Thursday, 2 August 2007

kenneth white

some more kenneth white...
reading white in english, especially the poems about scotland, i hear a much more genuine voice. maybe it's in the names - all those hard g's and ch's - that somehow give it more of a sense of place. but i think there's more than that. in english, just occasionally, scots words, scots formations, creep in and there's a certain scottishness that's never left him. white himself talks about stravaiging, a great scots word that encompasses strolling, a bit of swagger, wandering bit also the notion of seeking. i owe the concept of the waybook to white because of this.
reading scotia deserta though i recalled the opening of muriel spark's classic jean brodie -

The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on he far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycle between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment the boys were likely to be away

white, i think, would recognise those boys wanting to be away.

Scotia Deserta

All those kyles, lochs and sounds...


And the gulls at Largs pier:
sitting in that cafe
at the big window full of wind and light
reading and watching

Thinking back to the ice
watching it move
from the high middle spine
out into the Atlantic

feeling it gouge out lochs
and sculpt craggy pinnacles
and smoothe long beaches

the land emerges
bruised and dazed
in the arctic light

gannets gather on the islands
eagles on the piney hills
cotton grass tosses in the wind

men come
gazing around them
what name shall be given to it?


White beach meditations
mountain contemplations
inprinted on the mind


One left traces of his presence
out there in Bute and the Garvellach Isles
and in Kilbrannan Sound -
the holy voyager, Brandan

Brandan was maybe a believer
but that's neither here nor there
first and foremost
he was a navigator
a figure moving mile by mile
along the headlands
among the islands
tracing a way
between foam and cloud
with an eye to outlines:

Sound of Islay
the Firth of Lorn
Tiree passage
Skerryvore and Barra Head
Loch Alsh, Kyle Rhea
Sound of Raasay

Ah, the clear-sounding words
and a world
opening, opening!


Other figures cross the scene
like this one:
Kentigern they cried him

in he church i attended
around the age of nine
was that stained glass window
showing a man
with a boook in his hand
staniding on a seashore
preaching to the gulls

I'd be gazing at the window
and forgetting the sermon
(all about good and evil
with a lot of mangled metaphor
and heavy comparison)
eager to get back out
on to the naked shore
there to walk for hours on end
with a book someimes in my hand
but never a thought of preaching in my mind

trying to grasp at something
that wanted no godly name
something that took the form
of blue waves and grey rock
and that tasted of salt


A rocky walk
and the smell of kelp
Between Faielie and Largs

Drifting smoke
the glint of autumn leaves
on Loch Lomondside

Ghostly gulls in the greyness
keeya, keeya, keeya, keeya
september at Applecross

on a march morning
the kingdom of the wind

Seven islands
in the august light
Islay, Jura, Scarba, Lunga, Luing, Shuna, Seil


Walking the coast
all those kyles, lochs and sounds

sensing the openness
feelin out the lines

order and anarchy
chaos and cosmology

a mental geography


Have you heard Corrievreckan
at Spring flood
and a westerly blowing?

the roaring's so great
you can hear it twenty miles
along the mainland coats

admiralty charts
show a 9-knot race

to the senses
that do no calculations
but take it all in
it's a rushing white fury

of a wave-and-windphilosophy


Let the images
go bright and fast

and the concepts be extravagant
(wild host to erratic guest)

that's the only way
to say the coast

all the irregular reality
of the rocky sea-washed West


Pelagian discourse
atlantic poetics

from first to last

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