Overlapping – A Review

Overlapping by Peter Urpeth. Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Poems From Leòdhas, June 3, 2013

Mr. Urpeth begins with an old Gaelic proverb:

An ràmh is fhaisg air laimh, iomair leis:
Row with the oar that’s closest to hand.

And then he does just that. Using the birds and words of his adopted island, he rows, conveys his readers from West to East, “from the marrow of an out-crop.”

‘Mouth Music’

Reminds me somehow of the song we sang as children: “…If you haven’t got a mug of cider, half a mug will do…if you haven’t a penny, a ha’penny will do and if you haven’t a ha’penny then God Bless You” much more complex, of course but for each eventuality, there is a substitution or a solution:”If the nest is empty, we’ll chew on feathers.”

‘Overlapping, at St Aulas’

St. Aulas, is an ancient chapel on the Isle of Lewis, home of the poet. Where time and tide overlap, perhaps; where the cliffs, perhaps, harbor those “guillemots [who] have the Gaidhlig.” Where the many bird cities and their tongues overlap; where the poet talks to the birds and they talk back.

‘The Emptying, The Finding’

Where the Bards of the Beach sing on Luinn,one of the Slate Islands, Firth of Lorn, in the west of Argyll in Scotland, and yet “On Luing, the poet found silence” enough.


Entreaties to the plover who answers the poet’s questions with avian questions of which Socrates might approve.

‘Close Worlds’

A wonderful poem, a celebration of Torcuil MacRath, brimming with words like these words:”and how you stacked the Earth’s words at your door for that winter fire burning in your memory of a thousand years.”

(In ‘Northings’ Urpeth tells us: “”That’s Loch Urnabhaigh,” said Torcuil, “Urna is an Old Norse word for a bend in the coastline. The maps have that wrong when they call it Loch Grimshader.” Then Torcuil points to the freshwater loch on the other side of the road: “That’s the real Loch Grimshader,” he says. “It’s a freshwater loch. I have an old ordnance map that has them both called Loch Grimshader, and you know when you see that that something is wrong.”)


A very interesting interloper in this book of bird poems – swords and trees. You’ll have to buy the book to find out!

‘East / West’

Two ways of living, overlapping – alliterative and in a dichotomous key. “while you played silent pavannes on a glass trumpet over the carved casks at Rodel church…”

‘Naosg ‘

What a wonderful surprise to find Gaidhlig embedded in this volume of poetry. It’s rare that a stranger, though a poet, so completely wears the mantle of his adopted island.
“… agus dh’iarr mi air an facal Gàidhlig airson ‘snipe’? ‘Naosg’ thuirt Fionnlagh, ‘Naosg a tha seo.'”

There are many more whence came those, each one as good or better than the last. The Volume, or Pamphlet, is divided into West and East, left to interpretation by the reader.

These are the words, the North Words, of a true poet whose birds sing the songs of the isles.

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