June 29, 2016
In the run up to a visit to Canada to read in various events at Le 17e Festival de la poésie de Montréal, Peter Mackay, Ryan Van Winkle and JL Williams decided to write a collaborative poem that they could share at the festival. As it turned out, they didn’t have time to read the poem in Montreal so thought it would be nice to share it online… especially in light of recent political events. They hope it conveys some sense of the way language and poetry attempts to cross personal and linguistic barriers, challenge conventional meanings and encourage us to think about the world in new ways.
O Scotland My Canada
A cold wind blows from the north, snow this sunshine day
and a wolf howling in the air above the castle.
And a wolf cloud can break your heart. So, why not
just go back to sleep? The castle closed her eyes
years ago & no longer worries about the bubonic plague,
the hairless breasts of Putin. All this waxing
and waning. Throw-away newspapers scuffle
along old-town, new-town streets, leaving their print.
Throw away fire & kindling, throw rock
so it skims & leaps past the drowsy swans
swooning in the odd heat. Me, I like to keep my feet
moving below the surface, cold as can be, blue
as the wolf’s eyes and her tender paws
padding the spine of a frozen river
so cold the skin of the eye freezes, the heart’s
beat slows, the ears open to chimes and iron
I miss confident church bells, the persistent rise of 8 AM
And Wolf misses the proud trees which have been felled
sent down river, to the bay and shaped into boats
old trunks in new forms at aimed a new world
somewhere nova, somewhere neuve, somewhere ùr
where I first sang O Canada my Canada,
O Scotland my Scotland, O world without borders
whose places are beginnings for everyone,
whose forests are homes for all wolves,
whose stones speak all languages quietly, quietly
beneath the running of water.
JL Williams‘ books include Condition of Fire (Shearsman, 2011), Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), the triptych collection Our Real Red Selves (Vagabond Poets, 2015) and House of the Tragic Poet (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016). She was selected for the 2015 Jerwood Opera Writing Programme, plays in the band Opul and is Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library. http://www.
Pàdraig MacAoidh (Peter Mackay) is originally from the Isle of Lewis, but now lives in Edinburgh. He writes in Scottish Gaelic and English and has written one full collection of poems, Gu Leòr / Galore, published by Acair in 2105, and a pamphlet, From Another Island, published by Clutag Press in 2010. He is also a broadcaster and lecturer; he teaches at the University of St Andrews and is BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker 2015.