Arc Publications logo

50 years at the cutting edge of poetry publishing

“A meeting point for poets of all latitudes”
— VĂ­ctor Rodríguez Núñez

Review: Travellers of the North, by Fiona Smith

Edmund Prestwich, London Grip Poetry Review, January 2023

Travellers of the North gave me considerable pleasure. Inspired by the legend of Sunniva, an Irish saint apparently almost forgotten in Ireland itself but revered in Norway, it’s the story of a noblewoman who sailed to Norway to escape a forced marriage. It’s less concerned with presenting Sunniva as a character than with imagining her situation, her primitive voyaging and the strangeness of the seascapes, landscapes and animals she meets.

The taut, muscular energy of her syntax and the vivid physicality of her imagination are obvious from the beginning;

I, Sunniva, am quite mad with longing.
To run wild as a boy in a streel of golden sun,
to run on into the cold drench of dark,
the air sharp with briars, apples, horse sweat.

My father all set jaw, my mother a quiver,
squares her shoulders yet smells of fear.