‘Speaking of Scotland’ by Maurice Lindsay

Well, the end is near, and so I’ll share my final poems… not quite the end, and definitely not the final poems as I said in my last post, poetry is FOREVER! But it is the end of National Poetry Month so let’s go out in style.

The first poem I’m sharing is Speaking of Scotland by Maurice Lindsay. It’s a belter, as we Scots like to say, and the final stanza makes my Scots blood pump and my wee Scottish heart sing! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Speaking of Scotland

What do you mean when you speak of Scotland?
The grey defeats that are dead and gone
behind the legends each generation
savours afresh, yet can’t live on?

Lowland farms with their broad acres
peopling crops? The colder earth
of the North East? Or Highland mountains
shouldering up their rocky dearth?

Inheritance of guilt that our country
has never stood where we feel she should?
A nagging threat of unfinished struggle
somehow forever lost in the blood?

Scotland’s a sense of change, an endless
becoming for which there was never a kind
of wholeness or ultimate category.
Scotland’s an attitude of mind.


Jarvie, G. (ed) (2017) ‘Speaking of Scotland’ by Maurice Lindsay from 100 Favourite Scottish Poems To Read Out Loud. Edinburgh: Luath Press Limited

‘Between Mountain and Sea’ by Norman MacCaig

I’ve been a few days longer away from posting than I had planned (assessments have me a little ragged) and I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of April already! But it’s not like poetry is going anywhere, it doesn’t disappear in a wisp of smoke when April turns to May so there’s no need to be sad that National Poetry Month is coming to an end.

Instead we can be thankful that poetry is eternal. As long as hearts flutter with love or break with its ending, as long as humans search for words to find solace or meaning, poetry will be there.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my favourite poems and poets with you all and will keep doing so even after April says its farewell and May sashays in. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them.

Today I’m sharing a poem by the late Norman MacCaig who I’m sure most of you will know, but for those who don’t here is a short extract from the Poetry Foundation website:

“MacCaig was a Scottish poet from Edinburgh, with a deep love for Assynt in the Scottish Highlands. Though he spent much of his life and career in Edinburgh, MacCaig’s mother’s Highland ancestry was an important part of his identity, and he spent his summers in Assynt, Scotland, in the northwest Highlands. MacCaig’s poetry bears the influence of his dual upbringing: though he wrote only in English—something of an anomaly for a Scottish poet of his generation—his poetry frequently drew on the Highland landscape and Gaelic culture which he loved” (Poetry Foundation n.d.).

You can read more about Norman MacCaig by clicking here which will take you to the Poetry Foundation website.

The poem I am sharing is one of my favourites and its from the collection Between Mountain and Sea: Poems from Assynt which was published by Polygon in 2018, however the poem itself was written in December 1984. I hope you enjoy reading it.

‘Between Mountain and Sea’

Honey and salt – land smell and sea smell,
as in the long ago, as in forever.

The days pick me up and carry me off,
half-child, half-prisoner,

on their journey that I’ll share
for a while.

They wound and they bless me
with strange gifts:

the salt of absence,
the honey of memory.


MacCaig, N. (2018) Between Mountain and Sea: Poems from Assynt (Edited by Roderick Watson). Edinburgh: Polygon, 157

Poetry Foundation (n.d.) Norman MacCaig 1910-1996 [online]. Available from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/norman-maccaig [27 April 2022]

Poems from ‘The Water Engine’ by Ankh Spice

I have been impatiently waiting to share poems from The Water Engine (2021), Ankh Spice’s debut collection published by Femme Salve Books, but I was struggling to pick only one or two and kept changing my mind about which ones to share. This is one of those collections that immediately takes up residency in your chest, it snuggles beside your heart and let’s you know it is always there for you whenever you might need it. And the poet is pretty darn special too. I first encountered Ankh’s poetry on Twitter and was, for want of a better phrase, blown away. His ability to capture a single moment alongside the entirety of the universe and everything in-between is outstanding. He gets to the heart of what it means to be human; how we treat one another, and this wondrous earth we call home. How our relationship with both can be flawed and joyous and more often than not breathtakingly beautiful. I highly recommend purchasing a copy of this collection for yourselves, you will not be disappointed, and you can purchase a copy via the publishers website by following this link – Femme Salve Books.

Ankh is a poet from Aotearoa New Zealand and is obsessed with the sea and believes our natural environment along with those old stories we don’t even know we know, mingle in magical ways to shape the human beings we become, and that sometimes we’re allowed to notice it happening. His poetry has been widely published with nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is also co-editor at IceFloe Press and a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine (Spice n.d.). Ankh is also one of the most genuine, humble and kindest people you will ever meet and whilst I have not even met him, or know him personally, I had the privilege of attending the launch of The Water Engine and it is one of those experiences that will stay with me forever. Alongside the other poets and writers in attendance, the love and respect and care for one another radiated from the screen despite us all being scattered around the globe. I am delighted to be able to share a couple of his poems tonight for those who have not come across his work before. I hope you enjoy!

‘No (thing is) right’ by Ankh Spice

Who told this calm day
it had any right
to reel delicate and radiant
when I am dissolving hard

Who said
that when a person falls
to pieces, there must be noise –
screaming, sharp edges

The only sounds here are distant:
the quiet, ordinary tide
and a long, soft keening –
the wounded ape in me
calling, calling

‘I mean how do we balance at all’ by Ankh Spice

At centre you carry the weight / I don’t mean
a heart but yes chambers liquid
with iron / I don’t mean blood I mean
restless and betrayed only by being
magnetic / your core invisible
to something on the surface
otherwise / I mean a heart is a constant kind
of collision / I mean momentum
dizzies us / sure as a slow leak
in the moon. I mean we tide.
I mean our being off-
balance has flow-
on effects. I don’t mean
to be dense / I mean if your heart
was different this whole life thing
would collapse. I mean fragile.
I mean, it is.


Spice, A. (2021) ‘No (thing is) right’ & ‘I mean how do we balance it all’ from The Water Engine. Vermont: Femme Salve Books, 49 & 55

Spice, A. (n.d.) Ankh Spice – SeaGoatScreams Poetry: About [online]. Available from https://www.ankhspice-seagoatscreamspoetry.com/contact [22 April 2022]

‘Spinster’ by Sylvia Plath

My second post this evening is by another poetry great, Sylvia Plath. Plath is another of those poets who stops you in your tracks, often abruptly, with her words demanding emotions you were not quite prepared for. There are again a whole host of poems to choose from but I have selected ‘Spinster’ as it is one of my favourites. We begin with a girl taking a seemingly harmless, enjoyable stroll in April; it is Springtime, a time of hope and sunshine, however do not be fooled, this is Plath, and this is no ordinary tale of two lovers taking a walk in April. I hope you enjoy!

‘Spinster’ by Sylvia Plath

Now this particular girl
During a ceremonious April walk
With her latest suitor
Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck
By the birds’ irregular babel
And the leaves’ litter.

By this tumult afflicted, she
Observed her lover’s gestures unbalance the air,
His gait stray uneven
Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower.
She judged petals in disarray,
The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then! –
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock, each sentiment within border,
And heart’s frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.

But here – a burgeoning
Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits
Into vulgar motley –
A treason not to be borne. Let idiots
Reel giddy in bedlam spring:
She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either.


Plath, S. (1985) ‘Spinster’ from Selected Poems. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 4-5

‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver

Happy Friday Folks! I hope you’re all having a fab evening whatever you’re doing. I’m going to do a wee extra bit of posting tonight as I’ll not be updating over the weekend due to assessment deadlines and my brain already protesting that it is being overworked and underpaid.

The first poem I am sharing tonight is by the wonderful Mary Oliver. I could not celebrate National Poetry Month without paying homage to a poet whose work always leaves me thinking far deeper than I was before. The hardest part is choosing just one to share! Her poetry is timeless and I hope that one day my daughter will rifle through the pages of the collections I own and find her own favourites that speak to her and bring her comfort and pause for thought.

I hope you enjoy the poem I have chosen to share for you all.

‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with you one wild and precious life?


Oliver, M. (1992) ‘The Summer Day’ from New and Selected Poems: Volume One. Boston: Beacon Press, 94

‘Seabed’ by Aoife Lyall

The second poem I am sharing tonight may be small in stature, however, the emotion and tenderness it manages to capture in those four short lines is ginormous!

‘Seabed’ is from Aoife’s debut collection Mother Nature (2021) published by Bloodaxe Books. You can purchase a copy of Mother Nature here. Aoife was born and raised in Dublin and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. She has been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Writing Awards in 2016 and 2018 and her work has appeared in many literary magazines. Aoife has also been guest editor with Butcher’s Dog Magazine (issues 13 & 14). As well as writing and editing Aoife also teaches poetry, writes reviews and mentors, you can find out more about Aoife on her website here.

Mother Nature “explores the tragic and tender experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood, from ante-natal complications and the devastating pain of miscarriage to the overwhelming joy of healthy delivery” (Lyall 2021). It is an incredibly emotional collection that constricts the heart but also floods it with hope and joy.

I hope you enjoy the poem I have chosen to share.

‘Seabed’ by Aoife Lyall

When you fuss, your father turns
from cliff face to cove and curls
you into him, his steady breath
the swell that brings you home.


Lyall, A. (2021) ‘Seabed’ from Mother Nature. Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 48

‘Late Poems’ by Margaret Atwood

Speaking of late… I appear to have missed another day posting, oops! In my defense, it is a little hectic at the moment with end of semester assessments and also coming to the end of 4 years studying! I can see the finish line, just need to make it to the end.

The poem I am sharing this evening is from Margaret Atwood’s collection Dearly (2020), which contains poems written between 2008 and 2019. It had been over a decade since Atwood had published a poetry collection which made it all the more special when Dearly was released. There is the sharp eye (and wit) we have come to expect and also reflection, as she says in the introduction, “Poetry deals with the core of human existence: life, death, renewal, change; as well as fairness and unfairness, injustice and sometimes justice. The world in all its variety. The weather. Time. Sadness. Joy” (Atwood 2020).

I hope you enjoy the poem I have chosen to share tonight.

‘Late Poems’ by Margaret Atwood

These are the late poems.
Most poems are late
of course: too late,
like a letter sent by a sailor
that arrives after he’s drowned.

Too late to be of help, such letters,
and late poems are similar.
They arrive as if through water.

Whatever it was has happened:
the battle, the sunny day, the moonlit
slipping into lust, the farewell kiss. The poem
washes ashore like flotsam.

Or late, as in late for supper:
all the words cold or eaten.
Scoundrel, plight, and vanquished,
or linger, bide, awhile,
forsaken, wept, forlorn.
Love and joy, even: thrice-gnawed songs.
Rusted spells. Worn choruses.

It’s late, it’s very late;
too late for dancing.
Still, sing what you can.
Turn up the light: sing on,
sing: On.


Atwood, M. (2020) ‘Late Poems’ from Dearly. London: Chatto & Windus

‘And I have loved you’ by Elizabeth M. Castillo

‘And I have loved you’ is from Elizabeth’s debut collection Cajoncito: Poems on Love, Loss y Otras Locuras (2021) which you can publish via her website here. Cajoncito features poems in both English and Spanish. As stated on the cover of this beautiful book, “Powerfully captivating, this debut collection explores the roots of what it is to be human; the intricacies of love, the depths of fear, the occurrence of loss in its many forms” (Mather 2021).

The poem I have chosen is from the opening section on love, I hope you enjoy.

‘And I have loved you’ by Elizabeth M. Castillo

And I have loved you,
              With the light of a thousand years,
              the warmth of a thousand suns,
              and the beat of a single heart.
I have loved you,
              under the weight of a hundred defeats,
              over the shame of ten hasty retreats,
              beyond the depth of a thousand leagues.
And I have loved you,
              with a thousand apologies unspoken,
              against the clamour of a hundred pardons,
              and not a single promise broken.
I have loved you,
              through the dark wood of a million flies,
              against a hundred mournful cries,
              in between the dawn and the day’s last light.

And I have loved you,
                              Without reason, without relent.

I have loved you,
                              Entirely without my consent.

I have loved you,
                              These sixteen years ill-spent.


Castillo, E.M. (2021) ‘And I have loved you’ from Cajoncito. E.M. Castillo, 11

‘The Aunties’ by Lynn Valentine

I hope everyone has had a good Tuesday, although if ever a Tuesday felt like a Monday it was today! But we’ll forgive it just this once. Tonight I’m sharing a second poem from Lynn Valentine’s new collection Life’s Stink & Honey. I could honestly share one each day but don’t want to reveal the whole book, you should buy it and discover the delights inside for yourselves. You can purchase a copy of Lynn’s collection on her website or through her publishers, Cinnamon Press.

The poem I am sharing is ‘The Aunties’ which was commissioned by the Scottish Poetry Library’s guest curator Aoife Lyall as part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Champions project in 2020 (Valentine 2022). I’m sure you’ll agree it was a worthy commission and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do:

‘The Aunties’ by Lynn Valentine

They had the gift. Hidden about them
like a penny at the bottom of a pocket.

But theirs was a silver coin. On high days
they flattened your hand, palm up and

snap, out of their mouths flowed planets
and stars, life’s stink and honey, babies

being born, relationships stalling, illnesses
yet to come. Never a date of death,

only a hint of feather, of crow. I laughed
as a child, thought them witches, hoodwinkers.

Now the crow cracks the glass, the moon turns her head,
the evening thickens with visions from aunts long-dead.


Valentine, L. (2022) ‘The Aunties’ from Life’s Stink & Honey. Cinnamon Press, 24

Cellular Malfunction (with audio)

My grey matter is like chewing gum
that’s lost its flavour. Useless.
I want to pluck it out and stick it
to the underside of my desk
in defiance. Not that I ever
did that, you understand,
that’s disgusting behaviour
(don’t think badly of me,
I do enough of that). This brain
that is no brain is driving me
crazy. It won’t work like it’s
supposed to. It won’t think
like I need it to. Maybe that’s
the problem. I’m expecting
too much from this tired brain
of mine. I’ve never been an over-achiever,
a Brainiac, a high-flyer, what right
do I have expecting it to perform
for me now? Performance.
That’s what this is. I’m playing
a part that was never mine
to have. A fraudster. That’s
what I am. Pretending to be
something I’m not. Just give up.
Oh, so now you have something
to say? Pipe down brain.
Not today.

~The H Word~


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