Nalini Paul

We feature work by poet Nalini Paul to mark National Poetry Day 2010.

'Skirlags' cover

Nalini Paul was born in India, grew up in Vancouver, and has been living in Scotland since 1994. She studied Philosophy and English Literature at Edinburgh University and graduated from Glasgow University in 2008 with a PhD on the writing of Jean Rhys.

Since October 2009, Nalini has been based in Orkney as the George Mackay Brown Writing Fellow 2009-2010. She has also collaborated with the Composition artists' collective and enjoyed a period as the writer-in-residence at the Ruby Orange Gallery in Biggar.

Nalini's poetry has been published in various magazines, including 'Poetry Scotland' and 'The Glasgow seeker'. Following a trip back to India in January 2008, Nalini has been working on a series of narratives inspired by the visit to her birthplace.

These two poems are taken from 'Skirlags', published by Red Squirrel Press.



Through open windows
starling song invades the house,
dives into hushed space,
expands the boundaries of sound.

Conversations chatter the interval,
maintain the symphony like thrumming rain,
a babbling multitude of one.

Behind the beech wall of sound
a thin descending note repeats.

It spans the length and breadth of breath,
pricks the senses

to hawthorn and ash
dogweed and lime
wet grass and dandelion.

It awakens roots of Cedar and Line,
Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce,
Maple, Pacific Willow, Western Yew.

Campfire songs of jet planes and sorrow
Carpet the forest with fallen memories
And waft like childhood ...

I open the door
         descend the steps.

The singing stops in synchronised flight:
I walk out into silence.



To a Moth

When the body sleeps, the soul flies out as a moth (Haida folklore).

There's a dead moth in my poetry book -
wings like gold leaf,
legs delicate threads,
a fossilised imprint of moss-green binding.

I'm almost loath to upset the pattern,
peel its weightless corpse,
destroy the illuminated
            manuscript's new meaning.

The double image emerged
from a marriage of wings and paper,
a truth as plain as death.

When I wipe it off a mark is left,
a twofold stain like fingerprints
or sweat,

a soul not ready to leave just yet,
defying time's permanent fleeting.

I try to find my favourite sonnet
but my fingers are tinged with golden ash.

Moth ink remains in the book -
nature writes itself.


National Poetry Day 2010


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