Acrostic poems review

Stromness Writing Group celebrates our town by the sea.

A series of acrostic poems based on Stromness street names has been entertaining locals and visitors alike over the past week at the Northlight Gallery. The exhibition offered a unique chance to explore Stromness through the eyes, ears and sensibilities of its local writing group.

Masterminded by Fraser Dixon and ably assisted by Cary Welling, the exhibition included contributions from thirty one individuals and over sixty five poems. The focal point of the display was a map of Stromness painted directly onto the gallery wall with the poems positioned around the virtual town and linked to their locations.

For all its simplicity the idea of using street names as a framework for poems about Stromness provoked an exciting variety of responses. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the form, acrostic poems use the beginning, end or middle letters of words from a poem to form another word.

The writing captures a wide sweep of personal memories and moments associated with places in the town. Many of the poems produce a wry smile, some contain references to local landmarks and well known figures, and there are also quite a number that give more than a passing nod to cats. Other poems are descriptive, looking out to the sea, and a selection are simply prosaic and contemplate a particular route home. In Grieveship Terrace by Joanna Buick we ‘watch Flotta dazzle,’ while in Bank Lane by Mark Tennant we are invited to ‘Look at those steps, Ankle-achingly steep.’

Drawing on their various styles and talents the poems range from whimsical to opinionated, from humorous to brooding. Reflections on writing and writers abound, often with a pinch of salt for good measure. George Mackay Brown, a regular acrostic writer himself, might have well enjoyed the group’s endeavour and makes his own appearance in Greenvoe by Catherine Turnbull.

George Mackay Brown

Risks life itself, makes

Evil doings threaten

Every islanders’ soul.

Not really gone, not really

Very likely the remnant of

Operation Black Star is an

Echo whispering in our darkness.

The roads, closes and lanes of Stromness are already heavy with layers of memories. For a town celebrating becoming Burgh 200 years ago this collection of poems will be just another passing phase, yet it was a well taken opportunity by local writers to showcase community, artistry and above all a great sense of place.

A limited edition publication of the poems written for the exhibition is currently available at Stromness Books and Prints or through the Stromness Writing Group facebook page.

Gabrielle Barnby