Shetlandic, for those who do not know, is a dialect consisting of Scandinavian, particularly the Danish language Norn, later on this was fused with the Scottish dialect. This all explained by the author, Christine De Luca in Northern Alchemy’s introduction.
As a book blogger, I’ve read a lot of experimental, boundary pushing fiction but I never thought I’d read a poetry collection written in Shetlandic and although there was an English translation next to each poem, I still read the Shetlandic version first and then compared it to the English equivalent. In all it was a fun exercise.
Christine De Luca’s poems are about the natural world and all it’s guises. There are poems about the power of the sea, the first one called Gyaain ta da eela/Going evening sea-fishing. Water features a lot in this collection Bio-rhythms Da sea,hjarta, The sea, beloved one and Beach wark, Beach work.
Nature crops up in other forms though. The moon, birds, especially one poem about swans, farmland and rocks all make appearance, either helping humans or making humankind powerless.
There are a couple of poems which deviate from the natural world and focus on human nature instead. These are Queer things, Smiles/Strange things, Smiles and On da reboond/On the Rebound.
Every poem is a joy to read, having lived in a forest environment for 14 years, I could identity with Christine De Luca’s observations about sea, plant and bird life. There’s no use in pinpointing highlights as I thought each poem managed to stir memories and feelings. De Luca depiction of nature shifts, which I think is the essence of the natural world.
From a linguistic point of view, I enjoyed the similarities between Shetlandic and English, I also managed to identify words from Scottish dialect, mainly due to the fact that during my teen years quite a few Scottish authors incorporated it in their work, thus terms such as bairn (child) and ken (know) were familiar.
Just as a note that Northern Alchemy is a collection of Christine De Luca’s previously published poems with some unpublished ones as well. What struck me was how Christine De Luca manages to take a dialect and make it conjure powerful images, truly the power of language has no boundaries.
Many thanks to Patrician Press for providing a requested copy of Northern Alchemy.