Friday, 23 January 2015


Here are some words I came across in my Poem for the Day yesterday. I actually read four, all by George Mackay Brown, a poet born in Orkney in 1921.  The poems are all infused with images of the sea and sea-life.

I had to look all the following up in a dictionary:

Ichor -  Blood (Greek)
Skerry - A reef or rocky island covered by the sea  (Old Norse)
Smirr - Fine rain, drizzle  (Scandinavian)
Haar  - A wet mist or fog (Old Norse)
Selkie  -A seal, or an imaginary sea creature which resembles a seal in the water but able to assume human form on land.

I've always loved the power of a dictionary, and held faith in the goodness of learning to triumph over the evil of narrow-mindedness and sectarianism.

In the light of events in the last three weeks, I've had to re-examine these ideas at length.

In The Guardian this week, writer Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell put down their thoughts on the subject. 

"I believe that in the battle between guns and ideas, ideas will eventually win, because the ideas are invisible and they linger, and sometimes they are even true  ....."

In these uncertain times, I do hope that they are both right.  I would not presume to have a more definitive answer myself.

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