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by Harry Josephine Giles, translated by the author

with a reading in the original Orkney by the author


gannet stabbing into fishless agitationconfusionwaves
silver salmonchildnothing spindancing in the mountain-banked cage

ballpoint skidflystriking off the conference table

prayers rushcrowdsearpouring out of greedyimperious snoutheads


poets tweetcreakmoaning for the social market

inches curling from the monopolisedenthralled press

bitterpoisonpus streamriver overflowing the oakless estatedominion

iceberg calfing for the shrinkwithering wandervoyage


energypower divearguing down the valley-stitching pipeline
itinerant labourer flyfleeing from the blackwater wall

old light blessing on silicon crystal

contract hewburrowsearchscraping up the cobalt scratchtracefurrow


debate whisperheard on encryptit network

crowdmassheap herded into free speech pen

earthfungusgrave and root speaking over long-hidden rhizome

trollfairyother emerging from the door in the hillbarrowknoll


barometer falling in the emptyabandoncleared buildingfarmhouse

trees breaking down the broadplain road north

ruling merchant reachstretching for a private orbit

children knocking down the gallows of the stars


juvenile gulls rejecttauntdefecating on the brows of generals

stock price slicing into heart-deep red

tower card revealed in the tenth position

sheargangs springing open the barbed wire


nationless banners liftsky the ruins

clearbrightpure blade falls for a crowning meal

redd ap


solan stabban intae fyshless jabbul

siller smowt birlan i'the ben-bankit kaej

baalpynt skytan aff the konfrens taebul

geud wirds rashan oot o orafu mulls


poyits jirk-jirkan fer the soshul merkit

injes kurlan fae the bunsukken pres

etter burn lipperan the aikless lairdskip

ysberg kaafan fer the krynan vaig


fushun divan doun the glen-steekan pyplyn

navvie fleean fae the blakwatter waa

aald likht benison on silikon kirstal

kontrak howkan ap the kobalt skart


thriepan harkit on enkriptit netwark

bourakh hirselt intae free speej pen

muild an murr spaekan ower lang-dernt rysom

trow emerjan fae the dor i'the now


wather gaj drappan i'the voidit biggeen

trees brakkan doun the braid rod nort

burgher raxan fer a pryvit orbit

bairns dingan doun the gallas o the starns


skorries skootan on the brous o jenerals

stok prys shaeran intae haert-deep reid

tour kaird kythed i'the tenth posieshun

gangs springan appen the barbit weir


naeshunless banners lift the brukalaeshun

skyre blad faas fer a krounan mael

Harry Josephine Giles reads "redd ap"
00:00 / 01:48

Author's Note

This poem is written in the language of Orkney, the islands off the north coast of Scotland, my home. It's a dialect of Scots with strong Norse influences, spoken by around 10,000 people, and a close sister to the dialect of Shetland, to the north. The orthography here is my own, and makes choices that highlight the specific sonic features of the language, especially in their difference from Scots and English. The translation method, which I also used in my novel, Deep Wheel Orcadia, is built on the "intertonguing" technique of Gàidhlig poet Rody Gorman, where the multiple meanings and resonances of a word in the original are suggested through the use of compound words in English. I prefer this technique for making English versions of poems in minority languages, especially those threatened by Anglification, because through it English is problematised, compromised, shown to be lacking and partial. Here, the English is in service to the original, rather than eating it alive.

Harry Josephine Giles is a writer and performer from Orkney, living in Leith. Her verse novel Deep Wheel Orcadia was published by Picador in October 2021 and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction book of the year.

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