word-mntn (Costa Head), poem AF, photograph AP, 2011

This sequence of poems was first published in Entanglements, an anthology of poems on ecological themes, edited by David Knowles and Sharon Blackie (Two Ravens press, 2012). 

The text sifts through a series of field-trips to sites associated with renewable energy, most important of all, Costa Head, which I have written about it more detail on one of the Skying blogs. Costa Head, Orkney is on the north-east tip of the Orkney Mainland; it was formerly an experimental test station for wind power and the site of Britain’s first windmill turbine, c. 1950, established by E. W. Golding, the innovative director of the British Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association, unsung pioneer of renewable energy in the U.K. The next hill along is Burgar Hill, Orkney, a pioneering wind turbine test site of the 1980’s. 

I was lucky enough to have the good company of Alistair Peebles, of the parish of Harray, and Laura Watts, on these visits, and gained much from their insights. Alistair's photograph of Costa viewed from Rousay gives a sense of what Golding saw in the hill.

This particular technology begins where we  hear and feel the wind: I was struck at the detail of Golding's statistics studying the force and behaviour of gusts on Costa Head – information that it no easy task to collect in the pre-computer age – and his attempts to understand what weight of steel would bear the load.

Golding's windmill fell, but his ideas endured.


for Alistair Peebles & Laura Watts


I say can you hear the wind?

she says it’s the wind 


the gusts disturbed motion
is an invisible influence
that would pass unknown

but for the shush
of strewn leaves
and whine of wires
that the night mixes

with the turbine’s wavering hum
and the juddering rattle
of its pinched blades

while this wind still blows
we know there will be
no end to change


with time
& economies

of scale

sweeping sails
of cloth
were refined

to falling
steel blades


even wind’s stochastic complexity
can be reduced to a continuum
of needle & spindle

out on the hills and moors
windmill rotors sweep
their tips against the orison
modulating a measure of weather
on the climactic fringe
of the carbon era


the far sky stretches amplitudes
of cloud over Aegean atolls
marked by wind-towers

keeping hold of the big idea
someday each isle will be under sail
with a turbine of its own

the three blades of each island
turbine are turning, ushering
in another triquetra era


wind prevailed and, in time,
so did knowledge, manifest
in the azure prospect of Burgar Hill

where turbines wheel
their arms over and again
like big kids in the sun

from the brow of Costa Head
facts and figures were exchanged
with pioneers around the globe

their successes and failures
demonstrating how time and motion
could contain a sustaining logic

their culculations were a foundation
that set the wind-towers revolving
and produced the profusion of designs

of the domestic turbines that tirl
in the mirr of the outset isles
in today’s winds & tomorrow’s gales

Entanglements, Two Ravens press (2012)
cover image by Doug Robertson

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