Featured writer: Lydia Harris

We are delighted to welcome Lydia Harris as this month’s Featured Writer. Lydia, who is one of several members living on Scottish islands (she lives in the Orkneys), joined the Federation after winning the poetry category in the 2017 Vernal Equinox Competition. She was commended in the 2018 competition and has had many other successes, as you can read below, along with her prizewinning poem The Oxygen Concentrator which well demonstrates her gift for precise observation of and responsiveness to the natural world around her, and the quietly devastating emotional charge of her understated style.

Lydia Harris has made her home in Westray, Orkney. In 2017 she held a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust. Her first pamphlet ‘Glad Not to be the Corpse’ was published by Smiths Knoll in 2012, followed by ‘An Unbolted Door’ (Maquete) in 2018 and ‘Painting the Stones Back’ ( Coast to Coast to Coast) in 2019. She leads the Westray Writers and is an enthusiastic Poetry School student. Her poem, ‘Oxygen Concentrator’ (below) was Commended in the Troubadour Competition 2019.

Oxygen Concentrator
( with 3 lines from George Low’s ‘Fauna Orcadensis’)

My mother’s breath rasps through the gurnard’s terminal mouth.
This fish, a very quick swimmer, when hauled on board,
makes a sort of croaking plaintive noise.

My mother’s breath rattles in her throat. The gurnard thrashes
and this for some considerable time.

No ease either, for the whale trapped among Brian’s creels,
snagged in the lines.

My mother’s lost the word for haven, when she grunts something,
like an angry person growling.

Margaret, we call. Fieldfares look up, moving past
the noise of the oxygen concentrator.

 ©  Lydia Harris 2020

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