New book by Shetland poet rewrites Williams's 'Nantucket'
Christie Williamson, a Shetlander poet who resides in Glasgow, has published a new book with LuathPress in Edinburgh. Its title is Doors tae Naewye. Many of the poems are accompanied (as notes) by English translations. Some are a mix of English and Shetlandic. One poem, “St. Catherine’s,” is in part a response to William Carlos Williams's “Nantucket.” My own copy of the book, sent to me as a gift by Williamson, includes little handwritten notes, in pencil, slipped into various pages. The perfect treasure hunt for the reader-critic-fan, which is what I am with respect to this verse. The note, reproduced above, reads: “Written on arrival on my first of many visits to my cousin's second home/holiday let in Scalloway — the house is called St. Catherine’s and I’d been contemplating William Carlos Williams's ‘Nantucket’ for Essay (two? three?)” The reference here to “Essay (two? three?)” is to ModPo, the open online course with which Christie Williamson has a long association. Participants were asked in a recent season of ModPo to write (in the second of four essays, in fact) about “Nantucket,” with its window-framed “optics” (Williamson’s word) “changed by white curtains” (Williams’s phrase).
Williamson says: “My first collection was the result of over a decade’s work, during which poetry was pretty much all I wrote. This resulted in a yearning to know what the right hand side of the page felt like. Instead of writing prose, I began experimenting with poems which broke free from what Tom Leonard famously described as ‘the tryanny of the left-hand margin.’”
The poet visited the Kelly Writers House a few years ago and performed one of his early Shetlandic poems:
And here he is talking with me about Tom Leonard’s riposte to Williams’s “This Is Just to Say”: