Dark landscape cover with author name in scrolly lettersA Glimmer o Stars, Lynn Valentine

The Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021     £7.99

Weathering loss

Lynn Valentine offers an intimate lyrical set of poems in the muscular, musical Scots of her native Angus. Each one, accompanied by an English translation, oozes a longing for home. Northern settings like The Minch, St Kilda, The Flairs, and the North Sea colour the work. We journey towards lost loved ones through childhood memories peppered with folklore and local myth.

In the poem ‘The Leid o Hame’ the narrator celebrates her native language, held in ‘this thrapple that thraws oot the rrrs’. She unpacks a  bag ‘to release songs, smell of the sea’ and the ‘long cold wind hurtling in from the Flairs’. The lines invoke wistfulness and the blessing of a meaningful heritage.

‘Sheela Na Gig, Rodel’ is a fascinating poem. The ‘I’ has driven ‘a long road’ to seek the protection of the aforenamed fertility figure, the ‘hollowed, unholy mother’. In a moving prayer, despite her despair, the narrator believes:

Bit there’s hope in yir airms,
the clift in yir legs, an opin
oan the rough cast stanes.

We’re returned to a poignant moment in childhood in the poem ‘Roses’. Love and loss are both evoked in the ‘sweet, sickening scent’ of pressed petal stew. This memory results in the search for an unidentified ‘spreckled face’, likely a mother, among the thorns. I can relate: remember offering  similar gifts to my mum!

The tender poem ‘A Loast Freen’ offers the promise of spring, hawthorn, daffodils, nesting sparrows and bumblebees. There’s a missing ‘you’, living under ‘sleekit winds’ and a ‘strawberry sun’. There’s a hint of some falling out — again, relatable: we’ve all needed to make our peace with another at some time.

‘A Sunflooers Turn’ eloquently offers succour to the dying, promising to bring primrose sunshine and white clouds under each arm and to ‘emptie the wither ontae yir bed’:

A opin yir een tae the bricht reid sky
turnit yir heid westwards, stey fir aye.

This pamphlet seemingly effortlessly meshes landscape and personal experience.

Maggie Mackay