‘Anchored by a welter of orange lines’

After the success of his first novel, the much-lauded A Book of Death & Fish, Ian Stephen returns to poetry and his passion for all things marine with a collection that evokes the dramatic waterscapes, rocky shores and wind-blasted textures of his native Hebrides.
‘Absorbing and riveting… dense, compelling and wildly idiosyncratic… splits the form open like a fresh catch, glistening and raw and singing with the sea’
– Kirsty Gunn, Guardian

Extract from Maritime
By Ian Stephen
Published by Saraband Books

At Plockton
In the ebb of pleasure here,
embedded in pebbles,

like the keel, settled for winter,
anchored by a welter
of orange lines.

The continuing causes
sore as
Spain or Ireland.
Present life is tense.

Water stills before the boil
leaving me cold and
out of season
in the knuckle of
this promontory.


Atlantic stones, Calanais

For ten at least of twenty-five years
I’ve been misleading travellers,
telling them the stones are most alive
under relentless drizzle.

Now in this accidental day
of Majorcan sun,
stones reveal contours.

Here, an igneous whorl
of bright greys in pink.
Here, a fold of green,
a malachite womb.


Three lyrics

Look wider than the broadest bay
but give me blue of mussel shell
and yellow of the winter sky.
Grudge the garish red
of lobster on a platter.

Salt and liquor
on our tongues.
Give and keep
that mollusc blue.

Burn mouth bleeds to minor delta
out to slow and drowning flanks.
Unlikely green sets through reds –
smaller stream to larger sea.

Herring-oiled and flatcalmed patches
three waves, five and half a mile out
still the swimming
take the weight,
return you
light as a shell
to sand.

Should we plant a rowan here
at the sea-loch side?
The seed of red berries
for imagination,
to germinate
in this day
when leaves mould
and stars die.

A hawthorn for healing,
spur and leaf balm.
We should put a bit back
for others to find
at a later date.

Rooting for us
and for us all.

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