Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 21 November 2016

  • Gavia stellata


    Who calls to the dark?

    Who, when the shadows
    are converted to morning,
    when light pours out, when
    day is turned to darkness
    once more, when dark
    is on the face of the sea,
    who dives down, who
    brings back a speck
    to build on? I do. I did.

    Who is the smallest
    and brightest
    and speckled
    with stars? I am.

    All things that gather
    to shine I bear on my back
    I raise on my wings
    in the black of the waters,
    in the deep vault of space.

    Who dips and dives?
    Dense bones take me down.

    Who rose with a twin,
    with another, who breasted
    the face of the night, who
    stitched the belt of stars
    in Orion? Who speeds
    without drag: bill like an awl
    and flattened tarsus, neatest
    and fleetest in streamlined
    propulsion? Who took
    Arcturus like a morsel of light,
    a pinch of snuff, returned
    to the surface?

    Who calls to the dark;
    who calls to the wind on
    the surface of the water?
    Who prompts the others
    to dip and rise? Eyes like
    seeds of garnet. Lightest
    and brightest: gavia stellata,
    the red-throated diver.

    by Alexander Hutchison


    This Thursday, Isy Mead, Head of Learning at The Story Museum here in Oxford, will launch a new monthly poetry workshop, held on the last Thursday of each month (except December). The workshop is open to anyone interested in writing poetry, from beginners to advanced. You can find more details on the Story Museum website.

    And this Friday the Poetry Centre holds its International Poetry Competition awards event at Oxford Brookes, featuring readings from a number of the winning and shortlisted poets, from local young poets mentored by Kate Clanchy, and from the judge, Daljit Nagra. You can find more details of the winning and shortlisted poems on the Poetry Centre website

    ‘Gavia stellata’ is copyright © Alexander Hutchison, 2012. It is reprinted from Birdbook II: Freshwater Habitats (Sidekick Books, 2012) by permission of Sidekick Books.

    Notes from Sidekick Books:

    With this poem we begin a selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on the Sidekick website.

    Alexander Hutchison (1943-2015) was born in Buckie, lived in Glasgow, and was RLF Writing Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He published Scales Dog: Poems New and Selected (Salt Publishing) in 2007, and his first book, Deep-Tap Tree (University of Massachusetts Press, 1978) is still in print, He wrote in English and Scots – and his poem ‘Deil Tak the Hinmaist’ was more than a token dialect piece in The Best British Poetry2011. His poem ‘Gavia stellata’ comes from Birdbook II: Freshwater Habitats.

    Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via Twitter.

    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.