Sunday, 31 May 2020

Poems from the Backroom 77: Chris Powici

Being locked down in the wilds is not unpleasant and not, to be honest, much different from ordinary life (my part of Dumfries and Galloway has been social distancing for 250 years) beyond the fact that treks to the two pubs within ten miles, the very traditional Farmers Arms in Thornhill and the zany and creative Craigdarroch in Moniaive have been curtailed. Having lived in D and G my whole life apart from university my contacts with writing - and very important contacts they were- were mostly through literary magazines. This was how in the old days, before the faux validation of Facebook, you gauged whether you were any good or not. My golden age of submissions entailed wonderful journals and magazines: ‘Cencrastus’, ‘Lines Review’, ‘Gairfish’, ‘Chapman’, ‘Northlight’, ‘West Coast Magazine’, ‘Rebel Inc’ , ‘Zed 2o’, not to forget ‘Spectrum’ and ‘Markings’ from the south of Scotland. What a thrill if you were accepted and a hand written letter arrived from Raymond Ross, Tessa Randford, Duncan Glen or Joy Hendry! It was proper validation. Nowadays we look on a magazine scene in Scotland that is, apart from Gerry Cambridge’s ‘Dark Horse’, and ‘Gutter’, a shadow of its former glory. One long term survivor though is ‘Northwords Now’ which I think began 15 years ago under Rhona Dunbar and has gone through various changes of format but maintains the astonishing achievement of being a classy and inclusive mag that is both widely distributed and free.

Which brings me to Chris Powici who served as Editor of 'Northwords Now' for about half of its existence. He lives in Dunblane and has worked at both the Open University and the University of Stirling where he is a Literature and Teaching fellow.

Like Em Strang - and many others in the #plague, Kim Blaeser just the other day for instance-his poems about nature reflect its spiritual aspect, it’s inner lights which are simultaneously banal and wonderful: ‘everything’s as ordinary and holy as bread or rain” (Lamlash Night). His poetic eye ranges over his environment with a light touch, leaving it sometimes to speak for itself - “the wind that shakes the birch tree’s leaves” (The Deer) - at other times employing an image that is arresting in its effectiveness and simplicity.

Chris had a previous collection with Sally Evans' excellent but defunct Diehard Press. His latest is ‘This Weight of Light’ published by Red Squirrel in 2015.
Here he is reading 'Gorse', a new poem in response to these times:

His profile at the SPL here with two poems here:

An Interview with 'New Linear Perspectives' here with several more poems:


We have watched peewit flap and glide
over the bright, sheep-trodden fields
the fierce yellow gorse spill
over the broken backs of drystane walls –
and we have come home to TV news
that twenty-two people have died in a care home in Paisley
that’s twenty-two ways to walk in the rain
or glance at the moon
or nudge a lover awake
gone for good behind closed doors
behind ordinary, quiet, terrible doors
but we don’t have a word for it yet –
this strange, new hurt –
we don’t have a name
so we think, we need to think
about peewit scattering
their high, reedy cries on a soft wind
about the wild April gorse
how it rises and blooms.


When it comes to the after-life
I’ll settle for the Calmac terminal
on a spit of Hebridean rock
after the ferry has sailed.
A lobster boat tugs at its rope
and beyond the pier a gannet rises
from the low swell into the cold cradling waves
and quick air.
Evening falls.
All through Scalasaig kitchen windows fill with light
and I imagine vases of pale tap-watered lilies
gleaming down from plate-heavy shelves
on lives of tea and talk, bread and breath;
quiet, island voices, unhurried
as the slap of the tide on the harbour wall
while some ewes graze the shore grass
and an oystercatcher dabs for shrimps
among the mussel shells and bladderwrack
at the rain-drenched edge of the world.

(Reprinted from 'New Linear Perspectives')

Lunan Bay
For Helen

You knelt at the tide-edge
and built frail cairns of whelk and mussel shells.
Above the waves a wave of gulls
hung in a blue shock of September sky.
A boy roared an ancient Honda 125
between the river and the dunes.
Sand flared from the wheels, the gulls screamed

and still you probed and nudged and tweaked
as if you’d waited all your life to feel
each grit-clogged smithereen
each dirty glittering scrap
pass through your hands and become
something known, something seen. 

(From 'This Weight of Light')


  1. Really brings home all those personal and specific losses. A terrftic poem Chris.

  2. Beautiful. So thankful for poets who can express for us what we find impossible to express for ourselves.
    Twenty-two ways to walk in the rain
    or glance at the moon
    or nudge a lover awake