The Scotsman

The Whitby

By Roshni Gallagher


Best Scottish Poems is an annual online anthology collecting poems published by Scottish poets or poets resident in Scotland in one year. The 2020 edition has recently been published on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website and features 24 poems. Unsurprisi­ngly, the pandemic features heavily, but the poems touch on a variety of subjects. Take Roshni Gallagher’s ‘The Whitby’ for example. Gallagher says of her poem, “‘The Whitby’ is a sonnet about reckoning with the colonial ties of a place that I love. It’s also about how personal and colonial histories are lost between the generation­s and from the collective consciousn­ess. The Whitby was one of the first boats that transporte­d indentured labourers from India to Guyana in the 1800s.”

The moon is thin and poised like a curlew’s beak– all bone. Hanging over the ocean, the abbey. We watch the sea birds being swept by the wind and I try to tell you about all my life you’ve missed. There are still so many sentences I can’t reach. I know that out on the water, welcomed home, is a replica of the ship they took my ancestors in – to sugar plantation­s for former slave owners. The Whitby, sailing from India to the Caribbean, a stale silence blowing in off the water to greet her. Coming back here is like mutely looking down on my own odd body as it moves without me. Nothing is familiar. This loved, blank cliff is a memorial stone with the names bleached out.

You can borrow poetry from the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT on a click and collect basis or via an extended postal loan, or visit www.scottishpo­etrylibrar­

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