A nocturnal bird, say a nightjar,
cocking its head in the silence
of a few deflowering trees,
witnesses more than we do
Its twin perspective:
seeing with one eye the sack-
grain spilt on the roadway dirt,
and with the other, the scattered stars,
their chance positioning in the dark.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2011. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2011 was Roddy Lumsden.
2011 was a good year for young Hebridean poet Campbell; as well as winning an Eric Gregory award, he undertook the RLS Fellowship in France, and appeared widely in magazines, in advance of his first forthcoming pamphlet. This poem is typical of his shorter lyric pieces, with some nice soft rhyme strings – the central image is neat and charming, yet the poem remains somewhat slippery – which parallels? What does the 'chance positioning' suggest?
‘The Tear in the Sack’ was written one evening a few Novembers ago. I had just returned to the city after a week on Uist and a few images of the rural, farming and fishing life were obviously still roaming around my head. And perhaps because of this the poem was written unusually quickly for me – were I, like MacCaig, a smoker I might have been able to measure the time as a cigarette or two. The poem was a sort of tribute to one of those odd moments of apparent clarity, when the strange patterns we live by lift themselves, for a moment, from the randomness: the Nightjar suggesting itself by its similarly rare act of singing through the dark hours rather than the daylight.