I would like to dedicate this post to our friend from Iona, who made our stay on the island even more special – Kenneth Steven. Not only he is a modern Scottish poet and novelist, he is an amazing human being who is trying to make the world a better place. He is very concerned with the problems that some Arctic communities are facing these days, particularly the Sami people. This year he is planning to travel to Greenland to study the lives and challenges of local communities there.
West is a collection of poems inspired by the landscapes of Scotland and beyond, dedicated to his late sister, peace activist Helen Steven.
Here is what we can learn about Kenneth from his website:
Kenneth Steven is the son of writing parents. He grew up in Highland Perthshire in the heart of Scotland, and now lives in Argyll on the country’s west coast; it’s these landscapes that have inspired the lion’s share of both his poetry and prose.
At the age of 17 Kenneth won a place to one of Norway’s Folk High Schools: over the year he studied there he not only became fluent in the language but also passionate about the country. After studying for his degree at the University of Glasgow he went back to Norway, this time to the high Arctic to learn more in particular about the Sami people, study that after many years would result in his book on the cultural history of the Sami, Beneath the Ice.
Kenneth is best-known as a poet. 14 of his collections have been published over the years, and individual poems have appeared in top literary journals across the globe. Much of his poetry is inspired by the wildscape of his native Highland Scotland; much has resulted from his love of the Celtic Christian story whose deepest roots are for him found in the island of Iona off Scotland’s west coast.
His poem – Iona:
On the third day of our stay on Iona, Kenneth took us on a hiking trip to St Columba’s Bay.
St Columba’s Bay:
On this pebbled beach at the southern tip of the island, Columba is said to have arrived from Ireland on the Day of Pentecost in 563. Legend has it that Columba and his twelve monks climbed the hill to the west of the bay to confirm that their beloved home country could not be seen.
There were many reasons behind Columba’s departure from Ireland – political, spiritual and social. Artist, poet, politician, prophet and saint, Columba spent the last thirty-five years of his life on Iona in “white martyrdom” – meaning a life spent in sacrifice.
Kenneth explained to us the local tradition at this bay:
we take two pebbles from the beach, one we throw into the sea as a symbol of something in our lives we would like to leave behind, while the other we take back with us as a sign of a new commitment in our heart.
Source: IONA. A Pilgrim’s Guide by Peter W. Millar
I have gone into a landscape
not to come back different
but more myself. It can take days
to go into the hills and listen.
Everything is miles of silence:
a stretch of loch so blue it can’t even be real,
an eagle floating in the sky,
at night the skies a breath of stars.
I leave behind my loudness
for a time; remember what it means
to swim again, to feel
way out of my depth.
In our group, we also have a poet. Her name is Nubia, she is from Columbia and she likes to write poems in Spanish:
ịPaz y silencio de esta isla
callada y solitaria!
Aqui el mar y las montañas
se abrazan, lejanas
al ruido de otras tierras.
agua, viento, lluvia, sol
al amor y a la paz
Julio 21, 2019
Here is Nubia and her husband Hiroshi: