Michael Longley, Goats’ Gallop and Homesman

The Winter Poetry Book Society  Choice was put through my letter box by the postman yesterday and this reminded me that I had not yet started to read the Autumn choice – Michael Longley’s The Stairwell (cover photo below). There is a wide range of poems in this superb collection, many of which feature aspects of death – including the poet’s own – and birth – allusions to his grandchildren and their then pregnant mothers. Longley is  superb nature poet e.g. Two Otters:

“She toddles to the lake without a name,

Your two-year-old and watches an otter,

Her first otter, half expected by you

Because, when you were expecting her,

You last watched an otter from this spot,

Your body a holt for otter and child”.

The word “holt” means the den of an otter and the woman’s body being a holt for her child, protecting the child, and the otter’s protective home, is a superb metaphor. Longley loves language and cites many Irish names which are often onomatopoeic e.g. Dooaghtry, Allaran and Lackakeely. There will be more quotes from this outstanding collection in future posts.

The Stairwell by Michael Longley

The Stairwell by Michael Longley

At the weekend, my wife joined runners from Dunbar and Haddington to do the 9.5 mile (14.5K) Goats’ Gallop run. The route takes the runners over Lammer Law and down through rough heather to the Hopes Reservoir (good wintry photos on this site), followed by 2 more very steep climbs and a fierce descent through large stones back to a nearby farm. I wasn’t there this year but took photos last year – see my Photopeach page. So, a very tough run and not much time to admire the wonderful autumnal scenery around the reservoir, as in the photos below.

Hopes Reservoir

Hopes Reservoir

Hopes Reservoir

Hopes Reservoir

This week, we went up to The Filmhouse in Edinburgh to see the film Homesman. The setting is frontier society in the USA and involves 2 unlikely people transporting three women who have gone mad across wide open spaces to a destination where they can be reunited with their families. While the plot occasionally requires a stretch of the imagination, there is a powerful narrative , in which scenes of danger, humour and potential love are intermixed. There are strong elements of tragedy in the story but it is a vibrant film with a pacey script and some impressive scenery. Go and see it if you can.



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One Response to “Michael Longley, Goats’ Gallop and Homesman”

  1. Lifeboat, wood rings and Michael Longley’s poems | James Herring's Weekly Blog Says:

    […] finished Michael Longley’s glorious collection The Stairwell, featured not that long ago on this blog. The collection features a range of poems including sections on his granddaughter, his father who […]

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