PF detail from Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Beach Scene, Guernsey (Children by the Sea in Guernsey) - 1883;


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Last updated:
May 2009


These poems have been collaboratively written by Bob Beagrie & Andy Willoughby, senior lecturers in creative writing at The University of Teesside. The sequence is inspired by, and attempts to interpret and recontextualise, the key archetypes and themes of the first 10 runes of the national Finnish epic 'Kalevala'. It comes out of a literary exchange project between poets from North East England and South West Finland.

Be Careful what you Fish For | Shaman Song


Be Careful what you Fish For

You may catch the unexpected and miss the only moment
to bring back the holy second or the sacred being of love.
If you have numbed your heart and obscured your secret eye
the truth may wriggle from your fingers and flip into the depths
till the form becomes nothing in the murky shifting waters,
spirals away with a part of you that may not be retrieved.
Leaving you just words to bring back the moment’s phantom
never again living within the compass of your fingers;
not able to be brushed with your buzzing lips’ antennae.
And this is how I held her but did not see to know her,
saw all her pretty parts but failed to recognise my lover
as I tried to place her in the lists of those gone before.
When it meant slicing her wide open for cold-eyed study,
she flipped away and swam to hotter hands across the ocean.


Shaman Song

I can sing light with the knowledge of bird heart and feather
So wings sprout for a moment from the backs of my listeners

I can sing the cold vast mass of primeval stones
Until the world around me takes on the state of crumbling slate

I can sing the wind in the Baltic reeds around the islands
Into a symphony to soothe the heart of the raging bear king,

I can sing the sea into a winter thickening despite its salt
So I can walk across the archipelago in my snowshoes

I can sing the solid earth into soft sucking quicksand
Beneath the feet of bumptious rivals for the bard’s crown

I can sing a village into a town and a town into a city
And with a chosen word or trumpet sound bring them all down

I can sing a single spark into a raging forest fire
Reduce all behind me into black wasteland for the enemy

I can conjure tears as broad as beans from young lover’s eyes
Remake the last sound of a cruelly wounded hart

I swear on a good day I can turn a hill into a mountain
And cover its steep slopes with lush green forest

All these things were given me in the floating dreamtime
But sing as I will, I cannot bring you back from the deeps.

“The Skiff” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir