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.
I say can you hear the wind?
she says it’s the wind
is an invisible influence
that would pass unknown
of strewn leaves
and whine of wires
that the night mixes
and the juddering rattle
of its pinched blades
we know there will be
no end to change
can be reduced to a continuum
of needle & spindle
windmill rotors sweep
their tips against the orison
modulating a measure of weather
on the climactic fringe
of the carbon era
of cloud over Aegean atolls
marked by wind-towers
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
so did knowledge, manifest
in the azure prospect of Burgar Hill
their arms over and again
like big kids in the sun
facts and figures were exchanged
with pioneers around the globe
demonstrating how time and motion
could contain a sustaining logic
that set the wind-towers revolving
and produced the profusion of designs
in the mirr of the outset isles
in today’s winds & tomorrow’s gales
Entanglements, Two Ravens press (2012)
cover image by Doug Robertson