Veeve by Christine de Luca
A Review by Anne MacLeod
Veeve, Christine De Luca’s recent collection from Mariscat Press, is a bilingual and lyrical foray into life, the universe and everything. From the opening poem Veeve (vivid, clearly seen) to the Clos Encoonters of the ultimate page, we are swept into De Luca’s world of musical language and clear-eyed observation.
Linguistic riches operate, as always with this poet, to enhance the exploration of her chosen subject, whether she is reliving past times in her native Shetland, as in Sisters ‘Twa peerie sisters, we’d skip across da brig/ ta veesit da spinsters’
or celebrating Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Coonterpoint ‘Da Wast-Aestern Divan Orchestra/ is playing at da Proms: Palestinian/ an Jew, side fur side. Dey hae/ da very laekly o een anidder/ … At da end, he claps an claps, strangin/at der göd-haertitness, der mutual trust.’
In Stumbling on ghosts, the effects of ethnic cleansing in a Turkish village ‘So Kaya died; doors swung on listless jambs/roofs collapsed. A few Turks trickled back/ to the valley, but no one recalled who held/ the key to the old mosque.’ are contrasted to the dwindling of local communities in Shetland. ‘Whar I baed dey wir nae ethnic cleansin/ though vod houses aplenty, mulderin.’
Not all international tales in this book are tragic, but De Luca thinks it important we find our true bearings. In Storytelling in Padua, she describes ‘old maps hung on old walls:/ oceans the focus, cardinal points the wrong way/ round: a reminder that there’s no right way up.’ And art, she warns, requires perseverance, skill and energy. In Elegant proof, a blackbird hunting wasps proves ‘art is to conceal art and/it’s not for the faint-hearted.’
She is aware that life is a series of unexpected adventures. In a long line of ifs ‘If the coffee grinder hadn’t lured me into the deli/ and the young man hadn’t undercharged me/ or stacked his winking apples quite so perfectly;// If his mother, your granny, hadn’t wanted/to escape – through untimely marriage – a controlling aunt and her shop counter: –// if her mother…’
She finds beauty in life, sometimes unpredicted. Anticipation. ‘It’s white below: cloud/ with sudden bright transfigurings:/ hidden beyonds, oddly nunataked.’ And joy, as in Olympic runes. ‘Höve caution tae da fowr erts, an scribe/ ecstatic runes apön da tidders haert.’
Always, there’s love. In Clos Encoonters she assures us ‘Hit’s Clos Encoonters o da First Kind/ dat’s real: dat skyin-saaft mystery o creatin/ mintie and momentous; linking wis ta past/ an future, beyond music;’
This book is indeed veeve, a Clos Encoonter, perhaps, of the Fourth kind, at once beguiling and thought-provoking ‘whar minds can meet/ in a single wird’ Bonnhoga. It will enrich your life.