Lagarostrobos Franklinii by Ian Stephen

  • Published on: 12th October 2016
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As Faclan The Hebridean Book Festival approaches we will be sharing and celebrating the work of some of the authors appearing.

Ian Stephen is a writer, artist and storyteller from Lewis.  In 2016, Saraband published Maritime his selection from 35 years of making poetry from observing seaways and shorelines. After the success of his first novel, the much-lauded A Book of Death & Fish, this return to poetry evokes the dramatic waterscapes, rocky shores and wind-blasted textures of his native Hebrides.

He will be appearing at Faclan with Kevin MacNeil and Malachy Tallack as part of our Atlantic Cabaret #1. To book tickets click here –

Lagarostrobos Franklinii
Ian Stephen

From a cable or two
over water
the range of foliage
is like that in the tufts
on our own archipelago
up in the Hebrides
– colour in the soft tops
on old rock.

The graduations
within a general shade
we might call green.
A roll of swatches
as the wraithes pass.

Here, the myrtles don’t lie low
but stretch.
Whatever the hemisphere
you see what you see
and imagine the rest.
Sometimes you get help.

I’m standing by a sawmiller.
He points to the shoots
– a portbottle green
in fallen Huon Pine.
But who can judge the extent
of birdseye speckling
in oiled yellow timber
built tight
from slow years?
Who can know
the decorative blackness
in burring sassafras
till the carcass is split

any more than we
can put our own fingers
to the scruples of
the ones who seeded us.

Note: I still have a board cut for me by Angus Dunn, from spalted beech.
I use it to place breads and cheeses, to share. In Tasmania, I met Randall
Morrison, a craftsman sawmiller who also writes verse. He took me on a
boat trip up the Gordon River and showed me how he identified fallen
Huon Pine. It was not only the shared interest in materials and language
that made me think I would like to share this, with Angus, if I could. He
had the gift of seeing things in this hemisphere as if they were in the other,
new to him