Autumn is here. The leaves are falling, the rain is steady and the air crisp, but these shorter days bring great moments of reflection and inspiration—and often, fascinating poems. To celebrate National Poetry Day, we’ve brought together some of our favourite poems and excerpts from the Creators. This year’s theme is The Environment, and as we will discover, there are many different ways to connect with Scotland’s landscapes.
and the dust–
and the flies–
and the grayling butterfly–
and the skylark screaming–
and the spider web glistening–
and the cairie far off, approaching–
and the red grouse goback, back, back–
and the walkers panting uphill–
and the gowany hills echoing–
goback, back, back–
and the spider feasting–
and the sooch nearby–
The Highest Point
Above beach, waves, the whole of Coll,
I feign pushing the huge boulder
and my family – wife, both sons – all
lay hands, brace legs, dip shoulders,
but it rests still on those three wee
stones and twenty thousand years.
As we concede defeat to the erratic,
The Queen’s Stone, Clagh-na-Ban-righ,
a rainbow appears, freed from pandemic
windows, to paint the Hebridean sky.
I Thoucht the Warld Wid Fa
after Nan Shepherd¹
Fa will ging wi me ti Loch A’an?
Fa will tak me til ye Loch A’an?
Fa ken’s hoo
an his the gumption ti dig deep
an tak me til ye?
Sae this auld puckle o banes can lie
in ‘dreaming quietude’² an tell
ma sair hairt’s sorrows ti nane
but the burnie steens an yer
aine fathomless depth.
Fit wye can I no ging lief alane and
fit wye can I no ging wi nane
but ma aine sell? Hoo shall
I explain til ye Loch A’an hoo I
canna ging nae mair intil the bricht
swells oh licht atwain ben an ben? Though
I canna ging, an I canna stand in yer
caul caul blue, nor swim in yer deepmaist
waaters, I’ll no soon forget the pit
o ma aine despair, nor thon May
day, fan jist the thoucht o ye let me be
lifted, lifted up. Ye’ll
no stairt fae a doverin dream oh hills that haunt
yer wakin oors an keep ye fae yer rest like me.
Ye’ll no greet till
ye hivna ony mair tears the
wye I did thon awfie day
fan I was telt I
couldna walk. I thoucht I’d sooner dee.
I thoucht the warld wid fa. I couldna see ony bricht
spark oh hope in ma wee bit room an’
then I thoucht on ye Loch A’an. Yer bricht
waaters sae calm, sae caul, sae blue an’
stopit ma greetin, an kent yer bricht
face wid aye be there fir me as
lang as I hid air,
an strength ti draw it. Fan ithers walk aside yer waaters ye’ll
no catch a glimpse o me, but there I’ll be, as I haunt
the hills, corries, glens shut aff ti me
in aa but ma aine funcy noo.
Cry me fey if ye maun I dinna care for
I hiv fun a wye ti ging til ye Loch A’an noo an fir evermair.
Plateau Dreaming: Into the Spring Sublime
Anna Fleming (excerpt)
‘The prints led a rising traverse across a clean sweep of snow, broken only by a third set of prints which bisected our line, heading directly uphill. These prints showed two large paws and two smaller front ones, barely sinking into the deep powder. It was a mountain hare who had loped uphill from the rocks, untroubled by the angle. We paused, marvelling. For all its austerity, the winter season gives a rare opportunity to glimpse lives unseen. These footprints are a ghostly score of another life. They reveal movement, decision and desire: the patterned wanderings of fellow creatures in the frozen mountains.’
A cauldron of water slaps
black toes of the Cuillin,
stone mute faces funnel
boiling mists, echo
and swallow stories
of Elgol boat wars.
of chrome spinel
litter a landscape mixed
I am an intruder
in the cataclastic flow
of dolerite and basalt,
my mind reduced to fine
grains by the towering
wildness of earth’s
Emma Mooney (excerpt)
‘I clutch the pendant. Skara Brae. Roll the sounds around my mouth. Skara Brae. The words come out like an incantation, perhaps the chorus of an ancient song, once sung around the flickering flames of the hearth on a stormy evening. Skara Brae. I say the words again and again, half expecting a tidal wave to rise up and come rushing inland.
skarabrae skarabrae skarabrae
Nothing happens. The gentle hum of a bumble bee carries on somewhere to my left, and the waves continue to shoosh over the shingle on the beach. The walls that were built stone by stone by stone don’t waver. Don’t tumble. I laugh at myself and bend down to pick up a shell. I follow the spiral inwards, my fingers tracing a pattern they know so well.’
Carn Ealer – Carn an Fhidhleir
Mountain of the Fiddler
She plays the rock
with the bow of the wind
for the stars to dance
Ben Vuirich – Beinn a’ Bhùirich
Mountain of the Roaring
Once the haunt of wolves
howling at night
now just their ghosts
in failing light