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November 2nd Niall Campbell

Monday November 2nd 2015

Today I reread some of Niall Campbell's poems from Moontide.  I heard Niall read in Liverpool last year and found out he had grown up on S.Uist close to a couple I knew in Liverpool who had moved to Uist in the late1980s / early 90s.  I remember visiting them there and loved Niall's reading which brought to life the landscape I remembered. 

A poem which has stayed with me over this year from first reading it closely (exactly a year ago on Crosby beach as it turns out), is Rodin Sculpts 'The Kiss(p.26).  

I loved then and still love the repeated use of 'there', the repetition of 'strange', the way he evokes absence as presence,  '... a figure leaning in to kiss / what's not there yet', the use of 'cradles' (as though the stone the figure / cradles receives it), and how in the anticipation / trust, the kiss is drawn forth, the symbiosis, how in the creation there is what is created and the creation of what is left behind too - '…the white dust and the scattered chippings / of what's fashioned out.' - and the memorable final stanza, describing a beautiful communion.

Rodin Sculpts 'The Kiss'

There with a swung hammer is a man in love,
there's crafting, and there's breaking of squared marble.
There, the white dust and the scattered chippings
of what's fashioned out. How bare it looks,

half-made - a figure leaning in to kiss
what's not there yet, the arms encircling nothing
but a rougher offshoot of themselves. And yet
the kiss is held - as though the stone the figure

cradles receives it.  Here is a strange knowledge
and a strange trust: his heart can sense the stone
heart aching in the block, his lips can taste
the mountainside that shapes into a mouth.

I love so many of the poems in Moontide.  I'll just cite the one more which I've returned to over this year and which I reread tonight.  I love the tender address of the The Winter Home, the use of 'ruminate', the image of breath made visible in the cold, and the reference to winter jasmine. 

I read Niall Campbell's collection slowly, a poem at a time often sitting on the stone steps at the beach during the winter months last year.  They're like small prayers and made me long for space but for the company of maybe one person to address from time to time., to share the wonder of the poems, and the beauty of the open face of the sea. So many of his lines are like mantras, and reading again through his poems I'm moved by so many of the final lines*. 

The Winter Home

Darling, allow me the best evenings
to breathe the cold, to ruminate
like a diver on his rising breath.

The low-backed seat of the house step
inches ever further from the road.
and there's jasmine opening

in garden branches. A white flower,
unfurling in the sub degrees,
in its pale rush of residing.

'...how even when this cold the ice weeps.'     Return, Isle of Eriskay

'Things will be different when the sun is lower.'   Grez, Near Dusk

'…as the sleet falls, that hush in her red wake.'   Exchange Street

'I'll raise this waking to my mouth, and drink.'   Black Water 

'How we stood by as if we'd nothing / to say, when, love, I did. I do.'  When the Whales Beached

'I watched / her drink the moon from a moon-filled trough.' On Eriskay