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10 Mar 2011

Mark Grist, Poet in Residence, Blog 6 - Mar 2011

I've just got back from one of the most fantastic weeks I've ever had. My new show 'Shetland Boy' is about halfway done and I've been exploring Unst, the most Northern island in Great Britain to finish it off. What a surreal (and beautiful!) experience!

Despite having grown up on Unst, I can hardly remember it at all. From researching it I could tell you all sorts: how the map of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island was inspired by Unst; how it holds the record for fastest wind speed recorded in the Uk; how the population has drastically reduced (to roughly 450) since the RAF Base closed down. The visit has enabled me to tell so much more than this, though and I got so much out of the trip. I think it'll take weeks for it all to sink in.

One of the highlights of the week was going to a local school to do some poetry work - we had a lot of fun and it earned me the nickname 'Poetry Guy,' a title that was called out pretty much wherever I went. The students were great fun to work with and reminded me a lot of myself, when I was on the island. They were fearless: diving over fences and chasing after anything and everything they encountered.

Another highlight was the music night in the Youth Centre. I'd forgotten how fast Shetland fiddle players are! For the show, I'm hoping to combine some poetry with my fiddle playing, but I really need to get practising if I'm going to be up to speed!

Now that I'm back I'm wondering how to make this all make sense in an hour long show. The worst possible outcome would be the equivalent of a slideshow about my visit, with some fairly disconnected poems shoehorned in. I want this to be an interesting and honest portrayal of my rediscovery of Unst. I used to find individual pieces tricky to put together, but now I can see that creating a collection that'll hold an audience is much more complicated.

Anyway, here's a short piece I scribbled out following a day's hiking:


When darkness has pulled its hood over the hills
And the pulse of the wind is your only companion
I'll still be about, on the edge of your vision
A kiss on the quiet beneath your cagoule
I'll keep those legs moving
I'll carry you home
Whatever direction you choose it to be

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