For a writer, there is a special thrill when a reader is inspired to be creative after finishing one of their books, especially when it happens twice.
I’d already posted a painting of Der Sturmtaucher, the gaff-rigged ketch which has a central role in The Flight of the Shearwater, sent to me by Mark Jardine, one of my beta-readers, and the owner of a working gaff-rigged ketch called Birthe Marie, a converted traditional Danish fishing boat which he uses to sail visitors around the beautiful islands of Mull and Iona on Scotland’s stunning west coast.
Then, in September this year, William A McMillan was one of the poets reading at an event at the Tidelines Book Festival in Irvine, where I also did a reading from The Sturmtaucher Trilogy. It was a reunion of sorts, but we hadn’t seen each other for a decade. so it was lovely to catch up.
We chatted about my books, his poetry and his art, much of it centred around wildlife and the countryside of South Ayrshire. It was a pleasant surprise to discover our respective new ‘careers’.
Then, towards the end of November, he got in touch saying that he’d been inspired by reading the Sturmtaucher Trilogy to write a poem about a Manx Shearwater, the seabird that runs as a theme through the Sturmtaucher Trilogy (Sturmtaucher is German for Shearwater), in Antje Kästner’s art, in the sailing passages in the North Sea, and in the gaff-rigged ketch named for it.
He’d also done a drawing of a shearwater to accompany the poem. Here is the poem, and the picture.
Gliding low over rising tides
Swooping through scooped out troughs of air
That run beneath the soaring sides
Of mountainous wave crests growing there
Sheer walls of water shall be your home
Cutting your way through the ocean’s grain
Journeying forth by the green spume foam
The shearwater flies, far from safe nests
From cradled burrow to watery grave
The wanderer ploughs on, alone
Her life, an endless long-distance race
Stark sentinel in a timeless place
A streamlined vision of nature’s grace
The salt-laden miles are her dominion
The wind and the weather her constant companion
Crying her song to the fathomless ocean
Surfing the churn of the water’s swift motion
Never halting, never ceasing
She glides out her life in headlong flight
Wing tips circling the depths of night
Drawn by some instinct within her soul
That points her to home where the breakers roll
At last, to the cliff by the soft grass furrow
And the quiescent peace of her own safe burrow
William A McMillan
Many thanks to William for allowing me to post both the poem and the drawing, and to Mark Jardine for giving kind permission to reproduce his painting.
You can see further examples of William’s artwork, photography and poetry on his Facebook page.
Mark Jardine and Birth Marie can be found at www.boattripsiona.com/