Dat Trickster Sun

Review of Dat Trickster Sun

Christine De Luca writes in both English and Shetlandic (a blend of Norse and Old Scots). Although she deals in Dat Trickster Sun (Mariscat) with division and rupture – from the seismic convulsions as islands are born, to human insularity and loneliness – she finds, in the beauty of her birthplace and the remarkable flexibility of its language, images that repair and restore. De Luca’s voice is distinctive and different, but at the same time “sib [related] tae da hale wirld”: a valuable and vigorous addition to the varied gene pool of contemporary British poetry.

Andrew McCulloch, Pamphleteers, Times Literary Supplement 21st November 2014

Review in The New Shetlander, 269, Hairst 2014

Dat Trickster Sun, Christine De Luca, Mariscat Press, £6.

“only da sea can greet an sing at da sam time”

from “Discontinuity”

At the heart of Christine De Luca’s new collection is a deeply thoughtful appraisal of time and love, and the way they entwine. Loss, sadness, transience – all unblinkingly portrayed and accepted – do not overpower the resonant engagement with life, the keen observation and delight in the natural world, the joy to be found. Other favourite themes of hers also recur here, such as the importance of words and language, and the poet’s constant striving to reflect and record life as it passes.

Description is polished to a shining choice of words: the “trussit chic” of sunflowers, for example; the starlings who “gadder apo fences, staves o rispy notts”; on the plains of Manitoba, “cinematic/ open fields, bare now, but handsome in/ a russet livery like old trains rumbling/ between elevators”; in Dis material wirld” the volcanoes of Iceland are vivid: “aald aert spewin her guts up,/ flames spunkin fornenst ice, a azin furnace, black ess.”

The theme of the temporariness of life returns again and again in this collection, most overtly on the beach in the stunning poem “Discontinuity”, where you “sense a fault-line vimmerin/ trowe you: dis side or dat?” Sometimes there are glimpses of roads not travelled“tizin places you’ll never win tae” (“Dat trickster sun”); or the cluttering of life “barely braethin in case a Mad Hatter/ comes loupin at you, burdeened wi/ lost opportunities, missed appointments.”

Yet the overall mood of the book is positive, joyous, full of wonder. In “Annunciation”this life, stroked by the sun/ washed again and again, is a rub-a-dub of love./ Life at the cliff edge is precarious, precious.” The sunflowers (Naethin but big flooers”) are gorgeous fae foo bloom ta widderin.” “What’s in a name?” is pure defiance:

let me spend a day parked by Suilven.

… if the name I chose for you eludes me.

I’ll still sense mountain, water, love.

Balancing “Discontinuity”, much later in the book, comes the lovely reflective “A meditation apö takkin wir time” where a kind of resolution is reached:

Daylicht’s shorter, but

Da sun’s still haddin. Da mantra man be ‘noo’,

while we touch a mintie inklin o da present.

A’m re-settin da clock, bendin time, mizzerin hit

bi da slow sab o watter trowe floss; da niff o moor.

Dat Trickster Sun manages, against the poet’s prediction, to greet and sing at da sam time. It is a beautiful song of a book, and it echoes in the mind. Christine De Luca is at the top of her game. This is a mature and memorable collection, and a quality production by Mariscat Press.

Laureen Johnson

Christine De Luca

Christine De Luca, who writes in both English and Shetlandic, is a native Shetlander who lives in Edinburgh. She was appointed Edinburgh’s Makar in 2014. She has had over a dozen books published, mainly poetry, but also a novel and children’s stories. Her latest collection, Dat Trickster Sun (Mariscat, 2014) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Prize. Her poems have been selected four times for the Best Scottish Poems of the Year and her poetry has won awards in Shetland and internationally.