Poem of the Week: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Jim Carruth

  01 Feb '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Jim Carruth is Glasgow’s Poet Laureate, but don’t let images of that city dominate your sense of his work. He’s also the poet of rural Scotland, of farming and life on the land. His two poetry collections from Polygon, Black Cart and Bale Fire, are contemporary georgics, suffused with the perennial rhythms of agriculture but acutely aware of the threat modernity poses to them. In both these collections, and in his verse novella, Killochries, the sights, sounds, smells and sheer hard graft of farming come to the fore. They’re simultaneously elegiac and full of life, as aware of their origin on the Ayrshire hills as they are of continuing a literary tradition stretching back to classical epic and pastoral poetry. Here is ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’, a poem inspired by the Brueghel painting of the same name.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c.1555 (oil on canvas) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69); 73.5×112 cm; Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
after Brueghel

 No, he hadn’t heard a thing
 what with being up before dawn
 getting the old horse watered and fed
 checking on the shepherd
 after his night in the fields,
 that boy – head always in the clouds
 then harnessing up the mare
 and all day struggling
 with the heavy plough
 to keep the horse going
 to keep the furrows even
 to finish the field before nightfall
 with the weather on the change
 and the wind picking up
 when would he ever
 have had time to stop
 to listen for a flurry
 of wings, a solitary far-off splash
 and to recognise it
 as anything more than a gull. 

Jim Carruth, Black Cart (2017)

Each one of the three sections of Black Cart has a sequence of 'footers' signalling 
different aspects of the poet's farm. The footer for this poem is 'Meadow'.
Carruth writes 'the footers of the first section are named after the fields of 
High Auchensale, our family farm, they help with the mapping of home.'

Books by Jim Carruth

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