Beyond Criffel

Peter Roberts

26 September 2020

Eleven Poets for Eleven Days

Wigtown Book Festival has asked Hugh McMillan, one of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Champions and a nationally respected poet from Dumfries & Galloway, to curate ‘Eleven Poets for Eleven Days’ for our 2020 festival. 

A poet from the region will be introduced daily, here on our website, along with a video reading of their specially commissioned poem.

Peter Roberts is the third poet in the series. 

Beyond Criffel

for Acky

I’m on the other side of Criffel now.

At Glencaple’s old tobacco quay,
the moonstruck river flows backwards,
a clock unwinding into memory.
The tide spools away from Criffel’s reel,
upstream, threading this other country,

where we climbed Clougha as child’s play,
became infected with longing
for the high fells across the bay.
Followed them north to Grasmoor,
from where Criffel, on a farther shore,

signalled where to go next.

I think of Liatach, running the scree,
our best, our final climb, the last day
it was all aligned, the hill,
you and me, our hill-made mind,
coming down fast in the sun’s last rays.

A fragile freedom, giving way
to a life that led, fifty years on,
beyond Criffel to this riverside,
looking back to those hills of youth
across time’s irreversible tide.

Peter Roberts

Peter Roberts spent most of his working life as a town planner and public sector policy specialist, with brief forays into a workers' co-operative and community arts. He led Moniaive's successful bid to Creative Scotland for a Creative Place Award in 2015, and co-ordinated all the creative and administrative work that followed. He started writing poetry in 2016, in the Moniaive Poetry Workshop set up as part of the Creative Place programme. 

He has since had poems published in two anthologies produced by the workshop, will feature in a Crichton Writers anthology inspired by Dumfries sandstone, and has had poems accepted by ‘Dreich’ magazine. He is shortlisted for the Dumfries and Galloway Fresh Voice Award in the Wigtown Poetry Prize Competition 2020.

Like all poets living by the Solway his poetry is rooted hauntingly in place. We cannot escape the timeless land here, its echoes in stone and in history. The Solway as a confluence between waters, histories and cultures is a topic of special fascination for writers and artists on both its sides. Like Cunningham, Scott, Keats and Ruskin (who considered the Solway to be of crucial international importance) Peter Roberts has looked over the Solway from both sides to the cloudy hilltops beyond. Here he reflects on time’s passage from these perspectives.