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Island Chapters Anna        Adams

Island Chapters

Anna Adams

Published November 1st 1991
ISBN : 9780946407668
130 pages
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 About the Book 

This is a lovely book – lovely to hold and feel, and lovely to inhabit. It holds prose, poems and full-colour water-colour paintings (by Norman Adams, the author’s husband), all conveying something of what it was like to stay on the tiny Hebridean island of Scarp in the 1970s, while the last few permanent inhabitants dwindled and left. Scarp is a rocky little landmass surrounded by sea, one of the smallest of the Hebridean islands to be have supported a working population. Hardly any trees, just rocks and sheep. But this part of Scotland feels like the edge of the world, and that sense is in this book.The volume came to me as a gift from John Killick, who was at one time a part-time poetry publisher, as am I. ‘Littlewood’ was his imprint and this, he tells me in the card that came with the book, was one of the publications he was ‘very fond of’. I’m not surprised. It must have been special to work on. Not like anything else.I thought I might like the poems best but it is the prose that will stay with me. I’ll remember Anna herself sitting up late in the house when the boys and her husband were asleep, listening to the wind and the sea. And the description of the little graveyard, to which former residents of the island – even after they had moved away – were carried back for their final resting place. And the names, so few of them: MacKinnon, MacDonald, MacLennon, MacLeod, MacKay, MacInnes. I know people with all these names – distant relatives perhaps.Anna Adams is much older now, and I understand that she hasn’t been well. Her voice is as young and vivid as it can ever have been in these pages. Here are the last permanent residents leaving:“Taking their excess of dogs, and a few helpless sheep with front legs tied to back legs, trussed for slaughter, the crofters leave the island empty but for ourselves. The sound of their engines diminishes into the silence of the evening, but we can still hear, from across the water, the calling of middle-aged lambs on Fladday. They have not yet forgotten their mothers, who bleat back to them from the hillsides of Scarp.”Such a simple description, and yet so evocative. And this bit – I love this bit:“There is a game that one person can play with the sea. I invented it. There is really only one rule, and that is very simple. The water should be fairly rough and the tide rising. The player sits down on the shore like King Canute, using a boulder for a throne, and must not move until he does so without making any conscious decision about it. He (or she) may rise and run only when to do so is an inevitable and involuntary act.Perhaps poems should be written in these conditions – only when they are inevitable. Much ink might be saved, and every poem would have the necessary ingredient of desperation in it. It would be something found, not something sought.”