Tuesday Poem: The Islands of the Light

Last night was the launch of a new anthology of 'Eco-Poetry' - Entanglements - published by Two Ravens Press, at the University of Glasgow campus in Dumfries.   A wonderful reading by some of the northern poets included in the anthology, on what was one of the wettest, wildest nights of the autumn so far.  I drove through floods to get there, and some roads were closed by flood-water.   It was interesting to find that, among the poets reading, we all had some connection to the land and perhaps that is the root of our writing and our awareness of the fragility of the balance.  Entanglements is not about conservation, or eco-politics.  It's an exploration of humankind's relationship with the natural world of which they are a part (the diverse interconnections of Life) and the individual poets all have very different things to say about it.  A good anthology sets up conversations between the poems, and this one (edited by Sharon Blackie and David Knowles)  certainly does that.
My contribution to the anthology is one of the 'Raven' poems that comes from my fascination with the culture of the Haida Gwaii First Nation people of northern Canada and Alaska.  I've always been interested in oral literatures and in this series of poems I'm exploring our relationship with the cosmos as it's expressed in Mythology. This poem is the first in the Raven sequence and describes a kind of shamanic journey towards the islands.

The Islands of the Light

This is where East is
where the sun harbours
ready to lift above
the glass horizon
still reflecting the after-
glow of the West.

Freckles of dark
on the silver skin of the sea
no more than you can count
on the double span of your hands.
A green bloom, blurring
into focus the rock, creek, forest,
a glittering scatter of water.

Then the rotted log houses
and the bay, excavated
by the archaeology of light.

Watch, how it alters perspective
drawing a line, flat
then elevated; how the sea
looks curiously level from here;
how the white underbelly
of the orca, seems like the white
curve of the waves’ lip, where
the Canoe People endlessly paddle
and the whales throw themselves
on the shore as a gift.

© Kathleen Jones

"'Entanglements' is an anthology of new poetry driven by the joy of our intimate entanglement with life - set against the spectacle of a planet-wide ecological catastrophe of our own making. It brings together work by international figures (including Jorie Graham, John Kinsella, Les Murray, Alice Oswald) with poetry from emerging voices.  The anthology costs £8.99, post free,  if bought from the Two Ravens Press website and all author royalties are being donated to an eco-charity."

For more Tuesday Poems, please go to the Tuesday Poem website and check out the contributions in the side-bar as well as the main poem.


  1. This is beautifully expressed Kathleen and I very much relate to the language which speaks of those who understand and appreciate the land and use its signs to navigate through their
    lives. Thank you for sharing. I love the line
    'excavated by the archaeology of light.'

    1. Thanks for this - I like the way you refer to using the land to 'navigate' through our lives. Ancient people used stories to 'map' the landscape so that people who didn't know the paths could find their way. I find that fascinating and it's something I want to explore.

  2. I remember reading and enjoying the book on the Haida which you recommended to me. I have been reminded of these people and their attitude to life, nature and meaning, as I am researching Britons in late antiquity and they seem to have had a similar nature loving, metaphoric, allusive, oral culture. Your lovely poem reflects all this through the prism of your own life and experience. I love it. I cannot pick out a single line. It has such unity. I'm going to print it and stick it up on my inspiration board. I hope that's all right. wxx

    1. I'm glad you liked it Wendy and please feel free to pin it up! I'm honoured that you wanted to do so!


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