Read the first two of our top ten unmissable poems published in Poetry Wales from the last 5 years. To celebrate 55 years of publishing poetry, every Friday we’ll be releasing two poems from the list, with our final post including a downloadable PDF edition of the poems. The ten poems in this short collection were selected by Nia Davies, editor of Poetry Wales (2014-19). Our top 5 poems are included for free with our Summer 2019 issue.
Inga an Olaf at the Lighteen
by Harry Josephine Giles
Inga at the helm, watchan
fir lowes, fir shifts i the drifts o rouk;
Olaf tentan the diacles, raedeens,
airtan oot a trael o light
tae a dinger, a payday, a fill hale.
Thir crew o linesmen, halfins, bide
ready. Hid’s been a gey geud while.
The yole chirks fae gowden whips.
Olaf spies a peak an merks hid.
Inga catches a chaenge i the petren
o his concentraetion, an waits.
He chacks his chairter anent his ladar
anent his osc., braethes, turns
tae his skip – an thay see hid togither: bleck
brakkan the gowd, than hulk looman
ower the yole. ‘Wrack! Brace!’
Inga rives the yole tae,
the linesmen an Olaf grippan thir stells,
tickan the flinterkin waas atween
them an daeth in reid alerm.
Bit – a blenk – than – the yole
pous clear, skewan anunder the derk
godssend. Ilka gies the golder
o braeth winnan free, n sattles
lik this wir ordinar. They win
tae thir boonty: hid’s no a goshens
o lights, but as Inga relays thir stance
thay rackon anither sort o survival.
Inga and Olaf at the Lighting
Translated from Orcadian
by Harry Josephine Giles
Inga at the helm, watching for flameglowflickerflares, for shifts in the drifts of fog; Olaf
carefully watching the diacles and readings, trying to find a trail of light to a strike, a
payday, a full haul. Their crew of linesmen, half-shares, waitstaylive ready. It’s been a
long time since a good landing. The yole creakraspcomplains from the golden
Olaf spots a peak in the read-outs and quicksmartly marks it. Inga senses a change in
the pattern of his concentration, and waits. He checks mapper against ladar against osc.,
breathes, turns to his skip – and they see it together: black breaking the gold, then full
hulk looming over the yole. ‘Wreck! Brace!’
Inga wrenchripbreaks the yole to, the linesmen and Olaf gripping their braces,
touching the flimsygaudysilly walls between them and death in red alarm. But – a
blinkmomentglance – then – the yole pulls clear, twistskewshunning under the dark
godssend. Each of them gives the laughroarcry of breath escaping, and settles down as
though this were simply ordinary. They reachgain their bounty: it isn’t an abundant catch
of lights, but as Inga transmits their co-ordinates they are all reckoncounting another
kind of survival.
Harry Josephine Giles is from Orkney and lives in Edinburgh. Their latest book is The Games from Out-Spoken Press, shortlisted for the 2016 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. They are studying for a PhD at Stirling, co-direct the performance platform Anatomy, are now touring the poetry-music-video show Drone. www.harryjosephine.com
Their poem ‘Inga an Olaf’ first appeared in Poetry Wales 52.3.
Thames. Dover. Wight.
by Geraldine Monk
Northerly becoming variable.
Rough until later otherwise slight.
Channel rats scuttle intense
depressions along La Manche.
Ocean plasma. T.V. screens.
Booze cruisers. Below deck
bowels heave. Stowaways.
Canned fish teeth. Man meat.
Sardines. Specks of suspended
Recipes for degrees of hurt.
Reduced stock of oxygen. On upper
deck freshly drizzled lemon air.
‘Take good care of your sailing cubes and
always make sure your door is safely pulled to’
The above words were writ
four thousand years ago. Too late to
save the Herald of Free Enterprise.
Most succumbed unseeing in the
dark of hypothermia
four soft-boiled minutes from harbour.
After four leagues the darkness was
thick and there was no
light. You could see nothing
ahead and nothing
The faraway comes near. Sea salt.
Cracked pepper. Surface effort.
Organic granules pour delicious
paradox. Gravy boat. Best china.
Displaced Polar vortex we hear
kindled in fractious love.
Snowy owl flying through a hail of
crystal balls. Steering its
monogaze with a hint of