Even on the sunniest Scottish day, the Haar can come in out of nowhere. For those who don’t know: Haar is a special type of fog that rolls in from the sea transforming the world into a mysterious dream. Everyday objects like the washing line or a garden chair take on alien forms and the other side of the road might as well be the planet Neptune.
But right here on The Purple Hermit The Haar is the name for my new bimonthly magazine slot. I’m inviting other writers, poets, artists, photographers, cartoonists or anyone with something different to say to send in contributions on a theme. This is a community feature and everyone is welcome so long as the work is original. All work will be clearly credited to the author who retains copyright. Please use the contact form to get in touch if you want to submit a piece. There are a limited number of slots. I want to keep this feature small scale so sadly not all work will be selected.
The word limit for short stories is 2,000. Poems must be no longer than 40 lines.
The theme for April’s The Haar is ‘Behind the Mask’
The deadline to send in your contribution is 31st March.
I’m looking for the broadest interpretation of the theme, not just Pandemic related. Who are we when we remove our masks? What lies behind the personas we create to survive in society. We are all different people in the privacy of our own homes and we behave differently according to where we are. We all try to fit in one way or another. I’d like to see and hear what happens when we let our hair down and truly open up…our loves, fears, jealousy, anger, hopes, worries, mistakes…
My third and final guest poet is Mandy Beattie. Here is her mysterious poem inspired by a local Scottish landmarkof standing stones.
A pantry of organic nettle tea and skeins of wild raspberries tumble through the turnstile between times of concrete & standing-stanes where sky sits a duck-egg blue ceiling on the Hill O’ Many Stanes
The Land O’ The Cat where Hairy-Brottachs hatch into Louded Yellow and Green-Veined White butterflies and dandelion clocks puff among mosaics of standing-stanes
Kneeling at a silver stane-pew palming ley-lines with my life-lines I am litmus among lichen waking-dreaming of way-back-when the Wee Folk jigged in amethyst heather and fairy rings in The Land O’ the Cat where the veil’s still thin between worlds.
Poem Copyright of Mandy Beattie
Note:- The Hill o’ Many Stanes consists of about 200 small stones arranged in rows running down a low hill in East Caithness, Northern Scotland. They were erected about 4,000 years ago, possibly for gatherings and religious ceremonies. Caithness was once known as the Land of the Cat People, a reference to an ancient legendary tribe of Picts who inhabited the area.
Mandy Beattie, is a feminist from Caithness, with an MA in Social Work Practice & Research. Her poetry is a tapestry of stories and imagery, rooted in people, place & the natural environment, set at home and abroad.
Here’s a sultry, sensuous poem from my guest poet for this post, the talented Meg Macleod.
I remember braiding her hair, the woman who shared her island with me. “I can’t reach it now,” she said to me. Her hair, as soft as silk, pale golden silk. My fingers lifted it, brushed it out, dividing it into three strands. I slowly braided it letting it fall down her back. “So fine,”I said. “Beautiful.” I walked out across the sun bleached porch and stood looking out over the sea while she wrapped salmon in seaweed and baked it in a fire between the rocks on the shore.
Poem copyright of Meg Macleod
Meg was born in 1945 in England. She lived in America and Canada before moving to Scotland in 1974 where she now resides on the north coast in a house looking out over the sea towards Orkney Islands. Meg has a BA in Fine Arts. Her beautifully illustrated book of poems entitled Raven Songs is available to buy from Amazon.
For the first time on the Purple Hermit we have a poem from a guest poet, fellow Scottish writer and friend, Alastair Simmons. Enjoy!
Blue Poppies (In memory of Esther)
She took ages to answer the door in the heavy summer rain. Finally, she fumbled open the catch. Her hand was bandaged, her eyes blackened, on a white face. “Err, I’ve had a fall,” she said, her hands still shaking. “Err, I’ve come about the garden, gardening,” I said. Suddenly, her eyes sparked then ignited ninety plus years held in darkening pupils, the delicate filament in her blue iris illuminated. “Did I tell you about trekking in the Himalayas? Right over the pass for six days. I remember now, the blue poppies, wonderful,” she said. She began talking, as if she’d known me all of my relatively short life. She took my arm and leaned hard on the old wooden stick, “Now let me show you the roses.” The summer rain pelted like an Asian monsoon. We didn’t notice.
By Alastair Simmons 2012
Alastair lives on the Northeast Scottish coast, finding inspiration in the landscapes of Scotland and Northern England, and also it’s cities. And the gardens he creates, working as a gardener. “Poetry is about finding connection and expressing that feeling, whether it’s people, nature or worlds we find ourselves in.”
Something is wrong. A grey fog stinking of wet wool hovers above my bed when I wake. I hit reset and instantly a citrus glow permeates the Sense-o-Net. Lemon scent cuts through the fug. Bitter-sweet, my six naked limbs dissolve like butter on hot toast. I hit open and the view unreels; a newborn sun rising from the sea, a debonair yacht with a white sail, a labrador chasing a beach ball. Let’s get this show on the road, I hit extraterrestrial to transcode.
“The poet’s job is to translate unspeakable things on to the page…”
“Poets don’t get into poetry for money, they do it for vocation – I feel like that anyway. Poets can touch hearts and minds; they can translate trauma into something people can face. Sometimes there’s a cost for the poet to do that as it takes looking at the trauma right in the face and then allowing others to bear the idea of trauma safely. That’s why I write poetry. Poems are empathy machines.
Racism is a system that keeps propagating itself. It wasn’t the bankers, millionaires or computer magnates we turned to in the crisis – it was the nurses, garbage cleaners, supermarket workers; I hope those people will be valued more.”
My therapist’s room has lofty ceilings and a view across rooftops to the sea. A row of potted geraniums line the sill and a tribal mask hangs over his desk. My therapist says I must remember.
My therapist likes to shop. He’s a snappy dresser. Today he wears orange trousers with a button down shirt in lemon. He sips tea from a turquoise mug. My therapist says I remind him of his dead grandfather.
My therapist composes poetry in his head as he walks along the seafront. He recites a poem about a man sleeping rough outside Habitat. My therapist suggests a poem about planting a seed of anger.
My therapist has green fingers growing houseplants with pink flowers. He displays a cactus with fuschia spikes that remind me of my dead mother. My therapist says I am a rose without thorns.
My therapist has cold sores and doesn’t feel like talking. He missed his train, feels stressed. I suggest homeopathy. He asks how I feel about him. I say he is amazing. We are both wearing yellow jumpers. My therapist says
we are synchronised and sends photos of tulips. My therapist suggests letting go, forgiveness and voluntary work. He says my perception is flawed like rippled glass in a old window pane. My therapist asks, are they out to get you?
Our last session he complains of food poisoning and a dodgy meal in Chinatown. I suggest ginger. My therapist says I have too much empty space in my head, sniggers at my leopard print hoodie. Perhaps you’ve shot yourself in the foot?