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Two Poems

David Craig, 23 June 2005

... Parallel Texts Under each leaflet of a bracken frond The spores are as neatly herring-boned As filaments in a moth’s antenna Or vanes on a pigeon’s quill. I wrote these images on a bramble leaf. The ink dried slowly, glistening in relief, Black juice on chlorophyll. I could have gone on writing But the green page was full. Conjunction A seed on a parachute lingers in air, White node of spun-glass fibres Nearly too slight to fall ...

Two Poems

David Craig, 25 September 2008

... Human versus Robot It keeps on doing its best, That reddish thing inside me Pumping-pumping against The obstinate, tortuous fankle Of pulpy valves and tubeworms. Are they up to it any more – Thin-skinned, semi-elastic, A labyrinth of Victorian sewers, A sort of organic circuit board That badly needs rewiring? Titanium would do better, A tiny refined-alloy sleeve Inserted deep in the pulsing darkness ...


David Craig, 22 January 1998

... The condition (cancer) and the person (myself) Reeled towards each other over the years, Capsules slowly converging. Now they have docked – ‘Raped!’ the Soviet spacemen used to shout As the new arrival fitted in.                                               The surgeon Is using homely words: ‘We will take away Everything except the nerves and muscles’ (That’s sound, just what I would have done myself ...

Apologia pro Poematis Meis

David Craig, 9 July 1987

... Why do the ivy and hawthorn glisten With an archaic light this morning? Why is their bending and shaking Under the easterly off the Pennines So much like a resigned bowing Under the buffets of history? Sunlight silvers the frame, The white surround is spotted with mildew. Pictured under the archway (Rennie’s ellipse of 1819), The village composes its features Into a perfectly Georgian image ...

Chucky, Hirple, Clart

David Craig: Robert Macfarlane, 24 September 2015

by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 0 241 14653 8
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... of mine. My study bristles with fragments from here and there: a piece of microgranite from Ailsa Craig with grooved curves from the making of the island’s export, curling stones; a rim of red sandstone from the Dumfriesshire quarry where Andy Goldsworthy got the stone for his Arch project; two muscular and horny stumps of yew from a limestone crag a mile ...

Tortoises with Zips

David Craig: The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, 4 April 2002

The Snow Geese 
by William Fiennes.
Picador, 250 pp., £14.99, March 2002, 0 330 37578 4
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... these non-stop flyers mate on the wing is something for which, according to the chief authorities (David Lack and Derek Bromhall), there is no firm evidence. I have watched them for nearly sixty years, at home in North-East Scotland and Westmorland, in the Dolomites and on Gibraltar, and from high up on the Blouberg in Transvaal, and their closest intimacy was ...

At Tate Britain

David Craig: Mountain Art, 25 April 2002

... Two exhibitions, one in London, the other in Grasmere, might have been framed to show how thinking and feeling have changed since the ‘death of God’ early last century. The landscape painters in American Sublime (at Tate Britain until 19 May) believed, as most people did, that the Earth was God’s creation and that its bones, its visible crust, were ‘a Book of Revelations in the rock-leaved Bible of geology ...

Fox and Crow

David Craig: The Moors, 31 July 2014

The Moor: Lives, Landscape, Literature 
by William Atkins.
Faber, 371 pp., £18.99, May 2014, 978 0 571 29004 8
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... What​ do moors sound like? Like a universe of bees, whose unison is only a few notes higher than the singing of our own bloodstream, which we half-hear, half-sense during the small hours between sleeps. What do they smell like? Like honey, steeping the sunshine. What do they look like? Like a brown and purple cloud-shadow spread out across the uplands, described by William Atkins in characteristically fine focus when he says of the North Yorkshire moors that ‘the new blooms were silverish specks; they were pale grey, beige and mint green ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands, 21 February 2002

Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... I never thought I would find myself writing warmly about a book by a Scottish laird. Adam Nicolson owns the Shiant Islands, east of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The Shiants are a compact cluster and, like all small islands, offer the marvellous sense that you can encompass them, you can easily walk or sail round them and get to know each rock-face or sand-bar, each vein of water or peat-hagg lip ...

Bird-man swallows human

David Craig: Birds’ Eggs, 20 October 2016

The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and outside) a Bird’s Egg 
by Tim Birkhead.
Bloomsbury, 288 pp., £16.99, April 2016, 978 1 4088 5125 8
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... We still live​ among wild animals, just about: the birds that flit and scurry and sing and build in our gardens. They are like iridescent spray: the rose-flush on the breast of a male chaffinch, the gold ring round the eye of a blackbird, the jet-black cap above the slatey body of a great tit. Sparrows are said to have become much less common, but 31 of them have frequented my garden in the past seven days, to say nothing of blackbirds, collared doves, coal tits, starlings, chaffinches, a song thrush, a dunnock, a woodpigeon and a great tit, and that during a typical spring week in a village of 630 households on a detrunked A-road, half a mile from a motorway and a little more from the Glasgow-Euston railway line ...

Powerful Moments

David Craig, 26 October 1989

Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... has the suddenness of current film. Each image is stunning while it lasts. Snapshots of people: ‘David was a fireman, whose prematurely white hair give him a kind but slightly overdressed look, like a professional snooker player.’ Of animals (a mortally injured cat): ‘The eye on that side had been pushed in, causing it to turn and lift its head irritably ...

We stop the words

David Craig: A.L. Kennedy, 16 September 1999

Everything you need 
by A.L. Kennedy.
Cape, 567 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 224 04433 8
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... Near the start of A.L. Kennedy’s latest novel, its chief character and overriding consciousness, Nathan Staples, a successful writer of horror fiction, emerges slowly from a bout of compulsive masochistic fantasies, puts Glenn Gould on his CD player, and gets ready to hang himself from an iron hook in the central beam of his cottage, or almost hang himself – well, just enough to give himself ‘that big, blank, hot-mouthing, hair-lifting, sexy, sexy fear that he only ever met at times like this ...

Hateful Sunsets

David Craig: Highlands and Headlands, 5 March 2015

Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place 
by Philip Marsden.
Granta, 348 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 84708 628 0
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... Western Europe reaches one of its fine points here, like Cape Wrath in Sutherland, Lleyn and St David’s Head in Wales, and Cornuaille in Brittany. In such places we come across peaks and juts of rock which look and feel like those in West Penwith: ‘look’ because they draw our eyes and feet like magnets, ‘feel’ because the whitish crystals of ...

A Useless Body

David Craig: The Highland Clearances, 18 May 2017

Set Adrift upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances 
by James Hunter.
Birlinn, 572 pp., £14.99, September 2016, 978 1 78027 354 9
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... James Hunter​ ’s work has analysed with utter thoroughness the culture of the Highlands and the diaspora that was forced on it. In his latest book, Set Adrift upon the World, he doesn’t try to describe, in a novelist’s or a journalist’s way, how individuals suffered and grieved and retaliated. Rather, he lays out the way systematic dispossession was managed, legally, by the class who engineered the process and who did so for their own gain ...

Virgin’s Tears

David Craig: On nature, 10 June 1999

Nature: Western Attitudes since Ancient Times 
by Peter Coates.
Polity, 246 pp., £45, September 1998, 0 7456 1655 0
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... were arguing vigorously that the journals and other descriptive writings of explorers such as David Thompson, Simon Fraser and Alexander MacKenzie were the first contributions to Canadian literature, and these works teem with a sense of the forests and prairies, lakes and rivers as the inexhaustible new land in which settlers had to strive to make ...

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