Island is the title of a new collection of poems by Stephanie Conn. Inspired by the lives of the poet's ancestors who farmed and fished on Copeland Island off the County Down coast, the works are about place and people, human reaction and interaction. The collection also takes in other Irish islands - Ischia, Rough Island, Skellig Michael - as it explores themes of escape, belong and solitude.
We are pleased to share a selection of poems from Island and encourage readers to visit the website of publisher Doir Press to order a copy.
She sits by the split cottage door knitting
a navy sweater on five thin needles –
seamless, to resist salt water, biting
winds, the neck tight enough to make ears bleed,
no swell wild enough to strip it from skin.
She knows the pattern by heart, each bobble
stitch is a prayer, each basket weave a hymn
to the deep. She ignores the new grumble
from her swollen belly, thinks of the dropped
stitch above the waist, a small gap in wool
to identify the man she loved – loves.
His worn boat has not been seen for days, caught,
perhaps, on some other island’s rocks. Still
time to return before the next storm hits.
The First Lighthouse
Cross Island, 1714
Even then, the flaming beacon was old-fashioned;
lensed lamps had been available for years, yet
an open-fire blazed on top of the white-washed tower;
three storeys of island-quarried stone, picked
and carried on the convicts’ backs.
They built the walls two metres thick.
These twenty acres never did attract the sun;
there was no call for a mirror to catch the light:
Alexandria’s blue skies were little more than fables.
The people here had no time for sea-gods
who shepherd seals or speak of the past or future;
in these parts, that is better left unsaid.
This land lies three miles from the Lough’s mouth,
knows nothing of the Nile’s flat plains or
the limestone pharos, reinforced with molten lead.
But yes, the fires burned alike. An iron spindle,
twenty metres up, revolved beneath the brazier;
the hot coals kept burning by the keeper –
a ton and a half on a windy night;
the old donkey lugging the black stuff
up the hill from the moonlit beach.