Liber Scriptus (TLS Prize Winner)  


A tiny diary, red

with its red tail

still attached to mark a page –

the moon’s phases, apothecaries’

weights, measures of space

or the date of winter solstice.


Each day inscribed in blue

from a fountain pen with all

the minutiae of Iceland life:

letters written and received,

books read, films seen,

the countdown to the June boat.


That this has survived,

bought in Richmond, carried

on the Champollion to an un-

decipherable land and back

through years of waste paper

to be read by pixel light


is astonishing.  It is a glowing

lava-bomb tossed from the war,

that grey unmoving six-year

flow that now smothers

the century.  It is hot

and dangerous, a man’s life.

To hear Liber Scriptus click here    Liber Scriptus


Further poems from Iceland Spar - 

AKUREYRI, 5 a.m.

I'm almost on the Arctic Circle here

in Akureyri, where a polar chill

nips at the day-long sun and there is still

white streaking the sides of the fjord, sheer,

sharp-toothed in its smiling.  The light's as clear

as Icelandic water, a light that will

go on and on the way life seems to until

you reach a point... Is that an alarm I hear?

My father, waking from the winter dark

in nineteen forty-three, notes with delight

the first birdsong to have dawned on him in three

long months of blackout.  Sparrow, starling, arctic

tern or golden plover?  Whatever, the night

is over and the long day faces me.

                                     Akureyri, 5 a.m.



 Final Transmission


I'm sure you're listening, though your headset's gone –

that wreath of wire and bakelite – while I

just have this iPod, playing Wagner by

the Berlin Phil from nineteen forty-one

and peace of sorts.  The wartime hiss and drone's

been mastered out: each synchronicity

and near miss, the love motifs, epiphany's

strange star – all gone with the draft. Anon

is free to piece it all together: broken

shellac and blunted thorn.  We play at war

with spin and soundbite now; we drop our smart

lies on the bleak, bare facts you might have spoken.

But you had learnt the code, had closed your ears

to all our secrets, knowing them by heart.                                                              Final Transmission



 Remembering Snow White

the one behind the layers

of painted cel, the one


that fell for a princely tune

and a poisoned apple, hi

ho, my father gazes


into a mirror from Iceland

and sees only Disneyland

with this charming message:


that seven years have kept

her safe for him, but now

the blackout is about to be lifted.

                                                            Off to work



Because it was for this they fought, endured

the dark days and the cold, that older race

of our fathers, those silent thoughtful ones


who had handled guns but learnt to prefer

a garden spade, whose own fathers had seen

the future erupting through William Morris


wallpaper, his vision of the crafty art

of peace, an England made both beautiful

and useful, as he walked towards the crevasse:


from Auden and MacNeice's tent collapsing

on thirties communism, to that pair

who rocked and rolled the country moon-flat, fit


for the trickster nineties, past Ted Hughes ‘dream

fishing’ with his son and catching nothing

but laughter deliver me and deliver


these words, through whatever ice-hole exists

into that vitreous floating flashing light

where you can't show me where Camp Valhall was


in nineteen forty-three, or mention Bob

and Don and Al and all the others who

are now blue smudges in your diary.