Gaelic

Jen Hadfield

It's not ok to rub your head against air like a cat. It's notok to be too sincere. I know you can tell I'm cribbingas I go, and when I ask, 'What would you say is yourmother tongue?' I'm the last surviving speakerof my language. But when I'm fully exhausted ofconjugating feeling, parsing silence between speakerand listener, and remembering to askquestions, direct but not toodirect, and pausing to really hear the answer,and hearing you, really hearing you, but underthe ribs, sensing slackwater . . . it does sometimes happenI let an oar drop.I know how it looks.And I see your shock.Like you saw a face through a dark river.To you I'm suddenly speaking Gaelic,like language translatedinto slow light –and swift dark –

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Headshot of Jen Hadfield

Jen Hadfield lives in Shetland. Her first collection Almanacs won an Eric Gregory Award in 2003. Her second collection Nigh-No-Place won the T. S. Eliot Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. She won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition in 2012.

Cover of The Stone Age

London, Greater London
England

Pan Macmillan

"There is something magical and incantatory in the way she cherished language at the level of the name, as if utterance itself might be a way of dwelling in the real and making oneself at home there."
New Statesman

"Shetland-based Jen Hadfield provides a vivid portrait of the landscape of her home, while also showing how neurodiversity can lead to new slants, insights and metaphors when viewing the world. . . What’s most captivating is how Hadfield brings sensations to life; subtle and propulsive, her language fizzes and dashes 'in little surges like rills of clear pleasure.'"
Guardian

"THE STONE AGE transports us to the bleakly beautiful landscape of Shetland, where she lives. Hers is an uncompromising eye which sees Soul in everything. . . Strange and challenging, these poems demand as much attention as the poet gives her world."
Daily Mail

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