasionally poets (English-speaking) from other countries such as Spain, and to come, Italy and Norway. It has proved immensely popular and our open micers and audience are global, spanning UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Alaska, the  Philippines,  India and South Africa. 

 So to celebrate our first anniversary we had a special extended event with 3 instead of the usual two Featured Poets, starring the extraordinary MacGillivray (aka Kirsten Norris). Milla and I as hosts also read one poem each and there was an extended number of open mics.

Do register to watch online. It's fun, stimulating, inspiring and at times, moving.  See to see who the up and coming poets will be. Then you must register on Eventbrite to get sent the Zoom link.  

NB It starts at 7pm GMT.  ( Don't be confused by Eventbrite listing 8pm CEST. That is the Netherlands time where Milla is based.)

 And you can scroll down the FB page to see the fantastic line-ups we've had so far.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Grimsey Island video at Channel launch

 Delighted to have my poem 'Grimsey Island' accepted in the ecopoetry magazine Channel, Issue 3. The poem is  about global warming and the effect on the bird-life on Grimsey Island, on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

For more info and to watch the whole Issue 3 launch, click on: 

Channel Magazine

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