Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 19 September 2016

  • Qujaavaarssuk hears advice from a man who is not his father


    Listen to me, Qujaavaarssuk
                      sometimes others will contend with you
                      and sometimes they’ll tell lies

    sometimes a stronger man will claim he was first to hear the whale breathing
                      even when he knows you heard it by night
                      and he did not hear it until dawn

    sometimes the men in your own boat will mock you
                      and you’ll hear loud laughter
                      when all you wish to hear is your wife’s singing


    and sometimes your limbs will feel heavy, the sea will launch itself on your boat
                       filling it with water before you can leave the shore
                       and while you are bailing, others will reach the hunting grounds.

    Qujaavaarssuk, these things are hard, but they do not bring hunger.
                       Hunger will come of its own accord.


    by Nancy Campbell


    This week’s poem by Nancy Campbell comes from her collection Disko Bay, which is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. This prize, together with the prizes for Best Collection and Best Single Poem, will be awarded tomorrow. You can read a conversation between the Forward Foundation and Nancy at this link. Nancy will be reading for the Poetry Centre alongside Rachel Blau DuPlessis on 14 January, and you can find more information on the Centre’s site.

    Acclaimed poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will becoming to Oxford to lead a ‪‎poetry writing workshop entitled 'The Space of thePoem' on Saturday 22 October. Inspired by the exhibition by Pan Gongkai running at Brookes’ Glass Tank, we will look at examples of Chinese painting, concrete poetry and text-based sculpture as a way of generating new poems – participants will be encouraged to share their first drafts during the session. You can read more about the workshop on the Brookes website,where you can also book your place (please note that those places are limited!).

    ‘Qujaavaarssuk hears advice from a man who is not his father’ is copyright © Nancy Campbell, 2015. It is reprinted from Disko Bay (Enitharmon Press, 2016) by permission of Enitharmon Press.

    Notes from Enitharmon Press:

    The poems in Nancy Campbell’s first collection transport the reader to the frozen shores of Greenland. The Arctic has long been a place of encounters, and Disko Bay is a meeting point for whalers and missionaries, scientists and shamans. We hear the stories of those living on the ice edge in former times: hunters, explorers and settlers, and the legendary leader Qujaavaarssuk. These poems relate the struggle for existence in the harsh polar environment, and address tensions between modern life and traditional ways of subsistence. As the environment begins to change, hunters grow hungry and their languages are lost. In the final sequence, Jutland, we reach the northern fringes of Europe, where shifting waterlines bear witness to the disappearing arctic ice.

    Nancy Campbell is a British writer and artist whose recent work explores polar and marine environments. She has engaged in residencies at a number of ecological and research institutions, from the world’s most northerly museum on the island of Upernavik to the University of Oxford. She was a Hawthornden Fellow in 2013. Nancy’s books include The Night Hunter and Tikilluarit (Z’roah Press, New York, 2011/13), and How To Say ‘I Love You’ In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet (Bird Editions, 2011), which won the Birgit Skiöld Award. Her poems, essays and reviews are widely published, and she was awarded the Terrain Non-Fiction Prize in 2014 for 'The Library of Ice'. You can read more about Nancy’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

    ‘William Blake dreamed up the original Enitharmon as one of his inspiriting, good, female daemons, and his own spirit as a poet-artist, printer-publisher still lives in the press which bears the name of his creation. Enitharmon is a rare and wonderful phenomenon, a press where books are shaped into artefacts of lovely handiwork as well as communicators of words and worlds. The writers and the artists published here over the last forty-five years represent a truly historic gathering of individuals with an original vision and an original voice, but the energy is not retrospective: it is growing and new ideas enrich the list year by year. Like an ecologist who manages to restock the meadows with a nearly vanished species of wild flower or brings a rare pair of birds back to found a colony, this publisher has dedicatedly and brilliantly made a success of that sharply endangered species, the independent press.’ (Marina Warner.) You can sign up to the mailing list on the Enitharmon site to receive a newsletter with special offers, details of readings & events and new titles and Enitharmon’s Poem of the Month. You can also find Enitharmon on Facebook.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.