These poems are taken from Moder Dy, the debut collection from Shetland poet Roseanne Watt. Written in English and sparkling with Shetland dialect throughout, this highly anticipated book contains assured and wilfully sparse poems that are built from the sight, sound and heartbeat of Watt’s home island. In controlled, concise and vivid language, she presents shimmering views of land and seascapes - places where we encounter the most complex and mysterious of human experiences.
Moder Dy is published by Polygon.
Come you to the krub, and I
will axe you to tread light
upon the skröf of things. Here
the ground is thin
as milk, restless as a cradle.
It’s not yours to take.
This aert has no roots,
no seeds, despite the stones’
mimicry. The only tree
is my own cross;
even the crows know this.
Take vaar if they come.
They’ll want the gludderi fruit of your eyes,
the perfect pips of your pupils.
I wonder what they’d sprout
if set in soil?
Not apple, olive, ash.
You would not bud.
There’s something in the seams of you
Yes. You’d come up
with your arms reksed out.
For three whole seasons
your mouth would gru like this.
krub: a small drystone enclosure, usually used for growing kail
axe: to ask
skröf: a crust or surface layer
vaar: to be wary, to take heed
gludderi: watery-yet-sunny, as the sky in certain states of weather
reks: to reach
gru: to smile with a threatening aspect
IX & THE OCTOPUS
A dream with eyes open. It meant nothing.
Even then, I knew this. Still, I saw the octopus
that night, slung between the headboard
and the wall; a slow reaching for your body.
Nothing. I know this still. But even waking
will not slip the grip of seeing
how it sank that night into the seabed of your skin
and hung so prettily inside you, like a stomach
or a lung, or the dank cavity of a heart.
DE SLOCKIT LICHT
Mibbe it’s dat mön i dy veins,
a lump i de blöd which set du here,
ir mibbe du joost kent dis island
haads its wilt tings closs. Whichivver wye,
du seems tae fin dysel maist whaar de licht
is slockit: helliers, vodd hooses – du’s taen
by de veesiks o dir stons, de wye a voice soonds
dere, fornenst de swaar o de dim.
The Slockit Light
Maybe it’s that moon in your veins;
a swell in the blood which sent you here,
or maybe you just knew this island holds
its lost things close. Whichever way,
you seem to find yourself most where the light
wrecks: sea caves, ruined houses,
you’re taken by the folksongs of their stones,
the way a voice sounds there,
against the darkest point of the dark.
Roseanne Watt is the winner of the 2018 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and the 2015 Outspoken Poetry Prize (Poetry in Film). She is poetry editor for The Island Review and lives and works in Edinburgh.