Poetry to the fore in hairst New Shetlander

The hairst issue of The New Shetlander catches the eye with its bright cover design of puffins, by Howard Towll. Inside, the accent is on writers, with features on three Shetland poets.

The recent death of Jim Moncrieff (1947-2010) saddened the community and left an empty space among its writers. Alex Cluness, friend and fellow poet, sets down in print the touching eulogy he delivered at Jim’s funeral, where he looks at Jim as a person and his achievement as a poet. There is also a poem by Jim himself, and a happy photograph of his Seasonsong book launch.

A conversation between writers arose when poet Sheenagh Pugh recently featured on her poetry blog an interview with Jim Mainland of Nibon. They have both given permission for the interview to be published. Jim explains something of his approach to writing and various aspects of it, including his sources of inspiration, his influences and his thoughts on dialect writing.

Mark Smith has been studying the poetry of William J Tait, and fears that his remarkable work has been somewhat overlooked in recent years. Billy Tait, as he was better known, wrote in Scots and English as well as in a strong, vivid Shetland dialect, and his range of work was extremely wide.

Mark feels that he deserves to be seen as a notable national 20th century poet. His article includes an appreciation of the classic A Day Atween Waddirs, the title poem in Tait’s only published volume of poetry. A portrait by Jeanette Nowak complements the piece.

There are two strong historical articles. Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde of the University of Bergen has contributed a piece on trade relations as the core of the connections between Shetland and Norway up to the mid-19th century. (Readers may remember Professor Sunde’s Tom Henderson memorial lecture, and subsequent book on the Mouat family and the Barony of Rosendal.)

Brian Smith publishes his recent lecture paper on the life and work of the banker-antiquarian Gilbert Goudie of Clumlie and Edinburgh (1843-1918), who was responsible for collecting and preserving so much about Shetland’s history and culture.

Da Wadder Eye looks around at local and national affairs, especially dwelling on the coalition government and possible ways forward for the SIC. The editorial pays attention to the importance of the work of volunteers.

Matthew Wright’s engrossing story, Grey Area, is told against a background of the routine of feeding salmon. Laureen Johnson has written four monologues, headed An incident at da Ness in 1567, based on documents from the time. The two principal characters are the Earl of Bothwell and a Hanseatic trader.

James Sinclair, Christie Williamson and others contribute fine poems. A little welcome humour lightens the final mix, including da trow Thomasina Muckletae, on her 500th birthday, courtesy of the 11-year-old Vaila Walterson.

The New Shetlander gives details of a short story competition for yule, with cash prizes. Book reviews complete the magazine, which is now on sale at £2.


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